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Fatima Salaria Headlines Focus on Her ‘Muslim’ Background Rather Than Skills

True to form, a handful of national newspapers, possibly playing to their audiences, have highlighted the faith of the new Commissioning Editor for Religious Programming of the BBC- Fatima Salaria.

The appointment of Fatima Salaria was met with the following headline by the Daily Express,

“BBC puts Muslim in charge of religious television shows.”

The Express article then goes onto highlight the inclusion of Abdul Haqq, who was once part of the circle of supporters of convicted extremist Anjem Choudhary, even though the Express fails to mention that the thrust of the programme was to highlight the range of views that exist within Muslim communities and to see how extremist rhetoric was being challenged.

The headline which places the faith of Ms Salaria into the public domain as the first thing that someone sees about her, is troubling and given that she is an experienced programme maker and has been chosen for her skills, such regressive headlines undermine her professionalism as though she has got the job because she is a Muslim. This is clearly not the case.

The BBC responded by saying:

“People should be judged by their ability to do the job, not their religious background and Fatima was appointed as she is an extremely talented commissioner – we’ve strengthened our focus on religion and ethics within television and have been clear that we plan to do even more to reflect the role of religion in modern Britain, with Christianity at the heart of our coverage.”

We have previously raised such issues when Aaqil Ahmed, the previous Commissioning Editor regularly has his faith called into question.

Who is Jacek Miedlar – Detained on Entry into the UK

Today, British Border police detained firebrand Catholic priest Jacek Miedlar, who has become a focal point for far right nationalism in Poland and who was due to speak and march with Britain First activists through the town of Telford. He has previously been regarded as a “fanatical hate preacher” and a cursory glance at his web-site shows ultra-nationalism that is entwined with the use of religious symbolism and dogma in order to play on the strong sense of religiosity that runs through Polish society.

On the 7th of September 2016, the Polish Catholic Priest, Jacek Miedlar, tweeted at Britain First’s Jayda Fransen, making contact after she posted a video in which she stated, “Allahu Akbar” Migrant opportunists attack police and invade Europe.” This was we believe, the first point of engagement between Miedlar and Britain First.

Jacek Miedlar is from Wroclaw in West Poland and has been suspended by his local Catholic church for his firebrand speeches that mix ultra-nationalism with religious fervour. Wearing the black clerical robe with a hooded top, his speeches are  laced with anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric and his web-site paints a picture of Jews who seek to undermine Poland albeit through historical work through the Holocaust and he regularly uses the term ‘Jewish media’ on his web-site to paint a picture of Jews attempting to undermine the ‘standing of Poland’ in the international sphere. Much of the rhetoric talks about Poland being ‘hospitable’ to Jews and how Jewish media sources are seeking to undermine the state, leaving some readers with a chilling feeling that Miedlar holds some very questionable views on Jews and their place in Polish society.

Miedlar’s web-site also has articles posted by Jayda Fransen of Britain First, where she talks of an ‘approaching civil war’ in the United Kingdom. The interview on his web-site provides Fransen with the opportunity to talk about “Islam being the biggest threat to our nation” and the questions within the interview neither challenge Fransen, but provide her with an open platform to state the following far right propaganda:

“With the Islamization of Britain we meet in almost every corner of our country. Starting from the colonisation of our cities and our towns, and ending with the epidemic gangs who are ruthlessly raping and torturing our children. Islam is used as both a shield and a sword. What does it mean?  Shield to defend against Muslims accused in the case of child molestation and public unrest, which is translated as “cultural misunderstanding.” Islam is also used as a sword in (sic) implementating the culture and traditions such as the presence of Sharia Law and to use churches for Muslim prayer.”

What is also bizarre is the sheer opportunism of groups like Britain First. For years, they have blamed migrant communities such as Eastern European communities for social ills in the country, yet they are now seeking to engage with ultra-nationalists such as Miedlar to recruit from the very communities they have vilified for many years.

