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Headlines 24 October, 2014

Headlines 17 October, 2014

Headlines 10 October, 2014

Headlines 24 October, 2014

After Twitter ruling, tech firms increasingly toe Europe’s line on hate speech

23/10/2014- A little over a year after a French court forced Twitter to remove some anti-Semitic content, experts say the ruling has had a ripple effect, leading other Internet companies to act more aggressively against hate speech in an effort to avoid lawsuits. The 2013 ruling by the Paris Court of Appeals settled a lawsuit brought the year before by the Union of Jewish Students of France over the hashtag #UnBonJuif, which means “a good Jew” and which was used to index thousands of anti-Semitic comments that violated France’s law against hate speech. Since then, YouTube has permanently banned videos posted by Dieudonne, a French comedian with 10 convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews. And in February, Facebook removed the page of French Holocaust denier Alain Soral for “repeatedly posting things that don’t comply with the Facebook terms,” according to the company. Soral’s page had drawn many complaints in previous years but was only taken down this year.

“Big companies don’t want to be sued,” said Konstantinos Komaitis, a former academic and current policy adviser at the Internet Society, an international organization that encourages governments to ensure access and sustainable use of the Internet. “So after the ruling in France, we are seeing an inclination by Internet service providers like Google, YouTube, Facebook to try and adjust their terms of service — their own internal jurisprudence — to make sure they comply with national laws.” The change comes amid a string of heavy sentences handed down by European courts against individuals who used online platforms to incite to racism or violence.

On Monday, a British court sentenced one such offender to four weeks in jail for tweeting “Hitler was right” to a Jewish lawmaker. Last week, a court in Geneva sentenced a man to five months in jail for posting texts that deny the Holocaust. And in April, a French court sentenced two men to five months in jail for posting an anti-Semitic video. “The stiffer sentences owe partly to a realization by judges of the dangers posed by online hatred, also in light of cyber-jihadism and how it affected people like Mohammed Merah,” said Christophe Goossens, the legal adviser of the Belgian League against Anti-Semitism, referring to the killer of four Jews at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012.

In the Twitter case, the company argued that as an American firm it was protected by the First Amendment. But the court rejected the argument and forced Twitter to remove some of the comments and identify some of the authors. It also required the company to set up a system for flagging and ultimately removing comments that violate hate speech laws. Twitter responded by overhauling its terms of service to facilitate adherence to European law, Twitter’s head of global safety outreach and public policy, Patricias Cartes Andres, revealed Monday at a conference in Brussels organized by the International Network Against Cyber Hate, or INACH. “The rules have been changed in a way that allows us to take down more content when groups are being targeted,” Cartes Andres told JTA. Before the lawsuit, she added, “if you didn’t target any one person, you could have gotten away with it.”

The change went into effect five months ago, but Twitter “wanted to be very quiet about it because there will be other communities, like the freedom of speech community, that will be quite upset about it because they would view it as censorship,” Cartes Andres said. Suzette Bronkhorst, the secretary of INACH, said Twitter’s adjusted policies are part of a “change in attitude” by online service providers since 2013. “Before the trial, Twitter gave Europe the middle finger,” Brokhorst said. “But they realized that if they want to work in Europe, they need to keep European laws, and others are coming to the same realization.”

According to Komaitis, the Twitter case was built on a landmark court ruling in 2000 that forced the search engine Yahoo! to ban the sale of Nazi memorabilia. But the 2013 ruling “went much further,” he said, “demonstrating the increasing pressure on providers to adhere to national laws, unmask offenders and set up flagging mechanisms.” Still, the INACH conference showed that big gaps remain between the practices sought by European anti-racism activists and those now being implemented by the tech companies.

One area of contention is Holocaust denial, which is illegal in many European countries but which several American companies, reflecting the broader free speech protections prevalent in the United States, are refusing to censure. Delphine Reyre, Facebook’s director of policy, said at the conference that the company believes users should be allowed to debate the subject. “Counter speech is a powerful tool that we lose with censorship,” she said. Cartes Andres cited the example of the hashtag #PutosJudios, Spanish for “Jewish whores,” which in May drew thousands of comments after a Spanish basketball team lost to its Israeli rival. More than 90 percent of the comments were “positive statements that attacked those who used the offensive term,” she said. Some of the comments are the subject of an ongoing police investigation in Spain launched after a complaint filed by 11 Jewish groups.

But Mark Gardner of Britain’s Community Security Trust wasn’t buying it. “There’s no counter-speech to Holocaust denial,” Gardner said at the conference. “I’m not going to send Holocaust survivors to debate the existence of Auschwitz online. That’s ridiculous.”
© JTA News

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Marseille's cultural clash: Far right gets unlikely lift in Muslim quarters

Part 1 of 3: In Marseille, one of France's most multicultural cities, the anti-immigrant National Front is moving from the fringes into the mainstream with the support of disenfranchised Muslims, amongst others.

22/10/2014- France, like much of Europe these days, is in a period of social tumult. Far-right parties like the National Front are gaining ground and influencing local governments. Muslim immigrants face worsening Islamophobia. And the outrage that many Muslims feel about Western and Israeli policies in the Mideast is fostering a very old problem: anti-Semitism. Marseille, a multicultural city on the Mediterranean, offers a vantage point onto these related issues. Today, the Monitor reports on the National Front's rise and its unlikely supporters.

Marseille has always stood out as an atypical French city. In many ways, that’s been a criticism. A port city in every sense, it’s poor and scrappy, rough around the edges. But where Marseille has always fared well is in inter-religious and -ethnic relations. An amalgam of peoples, from the Greeks who settled here 2,500 years ago, to Italian refugees escaping fascism, to Algerians after independence from France, "Marseillais" have always been forced to live together, giving rise to a multiculturalism that seems more harmonious, at least on the surface, than in other French cities. And yet it is in this region where the anti-immigrant, far-right National Front (FN) party finds one of its strongest bases. Last month the party managed to break through a national barrier, sending two party members to the French Senate, both of them from the South of France. It marks a key victory for a party that seems increasingly mainstream.

But it has caused worry in this Mediterranean enclave that the careful balance of “cohabitation” that has defined Marseille living will tip. Across Europe, political parties sharing the FN's positions have gained ground, promising to kick out immigrants and say “no” to the free flow of people that is a cornerstone of the European Union. And these groups are tapping into the growing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism that are testing the limits of European tolerance. “They talk about who is French and who is not, even for people who were born here,” says Norya Amezza, as she walks through the city’s main North African market in the center of Marseille. “They create divisions." Ms. Amezza, a cheerful tour guide who was born in Algeria but raised in France since she was a year old, works with the volunteer organization Provence Greeters. “Marseille until now has been relatively peaceful. But with what is happening in Syria or with Palestine and Israel, you can have the beginnings of a problem even here.”

Far right ascendant
To understand why a region that is promoted as the epitome of French multiculturalism is drawn to the FN, head to troubled northern Marseille, a mixed area of middle class French families and newly arrived immigrants, mostly of Muslim descent. On a recent day, the groups mingle easily, at the bus stops and local bakeries that dot the community. But this is the city's 7th sector – one of the eight subsections of Marseille, each with its own municipal government – that voted in a FN mayor in this year's elections, one of the more shocking political stories of the year.

Resident Louis Fornerone, who is of Italian descent, explains why he was drawn to the party after voting for years for the center-right UMP. “The National Front is winning here because of immigration, it's that simple," he says, blaming immigrants for increased crime and being a drain on social spending. These are old laments, especially with Marseille’s historic ties to Algeria, a former French colony. What has changed, say Muslims here, is that the FN is no longer considered fringe, but a viable political option for French who once would have been hushed about voting for the party.

The FN isn't only capitalizing on anti-immigrant sentiment, which can often appear anti-Muslim because the two groups usually coincide in France. It’s also public disgust with mainstream parties on the right and left. Surprisingly, even many Muslims voted for the FN – not unlike Mexicans in the US who have become zealous anti-immigration advocates. Though Muslims largely voted for President François Hollande, a Socialist, in 2012, many felt deceived by his government's weak economic performance and legalization of gay marriage, which the FN condemns.

“I still can’t understand how the National Front pierced the (7th sector) where there are so many Muslims,” says Ali Timizar, a long-time leader of the Algerian community in Marseille. “It shows that neither the right nor the left has responded to the citizens of these neighborhoods.” The mayor of the sector, Stephane Ravier, who is also one of the two new FN senators of France, says that his victory does not mean an institutionalization of of discrimination or intolerance in Marseille. “That is a fear,” he told the Monitor. “But that has been stoked by adversaries.” His message is that immigrants living in France should adopt and live by French values.

A broad appeal
But others say his victory could signify divisions. The 7th sector “should be a model of multicultural France but instead it elects the FN's Stephane Ravier as mayor,” says James Shields, an expert on France’s far right at Aston University in the United Kingdom. “It now faces a six-year period of FN local government challenging any multicultural narrative that might have gained ground in Marseille.” Just like Britain's populist United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the FN appeals to both sides of the political spectrum, from well-heeled conservatives to former leftists in post-industrial France, says Sylvain Crepon, an expert on the party. That's the main reason both are such a threat to the mainstream political establishment. A recent poll showed its leader Marine Le Pen would easily win a presidential election if one were held today.

Upon Mr. Ravier’s senate victory, he expressed his party’s upbeat mood to the local media: "Now there is only one more door to push open, that of the [national government in] Elysee," he said. But for the minority communities of Marseille, the future looks dimmer. Hamza Bensatem, a young high school student of Algerian descent, staged a protest of young students in Marseille after the FN won the most votes in European parliamentary elections in May. “The party makes me afraid,” he says. And with all the tensions in the Middle East, especially the Islamic State, he says, he fears worse is ahead. "Each time there is a beheading, it's another vote for the FN."

Tomorrow: How Islamophobia is alienating Marseille's Muslims.
© The Christian Science Monitor

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French police seal off Calais district after migrant fight

21/10/2014- Police in Calais said Tuesday they sealed off an industrial district of the French port city after a fight between illegal migrants, in the latest incident to hit the northern gateway to Britain. The port has for months been struggling to stem a tide of migrants trying to slip onto trucks and cross the Channel to Britain, despite a slew of recent measures to tighten security. In the latest incident Tuesday, police closed off an industrial area of the city where migrants from Ethiopia and Eritrea were battling each other with sticks, after firing tear gas to try and break up the fight.

The district in the Dunes industrial zone has recently become a refuge for migrants pouring into the port city, and unrest flared up Monday evening and continued into Tuesday. One migrant was detained and dozens were slightly injured during the night, police said. Adding to the general unrest, a 16-year-old Ethiopian girl was killed overnight Monday after being hit by a car while crossing a motorway in the area, police added. On Monday, security forces had already fired tear gas at hundreds of migrants trying to force their way onto trucks waiting to be checked before they boarded ferries bound for Britain.

The problem in Calais is not new -- illegal camps of migrants have sprung up in the area since French authorities closed down the infamous Sangatte immigrant detention centre in 2002. But the crisis has spiralled, prompting the city's mayor Natacha Bouchart to threaten last month to shut down the port entirely in protest at London's perceived lack of action or help over the problem. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said that Britain had since agreed to contribute up to 15 million euros (£12 million, $19 million) to a fund to help deal with the problem. Migrants in Calais mainly come from Sudan or Eritrea but also from Syria and other conflict zones, desperate for an opportunity to get to Britain which they see as having a favourable asylum policy, or where they already have family. French authorities have arrested at least 7,500 illegal immigrants trying to cross the Channel this year.
© Expatica News

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Czech authorities alarmingly unwilling to prosecute online hate crimes

Ill-will, incompetence or indifference. In which category does the inactivity of the Czech Police with respect to racist threats and verbal attacks belong?

22/10/2014- The failures of the criminal justice authorities result in making it possible for incitement to racism and threats to be made with impunity in the virtual realm, especially on social networking sites. Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of the ROMEA organization, recently became the target of such threats. More and more Czech citizens are personally experiencing this every day. People are becoming the victims of online threats because of their alternative opinions, religion, skin color, or - in the case of the director of ROMEA - because they refuse to agree with incitements to racism or to participate in disseminating xenophobic opinions.

When people fear for their lives, it is natural for them to turn to the police for help and protection, as the police motto goes. However, after experiencing bureaucratic obstacles and the time it takes to write up various documents and requests or make official statements, many realize the futility of seeking such police assistance; while rank and file detectives in the police departments do their best to help, their dependency on the often absurd instructions given them by police command ties their hands.

Incitement to murder
On 17 February a Czech-language Facebook page was launched with hateful content and an unambiguous name: "We Demand the Public Execution of the Executive Director of Romea, o.s., Zdeněk Ryšavý" ("Požadujeme veřejnou popravu výkonného ředitele Romea o.s. Zdeňka Ryšavého"). In addition to other texts inciting violence against a particular group, on 28 February the following discussion post also turned up there: "Not only will Zdeněk Ryšavý and his daughter have to pay with their blood, but so will Tomáš Bystrý, Jarmila Balážová and the dubious artist and perverted homosexual David Tišet" [sic, the correct spelling is Tišer - editors]. A Facebook user appearing under the name Gabriel Zamrazil then posted: "I totally agree. He deserves death.... Let me do it."

This commentary indicated a readiness to personally commit a crime or to otherwise ensure its realization. Ryšavý reported the page to Facebook as hateful and demanded that it be removed. "We immediately reported the page and called on our fans to do the same," Ryšavý told news server Romea.cz. Facebook sent a response within moments. "We have checked the page you reported as containing hateful language or symbols and found it does not violate our Community Principles," read the answer. This is the automatic reply that Facebook sends out within just a few minutes in such cases.

Publicity helped
Ryšavý, afraid for his own life and for the security of his family, filed a criminal report on 5 March about the facts indicating that the making of criminal threats (Section 353 Act No. 40/2009, Coll.), incitement to commit a crime (Section 364) and approval of a crime (Section 365) had all been perpetrated. The presumption also exists that the people who supported these Facebook threats by clicking the "like" button (another 27 people) have committed the felony of approving of a crime. The police response that followed could have been a model for an absurd tragicomedy about how the rule of law works, one that should be screened in police academies as an example of how police officers and the state prosecutor are definitely not supposed to proceed when fulfilling their obligations. Ultimately, what helped the case was publicizing it; most probably, when the perpetrator learned from the media that a criminal investigation was underway, he got scared and erased the Facebook page himself.

Lost in translation
"The unwillingness of the Police of the Czech Republic to pursue serious verbal crimes like this is alarming," said Klára Kalibová, a lawyer who directs the In IUSTITIA organization, which participated in writing up the criminal report. The correct URL address of the Facebook page was included in that communication. Police had to first have the text of the report translated into English, and it then underwent approval according to a so-called Telecommunications Service Monitoring protocol, in accordance with the Czech Criminal Code, after which it was sent by the Police Presidium to the country at issue. In the first phase, that was Ireland, which is where Facebook has its European branch.

Not only did that entire procedure take several months, but the Czech Police sent the wrong URL address to Ireland. "Understandably, they wrote back from Ireland that the URL address was wrong and needed correction," Kalibová comments, adding, "but [the Czech Police] didn't correct it - instead they issued an absurd decision that was not based on the truth, claiming that they had not managed to find the perpetrator and that the case was being postponed." After some time, there was nothing left to do but to resubmit the motion to the police, again with the correct URL address. The police were repeatedly called upon to communicate with Face-book.

In the interim, however, an internal methodological instruction for the Police of the Czech Republic took effect according to which officers must first consult every-thing with the state prosecutor, who will decide on how to proceed. This, of course, meant that the excruciating process of the criminal investigation was far from over. "One state prosecutor, whom I will not name, but who is presented as a leading specialist in extremism, by the way, has already shelved several cases of verbal crimes, saying they are allegedly not serious and are covered by freedom of speech protections," Kalibová said. Those cases have involved, for example, right-wing extremists from the National Resistance, or Patrik Banga's criminal report filed against a journalist who invented and published a "news" story about Romani people allegedly robbing a collection that had been taken up for flood victims. "In Zdeněk Ryšavý's case, a police officer consulted it with [the state prosecutor] and she decided not to file charges. She allegedly insisted in her decision that in her experience, the Americans would not pursue this," Kalibová said.

The excuse of freedom of speech in the USA
What is absurd about the state prosecutor's approach in this context is the fact that she has argued in her decision that freedom of speech is extensive in American legislative practice. The state prosecutor's interpretation of that information is that US law tolerates these kinds of threats. That claim is dubious to say the least, because death threats against a specific individual are prosecutable in the USA, just as they are in the Czech Republic. It is mainly dubious in another sense: The state prosecutor either does not know or does not want to know that she was supposed to have been turning in this case not to the USA, but to Ireland, where EU legislation applies.