We commend the actions of British law enforcement in detaining Miedlar from entering the country and in bringing his politics of division into the UK. The last thing we need is far right nationalism entering our country given that there has been one death because of the actions of a far right Ukrainian extremist who killed grandfather Muhammad Saleem on the streets of Birmingham. Miedlar has no place in the United Kingdom nor should he be allowed to poison the minds of settled Polish communities who work so hard to make a productive life in the UK. They deserve better and we will continue to monitor developments in this area.

Google to help publishers find malicious comments on articles

Alphabet Inc’s Google and subsidiary Jigsaw launched on Thursday a new technology to help news organisations and online platforms identify abusive comments on their websites.

The technology, called Perspective, will review comments and score them based on how similar they are to comments people said were “toxic” or likely to make them leave a conversation.

It has been tested on the New York Times and the companies hope to extend it to other news organisations such as The Guardian and The Economist as well as websites.

“News organizations want to encourage engagement and discussion around their content, but find that sorting through millions of comments to find those that are trolling or abusive takes a lot of money, labour, and time. As a result, many sites have shut down comments altogether,” Jared Cohen, President of Jigsaw, which is part of Alphabet, wrote in a blog post.

“But they tell us that isn’t the solution they want. We think technology can help.”

Perspective examined hundreds of thousands of comments that had been labelled as offensive by human reviewers to learn how to spot potentially abusive language.

CJ Adams, Jigsaw Product Manager, said the company was open to rolling out the technology to all platforms, including larger ones such as Facebook  and Twitter where trolling can be a major headache.

The technology could be expanded to identify personal attacks or off-topic comments too, Cohen said.

Perspective will not decide what to do with comments it finds are potentially abusive; rather publishers will be able to flag them to their moderators or develop tools to help commenters understand the impact of their writing.

Cohen said a significant portion of abusive comments came from people who were “just having a bad day.”

The initiative against trolls follows efforts by Google and Facebook to combat fake news stories in France, Germany and the United States after they came under fire during the U.S. presidential campaign when it became clear they had inadvertently fanned false news reports.

The debate surrounding fake news has sparked calls from politicians for social networks to be held more liable for the content on their platforms.

Jigsaw is offering the product to publishers for free and hopes to support languages other than English soon, Cohen said in an interview. While the technology is in its early days and could misinterpret language such as sarcasm, it will improve over time, Cohen said.

Le Pen top aide put under formal investigation

The chief of staff of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen was put under formal investigation on Wednesday after a day of questioning over the alleged misuse of EU funds to pay parliamentary assistants, a judicial source said.

Catherine Griset was taken into custody for questioning along with Le Pen’s bodyguard Thierry Legier, who was later released without being put under investigation, according to the source.

In reaction to the news, Le Pen said that she formally denied any wrongdoing in a case that she said was being used to undermine her campaign.

“There is a very big risk of the justice system being manipulated. I think that today the justice system is not doing its work with a cool head, impartiality and independently. Everything indicates so,” Le Pen said.

The case has landed her in the spotlight alongside another leading candidate, Francois Fillon, a right-winger being investigated over public funds he paid to his wife and children as parliamentary assistants.

Wary that her image and lead in polls of voting intentions could be hurt, Le Pen on Wednesday said she was convinced voters would not fall for what her lawyer Marcel Ceccaldi said was manipulation designed to destabilise her.

“The French can tell the difference between genuine scandals and political dirty tricks,” Le Pen, who has previously denied any wrongdoing in the affair, told reporters.

Griset and Legier are key figures in an investigation opened following demands by the European Parliament that Le Pen repay money she is accused of wrongly paying the two.

Le Pen is consistently tipped in opinion polls to win the April 23 first round of the two-round race but she is also tipped to lose the two-way runoff ballot on May 7 – to either Fillon or another independent candidate, the centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Wednesday’s detentions followed a police raid on Monday on Le Pen’s National Front party headquarters on the western edge of Paris, while she was abroad.

Fillon’s poll ratings fell after the scandal concerning him surfaced in late January but they have since steadied and he is more or less neck-to-neck with Macron for the other slot in the May 7 duel.