She is, therefore, involuntarily participating in creating de facto impunity for verbal crimes committed in a racist context in the Czech Republic. What is paradoxical is that according to our information, the Irish branch of Facebook responsible for Central Europe is friendly and helpful when it comes to intervening against such excesses, but of course they need the correct information to do so, and the Police of the Czech Republic, and indirectly the state prosecutor, basically were incapable of supplying it. "I was in contact with Irish Facebook's head of public relations for Central Europe, who said that if the police can prove this to her, she would cooperate with them. She told me: Have them write it up properly and we will be happy to oblige," said Kalibová, "but the Czech police officers, of course, did not respond to that."

Calls for murder illegal in US too
Kalibová believes this points to a serious systemic problem in addressing hate crime in a cybercrime context, because Europe cannot be toothless in its cooperation with the United States, and the clarification of specific crimes should not have to depend upon whether Czech police officers speak English or not. The state prosecu-tor's key argument, that the case of Zdeněk Ryšavý falls under the protection of freedom of speech as it is interpreted in the United States, is doubly moot. Even if the case were to fall under American legislation (and not Irish law, as it actually does), any call for the specific murder of a specific person is clearly illegal in all of these systems. "This is extremely serious misconduct by the criminal justice authorities and it is endangering the security of a specific person and his family," Kalibová stresses; she is considering using her final enforceable procedural tool, that of a complaint to the supervising Prosecutor's Office, which could order the state attorney to proceed in accordance with the Criminal Code.

Grist to the mill of the xenophobes
Giving the excuse that threats to publicly execute a Czech citizen and his family cannot be prosecuted by referring to the practically unlimited freedom of speech in the United States of America is unacceptable for two reasons: Such an excuse not only contravenes the facts, it mainly contributes to a false legal analysis and reinforces Czech racists and other extremists in the illusion that their behavior is tolerated by society and the state. This is particularly dangerous in a situation where blogs, the media, and social networks are abuzz with incitements to hatred.

Such lack of action further disseminates the feeling that calls for violence against ethnic minorities, or against those whose opinions differ from ours, are generally tolerated. In this context, the futile, long-term, strenuous efforts of this author to contact those responsible at the Police of the Czech Republic for a statement on this issue is symptomatic of a bigger problem; if the Czech Police provide us a statement after this piece is published, we will be glad to publish it.
© Romea.

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UK: Nine out of 10 gypsy and traveller children have suffered racial abuse

Discrimination against gypsies and travellers is the last bastion of "acceptable" racism in Britain, according to research published today.

22/10/2014- Nine out of 10 gypsy, traveller or Roma children in the UK have suffered racial abuse, a study from the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and Anglia Ruskin University shows. Two thirds of children from itinerant groups have also been bullied or physically attacked and many are too scared to go to school, researchers say. The report is the first comprehensive review of what life is like for those communities across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Dr Pauline Lane, Reader in the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “In order to improve the lives of people from gypsy, traveller and Roma communities, there is an urgent need for the UK to address discrimination against these communities. At the moment, it is the last bastion of ‘acceptable’ racism and that needs to stop.”

A lack of appropriate caravan sites is having a significant detrimental impact on the community, the report says. Gypsies and travellers have been encouraged to purchase their own land but 90 per cent of planning applications made from these groups fail. The infant mortality rate of gypsies and travellers is three times higher than the national average and life expectancy is an estimated 12 years less than the general population. Despite the fact itinerant groups are significantly more likely to have a long term condition and suffer poorer health, gypsies and travellers use mainstream health services less than other members of the population because of practical difficulties, such as complex procedures for registering and making use of services. The study says the Government’s failure to have a comprehensive strategy to address the groups’ specific needs means that an estimated half a million people are being excluded from wider society. The report’s co-author, Siobhan Spencer, co-director of the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and PhD student at Anglia Ruskin, said: “We need a concrete strategy with a timeline of goals with achievable and measurable outcomes.”
© The Independent

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UK: "Execute them" - Councillor proposes shocking solution for removing travellers

A councillor's shock solution for removing travellers from sites is to 'execute' them.

22/10/2014- Conservative councillor for Cox Green Alan Mellins made the offensive comment at a planning and housing overview and scrutiny panel meeting in Maiden-head Town Hall on Monday. The panel was discussing how to respond to the Government's consultation on planning and traveller families. The consultation deals with changing planning policy so it applies 'fairly' to both traveller and settled communities. Councillors were discussing how long it can take to evict travellers who do not have planning permission. The members referenced a traveller site in Shurlock Row, where travellers first settled in 2009. The borough's head of planning, Simon Hurrell told the panel that Cllr David Evans, who was not at the meeting, had asked for suggestions on how to speed up the process to evict travellers. Cllr Mellins then said: "Execute them."

The Cox Green councillor said afterwards that he apologises for the offence caused. He said: "The remark was an ill judged remark, which I did not intend to be taken seriously. It doesn't reflect my views." When asked if it is appropriate for him to sit on future panels, Cllr Mellins said: "I do not have any prejudices. I do not consider myself to have any anyway." Roma Gypsies were targeted during the Holocaust and it is estimated that up to 500,000 may have been killed by the Nazis. Joseph Jones, spokesman for the Gypsy Council has called for Cllr Mellins to think about resigning. He said: "It's not something that should be taken as a joke. “If his judgement is that poor he should seriously consider his position as a councillor.” He added: "All the people he's representing should consider if they want him to actively represent them."
© The Maidenhead Advertiser

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British youth soccer player facing suspension for anti-Semitic taunts

A player in a British youth soccer league is facing a possible five-match suspension for anti-Semitic taunting in a game.

22/10/2014- The Curzon Ashton player in the under-16 league was charged this week with “discrimination on the grounds of religion” by the Football Association, the governing body for soccer in Britain. Players from Manchester Maccabi said they had endured anti-Jewish taunts and jibes about Palestine in a game against Curzon Ashton earlier this month. With 10 minutes left in the game and his team losing 9-2, Manchester Maccabi coach Anthony Dennison led the players off the field after an argument between two players drew in other players, coaches and spectators. Along with charging the player, the Football Association also charged the Curzon Ashton team with a “failure to ensure players/spectators and/or club officials conducted themselves in an orderly fashion (aggravated by discrimination),” the Jewish Chronicle reported.

A Manchester Maccabi player was charged as well with discrimination on the grounds of color or race and is facing immediate suspension of at least five matches if found guilty. The players and team have until Oct. 31 to respond to the charges. “We’re used to anti-Semitism, we play with the Star of David on our shirts, we wear the kippah, but in the past we’ve had managers apologize profusely and have a word with their players,” Dennison told the Manchester Evening News at the time of the incident. “On this occasion everyone was clapping and laughing at these racist insults, and it was only one or two of their boys who seemed quite embarrassed and apologized to my players.”
© JTA News

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British man gets jail time for sending lawmaker anti-Semitic tweet

22/10/2014- A 21-year-old British man was sentenced to four weeks in jail for sending an anti-Semitic tweet to a Jewish member of Parliament. Garron Helm pleaded guilty Monday to sending the offending message to Labour Party member Luciana Berger. In addition to the jail sentence, Helm was ordered to pay Berger $128. The tweet, which called Berger a “communist Jewess,” showed a photograph of her with a Holocaust yellow star photoshopped onto her forehead and the words, “You can always count on a Jew to show their true colours eventually.” It had the hashtag “Hitler was right.” Helm’s home contained Nazi memorabilia and a flag for an extremist right-wing group called National Action. “This sentence sends a clear message that hate crime is not tolerated in our country,” Berger said in a statement. “I hope this case serves as an encouragement to others to report hate crime whenever it rears its ugly head.”
© JTA News

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UK: Gay couple ‘thrown off London bus for kissing’

Transport chiefs investigating incident where driver reportedly shouted: ‘It’s disgusting. Get off the bus’ at kissing couple

20/10/2014- Transport chiefs have launched an investigation after a gay couple were reportedly thrown off a bus for kissing. Jack James, 23, said he and his partner were ordered off a number 89 bus near Blackheath in south-east London by the driver, who subjected them to a volley of abuse. James, an event co-ordinator from Greenwich, told the Evening Standard: “We were chatting away when my partner gave me a peck on the lips. “The bus driver shouted: ‘Oi, you two, don’t do that on my fucking bus or you can get off, I don’t want to watch that’.” James said that, initially, the couple thought the driver could not be speaking to them. He added: “When the bus stopped at our stop I walked up to the driver and politely asked the driver if he was talking to us. His reply was: ‘Yes, it’s my bus, it is my rules, and I don’t want to watch that. It’s disgusting. Get off the bus.’ “Once we got off the bus we were fuming and I was shaking.

The bus stopped again and he shouted and told us we were not real men and we should fuck off.” The alleged incident happened on 8 August at around 10.30pm. Ken Davidson, Transport for London’s head of bus operations, said: “All customers have the right to use our services without fear of being abused and offensive behaviour is completely unacceptable. “We would like to reassure Mr James that this matter is being taken very seriously and that a thorough investigation is being conducted by [bus company] Go-Ahead.” This month, hundreds of people took part in a “big consensual kiss-in” at a Sainsbury’s store in Brighton in protest at the treatment of two women who were threatened with ejection from the store a few days earlier for kissing.
© The Guardian

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UK: newspaper editor denies ‘gays will destroy society’ column was incitement of hatred

The editor of a Devon newspaper has denied claims that publishing an anti-gay column was hate speech, saying “the only incitement of hatred was directed towards me” from angered readers.

21/10/2014- The original remarks were made in the South Molton News by an anonymous columnist known as ‘Grave Turner’. In the column, he claimed that homosexu-ality is an “aberration”, and that it is “worth recalling” that homosexuality used to be criminalised.” These comments were condemned by Stephen Gilbert MP, Devon MP Sir Nick Harvey, Ex-Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, and Senior Tory MP Sarah Wollaston. The South Molton editor, Paul Henderson, has said the column has since prompted 39 email complaints, seven face-to-face complaints, three phone complaints, and one letter. He even said one “worrying” complaint from the US led him to call the FBI.

Speaking in this month’s edition, Mr Henderson reacted to the controversy. He said: “The first thing is to apologise unreservedly to anyone who was offended by the content of the September Grave Turner column. “I have already stated (picked up by the world’s media), the article was very close to the mark in terms of my decision to allow it to be published. “It’s been claimed the content could be viewed as an ‘incitement to hatred’ by a number of individuals but I fundamentally disagree with those statements. “We live in a democracy that allows freedom of expression/speech within accepted boundaries.” He added: “The only incitement of hatred was directed towards me with many posts on these web sites which could never be published in any newspaper.”

In a previous statement to PinkNews, Mr Henderson said: “I’d like to assure you I personally do not share Grave Turner’s views in this particular article. “If I did, then my nephew whom I’m very close to and who is in a long-term same sex relationship with a rugby player wouldn’t forgive me and neither would my own children as they care for him deeply.” Last month, the South Molton News invited PinkNews reporter Nick Duffy to submit a reply for this month’s issue of the paper. Mr Duffy said: “As Mr Grave Turner can’t stomach the thought of ‘coming out’ by putting his name to his own words, he can’t begin to understand the struggle of the teenagers coming to terms with being what he terms ‘an aberration’. “A column like Mr Grave Turner’s doesn’t just perpetuate tired old stereotypes about gay people, it feeds the bigotry that makes our towns, our neighbourhoods and even our families less safe.”
© Pink News

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UK: Ukip song featuring mock Caribbean accent 'racist', Farage tips it to hit no1

A song performed in a mock Caribbean accent which Ukip leader Nigel Farage has backed to top the charts today sparked accusations of racism. The song, by former Radio 1 DJ Mike Read, was endorsed by Mr Farage when he called on his Twitter followers to "help get the Ukip Calypso by The Independents to Number 1."

20/10/2014- It criticises mainstream political parties for allowing "illegal immigrants in every town", and warns listeners against trusting the Prime Minister's pledges on EU reform. "The British people have been let down, that's why Ukip is making ground. From Crewe to Cleethorpes, from Hull to Hendon, they don't believe Cameron's referen-dum," sings Read. Mr Farage's endorsement of the song sparked a backlash on Twitter, where one user deemed it "ill-judged, offensive and downright awful." Michael Abberton posted: "The UKIP Calypso... a song about immigration by a party claiming not to be racist, sung by old white man with fake Jamaican accent." Others poked fun at the party's attempts to tackle allegations of racism. One posted: "Because the perfect way of making your party seem not racist is releasing a song sung in a mock Jamaican accent.." Another wrote: "A white guy singing about immigration in a bad Caribbean accent probably isn't the best way to prove you're not racist."

Read currently hosts an afternoon show on BBC Berkshire having previously spent more than a decade at Radio 1. A BBC spokeswoman said he had not breached guide-lines on impartiality by recording the song in support of the anti-EU party. And responding to criticism on social media, the former Conservative supporter dismissed accusations of racism and insisted the song is "political satire". Responding to one user who asked if he planned to "black up" while singing the number, he wrote: "tha a [sic] how we sing calypso with my Jamaican pals when I'm out there. Love calypso music & working with Jamaican tourism." Speaking on Sky News, he added: "It's a satire and a bit of fun. It's not terribly serious. It wouldn't have sounded very good sung in a Surrey accent." Ukip has previously attempted to highlight its ethnic minority members with a rally in Croydon, during which a steel band left after realising who they had been booked for and local party candidate Winston McKenzie branded the area a "dump".
© The London Evening Standard.

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UK: Ask any gay person in London: homophobia is alive and well (opinion)

Gay people still suffer abuse in all areas of their life – from strangers, neighbours, workmates and even family
By Ruth Hunt, Acting Chief Executive of Stonewall  

20/10/2014-  For many young lesbian, gay and bisexual people growing up it’s a mecca. A safe haven of acceptance where same-sex couples hold hands in public and everyone is just more at ease with ‘the gay thing’. But ask any Londoner who is lesbian, gay or bisexual whether this is the case and you’ll be met with a pause. In recent days a male couple has claimed that they were subjected to horrific abuse on a bus, simply because someone took offence at their public display of affection. At Stonewall we know that incidents like this continue to blight the lives of too many gay people.

In the 25 years since Stonewall was founded it has sometimes felt that progress has been an unstoppable march forward, carried on a wave of overwhelming public support. Britain’s 3.7 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people can now marry their same-sex partner, enjoy an equal age of consent, serve in the military and live free from being sacked simply because of their sexual orientation. We hear from supporters and opponents alike that now is the time to declare ‘mission accomplished’ whilst standing triumphantly aboard the decks of our Pride floats. Despite this progress homophobic and biphobic hate crimes and incidents remain rife in our villages, towns and cities.

Across Britain some 630,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual people were the victim of a homophobic hate crime or incident over just the last three years. And in the workplace 2.4m people of working age witnessed verbal homophobic bullying in the last five years. Gay people still suffer this abuse in all areas of their life – from strangers, neighbours, workmates and even family. The abuse ranges from verbal insults and harassment to devastating physical assaults. In London alone some 19 per cent of lesbian, gay or bisexual people say they’ve been the victim of a homophobic hate crime or incident in the last three years. While the legal landscape has been transformed since Stonewall was established 25 years ago, it’s clear that there’s still much work to do to win over hearts and minds to support lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

The picture’s little better in schools. When we asked teachers about their willingness and ability to tackle homophobic abuse in schools, it was London’s educators who reported the lowest score of any across the nation when it came to even knowing whether they could talk about issues like same-sex parents. In recent years schools and local authorities working with Stonewall have driven down physical homophobic bullying in schools by ten percentage points. But the use of anti-gay language in school is almost endemic with 99 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people hearing phrases such as ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’.

So for gay couples scared to show affection in public, for a young bisexual person worried out being out at work and for a same-sex family scared to use public transport with their children, we’re far from ‘mission accomplished’. To create a world where everyone feels able to be themselves will require all of us to stand up to abuse and challenge prejudice. We can’t be bystanders when our friends, neighbours, colleagues and families are made to feel less worthy and their lives less valid. It’s time to show it’s the end of the line for homophobic hate crime.
© The Independent -Voices

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British Hero Defies Anti-Muslim Sentiments

19/10/2014- An East London Muslim politician, who has been named as the Hero of the Year in the European Diversity Awards, aims to correct the negative image of Muslims, defying the soaring anti-Muslims attacks in the British community. “If you watch Theresa May’s [UK’s Home Secretary] speech at the Tory conference, she talks about extremism and then refers to a large Muslim community in Tower Hamlets,” the hero of the year, Tower Hamlets councilor Rabina Khan, told East London Line on Saturday, October 18. “She doesn’t exactly accuse us of Sharia law, but she puts them in the same sentence. “Comments like these are enough to damage the whole Muslim community.” The councilor's comments come amid increasing anti-Muslims attacks in Tower Hamlets, prompted by the distorted media coverage coupled with remarks by influential politicians that convey a negative image of Muslims.

Moving to Tower Hamlets in the 1990s, Khan has been promoting gender equality and incorporation between different groups in the borough over the past 15 years. The Muslim woman was titled the “Hero of the year” in thcoe European Diversity Awards earlier this month for her work as “an independent councilor and community worker promoting equality and diversity”. Khan's award coincided with an Ofsted inspection of an Islamic primary school over extremism allegations, putting the politician under attack from “negative media coverage”. “I think that the media have a wrong perception of the borough. It has been covered in a negative light,” Khan said. An earlier report by think-tank Chatham House identified a considerable Islamophobic sentiment in Britain, detecting a “wide reservoir of public sympathy for claims that Islam and the growth of Muslim communities pose a fundamental threat to the native group and nation.”

A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims, estimated by 2.7 million. A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.

Negative Image
Challenging the negative image of Muslims, the Muslim diplomat asserted that no single terrorist has been arrested in Tower Hamlets. Khan said: “When it comes to facts, I haven’t heard about one extremist being arrested in this borough, or being challenged and finally jailed.” Along with promoting equality and diversity, the Muslim councilor has been ecouraging Muslims students integration by visiting schools, clubs and arranging summer camps. “We use their energy in a positive way, not to teach them to go out and bomb people,” Khan said. Explaining her struggle as a veiled Muslim politician in London, Khan recalled a meeting where she was discrimina-ted against because of her Islamic appearance. “The assistant took all the others to their seats but I was left there. They were all white, middle-aged men. I didn’t go and said I was a part of the meeting, I just sat there and waited,” she said. “The assistant finally came, looked at me and said that the meeting was about to start. He thought I was a secretary.”

Despite the incidents of Islamophobia in east London, Khan still optimistic to see positive change in politics, media and people’s mood. “Younger people go out there to find information because they want the truth, they don’t want the lies. If they have the truth, then they will challenge the Muslim community and they will challen-ge me,” Khans said. “They have the right to do that: if we don’t get challenged, we can can’t bring about positive changes.” In September 2013, about 15 anti-Muslim hate crimes were recorded, compared with three in the same month in 2012 and nine in 2011. Hundreds of anti-Muslim hate offences have been carried out across UK in 2013, with Britain's Metropolitan police recording an increase of 49% than last year. The Metropolitan Police recorded 500 Islamophobic offences from January to mid-November this year, compared with 336 offences in 2012 and 318 in 2011.
© On Islam

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Cameron warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration, bid to bring in quota on migrants illegal

David Cameron’s plan to restrict the amount of time that EU migrants can spend working in Britain will never be accepted by the other EU governments, Europe’s highest ranking official, Jose Manuel Barroso, has warned.

19/10/2014- He insisted that the right of EU citizens to look for work anywhere in the EU is one of its fundamental principles, and not open to negotiation. He also poin-ted out that David Cameron had urged him to uphold the principle in the past when the Spanish government was obstructing people from Gibraltar trying to cross the border into Spain to work. David Cameron is considering an annual cap on the number of low-skilled immigrants from Europe permitted to work in the UK, which would involve issuing them with national insurance numbers that would expire after a limited time. Without a valid NI number, the immigrant would be unable to work legally in the UK. But Mr Barroso, a former Prime Minister of Portugal whose term as President of the European Commission is coming to an end, denied that the British Prime Minister would be able to get this measure agreed by other EU governments. “There is no possibility of the UK reducing the number of immigrants from EU to the UK. It is not up for negotiation,“ he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme.

“I don't think you can say there is a huge problem with immigration - there are 2 million British citizens in the rest of EU. “In principle arbitrary caps seem to me in contradiction with EU laws. That is quite clear from my point of view.” Mr Cameron’s plan to restrict immigration is designed to reduce the threat to the Conservative vote posed by UKIP, which has successfully tapped into fears about migrants taking jobs and housing that could have gone to British workers. The Conservatives not to lose next months’ by-election in Rotherham and Strood, where the sitting MP, Mark Reckless, has defected to UKIP. Mr Cameron is also committed to trying to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership prior to calling a referendum, if the Conservatives are still in office after next year’s general election. Mr Barroso warned that if the British voted to leave the EU, the government’s influence in Europe would be reduced to “zero.” He added that he was sure that David Cameron wants Britain to stay in.

Labour’s Shadow immigration minister David Hanson said: “Labour is in favour of reform to European free movement rules and we will examine any proposals the government comes forward with to manage immigration with interest. But why should anyone believe the Prime Minister when he has a record of making big promises on immigration and not delivering, when everyone knows he wants headlines for the Rochester and Strood by-election, and when the briefing from the Government keeps changing every couple of days?”
© The Independent

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UK/Poland: Ukip's far-right Euro partner attacks 'Holocaust industry'

Nigel Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group has recruited an MEP from the Congress of the New Right (Poland), whose leader, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, uses racial slurs and questions the Holocaust.

21/10/2014- In a recent interview with the JC, Korwin-Mikke said that Jews’ efforts to win back property stolen during the Second World War often amounted to a “Holocaust industry”. Korwin-Mikke said: “If somebody tries to get property which doesn’t belong directly to him, he should not get it. We are against returning property that belonged to one Jew to another Jew. It is a Holocaust industry.” The 71-year-old MEP also claimed that the only Jews left in Poland were “Jewish communists”, adding: “Jews are very talented people, and therefore are our worst enemies, because they are talented communists. “This is why the Poles have a specific image of Jews. They don’t know the real Jews, only the Communists ones who stayed here.” His colourful character and provocative remarks about the European Parliament, the gay community, Jews and world leaders marked him out as the “bad boy” of Polish politics.

But he surprised everybody. His party gained more than seven per cent of the vote in May's European election, amounting to four seats. He claimed that he would have seen even more success had it not been for “the state, Catholics, communists, the media attacking me all the way”. While Korwin-Mikke claimed he was “against any restrictions on minorities”, he explained this by saying: “For us there are no minorities, there are only Polish citizens. We are against special rights for minorities. The same with Jews.” Korwin-Mikke has detailed his views on Jews in previous interviews published in the Polish media.

In an interview with weekly magazine Najwyzszy Czas in 2008, he said: “[Jews] are so proud of the six million murdered in the Holocaust, that it sometimes seems to me that if Eichmann had objected to sending the Hungarian Jews to the death camps, he could have been accused of antisemitism because it would have decrease the number murdered, which is brought up at every occassion. “Maybe I am exaggerating a little, but don’t you see the sick carping on the left and right that so many Jews were murdered — even four times more than in reality? “That the more victims there were, the better?”

A Ukip spokesman said Polish MEP Robert Iwaszkiewicz was the only member of Korwin-Mikke's group who would be joining the European grouping. "Korwin-Mikke is not a member of our group. Both Ukip and the EFDD group abhors and rejects any scent of antisemitism. "All groups in the European Parliament have very odd bedfel-lows. The rules to get speaking time and funding are set by the European Parliament, Ukip." Shneur Odze, who was Ukip's only strictly Orthodox candidate in May's European elections, said: "We have invited one person to join and not the leader. The man that has joined us said he wanted Hitler dead, he is no closet fascist. "I understand for some people that this is a difficult pill to swallow, and people do not understand the nuances and intricacies of European politics."

Board of Deputies vice-president Jonathan Arkush said: “The Board is gravely concerned by reports that Ukip may sit in the same parliamentary grouping as a far-right Polish MEP in a bid save its funding. "Robert Iwaszkiewicz belongs to an extremist party whose leader has a history of Holocaust denial, racist remarks and misogynistic comments. "For UKIP to choose such a figure as Robert Iwaszkiewicz as a bedfellow, apparently for money, is beyond belief. Nigel Farage now has some very serious questions to answer. He has placed in issue the credibility of Ukip."
© The Jewish Chronicle

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Poland: 'Hatred' Developer Creative Destruction Denies Accusations Some Members Are 'Neo Nazis'

20/10/2014- On Friday a story by F*ck No Videogames alleged that the some of the developers behind the "mass murder" action game Hatred might be tied to extremist groups in Poland. Another report from Player Attack reiterates these allegations and expands on much of the information contained in the first report. We reached out to Poland-based developer Creative Destruction on early Friday afternoon and CEO Jarosław Zieliński responded this morning, calling the accusation that members of his team were extreme-right and Neo-Nazis "simply really stupid."

Before we give you that statement, here's a little background on why the two aforementioned publications have reported that Creative Destruction has ties to an extremist and racist group; according to both reports, a group photo of the studio shows one member wearing a Żołnierze wyklęci (also called "cursed soldiers") t-shirt. The "cursed soldiers" were an anti-communist military group formed during World War II. While seen as important historical heroes in Poland, they are also admired by extreme right-wing activists in country. According to the reports, the person wearing that t-shirt is Jakub Stychno, who also allegedly supports "Obóz Narodowo Radykalny" ("National Radical Camp"), an "extreme-right" anti-communist group. Creative Destruction CEO and Animator Jarosław Zieliński also allegedly has associations with extreme-right causes; his Facebook page at one time showed that he is a supporter of the "nationalist, anti-Muslim hate group Polska Liga Obrony (Polish Defence League)."

FX artist Marcin Kaźmierczak is also a supporter of "homophobic, racist, unpleasant Facebook pages" (according to Player Attack's report), as well as a supporter of the "nationalistic, homophobic youth organization Młodzież Wszechpolska (All-Polish Youth)." Both Polska Liga Obrony and Młodzież Wszechpolska are considered right-wing nationalist groups, and Obóz Narodowo Radykalny has been identified by the European Human Rights Association as an organization that engages in hate speech. But Creative Destruction CEO and Animator Jarosław Zieliński says that all of these accusations about he and members of his staff being involved in (and supporting) extreme right and Neo-Nazi groups is "simply really stupid." "These accusations are simply really stupid. :)," Zieliński told GamePolitics in an emailed statement.

"'Żołnierze Wyklęci' were an underground polish army, who were fighting Nazis and after the fall of [the] Third Reich, they were treating communists who came to Poland as the same kind of enemy that Nazis were. They were fighting with those new occupants after the war is over. They were never associated with Freikorps, it's bullshit and I don't know where from people get their historical informations. 'Żołnierze Wyklęci' are considered a national heroes of Poland, but their memory is obviously a pain in the ass for all commie-lovers and their supporters, so they try to defame all those who remember. TL;DR - if someone considers people who were fighting Nazis and another totalitarian regime as Nazis themselves, are really fucking stupid."

He also addressed allegations that he supports Polska Liga Obrony on Facebook:
"As for me supposedly 'supporting' Polska Liga Obrony on Facebook. Well, I've liked this page, because it's source of an information what is going on right now in the
middle-east and Europe (and a lot of evil shit is going on - those are REAL problems, not our game). Some things media would not show, nor tell. So: no, I'm not any kind of 'supporter.'" "I hope it clears everything out," Zieliński said in closing. "The truth is - when you'll make a controversial game (or any other type of controversy), there will be some people who will spread false propaganda about you personally. Do not believe them, they feed on naivety. We are group of nice, normal guys, you don't have to be some sick bastard to make a game like this." Zieliński also posted a statement on his personal Facebook page to speak out about the accusations.

Zieliński, according to a very rough translation from Google, says on his Facebook page that he "does not feel depressed" by all of the "hate" and the questions about "Nazis," and that he cares more about things going on in the real world than any shit storms on the Internet. He also said that about "five percent" of the emails have been about "non-production" of the game and "hate," with the rest being supportive. You can read his entire post here.

Hatred was announced last week to a mixed reaction by the community and press. The launch trailer for the game shows a nameless protagonist who "hates the world" going on a mass murder spree against innocent civilians. Creative Destruction says that it will be for PC only and will be distributed by Steam and GOG.com if it can receive approval from both platforms. A Rep. from GOG had no comment on the game Friday, only saying that it had not had any contact with Creative Destruction. Last week after the trailer for the game was released, Epic Games asked the company to remove its logos from it saying it "isn't involved in this project." The game is being built using Epic Games' freely available Unreal Engine 4.
© Game Politics

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French suicide: 'Racist' author taps into malaise

21/10/2014- A controversial new book by French polemicist Eric Zemmour is flying off the shelves and shows no sign of stopping. The notorious right-wing writer and polemicist appears to have struck a chord with a French public feeling disillusioned and "lost".

Who is Eric Zemmour?
He’s a journalist, author and TV personality whose new book “Le Suicide Français - Ces quarante années qui ont défait la France” (The French suicide - the 40 years that defeated France) has been selling an average of 15,000 copies per day, since it was released on October 1st. He is seemingly everywhere at the moment with appearances on radio, TV and in person with his book's on track to sell 500,000 copies. In France's that's considered a lot of books.

So what's the gist of his book?
As France struggles under record unemployment, historically unpopular leadership and increasingly angry populace, Zemmour's tome claims to provide an explanation for what’s wrong with the country. And right now everybody wants to know what’s wrong with France. In the book Zemmour argues the May 1968 student rebellion set France on a path to failure and impotence, which is now being exacerbated by immigration. Though he is Jewish and born to immigrant parents from Algeria, Zemmour says one of France’s fatal errors in the past 40 years was the 1974 immigration law that allowed for immigrants to bring over their close family members.

So why all the buzz around the book?
In a country where the anti-EU, anti-immigrant National Front party has won historic election victories this year, Zemmour’s far-right ideas are tapping into the zeit-geist of the moment. His book decries the ‘halalization’ of France, which is characterized by the creation of “Islamic republics in certain neighborhoods in France.”
He also charges that masculinity, as he has in previous books, has been undermined in France to great negative effect. He believes French society has become too feminine. “'(There is) sexual hopelessness among young, white men in comparison with their Arab and black competitors...Virility is valued in African and Arab-Muslim families. White men have been symbolically castrated.”

What does the book's popularity say about France?
Bruno Cautres, a political expert at the research institute at France's prestigious Sciences Po university told The Local the sales reveal a French populace looking for answers and clear messages. "Things in France are not going well at the moment. We are in some collective syndrome of depression. Between the bad economic results, there is feeling of being lost at the moment in France," said Cautres. But Zemmour is unafraid--whether you agree with him or not--to speak his position clearly and unapologetically. “Even people who think that Zemmour is an unbearable racist at least recognize that he states his ideas clearly and knows very clearly who he is,” said Cautrés. “When one buys his book there is no risk of being surprised, like after having voted for the “enemy of finance” and ending up with the brilliant Emmanuel Macron,” Cautrés said, referring to President François Hollande’s campaign theme of battling financiers, before eventually choosing an ex-banker to fix the country’s economy.

What did he say about the Holocaust?
As if the general tone of the book wasn’t controversial enough, Zemmour also took on one of the thorniest subjects in modern France: its role in the Holocaust. Zem-mour claims General Philippe Petain, whose government collaborated with the Nazis, saved French Jews by sending foreign Jews in their place to the Nazi-run death camps. Of the 76,000 Jews sent on French-state owned trains to the deaths, about a third were French and the rest were foreigners. Many historians have disputed Zemmour’s account argument, noting that Petain’s government aided in genocide regardless of the nationality of the people it helped the Nazis kill.

Has he ever been in trouble with the law?
Zemmour has long been known for his controversial stances on sensitive topics, like gender equality, race, gay rights and immigration. In 2011 his comments on national TV that black and Arabs are rightly profiled by police because “most traffickers are blacks and Arabs...it’s a fact,” earned him a conviction for racist speech and a €2,000 fine. The conviction came despite numerous people speaking up for him, such as Reporters Without Borders co-founder Robert Menard. Some three years later Menard has won the mayorship of the southern France town of Béziers on a National Front-backed candidacy. Ménard and Zemmour appeared together on stage in Béziers in front of a crowd of some 1,600 people.
© The Local - France

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Netherlands: Six Questions With Geert Wilders

A defender of Western civilization speaks.