Trump revokes Obama guidelines on transgender bathrooms

President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday revoked landmark guidance issued to public schools in defence of transgender student rights, reversing course on a signature initiative of former Democratic President Barack Obama.

Obama instructed public schools in May 2016 to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity, threatening to withhold federal funding if they should force transgender children to use bathrooms against their will.

The Trump administration action withdrew that guidance while the Justice and Education departments continue to study the legal issues involved.

Reversing the Obama guidelines stands to inflame passions in the latest conflict in America between believers in traditional values and social progressives, and is likely to prompt more of the street protests that followed Trump’s Nov. 8 election.

A couple hundred people gathered in front of the White House to protest the Trump action, waving rainbow flags and chanting: “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.” The rainbow flag is the symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Transgender activists and supporters protest potential changes by the Trump administration in federal guidelines issued to public schools in defense of transgender student rights, near the White House in Washington, U.S. February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Wilders at Dutch campaign launch vows to crack down on ‘Moroccan scum’

Dutch anti-Muslim, anti-EU party leader Geert Wilders promised to crack down on “Moroccan scum” who he said were making the streets unsafe and urged the Dutch to “regain” their country as he launched his election campaign on Saturday.

Wilders was surrounded by police and security guards during a walkabout in Spijkenisse, part of the ethnically diverse industrial area surrounding the vast port of Rotterdam and a stronghold of his Freedom Party.

“Not all are scum, but there is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who makes the streets unsafe,” he told reporters, speaking in English. “If you want to regain your country, if you want to make the Netherlands for the people of the Netherlands, your own home, again, then you can only vote for one party.”

Crime by young Moroccans was not being taken seriously, added Wilders, who in December was convicted of inciting discrimination for leading supporters in a chant that they wanted “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” Moroccans in the country.

Wilders – who has lived in hiding since an Islamist murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004 – pledges to ban Muslim immigration, close all mosques and take the Netherlands out of the European Union.

Many of his supporters at the Spijkenisse market, however, said they cared more about his social welfare policies.

“The most important thing for me is bringing the pension age back down to 65,” said Wil Fens, 59, a crane operator at the port.

Wilders hopes a global upsurge in anti-establishment feeling that has already helped to propel Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency and to persuade Britons to vote to quit the European Union will propel him to power in the March 15 parliamentary election.

A win for Wilders would boost French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and the Alternative for Germany party, both hoping to transform European politics in elections this year.

“Despite all the hate and fear-mongering of the elite both in Britain and Brussels, people took their fate in their own hands,” he said. “I think that will happen in Holland, in France, Austria and in Germany.”

Wilders’ party leads in opinion polls with 17 percent, a whisker ahead of the pro-business Liberals of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who has closed the gap by matching some of Wilders’ anti-immigration rhetoric and received a boost from a surging economy.

But if he wins, Wilders will struggle to form a government, since most major parties have ruled out joining a coalition with him, viewing his policies as offensive or even unconstitutional.

The fragmented political landscape means a coalition government of four or more parties is all but inevitable.

A study published by the Social Affairs Ministry on Tuesday found that up to 40 percent of the Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands do not feel that they belong or are accepted.

‘I Am Not Your Negro’ explores America’s civil rights struggle

As author, poet and essayist James Baldwin started writing a book in the late 1960s exploring the lives of three black civil rights activists, little did he realize his examination of race relations would resonate so deeply in present day America.

“I Am Not Your Negro,” the Oscar-nominated documentary now in limited U.S. theaters, takes Baldwin’s 30-page unfinished manuscript on the racial divide during the civil rights era and places it against current racial tensions and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Baldwin’s words “feel as if just this morning he wrote them down,” said director Raoul Peck, who spent ten years making the film.

“His analysis of this country, the description, his knowledge of this country is rooted in something very fundamental,” Peck told Reuters.

Baldwin died in 1987 at the age of 63. In the years before his death, he had begun crafting a book about three of his friends – Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers – all of whom were assassinated in the 1960s, cutting short their pursuit of justice and equality for the black community in the United States.