21/10/2014- Geert Wilders is the founder of the Dutch Party for Freedom, the fourth largest in that country’s parliament, and perhaps the Netherlands’ most controver-sial political figure. Wilders, whose 2008 film Fitna confrontationally opposed the encroachment of Islamic culture into Europe, has become an international figure while being prosecuted for “hate speech.” Calling himself a “right-wing liberal,” Wilders advocates curbing immigration into the Netherlands and other Western countries from Islamic nations, closing radical mosques, denaturalizing violent Muslims, and reducing the power of the European Union, among other things. In America this week for a one-week tour, Wilders chatted with The American Spectator about Islam, the civilizational conflict, and what must be done to keep the West free.

How big is the threat to the West from Islamic civilizational jihad? Is our focus on terrorism overlooking other, perhaps more insidious means?
Islam is a totalitarian ideology aiming for world domination. It wants to establish a worldwide caliphate, ruled by Sharia law — undemocratic, intolerant, barbarian, inhuman. Terror and violence are just one method which is used in order to achieve this aim. There are other methods, such as conquest by hijra (immigration). Muhammad himself gave this example of hijra when he conquered Medina. This town, which was originally a tolerant and partly Jewish oasis, became Islamic after Muhammad and his followers settled there and took it over. Western leaders focus solely on terrorism, but fail to see the purpose which terrorism is serving: Islamic word dominance. They should focus on fighting the global imperialist plans of Islam and treat terrorism as one of the means used to achieve this goal.

How would you characterize the Dutch experience in assimilating Muslims?
The Netherlands failed to assimilate Islam. So did the other European nations. Western Europe is in the grip of cultural relativism. It no longer believes in the superiority of its own Western Judeo-Christian and humanist values. These Western values have brought Europe peace, prosperity, liberty, and democracy. But, unfortunately, European political leaders no longer seem to understand this. The newcomers were not asked to assimilate. On the contrary, the Europeans told newcomers settling in their nations: you are free to violate our norms and values because your culture is just as good, and perhaps even better, than ours. Muslims were allowed to build enclaves on European soil, where Western values are despised and hated. The Islamization of Western Europe is a direct result of this. European nations did not assimilate Islam but rather encouraged it to continue to live according to its culture, which is intolerant, inferior, and totally incompatible with Europe’s culture and civilization.

How do you resuscitate traditional Western culture in the face of the encroachment we're seeing? Or is Europe inevitably lost?
The European nations need to rediscover and reassert their identity. If Europe fails to stand up for its own culture and identity, it, will, indeed, be lost to Islam. Time is running out. Islam is assertive and aggressive. Europe should be assertive in countering Islam. Europe needs to turn the tide of Islamization and start a de-Islamization process.

Here are five things which should be done:
1) Europe should close its borders to all immigration from Islamic countries.
2) It should stimulate voluntary re-emigration;
3) and it should expel all criminals with a dual nationality to the country of their other nationality.
4) It should demand that everyone with a passport from an Islamic country, who wishes to remain living in Western Europe, sign a declaration in which he or she distances himself or herself from Sharia law and the violent commands of the Koran.
5) People who join the jihad have to be expelled, even it they only have our nationality. They can go and live in the Islamic State and no longer belong here.

What message can you offer Americans about the threat posed by Islam and efforts to stifle freedom of speech critical of Islam?
Americans are more patriotic than Europeans. That is a good thing. Europe would be in a better shape if it were more patriotic. Americans should cherish their pride in being American. They should insist that everyone who settles in America accept its values, which are based on its Western Judeo-Christian heritage. America should close its borders to immigration from Islamic countries. There is more than enough Islam in America already. Freedom of speech is a very important American value. In many European countries, people criticizing Islam are prosecuted. Telling the truth about Islam is considered to be offensive, because Islam feels offended by it. But the truth can never be offensive and people should never refrain from speaking it. America should recognize that ISIS is an offspring of Islam. What ISIS does is what Islam commands. The Koran is full of commands such as sura 47 verse 4 “When ye meet the unbelievers, smite at their necks and cause a bloodbath among them.” When Obama, John Kerry, the British Prime Minister David Cameron, and others say that “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam” they are talking politically correct nonsense.

Is Dutch public sentiment actively opposed to the Islamist threat, or are your countrymen still largely unconcerned? Is this a situation where the political class is being unresponsive to the concerns of the citizenry as well as oblivious to a societal threat to your country?
I never use the word “Islamist”, because there is only one Islam: the Islam of the Koran and of Muhammad. Growing numbers of Dutch people are aware that Islam does not belong here because Islamic values are incompatible with our own. A poll last June showed that two thirds of the Dutch say that the Islamic culture does not belong in the Netherlands. The political class, however, does not voice the concerns of the people. This phenomenon can be seen elsewhere in Europe, too. It is the reason why the traditional political parties are rapidly losing the support of the people.

Are reforms to free speech controls needed in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe to avoid further prosecutions of Islam’s critics? Is such reform possible?
Islam is currently the greatest threat to the survival of our civilizations. People who warn against this threat, such as myself, are both threatened by Muslims who want to kill them for speaking the truth about Islam, and are at the same time prosecuted by the European authorities who want to silence them because they speak the truth about Islam. This is ridiculous. People should be allowed to speak the truth about the biggest danger that is currently threatening the survival of our Western civilization and the future prosperity and freedom of our children.
© The American Spectator

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Malta: Moas rescues another 274 migrants

21/10/2014- Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas) yesterday rescued 274 people, including 200 Syrians, from a 15-metre wooden boat in distress. MY Phoenix , the 40-metre vessel being used by MOAS, was directed to the migrant boat by Rome’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre. The rescued migrants were 236 men, 21 women and 17 children. One of the women was nine months pregnant. The group also included 24 Pakistanis, 18 Moroccans, 12 Nigerians, six Eritreans, four Ghanians, three Malians, two Gambians, two Bangladeshis, one person from Ivory Coast, one from Mauritania and one from Tunisia. The migrants were transferred to an Italian navy ship for disembarkation in Italy. MOAS thanked the Italian authorities for assisting the rescue and taking the migrants to Italy. “MOAS has been extremely successful in saving lives at sea but we need more funding to conduct future missions. We are also dependent on the excellent cooperation we are finding from Rome’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and Mare Nostrum, which will unfortunately soon come to an end. We must all work together to ensure that lives continue to be saved,” said founder Christopher Catrambone.

Before being transferred to the Italian boat, the migrants were sheltered on Phoenix for around six hours during which they were provided with medical assistance, food, water and blankets. The MOAS team treated the migrants for seasickness, asthma, an ankle fracture and other conditions. The temperatures of all the migrants were also taken. Since it began operating on August 25, MOAS rescued more than 2,500 migrants from distressed boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In the past five days, MOAS rescued 371 migrants. Phoenix is now on its way back to Malta for restocking before it continues on its third and final mission this year, ending on October 31. MOAS is a private NGO initiative to save lives in the Mediterranean Sea, one of the world’s deadliest border crossings. Its aim is to provide assistance at sea in co-ordination with the Rescue Coordination Centres in the region.

To monitor the progress of the vessel and keep up to date with the latest news, follow MOAS on twitter @moas_eu and use the hashtag #MOAS to enter discussions about migration. Donations can be made on www.moas.eu
© The Times of Malta

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Revealed: Europe’s capital cities where it’s hardest to be a foreigner

21/10/2014- Athens, Rome and Malta’s Valletta are Europe’s least tolerant capital cities towards foreigners, a euronews study of official data reveals. Nearly half of those surveyed in Greece’s capital ‘strongly agree’ foreign citizens are a bad thing for the city, according to figures from Eurostat. The proportion of foreigners in central Athens is 17.4 percent, around one-in-six. In Rome, where foreigners make up just 8.5 percent of the population, 16 percent of those surveyed believe they are not positive for the city. In Valletta – where those without Maltese citizenship make up just 4.1 percent of the population – nearly one-in-seven think foreigners are a bad thing.

European Network Against Racism (ENAR) says xenophobia has been fuelled in Greece, Italy and Malta by the economic crisis and their position as the doors to Europe for asylum seekers. Michael Privot, director of ENAR, said: “These countries are known for their restrictive migration policies and negative media and political discourses about migration. “As an example, Maltese policies include measures of systematic detention of asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants, who are treated like criminals and as a result often perceived as such by the population. “They are also countries (in particular Greece) which have been hardest hit by the economic crisis and austerity measures, which has also fuelled xenophobia. In Greece for instance, issues relating to immigrants and refugees featured heavily in the campaigns of all the major political parties during the 2012 election.

“This allowed far-right groups to exploit the economic crisis to increase their popularity and recruit members in the poorer areas of the city, and led to an explosion of anti-migrant rhetoric and violent attacks against Asian and African migrants. This media and political discourse has largely contributed to a negative public perception of migrants, asylum seekers and ethnic and religious minorities, who are perceived as stealing job opportunities, working for less pay, benefiting from social services and perpetrating violent crimes.”

It comes after a damning report on Greece’s treatment of “irregular migrants”. The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) said the condi-tions in which irregular migrants were held in Greek police stations were “totally unacceptable”. The report reads: “In one station, two or more women were held for months in a dark, mouldy and dilapidated basement cell of a mere 5m² with no access to outdoor exercise or hygiene products. The CPT calls upon the Greek authori-ties to take urgent steps to transfer detained irregular migrants to specially-designed centres and to no longer hold them in police stations.”

Mr Privot added: “Greece has also been condemned repeatedly by the European Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights for systemic failures in abiding with its obligations under EU and international law as regards asylum seekers, refugee protection and respect of human rights. “Instead of scapegoating minorities and migrants, decision makers and politicians should send the message that migration and diversity contribute to European social, political, cultural and economic prosperity. There is a need for courageous political leadership, with leaders who understand the value of migration and are willing to speak out on this.”

Figures from Eurostat show Greece approved just four percent of initial asylum applications in 2013. Euronews’ expert on Greece said: “Citizens in Athens, and especially in the centre of Athens and areas like Omonoia, Agios Panteleimonas and Patisia, where most immigrants live, usually protest against foreigners because they believe – after being brainwashed by Golden Dawn – they are taking their jobs and that they are responsible for robberies and other crimes. “These areas used to be the most elite areas of Athens during the 60s, 70s and 80s but later Greeks left the centre for the suburbs. So the rents became cheaper than other areas and immigrants moved in. At the beginning of 90s they were mostly Albanians but after 2000 mostly Arabs and Africans.

“The same problem can also be seen in the city of Patra, a big Greek port, where most immigrants try to escape and go to Italy. Greeks in Patra say immigrants are responsible for most of the robberies that happen. “Even immigrants who are working in Greece have problems with their employers. The most “famous” incident was in Manolada where a Greek employer allegedly shot foreign strawberry pickers​​.
© Euronews

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Montenegrin Serbs Allege Language Discrimination

Serb organisations in Montenegro urged the authorities to end what they said was discrimination against the Serbian language in the country.

20/10/2014- The Serb organisations adopted a joint declaration in Podgorica on Saturday which urged Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia’s Serb-led entity, Republika Srpska, to act to protect the Serbian language and the Cyrillic alphabet which they said was under threat in the country. Momcilo Vuksanovic, the president of the Serbian National Council, a state-funded organisation which represents the rights of Serbs in Montenegro, said that he was fighting to preserve the Serbian language and its status in the country "with great difficulties". He alleged obstruction from the authorities and pro-Serbian opposition parties in Montenegro. After the country’s split from Serbia, the 2007 constitution stipulated that Montenegrin was the sole official language. In 2010, the government then ruled that Montenegrin grammar must be used in schools. This confirmed Serbian as a minority language, Vukasnovic said. "It is a great injustice. Changing the name of the language in schools, which was supported by the Serb representatives in the parliament, was also an injustice," he added.

An agreement in 2011 between the government and the pro-Serbian opposition parties envisaged changes to education law so that pupils in Montenegro’s schools would study “Montenegrin-Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian language and literature”. The 2011 census revealed that over 40 per cent of people in Montenegro say they speak Serbian, even though less than 30 per cent declared Serb to be their ethnicity. According to the census, around 36 per cent of citizens claimed Montenegrin as their native language. Vukasnovic said that although Serbs in Montenegro could not ever be a minority, he would be happy if they had the rights that the minority ethnic Albanian community enjoys - the right to education in their own language and in their own schools, with proportional representation in the state administration. "Our national interest is to fight for the right for our children to be able to learn the Serbian language and use the Cyrillic alphabet in schools," he said.
© Balkan Insight

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Slovakia: Neo-Nazi fined EUR 400 for kicking victim in the head

20/10/2014- The Slovak news server ta3.com reports that the first sentence has been handed down in the scandal of the aggressive neo-Nazis who assaulted customers of the Mariatchi Bar in the Slovak town of Nitra last year. Professional soldier Tomáš Spišiak has been fined EUR 400, which he must pay the state for having kicked a defenseless, prone person twice in the head. Spišiak must also reimburse the victim's health insurance company EUR 12.60. If he does not pay the fine, he will go to prison for four months. Because the settlement was reached out of court, the decision has now taken effect. Spišiak confessed to committing the crime and concluded the agreement with the Public Prosecutor regarding his culpability and punishment. The District Court in Bratislava has now approved the arrangement. The other perpetrators involved face up to 12 years in prison.

How the assault took place
Last October a group of skinhead youth visited the Mariatchi bar in the town center. They provoked people and then said they wanted to buy cigarettes. When the bar refused the skinheads service, they began to shout and would not leave even after the owner asked them to. The other customers pushed them outside, but the right-wing extremists returned with reinforcements. Bar owner Radovan Richtárik exited the bar in order to stop the skinheads. "I wanted to tell them to drop it, but they wasted no time," he said. The skinheads immediately began to beat him and some of his customers up. When people fell to the ground, they brutally stomped on them, kicking some in the face and head without mercy. When the barmaid tried to chase away a neo-Nazi who was jumping up and down on a man lying limp on the sidewalk, another attacker slapped her. The attacks against the bar were not random, as the neo-Nazis are aware that Richtárik is an activist with the People against Racism initiative in Slovakia. The usual customers of his bar are students in particular. "People with dreadlocks come here too, which bothers [the neo-Nazis] also," Richtárik said.

Kotleba's people
The violent thugs usually gather in the private Walhala Club across the street from the bar and are part of the entourage around Slovak Fascist Marián Kotleba. He was voted Governor of the Banská Bystrica Region in the latest elections. Members of the Walhala Club have created a closed group for themselves on Facebook. Its profile photograph is a drawing of two skinheads shaking hands against a backdrop of the Slovak flag. One of the men in the drawing has an abbreviation for the international neo-Nazi network Combat 18 tatooed on his neck. The Walhala Club Facebook group has four administrators. Three of the Facebook administrators previously ran in the Parliamentary elections for Kotleba's LS-NS party. The page is also administered by Jakub Škrabák, the current boss of the Fascist association Slovak Solidarity (Sloven-ská pospolitost), which was previously led by Kotleba; the courts have already dissolved Slovak Solidarity as a political party. Škrabák is not from Nitra. He ran for Kotleba's LS-NS party in 2012 and 2012. Two of the Facebook administrators are from Nitra. Anton Baťovský and Dušan Sobolič were once activists with the National Resistance organization and Baťovský has the name of that organization tatooed on his back; both ran for Kotleba's party in 2010.

Last year's attack not the only one
Last year's attack was not the only conflict sparked by neo-Nazis in the bar. The right-wing extremists opened up the Walhala enterprise across the street from it, officially as a private card-playing club. They used to gather there on Saturday evenings, and Richtárik said there were times when he had problems with them every week. They broke windows, kicked in doors, and threatened the customers. The neo-Nazi attacks came to a head on New Year's Eve. "First, before midnight they had broken five windows," a customer recalls. "It was probably around 3 AM when they returned and kicked in the door. Rádo ran out after them with a camera. They saw him photographing them and started to beat him up, pushing him to the ground, kicking and stomping him. We wanted to help him, but one of the skinheads grabbed me and held me back. When I tried to get away he tore my coat," the customer said. The bar owner ended up in the hospital with a broken leg after the assault. On New Year's Day he was operated on.

Leading figures horrified
Juraj Malíček, a teacher at Nitra's University of Constantine the Philosopher, said he had experienced similar battles as a student. "The video footage was terrible, but it was not surprising. I have lived in Nitra since 1993 and I know the neo-Nazi community here has always been strong. When I was at college we always preferred to walk to the dormitory in the evening as a group rather than alone. In reality this is much more common than just that video," he said. Actress Eva Pavlíková and painter Karel Félix believe neo-Nazism is not just a problem of Nitra. "I don't believe that Nitra is exceptional, rather, this case has drawn attention to everything. Naturally I condemn this and the claims that this is not about extremism have upset me," Félix said. The head of Nitra's theater company, Ján Greššo, called the attack brutal, hateful and inhuman. "I am always appalled when I see anger that harms people not just physically, but also psychologically," he said. Former Slovak presidential candidate Pavol Hrušovský also lives in Nitra and has demanded harsh punishment for the perpetrators since the beginning. "Such brutal violence is deplorable. I am sorry it took the police so long to investigate given the video footage," he said.

Neo-Nazis in Nitra have long committed assaults
Neo-Nazis in Nitra have been attacking people for quite some time now. For example, in 2008 they assaulted a group of young people in front of the Old Theater and have established a branch of the militant neo-nazi National Resistance movement network there. In the past neo-Nazis have organized a "March against Drugs" in Nitra on the anniversary of the founding of the Fascist Slovak state. That entity collaborated with Nazi Germany during the war.
© Romea.

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Greece: Youth vote for Golden Dawn for racist/supremacist reasons, study finds

Debunking myth that the swing to Golden Dawn is due to exclusively to the economic crisis, researchers at Athens Panteion University show that young voters agree with racist-supremicist position of the neonazi party.

20/10/2014- Young people who voted for Golden Dawn in 2012 did so out of ideological conviction and not for reasons stemming from the economic crisis, a new study from a leading Athens university shows. Conducted by researchers at the Panteion University, the study also found that the level of identification among Golden Dawn’s young voters with its aims was higher than for youth who backed other parties. These voters generally view Golden Dawn as a “nationalist party”, rejecting as “despicable” its description as “fascist” or “neonazi” even though they recognise that there are ideological affinities between it and fascism. For them, Golden Dawn is a “patriotic-nationalist” party, which “puts the Greeks above everything else”. The almost total identification with the party’s “nationalist” ideology, expressed through the pride these young voters feel as Greeks pride, stems from the belief that Greeks are superior to other people historically and culturally. “When we had civilisation, others were living in trees,” one male voter aged 24 told the researchers, repeating a phrase often found in Golden Dawn’s “theoretical” texts.

In the June 2012 elections, Golden Dawn was the second most popular party in the 18–34 age group. The research was carried out by sociology department at Panteion University within the framework of a European programme called MyPlace (Memory, Youth, Political Legacy and Civic Engagement), which was conducted in 14 European countries (UK, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Georgia, Finland, Denmark, Russia, Estonia, Slovakia, Croatia, Latvia, Hungary). The quantitative survey was conducted in 2013 and involved 1,200 questionnaires being sent to young people aged 16–25 in the Attica region, which includes Athens. The researchers also conducted 60 semi-structured interviews with young voters and facilitated 15 intergenerational group discussions. “As the data from the survey makes clear, the widespread argument that young people (and not only) turned to Golden Dawn due to the economic misery is very debatable,” says Panteion professor Alexandra Koronaiou, who coordinated the research in Greece. “The research brings to light a number of other parameters that show Golden Dawn’s impact on a part of the youth and it highlights the strong ideological identifica-tions of new voters with the ideology that the party represents.

“This ideological positioning stems from the stereotypical perception of the glorious history of ancient civilisation and the (supposed) unbroken historical continuity and superiority [of the Greeks] over the centuries,” Koronaiou said. “This ‘cultural’ racism is complemen-ted by ‘biological’ racism, when it comes to the issue of attitudes and perceptions towards foreigners,” she added. “For example, only a small minority of these young voters accept that second- and third-generation immigrants could be considered Greek citizens. “The majority insists on the cultural and biological superiority of the Greeks and the corresponding inferiority of other ethnicities. However, this pride is accompanied by feelings of national humiliation, resentment and self-pity when faced with the decline that the country is experiencing,” said Koronaiou. The report shows that these feelings are accompanied by contempt for and rejection of democracy, procedures and institutions, encompassing hatred and anger towards political figures in parliamentary system and a clear preference for authoritarian and totalitarian systems.

Left rejected
The study reveals interesting findings as to why these young people are not turning leftwing parties, which some consider to be anti-systemic. Some of these voters say they reject the left, and specifically Syriza, because of their stance on immigration. The vast majority, however, argues that the only true “antisystemic” party is Golden Dawn and they describe the other parties, especially those on the left, as “hypocritical”. This view is summed up best by this comment from one young female Golden Dawn voter: “Politicians are only interested in their own well-being, their wealth; they are responsible for what we spend because the only things that matters for them are votes and money.” Koronaiou believes that Golden Dawn has reaped the benefits of targeting the youth at various levels. “Golden Dawn’s systematic infiltration and propaganda in schools and other spaces frequented by young people in their leisure time (such as fitness studies, soccer, camping, musical bands) has paid off. The youth is a tremendous force, whose ‘conquest’ all fascist and Nazi movements and parties gave great importance.”

She quotes from Golden Dawn’s own website to show the importance the neonazi party places on younger generations. In November 2012, one article said: “A generational battle is certain in the next election, with the vast majority of new voters supporting Golden Dawn.” Another proclaimed: “We have taken the youth from you, once and for all.” “Golden Dawn’s ideological influence over the youth is a very serious phenomenon in terms of the country’s social cohesion in the future and it highlights the urgent need for policies to combat racism and fascism among young people,” according to Koronaiou. “Why? As François Mitterrand once said: ‘If young people are not always right, the society which ignores and knocks them is always wrong.’”

Golden Dawn’s young voters in their own words
“Maybe nationalists” - Harilaos, 22
“I don’t know if it’s a neonazi party. I know that some officials have such views, but I don’t think it’s a problem ... I don’t think you can label the party, as it’s not a
something uniform. Let’s say that some are neonazis, some are nationalists, some are nazis, and others are just rightwing. I would say it’s more a nationalist party even though this doesn’t describe it.”

“They’re uncivilised” - Marios, 25
“If the those guys, the Somalis, cut people’s heads off in their country for breakfast, it’s because they are uncivilised, because we are talking about immigrants who have no culture. Cameroon, Angola. What are they? The best of them would kill their own mother. You can’t talk to these people. You just can’t, because they’ll draw a sword and do you in. You have to draw yours first.”

“We’re going forward” - Nikandros, 21
“It is the only party that I hear talking about the word “Greeks”, the only party I hear talking about promoting Greece, the only party I hear talking about solving the problem of illegal immigrants ... Golden Dawn supports nationalism; nationalism in each country means moving your country forward, to make it the ruler of the whole world and let the rest poke their eyes out.”

“I’m a Greek, not a Golden Dawner” - Nikodimos, 25
“Why do not I believe that a Greek should vote? A Greek patriot doesn’t vote; he doesn’t have a party. And something that’s misunderstood in Greece: whoever says he is a Greek is a fascist. So if you wear a shirt with the Greek flag, you’ll be called a fascist or Golden Dawner. I don’t view myself as a Golden Dawner; I’m a Greek.”
“We’re degenerates” - Marios, 25
“Where the Greeks are superior, where we could be superior is culturally. We could be ‘the’ country and be the centre of the world. I really believe it. Why isn’t one of us Obama, the ruler of the world? You fucking start from here. We could be from the cradle; but we are not because we are modern Greeks. For me, modern Greek is the biggest insult you can say to someone. And I say it, we modern Greeks, fuck it. We’re degenerates.”

“It’s all from us” - Domna, 25
“Compared to other nations, we are far more superior. Because we gave birth to democracy, which of course has now been abolished by everyone, but what examples can I give ... let’s say astronomy, I don’t know, all science, it’s all from us, it’s all from is ... Everything started from here, they’ve even taken some ancient names and are using them. Everything is from us.”

“I’m racist” - Voula, 25
“Yes, I say it, I’m a racist. Let’s be clear. No bullshit or anything, I’m very sorry ... Yeah, I have been forced to become one because I can’t be ashamed and afraid to move around areas in the country where I was born and raised ... Or be afraid to get into a public transport, which previous generations have paid for, to be able to move around comfortably ... Why do we not put them on a ship and sink it somewhere in the Aegean sea?”

“It’s like if was elected” - Mario 25
“[Golden Dawn] is not a party. And it’s not party like those parties that have become degenerate nowadays. The difference is probably that it’s not made up of politicians. Now a politician has become a profession, I don’t know if you can study it somewhere, to grow up to become a politician and learn to lie. These people [Golden Dawn MPs], are from around the corner, who have been really up against it. They haven’t from America to pretend that they know Greece. They haven’t come from France. They are people from [the Athens districts of] Kypseli, Agios Panteleimonas who have really been up against it. People who before becoming MPs were probably one or two years unemployed, who had nothing to eat. That’s the difference; it’s like if you or I entered parliament.”
* Translated from an article by Giorgos Kiousis that appeared in the Sunday edition of Eleftherotypia on 19 October 2014
© Enet English

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Ukraine's politicians face mob attacks

Over the past few weeks, Ukrainian political activists have carried out a series of sensational actions, seizing politicians and local officials and throwing them into big bins.

20/10/2014- The activists, many from far-right groups, accuse the politicians of various offences, and call their actions "trash bucket challenges" - echoing the "ice bucket challenges" that were recently an internet viral hit. They even have a hashtag: #trashbucketchallenge. The Ukrainian version, also accompanied by video footage, has been eyecatching - and often brutal. In one, Viktor Pylypyshyn, a politician trying to register as a candidate for the 26 October parliamentary elections, was tossed into a large waste bin, or dumpster, outside Kiev's Central Electoral Commission. He was a member of former President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

The footage shows Mr Pylypyshyn sitting forlornly on a pile of garbage, covered in red paint, as activists continue to hurl rubbish and curse him. "Bitch, you think that the Maidan is over? It's just begun," one man shouts, off-camera, referring to the February "Euromaidan" revolution, which drove President Yanukovych from power and delivered a new pro-Western government in his place. The "binning" supporters say these actions are necessary because, eight months after the country's revolution, the government has done nothing significant to tackle corruption. Outrage has not ebbed over revelations of immense wealth and conspicuous consumption among former President Yanukovych's inner circle - including an opulent estate owned by Mr Yanukovych himself, and a massive collection of gold bars belonging to one of his ministers.

Fragile economy
All this is unfolding against a backdrop of rising economic discontent. The fighting in the east has shut down much of the steel and mining industry, which is at the heart of Ukraine's economy. There are also fears of a frigid, gas-less winter, owing to a lengthy dispute over prices with Moscow. This year, the country's economy may shrink by 10%. A feeling of malaise is palpable: Kiev is dotted with empty shop fronts, and political protests are constant. The trashings have spread across the country. Many of these look like pre-election campaign stunts - video cameras and journalists always seem to be close by and in full supply. But they have definitely touched a nerve. The actual number of incidents is unknown, but it appears to be growing. "People are tired of waiting; people are disappointed," said Boryslav Bereza, a member of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector, which has carried out a number of the trashings. "And when the government is unable to take the law into its hands, then the street takes matters into its hands."

Mr Bereza and others also call the binnings "people's lustrations". A lustration was a sacrificial cleansing ceremony in ancient Rome, but has come to refer in Eastern Europe to a vetting process to filter out former communist officials. The country's own lustration law, now signed by the president, was passed on 16 September - the day of another trashing. Vitaliy Zhuravsky, a member of parliament and Yanukovych ally, was tossed into a waste bin as he was entering the legislature. His exact offence is still unclear. Not all the victims have been linked to the Yanukovych government, however. Police have opened investigations into a couple of the incidents, but so far no charges have been levelled. Oleh Lyashko, the head of the Radical party, which is polling in second place ahead of Sunday's parliamentary elections, violently threw an official in the waste bin when he could not find his intended target. He said the official was "lying" and therefore deserved his abuse.

Some observers say the attacks are less about grassroots justice, or sending a message to those in power, and more about mob rule - pointing out that the February revolution was presumably about introducing "European values" to Ukraine. They have condemned the incongruity of carrying out vigilante justice in order to strengthen the rule of law. "Europe is not some giant shopping-mall or a high-class resort, as some imagine," wrote Alyona Getmanchuk, the director of the Kiev-based Institute of World Policy. "Trash is no substitute for judgement. Fists are no substitute for judgement," she added. "The real Europe ends not where the EU ends. It ends where the law ends." The binning incidents also raise concerns over the lustration law.

Supporters say it helped sweep away the vestiges of communism and strengthen democracy in countries where it was introduced, like the Czech Republic. Still, human rights activists say Ukraine's version is too broad. According to the legislation's authors, more than one million people will be vetted. "If all these people are dismissed, who will replace them?" asked Yevhen Zakharov of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. "The country's main problem is an insufficient number of modern educated people."

Second Maidan
Mr Zakharov also said the law was passed under questionable circumstances, and that it did not provide for an independent body to oversee the process. "This is being perceived as a great victory for democracy, but in fact it's a great defeat," he wrote. Nevertheless, as the country's economy deteriorates and anger in the country grows, many Ukrainians are speaking of a "second Maidan" if things do not change soon. Already the political confrontations have taken an even more violent turn: Nestor Shufrych, another Yanukovych ally, was taken to hospital after a throng badly beat him as he tried to enter a building in the southern city of Odessa to hold a news conference. Boryslav Bereza of Right Sector has called the binnings a "soft form of lynching", though he warns the real thing could be not far off. "We have seen people thrown into bins and now they are being beaten up. It's frightening for me to think of what could come next."

Ukraine's lustration law - or law on the "cleansing of power"
A key demand of pro-EU demonstrators who ousted Viktor Yanukovych from power in February 2014, the law bans:
@ Those who served for at least one year when Viktor Yanukovych was in power (25 February 2010 - 22 February 2014)
@ Those who held office during protests against him (21 November 2013 - 22 February 2014)
@ Those who helped him "usurp power", undermined Ukraine's security, promoted separatism, ethnic discord or violated human rights
@ Police officers, prosecutors and judges involved in the prosecution of anti-Yanukovych demonstrators, or in the obstruction of such protests
@ Senior Soviet Communist Party functionaries, KGB agents and officials with more assets than their income would allow
Source: BBC Monitoring
© BBC News

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Hungarians march to celebrate ‘Roma Pride’

Members of Jewish community join in solidarity rally for minority group known by some as ‘Gypsies’

19/10/2014- Hundreds of Hungarians took part in a “Roma Pride” march in Budapest Sunday to celebrate the country’s largest ethnic minority, a community scarred by widespread prejudice. Around 500 people walked through the city center chanting “Opre Roma!” (Up Roma!) and holding placards of famous figures of ethnic-Roma background like British actor Charlie Chaplin and Spanish footballer Jesus Navas. “This day is about everyone, Roma and non-Roma, showing pride in our community, and our positive contributions to Hungary,” main organizer Jeno Setet of the “We Belong Here” civil group said. The Roma, also known as Gypsies, make up about seven percent of Hungary’s population of 10 million and the minority group is one of the largest in central Europe, according to the Council of Europe. “It’s usually impossible to hear anything positive about us in the media however, or anywhere else,” Setet told AFP.

The European Union member state’s Roma trail in practically every indicator from living standards to health, as they do throughout eastern and central Europe. Wide-spread unemployment and poverty has also fueled mistrust against the Roma, and deputies of the far-right party Jobbik — the country’s second-biggest party — often make anti-Roma statements. “A majority of Hungarian society doesn’t want anything to do with the Roma,” Mihaly Simon of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union rights group told AFP. Gusztav Loli, 58, said Hungarians either forget or don’t know about the sacrifices made by many Roma through history. “My father was jailed in 1956 after fighting for Hungarian freedom [during the failed anti-Soviet uprising],” Loli said.

Setet said he planned to give the Hungarian government a petition urging it to include lessons about the Roma Holocaust in the school curriculum. An estimated half a million European Roma perished in Nazi German death camps during World War II. Other groups taking part in the march included those representing gay rights, the Jewish community and homeless people.
© AFP

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Hungary: Your number is up, unless you’re a football fan

About 25,000 Roma live in the north Hungarian city Miskolc. Their largest closed settlement is the so-called “numbered streets”. About 1,000 live in the houses built as a workers’ settlement in the 1960s. Their future is unsure however. The city council wants to demolish the slums for the sake of urban development, including enlarging the neighbouring football stadium and replacing the Roma homes with parking.

19/10/2014- Miskolc Mayor Ákos Kriza, who was re-elected at the municipal election on Sunday, sees the plans as critical for urban development. “Both for reasons of public safety and health the existence of slums cannot be tolerated any more,” he told online magazine index.hu. Kriza, of Fidesz-KDNP, says the citizens are backing him up – with the help of Fidesz he has collected 35,000 signatures for the termination of slums. The numbered streets are special due to the renewal of the stadium, he told Hír TV: “We cannot expect more than 10,000 football fans to march through a slum each time they would like to get into the stadium. Of course we will provide the rightful inhabitants with other accommodation. We are working with social sensitivity and we decide separately on each family.” Kriza said numerous unauthorised people have been using the community apartments for years. “Since we are responsible for the economical operation of the community, we cannot allow people who have not been paying rent for years to live there or destroy the real estate, so that the children have to grow up among rats and cockroaches,” he said. His office did not respond to questions submitted by The Budapest Times.