“I Am Not Your Negro” has received strong critical praise and has already grossed $2 million at the U.S. box office since its limited Feb. 3 release.

In the film, Baldwin’s words, read by actor Samuel L. Jackson, are heard as voiceover on scenes from Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, during protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, at the hands of a white police officer. The demonstrations helped to coalesce the Black Lives Matter movement nationally.

Baldwin also ponders how black men and women are perceived within America.

“He tried to explain this so-called ‘dream’ that is not a dream for everybody,” Peck said.

The documentary includes clips of Hollywood movies in which actors like John Wayne and Doris Day appear in leading roles as the hero, while black actors often played slaves, maids or sidekicks.

The Haiti-born Peck included the scenes in a “critical way because it’s about this image that Hollywood has been propagating, and it’s not really the reality.”

Hollywood still needs to be more inclusive of diverse filmmakers, he added.

“We cannot keep wishing every year if there are going to be more women’s films, more gay films, more black films, because ultimately we’re going to continue to make our films, whether it’s hard or easy.”

Trump goes to his comfort zone – campaigner-in-chief

After a tumultuous opening month in the White House, President Donald Trump is heading to a friendlier, familiar and potentially rejuvenating place: the campaign trail.

Beset by vicious fights over his Cabinet, legal setbacks over his immigration orders, the resignation of his national security adviser and an investigation into possible links between his campaign and Russian intelligence, Trump is turning to the winning formula that vaulted him into the White House: big, adoring crowds and fiery, angry speeches.

He has replaced Hillary Clinton, his former Democratic presidential rival, with a new foil: newspapers and TV news outlets that have reported unflattering revelations of dysfunction or other problems in the White House. He has described them as “lying”, “corrupt”, “failing” and, late on Friday, as “the enemy of the American people.”

On Saturday, he holds a campaign rally in an airport hangar in Melbourne, Florida, just up the coast from his Mar-a-Lago resort where he will spend the weekend. The event gives Trump a chance to bypass what he says is an unfair media and take his message straight to his supporters.

“It will remind people that he still has a lot of support out there, and he probably needs the reminder,” said Republican strategist John Feehery. “When you are inside the bubble, it’s not a bad idea to reconnect with your supporters and get re-energized.”

Trump’s race against Clinton was marked by big, boisterous rallies, and the event in Florida is likely to be the first of many as he tries to appeal directly to his most passionate supporters and reframe his image following growing questions over his temperament and ties between his campaign and Russian intelligence.

Shortly after an unusually long and combative 77-minute presidential news conference on Thursday, Trump’s campaign sent out a fundraising email featuring a “media accountability survey” asking supporters about coverage.

“I’ve made it a point to cut through the media’s noise and go straight to the American people. It worked during the campaign, and it will work again over these next four years,” Trump said in the email.

Democrats countered with their own fundraising email, seeking donations to ensure “Trump is a one-term president.”

“First he had Republican primary opponents, then he had Hillary Clinton, and now he has the evil media,” said Republican strategist Rich Galen. “He’s very comfortable in this kind of campaign mode.”

EARLY START

The Florida rally marks an extraordinarily early start to the 2020 White House campaign for Trump, who filed re-election papers with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) five hours after he was sworn in as president on Jan. 20. His predecessor, Barack Obama, filed the same form in April 2011, more than two years into his first term as president.

The paperwork was not a formal declaration of Trump’s candidacy, but allowed him to continue raising funds, including the money received from sales of his popular red “Make America Great Again” hats. The Trump campaign raised $9.6 million in December and had about $7.6 million on hand at the end of the year, the last time it was required to file a report with the FEC.

Obama and other presidents have traditionally held campaign-style events to support their legislative initiatives, but they were organised and paid for by the White House. Saturday’s rally will be organised and run by the campaign, the White House said.

Obama hit the road frequently in early 2009 to rally voters behind his economic stimulus package. But he was also supported by an outside group called Organizing for America that filled some of the role of a campaign organisation by building  grassroots backing for his policies.