Who are we talking about exactly? Sociologists Gábor Havas and Gabriella Lengyel asked around the inhabitants of 112 apartments in the numbered streets. The result: about 90% of the inhabitants were Roma and 85% were born in Miskolc. Fifty-eight apartments had unlimited rental contracts and 38 had fixed terms. This is not irrele-vant: the inhabitants say the city now no longer automatically extends the contracts once they have expired. Also, only those tenants with a valid current contract receive compensation. With these conditions, the majority are in danger of being put on the streets without any compensation. Attila Tamás, an independent Roma activist, draws a clear conclusion. “Miskolc is trying to clear out the Gypsies,” he said. “I would be happy if the segregation would end but the goal of the politicians in Miskolc is to send away the poor people instead of looking for a solution.”

Indeed, you can’t help getting this impression: the Fidesz majority on the city council voted on 8 May that the compensation offered to tenants of community apartments would be subject to strict conditions: only those tenants may receive up to HUF 2 million compensation who purchase real estate outside Miskolc and commit themselves not to sell it in the following five years. So the inhabitants have to answer the question: where to? Many of the families have been living in Miskolc for generations and do not want to leave. In addition they have financial difficulties. Most of them are working in the factories nearby – how could they make their living in the villages in the countryside? They want a fair solution and have already demonstrated for one. Some activists lived in tents in front of the city hall during the summer to call attention to the situation. “We are staying in Miskolc,” the slogan of the Magyarországi Cigány Párt (MCP, Hungarian Gypsy Party) said in the election on Sunday.

They put up their own candidate, Gábor Váradi, because many Roma feel that they are not represented by the large parties. He scored a dismal 414 votes, 0.7%. Fidesz tried to snatch votes from the radical-right party Jobbik by campaigning against Gypsies and Kriza polled 25,231 votes against Jobbik’s 12,225. Albert Pásztor, the com-mon candidate of the left parties, is mistrusted because of his former role as police director, and he polled 18,808 votes. “He is known for being hostile towards Gyp-sies for years,” Tamás, the activist, said. MCP’s aim above all is to draw attention to the situation of Roma in Miskolc but this is not easy. “Our financial situation only allowed hanging a few posters,” Váradi said. “Besides that our only opportunity is to go around and talk to people.” Their only chance is to stay united, he believes. So far no one had taken the compensation offered by the city council to leave their homes. “Miskolc is my home,” he added.

The neighbouring communities are not welcoming the Roma – they are afraid that Miskolc will push its poverty problems over to them. The town Felsőzsolca and five other communities announced: “We are not supporting the export of social problems and we will use every available lawful method in order to prevent it.” Opposition to Roma is already reality in Sátoraljaújhely at the Slovak border, although the town is 86 kilometres from Miskolc and it seems unlikely that many Roma would move there. Those people “who move to the territory of Sátoraljaújhely with the help of financial resources received from another community” will not be entitled to any social benefits in the first five years, according to a new rule issued by the authorities. They also cannot rent or buy apartments in public ownership and will be excluded from the public work program for three years.

A local notary doubts the legality of such regulations because communities in Hungary are obliged by law to pay out social benefits. However, Sátoraljaújhely passed the regulation nonetheless and says it is willing to fight legal action if it must. If the Roma from the numbered streets are unwelcome both in Miskolc and the surrounding area, might they move to Budapest? Attila Tamás thinks that before it comes to that, Miskolc must find a solution that is socially acceptable. “If Miskolc wants to termi-nate the slums, then the city needs to offer the people new apartments all around the city, with a similar value to the present ones. This way they could end the segre-gation as well.”
© The Budapest Times

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Anti-Semitic Jobbik Party Gains Power; Hungarian Jews Frantic

Hungarian Jewish community alarmed after election results reveal Jobbik is second largest party in Hungary.

19/10/2014- The Jewish community of Hungary has expressed great concern in recent days, following the results of local elections, where far-right party Jobbik has become the second largest party in Hungary, after winning control of fourteen cities and towns. This represents a significant achievement for the party - which, in the previous local elections four years ago, received control of only 3 cities. Just two months ago, during Operation Protective Edge, Mihaly Zoltan Orosz, mayor of Erpatak in eastern Hungary, held an anti-Semitic ceremony in the city's main square. During the ceremony, effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres were "hung" in a mock execution. One week later, police raided the home and offices of the anti-Semitic mayor and brought him in for questioning. Another Jobbik party member and parliament representative caused an uproar when he called on the government to make a registry of all of Hungary's Jews.

The Conference of European Rabbis sees these election results as further proof of the rise of anti-Semitism in Hungary. "We are concerned and we expressed our concerns to the heads of the European Union (EU) as well as to the leaders of European governments, who see eye to eye with us on the need for a war to eradicate rising anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic manifestations. We will continue our activities to increase and glorify Torah and Israel in Europe, because we all believe that Light rejects Darkness." In Hungary's last parliamentary elections, which took place in April, Jobbik already showed a marked increase in power. The party won 20.3% of the vote, with most of the support coming from poor areas in the east of the country. Jobbik's biggest achievement during last week's elections was recorded in the northeast city of Ozd, which holds 35 thousand inhabitants. The new mayor of Ozd, David Janiczak, 27, took a victory lap around the city, shaking the hands of cheering residents.
© Arutz Sheva

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Hungary: Jobbik extends influence in municipalities

18/10/2014- Jobbik managed to hold on to the majority of its mayoral seats Sunday. Except in one county, it is the second-largest party in county general assemblies. Fourteen of its mayoral candidates won and in six municipalities independent candidates, enjoying the far-right party’s support, came in first. Researcher Political Capital offers this analysis. After the closing of the polls, party president Gábor Vona positioned Jobbik as the challenger of the governing party in 2018. Jobbik is still far from its target; it failed to capture the much-coveted mayoral seat in Miskolc and in Budapest it had to be content with coming in before green party LMP.

Gaining strength in cities
In light of a puny leftist opposition, Jobbik’s performance was one of the hottest issues of the municipal elections. Data on fielding candidates already indicated that the party had made an effort to consolidate its position in major urban areas, for in the past its presence was limited primarily to small towns and villages. In 2010 it managed to capture mayoral seats in only two small villages and one mid-sized town (Tiszavasvári), and later it took over in 12 municipalities in part when independent mayors joined Jobbik and in part by winning by-elections. This time, Jobbik’s mayoral candidates won in 14 municipalities, including in a number of mid-sized towns, such as Tapolca, Tiszavasvári, Ózd and Törökszentmiklós. In addition, in six municipalities independent candidates also supported by Jobbik came in first. As a result, a policy of strict law and order, discriminating welfare policies and school segregation may gain new momentum in a number of municipalities.

In a number of cities with county-rank, Jobbik mayoral candidates came in second and the party’s representatives will be present in larger numbers in the city assem-blies. However, Jobbik failed to win the top prize, the post of mayor, in Miskolc, where eventually its candidate, Péter Jakab, was soundly defeated by both the incumbent mayor from the governing party and the leftist candidate. Importantly, in most municipalities where Jobbik ran, it managed to hold on to its leading position, disproving the commonly held view that once in power the far right tends to lose appeal.

Second place in county assemblies
From its vantage point, Jobbik politicians are right to emphasise the party’s achievements in the assemblies of cities with county-rank and the victory of Békéscsaba’s independent candidate supported by the party. However, when it comes to county assemblies, it must be taken into account that residents of the 23 cities with county-rank are excluded from voting for the members of county assemblies. Thus 1.6 million citizens living in the largest cities outside Budapest do not have the option of expressing their party affiliation directly. Only people living in smaller settlements vote for county party lists, which offer Jobbik a disproportionate repre-sentation. In the 19 county assemblies Jobbik gained 81 mandates, 23 more than in 2010. The distribution of the new mandates is even among the counties. In other words the party’s second place in 17 county assemblies is rather misleading, and its resurgence in urban centres is a significantly more relevant development. The case of Békéscsaba should not be seen as an unequivocal victory for Jobbik either. While the far-right party supported the winning independent candidate, Péter Szarvas, he can thank the local Fidesz organisation, rent by infighting, for his victory.

Budapest is Jobbik’s Achilles heel
The capital continues to be the weakest point for Jobbik. Despite its efforts to show a more moderate face, Jobbik has failed to make any significant headway in Budapest. The poor result is also highlighted by the fact that despite Jobbik having a mayoral candidate in all 23 districts, they got only 40,590 votes. This is far less than Jobbik received in the April 2014 parliamentary election (111,129), and even worse than the European Parliament result in May, when Jobbik got only 51,995 votes on the party list. In Budapest, Jobbik’s mayoral candidates typically received 4-10%, although in some districts 10-12%. The over 40,000 fractional votes earned a single Jobbik seat in the Budapest assembly. With 42,093 votes (1700 fewer than four years ago), the party’s Budapest mayor candidate, Gábor Staudt, received 7.1% and finished third, far behind its two major rivals. The party’s only consolation is that it managed to finish ahead of LMP, which was in a stronger position in 2010.
© The Budapest Times

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United against Salafism, right-wing scene surges in Germany

Violent hooligans, backed by right-wing extremists, have teamed up against a new enemy: Salafists. For months now, they have lashed out online - and now they're taking to the streets.

18/10/2014- It began on Facebook, where anti-Islam soccer fans have been venting their anger in online forums for months now. But lately, in German cities, like Essen, Nuremberg, Mannheim, Frankfurt and Dortmund, hostile and extremely violent hooligans, usually at odds with each other, have united against a new enemy: Salafists - a radical and militant branch of Islam. Their initiative, currently known as Ho.Ge.Sa. - "Hooligans gegen Salafisten" ("Hooligans against Salafists") - has seen its profile repeatedly blocked by Facebook, but it always reappears under another name. It's here that the group is stoking the flames against the hard-line Salafist movement. Next stop: a demonstration planned for October 26 in front of the Cologne Cathedral.

The current mood and the protests organized by Kurds across Europe are giving hooligans and right-wing sympathizers the chance to "apparently demonstrate against the Salafists, but really only to express their own Islamophobia," Olaf Sundermeyer, a journalist and author, told DW . "We are 'hooligans against Salafixxxx.' Together, we are strong," reads the group's Facebook page. They see themselves as "a movement that has brought together hooligans, ultras, soccer fans and ordinary citizens in a common fight against the worldwide 'Islamic State' terror campaign and the nationwide Salafist movement." In Facebook posts and on banners at their demonstrations, they call their group the "resistance" against "the true enemies of our shared homeland." The latest protest in Dortmund drew around 400 people. "On 26.10.2014 in Cologne, we will significantly increase this number of participants," a moderator recently announced on the site. "Peaceful, unmasked and without rioting."

'Salafists are the greater evil'
These slogans have actually served to bring together opposing hostile fan bases, who usually meet up before and after sports events to fight each other. Gunter A. Pilz, an expert on fan behavior from the Sport University in Hanover, calls this phenomenon "a temporary fighting alliance." However, he said that this coalition will only last as long as the common enemy: the Salafists. Sundermeyer, who points out that anti-Islam attitudes are widespread in the soccer fan scene, said there's a risk that extreme right-wing groups will be tolerated because the brutality of "Islamic State" militants in Syria and Iraq is proof to many that Salafists are the greater evil. In an interview with German public radio Deutschlandfunk, Sundermeyer said that "Hooligans against Salafists" is still a relatively small group, but stressed that it could attract more followers - even those with less radical viewpoints. Soccer, he said, is the ideal environment to radicallize and recruit young people to the extreme right-wing cause. Officially, though, the league has distanced itself from the right-wing extremist movement.

Mobilizing apolitical hooligans and soccer fans
But there's an obvious overlap with the neo-Nazi scene: Ho.Ge.Sa. is backed by Dominik Roeseler, a member of the right-wing Pro NRW party who sits on the Mönchengladbach city council. He plans to be at the demonstration in Cologne. Roeseler is considered to be quite extreme and is, like all right-wing party members, under observation by German security officials. And there are further connections: At the protest in Dortmund, many shirts, jackets and banners were adorned with neo-Nazi symbols. The next day, a post on the Facebook group backtracked, saying that "unfortunately, we have found out that many neo-Nazis came to this event. We want to once again make it clear that we are not political."

There doesn't even seem to be a consensus over Dominik Roeseler among the Ho.Ge.Sa. members. A few days ago, they announced that they had parted ways with him. But one thing is certain: the Cologne demonstration is being organized by right-wing political officials. Is Ho.Ge.Sa., therefore, an attempt by right-wing extre-mists to drum up new members from within the ranks of hooligans and extremist soccer fans? At the most recent count, the number of Ho.Ge.Sa. fans had risen to more than 16,000. "We continue to grow, the media can hound us all it wants. This time, you will not be able to stop us," wrote a follower on the site. Until recently, soccer associations, clubs and other fans had been able to keep the hooligans in check, said Sundermeyer. Now, however, faced with the threat posed by the Salafists, the cause of the right-wing extremists is seeing increasing support.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Video shows Spain police beating, expelling migrant

18/10/2014- A video of Spanish police beating an African migrant with a truncheon and carrying him apparently unconscious back across the border to Morocco caused outrage in Spain on Friday. The man was one of about 100 migrants who tried to climb from Moroccan soil over a six-metre (20-foot) fence into the Spanish territory of Melilla on Wednesday. The local humanitarian group Prodein which filmed the video identified the man as a 23-year-old Cameroonian named Danny. In the video, an officer of the Spanish Civil Guard police force is seen hitting the man with a truncheon as the migrant hung barefoot from the fence on the Spanish side. Danny is then seen dropping from the fence into the hands of a group of Spanish officers and lying on the ground. Spanish officers later carry him by the arms and legs as he lies limp, through a gate in the fence and back to the Moroccan side of the border.

Jose Palazon, the leader of Prodein who made the video, accused officers of "a high level of violence". He said the migrant "should have had medical assistance but did not get it". "The whole thing was absolutely illegal. It is a monument of contempt for the law, morality and ethics," Palazon told AFP on Friday. Rights groups accuse the Spanish police of illegal "on-the-spot deportations" of migrants who have stormed the border fence in groups of hundreds over recent months. A spokeswoman for the Spanish government delegation in Melilla, Irene Flores, said the migrant on Wednesday was not injured and had offered "passive resistance". Spain's government denies that migrants who climb the fence should be considered as having reached Spanish territory and says it has the right to return those intercepted while perched there. "The Civil Guard acted in scrupulous fulfilment of the law," Flores told AFP. "We do not consider these to be cases of deporting people on the spot, but of turning them away at the border."

On February 6 about 15 migrants drowned in Moroccan waters while trying to swim from a beach in Morocco to Ceuta, the other of Spain's two north African territories. Witnesses accused Spanish security forces of firing rubber bullets at the migrants in the water. The government admitted using rubber bullets but denied its forces had targeted the migrants directly. The conservative Popular Party government drew fire over Wednesday's video, with opposition parties accusing it of lacking clear protocol for border guards. "This is one more example of absolutely intolerable behaviour by members of the security forces and inhuman treatment of people," said the parliamentary spokesman for the United Left party, Joan Coscubiela.
© AFP

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Monkey chants in Moscow: Is Russia making any progress in its fight against racism? (Analysis)

As CSKA Moscow prepare to play Manchester City behind closed doors, Goal analyses what Russian football is doing to solve the problem of racism in their country
Analysis by Andrew Wychrij

21/10/2014- A year after CSKA Moscow supporters were found guilty of racially abusing Yaya Toure, Manchester City will return to the Russian capital on Tuesday for another Champions League fixture. This time, however, the English champions should expect no repeat of monkey chants directed at the Ivorian. The game will be played in front of empty stands at the Arena Khimki after CSKA received their third Uefa sanction in less than a year, following the latest racist behaviour of their fans. CSKA’s most recent punishment, after violent clashes and displays of racist banners by supporters in Rome last month, has once again left Russian football under a cloud. Monkey chants made by Spartak Moscow supporters against Hulk in September, and similar abuse from Torpedo Moscow fans towards Christopher Samba have also served to reinforce the impression that Russian authorities have neither the desire nor ability to address the issue of racism.

However, with the 2018 World Cup fast approaching, the impetus to act is starting to grow. The simple fact is that Russia’s authorities cannot hide from the problem anymore. The overwhelming weight of evidence, coupled with international pressure, means that denial, which has been the typical response to allegations of racism, is no longer a viable option. A Russian Spectator Law introduced in January 2014 prohibits political propaganda, namely the presence of neo-Nazi and extremist symbols, in stadia and is a positive step in acknowledging that legislation can help curb racist behaviour. However, implementation is sporadic, punishments are often soft and, moreover, tackling individuals alone will never be enough to solve such a pervasive issue.

“There’s been no real desire from the Russian football authorities to address the issue of racism until recently,” Pavel Klymenko, the Eastern Europe development officer for Football Against Racism Europe (FARE) told Goal. “That’s one of the reasons why it’s so much worse than in Western Europe. But the Russian Football Union (RFU) has now recognised the problem, though they haven’t understood it yet. “They treat racist behaviour and neo-Nazi propaganda in stadiums as isolated incidents, not as a problem in society. By prosecuting just one person, you’re not solving the problem. “Russian clubs also have a lot of influence within the RFU and can sometimes escape responsibility. Clubs are still in the initial stages of understanding the issue; they have no educational programmes and don’t work with their fans.”

Russian clubs have appeared unwilling to accept the seriousness of the situation, generally following the dismissive attitude often displayed by officials. Wealthy club owners can wield an unhealthy amount of influence in official circles, challenging the impartiality of the RFU’s disciplinary process. The prevalence of neo-Nazi ideolo-gy in ultra groups means there is a risk of fuelling a poisonous atmosphere from within. However, the prevailing sense is that sanctions like those against CSKA are beginning to bite, both financially and reputationally, and clubs are realising that there is value in educating and helping change the attitudes of supporters. Simultane-ously, the example of CSKA Fans Against Racism, an anti-racism fans’ campaign that has attracted widespread social media attention, demonstrates that not all Russian supporters are content with the status quo.

“We don't want to be afraid to send our kids to the stadium, even if they choose to be part of the ultras,” CSKA Fans Against Racism told Goal. “Our main ‘fight’ is for the young generation of CSKA fans. If we create an alternative role model for them, that would be the greatest long-term achievement of our campaign. We want our stadium to be clean of political, racist or any other prejudices. “We want to show the international football family that those CSKA fans that are described as racist hooligans are in the absolute minority.” Initiatives like the one above mark definite progress but understating the size of the challenge is dangerous. For instance, FARE’s soon-to-be-published Russian monitoring report, prepared alongside the SOVA Center (a nonprofit organization that conducts research and informational work on nationalism and racism) in Moscow, describes numerous instances of racist and far-right displays and violence at Russian games over the past two years. Russia has work to do in order to mend its international image and meet the deep-rooted issues within its own society head on.

“The main issue is whether the Russian football authorities will be strong enough, determined enough and clever enough to understand the problem properly and address it correctly,” Klymenko added. “Of course, the problem is massive. It’s not just football, it correlates with xenophobic attitudes in Russian society and organised fan groups in Russia are often connected to the neo-Nazi underground. “We all understand that racism doesn’t come from football. It’s a problem of society. Football cannot solve all of society’s problems but it can definitely contribute to the solution.” While you cannot defend the indefensible, it will take time to see the changes in Russia that we have witnessed, for example, in England over the last 30-40 years. The Soviet Union was not a diverse society in terms of race and less than 25 years after its dissolution some significant issues remain in this respect.

It must be made clear, though, that this can never be a justification for any of the disgraceful scenes in Russian stadia over recent years. Racism needs to be tackled forcefully and severe sanctions for offenders must be part of the solution, but so must education. Football can be a transformative force in Russia, a vehicle for social change, but that will not be instantaneous. Russia is far from the only country where discrimination exists but it clearly needs to improve. Any hints of progress are encouraging, but not enough; there is an extremely long way to go.
© Goal

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Russian social network hosts Miss Hitler 2014 contest

Competition being hosted on the Adolf Hitler group page of the popular VKontakte Russian language web-site.

18/10/2014- An anti-Semitic beauty contest is currently underway on the Russian social networking website VKontakte, the local equivalent of Facebook. Called Miss Ostland 2014 (Ostland was the name Nazi Germany gave to the occupied Baltic states and eastern Poland), the contest is hosted on the site's Adolf Hitler group page, which has more than 7,000 followers, according to the vocative website. Women interested in participating in the competition are asked to send in sexy photographs of themselves, as well as to write about their love for Hitler. The candidate who receives the most likes will be declared the winner.

Leading the competition right now is Katya Shkredova from Belarus, who “adores Adolf” for his philosophy on the “ideal society,” according to the report. The thing she loves most about him is his will to “experiment on people.” Shkredova’s picture has 37 likes so far. Just behind her is Irina Nagrebetskaya from Ukraine, who wrote “Don’t forget! Adolf is his name, he’s our eternal race, he has been given eternal life.” Similar sentiments were expressed by Ekaterina Matveeva of St. Petersburg, who believes that “Adolf Hitler’s position is genius and true, that races are different not only in appearance, but also in intelligence.”

The contestants
First prize in the competition is a piece of jewelry from a company called “Magic Workshop,” featuring one of the Nordic runes that were so beloved of Heinrich Himmler and the SS. Second prize is a pendant combining the classic German Iron Cross and Third Reich heraldry. The creators of the Miss Hitler pageant are not the only ones allowed to express their intense anti-Semitism on VKontakte. There are several other pro-Hitler communities with thousands of followers on the Russian social media site, vocative reports.
© Haaretz

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Russian football still in denial over racism

Manchester City return to Moscow a year after Yaya Touré was abused by CSKA fans and the problem is still not solved

18/10/2014- When Manchester City travel to Moscow to face CSKA in the Champions League on Tuesday there will inevitably be memories of the same fixture last year, when Yaya Touré was racially abused from the stands. The incident highlighted the problem of racism in Russia, which is to host the World Cup less than four years from now, and Touré even suggested that, if such incidents were to continue, African players should simply not attend the 2018 tournament. It is a fairly safe bet that Tuesday’s match will not see a repeat of the racist abuse. This, however, is not because the club’s fans have cleaned up their act so much in the past 12 months but because the game is being played behind closed doors, after CSKA were handed a Uefa punishment for violent clashes between their fans and police at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome last month. There were also accusations that the fans had unfurled racist banners and the Uefa punishment is the third time the club has been sanctioned in the past year.

Last season Touré said he had heard racist chants from the stands and, although CSKA vehemently denied any such thing had happened, Uefa confirmed the reports and penalised the club with a partial stadium closure. The blanket denials from CSKA did not help calm matters. Sergei Aksyonov, the club’s spokesman, still maintains the incident was blown out of proportion while also claiming that he heard racist chants from City fans at the return fixture three weeks later. “We are absolutely certain that there was nothing there,” Aksyonov says. “Maybe one or two people were shouting things but it was nothing big. And why do they pick on us? During the return match in Manchester we heard similar things against one of our black players, we told the officials and they refused to do anything about it.”

The club have appealed against Uefa’s punishment after the Rome violence and Aksyonov said it was the responsibility of the Italians to ensure adequate policing, adding that one of the Russian fans had been attacked by Italians with a knife before the match. He also denied that the banners unfurled were racist: “We think there should be a presumption of innocence, and instead we often find there is a presumption of guilt.” Stanislav, 26 and a CSKA fan who attends most home games, says there is a problem among “a small minority” of fans but he believes that the punishments are far too harsh. “Yes, there is a problem but there is no need to draw so much attention to it,” he says. “You don’t want to believe it but, if I’m honest, it looks like it’s all a political response given the current anti-Russian feeling in the world. It’s not a big enough issue to justify these punishments.”

For the rest of the world, though, as the countdown to Russia’s World Cup begins in earnest, the issue of racism is a vitally important one. “There are huge challenges with Russia,” Fifa’s vice-president Jeffrey Webb said earlier this month, highlighting that more needs to be done at the top level in Russia to address the issue. “It must start with education and really it must come from the top down that diversity is good, that integration is good and there’s nothing to fear,” said Webb. But for a long time it has seemed as though Russian officials are part of the problem rather than the solution. The issue of racism in the stands was taken as nothing more than banter or simply denied altogether. When Lokomotiv Moscow fans unfurled a banner with a banana on it, and the words “Thanks West Brom”, after the English side bought their Nigerian winger Peter Odemwingie in 2010, the head of Russia’s World Cup bid committee denied it was racist. Instead he claimed dubiously, “to get a banana” is a slang term meaning to fail a test.

Even when bananas started raining down from the stands at black players, there was denial among officials. The Brazilian Roberto Carlos, who had bananas thrown at him on more than one occasion when playing for Anzhi Makhachkala, said he was so upset by the incidents they made him consider retiring. The response from officials was hardly reassuring. “It’s true that they give out bananas to the players and to the match delegates and to the referees,” said Alexander Meitin, the official responsi-ble for fan behaviour, two years ago. “Bananas are a nutritious fruit and a yellow fruit, which always makes you happy.” Now, it seems, perhaps with the help of international threats, Russian officials are somewhat more on message. Nobody from the Russian Football Union was available to speak to The Observer but Meitin’s recent public statements have struck a somewhat different tone, though it still sounds as though fear of international punishment rather than a belief that racism is actually wrong is what is driving the agenda: “These incidents will bring serious punishments for clubs, because Fifa and Uefa are following all these incidents, and there is even more attention on Russia ahead of the World Cup. Everyone is looking at us and it does not show our clubs in a good light.”

The incidents continue. Just this month Zenit St Petersburg’s Brazilian striker Hulk reported abuse from away fans when Spartak Moscow came to St Petersburg. “During the game racist abuse was directed toward me from the Spartak section of the ground,” Hulk told Russia’s Sport Express newspaper. “In the first half I clearly heard monkey chants shouted in my direction and this was not only on one occasion. It was coming from a large group of people … I take this as a personal insult for me and my club.” The Russian football union confirmed Hulk’s accusations and banned Spartak fans from attending their next away match. Given the game was against Ural Yekaterinburg, a 24-hour train journey from Moscow, it is unlikely that many fans missed out.

In the past Zenit fans have been some of the worst offenders, with the club’s largest fan group even issuing a manifesto demanding that the club sign no black players. “Nationalism has been a part of football fan culture since it took on its current form in the late 1960s in Britain,” says Vladimir Frolov, author of a book on Russian fan culture. “In Russia sometimes it crosses the line and becomes racism but most of the time it doesn’t. Overall the situation in Russia isn’t all that different from other European countries.” Indeed, at a Serie A match between Milan and Juventus at San Siro last month, a large group of away fans made repeated and coordinated monkey noises every time one of Milan’s black players committed a foul. The chants, which were clearly audible in the away end, were completely ignored by stewards, suggesting they are a regular occurrence.

As with Russia the problem is not just in the stands: the Italian FA president, Carlo Tavecchio, was banned for six months by Uefa earlier this month for making a banana reference when talking about foreign players. Many Russians feel aggrieved that the problem receives so much attention in Russia but not in Italy or Spain. “I don’t really see it as such a big problem as the Western media is trying to show it,” says Artur Petrosyan, editor in chief of Russia’s Sport Express website. He says the majority of fans are not racist and that racist incidents happen much more rarely than before. But he concedes that part of the problem lies in the way that the issue is dealt with. “There are hooligans and racists in every country; the difference is how you handle them,” he says. “Russia still has visible difficulties in doing so. That’s why rare incidents with monkey taunts or similar things still happen.”

When it comes to many issues of race, gender or sexuality, Russia can often resemble the Britain of two or three decades ago, and the problem of racism on the foot-ball terraces can hardly be seen in isolation from the rest of society. Casual racism is rife in Russia, even sometimes within government. A youth group with tacit Kremlin support beamed laser images of Barack Obama eating a banana on to the wall of the US embassy in Moscow earlier this year, on the US president’s birthday. Last year Irina Rodnina, a former champion Olympic figure skater and now an MP with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, tweeted a doctored photograph of Obama last September. The image, which showed him chewing while in the foreground a banana was waved at him, caused uproar internationally.

When the US ambassador accused her of “outrageous behaviour”, the MP simply said it was her right to tweet it as it constituted “freedom of speech”. She was later selected to be one of the flag bearers at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. One of Russia’s top television hosts said the international reaction to the photo-graph was ridiculous and was the sort of wrong-headed political correctness that would lead to people having to order “an African-American coffee, not a black coffee”. With such attitudes in government, it is hardly surprising that some football fans still find it hard to see the problem with racist abuse, seeing it as part and parcel of stadium banter. “It’s natural that you try to unsettle opposing players in any way you can,” says Artyom, 29 and a CSKA fan. “Monkey noises are just a way of putting black players off their game. I never do it but I don’t see how it’s any different from any other kind of abuse.”
© The Guardian

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Bishops scrap landmark 'welcome to gays'

Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays Saturday, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Pope Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families.

18/10/2014- The bishops approved a final report covering a host of issues related to Catholic family life, acknowledging there were "positive elements" in civil hetero-sexual unions outside the church and even in cases when men and women were living together outside marriage. They also said the church must respect Catholics in their moral evaluation of "methods used to regulate births," a seemingly significant deviation from church teaching barring any form of artificial contraception. But the bishops failed to reach consensus on a watered-down section on ministering to homosexuals. The new section had stripped away the welcoming tone of acceptance contained in a draft document earlier in the week. Rather than considering gays as individuals who had gifts to offer the church, the revised paragraph referred to homosexuality as one of the problems Catholic families face. It said "people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity," but repeated church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman. The revised paragraph failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

Two other paragraphs concerning the other hot-button issue at the synod of bishops - whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion - also failed to pass. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the failure of the paragraphs to pass meant that they have to be discussed further to arrive at a consensus at a meeting of bishops next October. It could be that the 118-62 vote on the gay paragraph was a protest vote of sorts by progressive bishops who refused to back the watered-down wording and wanted to keep the issue alive. The original draft had said gays had gifts to offer the church and that their partnerships, while morally problematic, provided gay couples with "precious" support. New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group, said it was "very disappointing" that the final report had backtracked from the welcoming words contained in the draft. Nevertheless, it said the synod's process "and openness to discussion provides hope for further development down the road, particularly at next year's synod, where the makeup of the participants will be larger and more diverse, including many more pastorally-oriented bishops."

A coalition of small pro-life groups, Voice of the Family, said the outcome of the meeting had only contributed to "deepening the confusion that has already damaged families since the sexual revolution of the 1960s." The gay section of the draft report had been written by a Francis appointee, Monsignor Bruno Forte, a theologian known for pushing the pastoral envelope on ministering to people in "irregular" unions. The draft was supposed to have been a synopsis of the bishops' interventions, but many conservatives complained that it reflected a minority and overly progressive view. Francis insisted in the name of transparency that the full document - including the three paragraphs that failed to pass - be published along with the voting tally. The document will serve as the basis for future debate leading up to the October 2015 meeting of bishops which will produce a final report for Francis to help him write a teaching document of his own. "Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn't been these ... animated discussions ... or if everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace," Francis told the synod hall after the vote.

Conservatives had harshly criticized the draft and proposed extensive revisions to restate church doctrine, which holds that gay sex is "intrinsically disordered," but that gays themselves are to be respected, and that marriage is only between a man and a woman. In all, 460 amendments were submitted. "We could see that there were different viewpoints," said Cardinal Oswald Gracis of India, when asked about the most contentious sections of the report on homosexuals and divorced and remarried Catholics. German Cardinal Walter Kasper, the leader of the progressive camp, said he was "realistic" about the outcome. In an unexpected gesture after the voting, Francis approached a group of journalists waiting outside the synod hall to thank them for their work covering the meeting. Francis has rarely if ever approach-ed a scrum of journalists, except during his airborne press conferences. "Thanks to you and your colleagues for the work you have done," he said. "Grazie tante (Thanks a lot)." Conservative bishops had harshly criticized journalists for reporting on the dramatic shift in tone in the draft document, even though the media reports merely reflected the document's content.