By keeping his campaign intact, including his campaign website, Trump has made the concept of a “permanent campaign” into reality. The website, which features a photo of the inauguration, stresses Trump’s campaign cannot stop because “we still have much work to do.”

Trump’s first presidential event outside Washington was on Friday in North Charleston, South Carolina, where he visited an airplane plant operated by Boeing Co to celebrate the unveiling of its latest Dreamliner jet.

On Air Force One after the Charleston event, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump is headed back on to the campaign trail because the media does not always deliver his message well, and “he can do that very effectively by taking the stage and talking to the people of America.”

Trump’s early re-election campaign start has created some confusion for federal workers worried about possibly violating a U.S. law prohibiting them from engaging in political activity in the workplace.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent government agency that protects federal bureaucrats from unfair personnel practices, issued guidance to federal workers last week after it said it received “numerous” questions about whether they can express their views on Trump given his intention to run for re-election.

Federal workers would violate the law if they start calling for his re-election or defeat while on duty, the memo said, but since the election is still three years away workers can express approval or disapproval of his policies or actions but “may not display signs in their office that read ‘Reelect Trump in 2020’ or express” views on his candidacy while in the workplace.

Once he formally announces his candidacy, the memo said, workers who are on duty or in the office cannot do anything “directed at the success or failure of his candidacy.”

U.S. immigrants stay home from work to protest Trump policies

More than 100 restaurants and dozens of other businesses in cities around the United States shut their doors on Thursday to show support for “A Day Without Immigrants,” a walkout aimed at protesting President Donald Trump’s policies.

Activists called on immigrants to stay home from work, avoid shopping and eating out and skip classes in an effort to highlight the vital role they play in American society.

The protest was prompted by Trump’s vows to crack down on illegal immigration and his executive order, which was put on hold by federal courts, that temporarily banned travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. Immigrant rights’ groups expressed alarm after federal raids last week in which more than 680 people illegally in the country were arrested.

The nature of the action made it difficult to ascertain how many immigrants were participating or to measure the economic impact, though local news media in cities like Minneapolis and Austin, Texas, reported that dozens of businesses were shuttered.

Approximately 700 people showed up  at a rally in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina.

“We add to the economy and society,” said Kia Allah, 32, a teacher who is Muslim and described herself as half Puerto Rican and half black. “Sometimes people don’t listen until it hits their pockets.

Numerous restaurants, which often depend heavily on immigrant staff, closed for the day in Washington, New York, Chicago and other cities. The media site Uproxx kept a running tally of closed restaurants based on social media and local reports that exceeded 135 by midday.

Celebrity chefs such as Jose Andres in Washington and Rick Bayless in Chicago closed restaurants in solidarity with protesters. A number of restaurants that remained open said they would donate part of their profits to pro-immigrant groups.

“People that never missed one day of work are telling you they don’t want to work on Thursday,” the Spanish-born Andres said on Wednesday. “They want to say, ‘Here we are,’ by not showing up. The least I could do was to say, ‘OK, we stand by you.'”

At the Pentagon, about half a dozen food outlets were forced to close after staff members joined the protest, including a Starbucks, a Taco Bell and a Burger King, according to a Defense Department spokesman.

The protest was the latest in a series of collective actions since Trump took office from women’s groups, immigrant groups and other activists.

Why it’s important to challenge the far-right views of people like Jack Buckby

Jack Buckby, the press officer for the far-right Liberty GB party, told NUS campaigner Barbara Ntumy ‘I hope you don’t get raped’ in reference to Syrian refugees on Channel 4 News.

Both featured in a live debate about the so-called ‘alt-right’ movement last week.

Mr Buckby’s notoriety grew in 2016 after he stood in the Batley and Spen by-election, the seat of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox.

Out of respect, major parties did not put candidates forward. A bulk of the candidates who did stand, however, came from traditional far-right parties.

Tracy Brabin, the Labour candidate, was elected with more than 86 per cent of the vote. Mr Buckby received just 220 votes. But it was never about votes. It concerns exploiting the legitimacy of the political process to further an anti-Muslim agenda.

Months before the by-election, he tweeted: “Jo Cox was complicit in the rape of young girls throughout Yorkshire and beyond.”

In the Channel 4 News feature on the so-called ‘alt-right,’ Mr Buckby alludes to his time in the British National Party (BNP) but remains free to present himself as a simple ‘conservative’ who longs to be part of this ‘winning strategy’.

In the live televised debate, however, he self-defines as a ‘paleolibertarian’.

In both segments, Channel 4 failed to identify the far-right ideas at the core of Buckby’s ideology. This failure to engage with his actual politics is not the most conducive way of challenging the far-right.

Mr Buckby has also appeared in the BBC Three documentary ‘Is Britain Racist?’ – where his ideology of ‘culturalism’ was challenged by journalist Mona Chalabi.

This concept of ‘culturalism’ is borrowed from the American John Press, who rejects multiculturalism at the promotion of ‘cultural preservation’.

Missing from both discussions, however, was the fact that Mr Buckby founded the National Culturalists (NC) in 2012.

An archive of an NC blog from 2012 called for the closing down of all Islamic institutions and the banning of halal meat. It also added that social services must hold regular inspections of Muslim families to ensure they were not involved in FGM or ‘honour violence’.

In July 2012, Mr Buckby spoke at a far-right conference and admitted that the idea of ‘culturalism’ was simply the means to make nationalism palatable to young people.

In his own words: “nationalism is the cause we need to fight. The issue we’ve got is that young people do not associate with the word. So, as long as we keep the ideology it doesn’t really matter what word we use. Obviously, it’s all about spin.”

Adding, that the language of ‘culturalism,’ which is ‘already important’ to nationalism, would help get young people involved with groups like the BNP.

When a student at the University of Liverpool, Mr Buckby tweeted a poster warning against sex with ‘intravenous drug abusers’, ‘bisexuals’ and ‘blacks’.

A now-deleted tweet from 2014 read: “Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Please take time to remember those who were killed at the hand of fascism & hope Islam can’t do the same.”

In recent years, his incendiary rhetoric on Islam and Muslims has not changed. Further, he has made highly offensive and extreme comments about the LGBT and Jewish communities as well, yet Channel 4 gave him a platform to air such views without informing its audience effectively about his extremist ideology.

On his personal Twitter, Mr Buckby writes: “Islam is the most violent religion and political ideology on earth.” Or “I’m proud not to tolerate murder, paedophilia, rape and fascism of Islam.” He also described the prophet Muhammad as a ‘murderous prophet’.

Following the terror attacks in Orlando, he tweeted: “It’s time LGBT woke up and realised THEY are responsible for the death of 50+ people in Orlando. #OrlandoShooting.”

To promote a video where he misgenders Caitlyn Jenner, Buckby tweeted: “Trans movement is belittling what it means to be a woman”.

Regarding Jewish communities, Mr Buckby adds in the same blog: “if you’re a believer in the racial bell curve, the Ashkenazis are one of the most intelligent ethnic groups on earth”.

The well-known Bell Curve argument, debunked by virtually all social scientists, is “part of a much longer history of arguments about race and intelligence, critically rooted in early scientific racism.”

In September 2016, he recycled the falsehood that renovations to parliament would mean that MPs would be unable to drink in their leased location due to ‘Sharia Law’. A Treasury spokesperson denied this claim.

In a statement, the spokesperson added: “The buildings remain the property of the government, and the lease and associated documents explicitly state they are governed by English law.”

The matter of alcohol licensing is unresolved, but not prohibited.

Buckby’s views towards ethnic and religious minorities are highly offensive and extremely troubling. Buckby himself insists that his discourse is about ‘spin’ yet Channel 4 presenters could have more effectively challenged him by debunking his views and alerting his audience to his extremism.

In fact, Buckby is exploiting this appearance to crowdfund  from supporters in Europe and North America. It is no accident that his Twitter cover photo features Ms Ntumy’s horrified expression when she heard his inflammatory statements.

 

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