Francis also addressed the bishops, criticizing their temptation to be overly wed to doctrine and "hostile rigidity," and on the flip side a temptation to "destructive do-goodness." His speech received a four-minute standing ovation, participants said. Over the past week, the bishops split themselves up into working groups to draft amendments to the text. They were nearly unanimous in insisting that church doctrine on family life be more fully asserted and that faithful Catholic families should be held up as models and encouraged rather than focus on family problems and "irregular" unions. Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of South Africa, who helped draft the revised final report, told Vatican Radio the final document showed a "common vision" that was lacking in the draft. He said the key areas for concern were "presenting homo-sexual unions as if they were a very positive thing" and the suggestion that divorced and remarried Catholics should be able to receive Communion without an annul-ment. He complained that the draft was presented as the opinion of the whole synod, when it was "one or two people." "And that made people very angry," he said.
© The Malta Independent

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Headlines 17 October, 2014

Web retailers accused of selling Nazi-related paraphernalia

B’nai B’rith says Etsy, Ebay, Amazon, Sears and Yahoo! guilty of allowing users to sell offensive items

17/10/2014- International Jewish organization B’nai B’rith demanded several online retail outlets Wednesday to enforce policies against users selling “hateful parapher-nalia,” The Times of Israel reported Thursday. According to B’nai B’rith web retailer Etsy had “456 swastika-themed items...available for sale, as were 479 Hitler-themed items, 13 Ku Klux Klan-themed items, and one racist, Jewish caricature candlestick listed specifically under the topic ‘anti-Semitic.’” B’nai B’rith said Ebay, Amazon, Sears Marketplace and Yahoo!, were also guilty of allowing users to sell offensive items on their sites. Sears then removed a swastika ring from the roster of items offered for sale, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. The item description quoted in the report read "this Gothic jewelry item in particular features a Swastika ring that’s made of .925 Thai silver.” It then featured the following curious disclaimer: “Not for Neo Nazi or any Nazi implication. These jewelry items are going to make you look beautiful at your next dinner date.”

According to JTA, the item also was for sale on Amazon.com, though it is listed currently as unavailable. Sears issued an apology in a statement and on Twitter:
“Like many who have connected with our company, we are outraged that more than one of our independent third-party sellers posted offensive items on Sears Market-place,” the company said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize that these items were posted to our site and want you to know that the ring was not posted by Sears, but by independent third-party vendors.”
© i24 News

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Swedish far-right leader takes sick leave

17/10/2014- The leader of a far-right party that made strong gains in Sweden's election last month is going on sick leave, saying he's burned-out from battling the country's political and media establishment. Jimmie Akesson's announcement was unexpected even though the 35-year-old had looked tired following the Sept. 14 election in which his anti-immigration Sweden Democrats more than doubled their support to 13 percent, becoming the third-biggest party in Parliament. The surge of the Sweden Democrats, a party with right-wing extremist roots, has unnerved many Swedes and tarnished the country's reputation as a bastion of tolerance. The party is alone in Swedish politics in criticizing the country's liberal immigration laws.

Despite Akesson's efforts to soften the party's image and expel openly racist members, other parties, from left to right, have refused to work with the Sweden Democrats in Parliament. Wherever they campaigned, Akesson and his colleagues were met by protesters booing, turning their backs or yelling anti-racist slogans. Last year a left-wing activist smashed a pie in Akesson's face. Meanwhile, Swedish media have closely scrutinized the party, exposing members with racist views or neo-Nazi sympathies. In a statement published on the party's website, Akesson said his workload and frequent travels had sapped his energy. But he also said he felt drained by the mental and physical stress of constantly being a target of criticism and abuse.

"Our opponents' persistent attempts to stop our successes, the media's often sickening campaign journalism and the immoderate hatred of extremists are some examples," he said. Other political leaders expressed sympathy for Akesson, while some celebrities and commentators quipped on social media that being a "racist" was emotionally draining. It wasn't immediately clear how long Akesson would remain on sick leave. The Sweden Democrats said Mattias Karlsson, a senior party official, would stand in for him.
© The Associated Press

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Belgian government under fire in its first week

In his first week as prime minister of Belgium, Charles Michel has had to condemn collaboration with the Nazis in World War II following controversy over two of his cabinet members.

16/10/2014- Jan Jambon, minister of security and home affairs for the pro-devolution Flemish party N-VA, was heavily criticised for a recent interview in which he was asked about his presence at a meeting of former collaborators in 2001. Although Jambon first said that he never defended collaboration with Nazi Germany and called it “a mistake”, he then went on to say: “The people who collaborated with the Germans had their reasons. I did not live in that period.” Another N-VA member of Michel's new cabinet, Theo Francken, also came under fire. Francken is deputy minister responsible for asylum and migration. In a social media message in 2011, he questioned “the economic added value” of “Moroccan, Congolese and Algerian” immigrants. Francken was also present at a controversial birthday party on Saturday (11 October). Together with fellow N-VA politician, a minister in the Flemish government, he visited the 90th birthday of Bob Maes, who founded the Order of Flemish Militants in 1949, which in the 1980s became a paramilitary group targeting immigrants.

Maes had also been a member of the Flemish National Union, a political party that collaborated with the Nazis after they invaded Belgium in 1940. The largest opposi-tion party, the French socialist party, is demanding that Michel ask Francken and Jambon to step down. “These persons are not worthy of carrying the large responsi-bility you have given them”, said French socialist member of parliament Laurette Onkelinx. She said “the sound of boots” is present in the government, a reference to [neo-] Nazism. Onkelinx also criticised an old e-mail from Francken in which he made a “homophobic” remark, which Francken had said was a joke. MEPs have also entered the fray.

Gianni Pittella, head of the centre-left S&D group, said the fact that Francken and Jambon, "who openly frequent former Nazi collaborators and their associates", have government positions is “worrying”. Michel defended his centre-right government, which consists of his French liberal party and three Flemish parties, including the N-VA. “My two grandfathers both lived through the Second World War. One of them emerged ill from the camps and died shortly afterwards”, Michel said during a debate in parliament on Wednesday (15 October). “I can tell you without ambiguity that I and the whole government with me condemn the collaboration.” During the debate, which lasted 21 hours until 7am local time on Thursday, opposition parties also fiercely criticized government plans for spending cuts.
© The EUobserver

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Eurosceptic MEP group collapses

A Eurosceptic group in the European Parliament (EP) that includes Britain's UKIP and Italy's Five Star Movement has collapsed after an MEP withdrew.

16/10/2014- The development means a loss of funds and less influence for the parties in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group. The EFDD accused EP President Martin Schulz of engineering Latvian MEP Iveta Grigule's exit from the group. Speaking to BBC News, Mr Schulz's office denied any wrongdoing. The office said that after meeting Mr Schulz on Wednesday, Ms Grigule had brought her letter of resignation from the group to his office on Thursday morning. Consequently, leaders of the European Parliament decided that the EFDD had to be dissolved, the office told the BBC. To qualify as a group, parties must represent at least seven countries and Ms Grigule's departure had reduced the EFDD to six.

'Massive blow'
Ms Grigule, an MEP for the Latvian Farmers' Union, has applied to Mr Schulz to become an independent MEP. According to one source in the European Parliament, the EFDD group was due to get just over 4m euros (£3.2m; $5m) in funding in 2015 - more than 80,000 euros per MEP in the group. For UKIP, with 24 MEPs, that's more than 2m euros of revenue hanging in the balance. Half of it usually goes to the communications budget - a valuable resource in an election year. If Mr Farage is no longer the leader of a group, he will also get less speaking time in the parliament, and fewer opportunities to make speeches on big set-piece occasions. UKIP alleges that the Latvian MEP who has left the group was bullied into submission by parliamentary leaders but she is so far unavailable for comment. A UKIP statement accused the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, of acting like he was running the parliament of a "banana republic". But without a formal political group, UKIP will be a less powerful voice in Brussels. Nigel Farage said his party had been the victim of a back-room stitch-up and he accused Martin Schulz of "effectively blackmailing" Ms Grigule by offering her the leadership of an overseas delegation.

That, he said, was how the British got treated in Brussels. The EFDD's collapse has also forced MEPs to postpone a decision on the winner of the Sakharov Prize for 2014 until next Tuesday, for administrative reasons. UKIP's 24 members made up half of the 48-strong EFDD group. They were followed by Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement which had 17 MEPs. Other members included the Sweden Democrats, one French independent, and MEPs from the Czech Republic and Lithuania. Eurosceptics made major advances at the European elections in May, with the EFDD gaining an extra 17 seats. News of the EFDD's fall was welcomed by the largest group in the parliament, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), which tweeted: "First defeat for Eurosceptics! EFDD group disappears with departure of Latvian Iveta Grigule." The leader of the UK Labour Party at the European Parliament, Glenis Willmott MEP, said Nigel Farage had suffered a "massive blow". Mr Farage has predicted UKIP could hold the balance of power in the UK following the general election next year after his party gained its first elected MP last month and narrowly failed to take a seat from Labour at a by-election. 

Why being in a group is better
@ Non-attached MEPs - collectively called "NI" in the parliament - cannot be heads or deputy heads of EP committees or delegations
@ Groups have more power than NI members to draft legislation and steer it through parliament
@ NI members cannot table group amendments or motions for resolutions at full EP sessions
@ MEPs in groups have more staff than NI members, who are excluded from the total 59.8m euro (£48m; $76m) pot allocated to groups to cover their administrative expenses
@ Average budget for NI members is 43,000 euros each.
© BBC News

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After Zara's 'Holocaust tee,' Mango shirt deemed 'Nazi chic'

Twitter users say lightning-like pattern on clothing giant's new top resembles SS insignia.

16/10/2014- A new shirt marketed by the Spanish fashion chain Mango has sparked derision online over what social media users have describe as a striking resemblance between its lightning symbol and the insignia of Nazi SS units. The shirt is advertised as a white shirt for women with a lightning-like symbol, under a label heralding it as “the total look," but Twitter users think it is more in the line of "Nazi chic." Consumers who noticed the likeness have been flooding Twitter and Facebook with their protests in recent days. The German politician and satirist Martin Sonnenborn, who heads The Party, posted a photo of the shirt on his Facebook page, asking, “Why does Mango market this shirt only to women? There are also male Nazis.”

Others called it “The SS shirt” or the “Eva Braun Collection”. According to the magazine Bild, some consumers have pointed out that the new shirt's promotional tagline, "I want a total look," also carries an unflattering association to Nazi bigwig Joseph Goebbels, who famously called out in a 1943 speech: "Do you want a total war?" to a cheering crowd. Last August there was an uproar on social media when the Zara chain sold a children’s shirt that looked like the uniform worn by concentration camp inmates, including a yellow star that looked like the yellow badge on these uniforms. Zara removed the shirt and apologized.
© Haaretz

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USA: Sears apologizes, removes swastika ring from Marketplace website

13/10/2014- Sears has apologized and removed a men’s swastika ring that was briefly for sale on its Marketplace website. The “.925 Thai silver Swastika ring” was listed under the “men’s punk rock style” jewelry category. “Not for Neo Nazi or any Nazi implication. These jewelry items are going to make you look beautiful at your next dinner date,” description read, Haaretz reported. Sears tweeted personalized responses to dozens of outraged customers, apologizing for the mistake and explaining that sometimes third-party vendors slip through the cracks. “We certainly understand the upset and regret this occurred. The vendor is being reviewed and the item remo-ved,” Sears tweeted. “This item is a 3rd party Sears Marketplace product that does not abide with our guidelines and is being removed,” the company said. The item was also briefly for sale on Amazon.com, though it is listed currently as unavailable, Haaretz reported. The Jewish parenting website Kveller posted an image of the Sears page with the swastika ring before it was removed.
© The Washington Times

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Slovak Plan To Give Gypsies Free Flights To UK

16/10/2014- A group of local Slovak politicians who wear cowboy hats and call themselves the magnificent seven are campaigning on a promise to solve crime and clean up the area by putting gypsies on flights to the rest of Europe, and sterilising those that remain. Vladimir Guertler, 41, who is head of the Magnificent Seven Party that promises to restore law and order by getting rid of the gypsies with one-way tickets abroad, has backed up his plan with TV spots interviewing gypsies admitting they would welcome the chance of a free ticket out of the country. Those that remain, he said, would be eligible for free sterilisation operations for which they would get incentives, including the advantage that with fewer children they would have more money for other things. Before the region split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, Czechoslovakia routinely sterilised Roma women to curb the birthrate of people regarded as "undesirables" but it was thought to have ceased after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

It was later found out however that doctors had continued the practice not just for months but for years. And now the subject has been raised again in Slovakia together with the idea of encouraging Roma to go to other places in Europe with free one-way tickets. The "7 statocnych" party, which means the magnificent seven, is campaigning in the city of Kosice in the impoverished east of Slovakia, a region split by ethnic tension. Guertler, who is a lawyer, has already put up posters promising the sterilisations and the tickets if he is elected to the local council in the upcoming elections on November 15. And he has rejected critics who called his campaign "amoral" and "racist". He said: "My campaign is deeply moral and there are no marks of racism. It is human to Romas and also to major population of Slovakia. "All points of my election program are based on my knowledge of the situation following several visits to the borough of Lunik IX in Kosice and discussions with its residents."

Guertler claimed his plan of free flight tickets would be viable, saying: "Free movement of persons in EU countries is guaranteed. And every European citizen has right to live, work, study or to run business there." He said the Roma he had spoken to did not say which country they would want to go to but that the UK would for sure be one of those offered. And with regards to the sterilisation he said: "Roma women who live in poverty don’t have the possibilities to protect themselves and to control the number of children they have, what with a lack of money for contraception and generally their partners’ unwillingness to use it. "My plan is to financially support women of a certain age with a certain number of children who decide to undergo the sterilisation voluntarily. "The financial support would give a better life for her and for her children." Posters stuck up around the city show him wearing a white shirt and white western hat and repeat his claims made in local newspapers and on television of flights and sterilisations for Roma.

The billboards contain sentences as "Lunik IX to Brussels. Flight tickets for free" or "Voluntary sterilisation for Roma women". Lunik IX is a borough in the city of Kosice which houses Slovakia's largest Romani community. Although originally built for 2500 inhabitants, there are now at least three times that number living there. Most basic amenities have been cut off because of the failure of those using them to pay. Guertler wrote on the website of the political party: "I have spoken to Romas from Lunik IX about the possibility of leaving Slovakia. That’s why I want free flight tickets for them." The candidate made a short video in the borough and asked Romas if they would like to leave Slovakia. One of the Lunik IX residents Jozef Conka, 39, said: "Yes, I would like to leave right now." Guertler offered to organise a public money collection for the flight or bus ticket for Conka. Another resident of Lunik IX Miroslav Horvath, 26, was not very impressed by Vladimir Guertler's plan. He said: "You care about those who want to leave. But what about people who want to stay here? Why don’t you try to solve the problem with housing here."

Meanwhile local police have confirmed they have had a complaint and are investigating whether the billboards can be regarded as racist. Police spokesman Alexander Szabo said: "Kosice police has registered a complaint. We will investigate the case and pass on a report to prosecutors." Meanwhile some of the billboards have been defaced by people who have pasted on Ku Klux Klan images, a move which Guertler condemned as an attack by "human-rights extremists". Activist Laco Oravec from the Milan Simecka Foundation that is fighting to get a better situation for Roma people said: "This campaign benefits from the appalling situation of Roma in the country who are forced to live in a really primitive way. "The idea of moving people who are not convenient for us may be welcomed by voters, but it is totally amoral. The problems have to be solved and not to be moved elsewhere. This candidate is clearly a racist."
© The Croatian Times

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Far-right extremists plan Upper Austrian meeting

A gathering of the far-right group Arbeitsgemeinschaft für demokratische Politik (AFP) is due to take place in the Wels-Land district of Upper Austria from Friday to Sunday - but several of the speakers may be stopped from making an appearance.

16/10/2014- The organisers say that they want to "present a clear, alternative model to the EU capitalist corporations", with speakers from across Europe “standing up for freedom and sovereignty" and attendees gathering in the evenings to sing “folk and freedom songs". The Austrian Press Agency reports that representatives from Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party are expected to attend, as well as from Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, and the right wing publicists Pierre Krebs and Richard Melisch. The planned gathering, entitled ‘Europe - Rebirth or Demise’, is scheduled to take place at the Gasthof Lauber in Offenhausen. Upper Austrian police said that the meeting was “on their radar” but that they would not be banning it. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is looking into the background of all the speakers and will not allow them to make an appearance if there are any criminal proceedings pending against them. Austria’s Mauthausen Committee (MKÖ) and the Upper Austrian Antifa anti-fascist network have called for the AFP to be banned.

Golden Dawn is "a neo-Nazi party, whose head has been formally charged with belonging to a criminal organization,” said MKÖ chairman Willi Mernyi. "Given the known facts, it is incomprehensible that security agencies and the judiciary are happy to sit back and watch the machinations of the AFP," criticized Antifa spokesman Robert Eiter. The AFP was founded in 1963, as the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Politik, and was connected to Manfred Roeder, a prominent German Holocaust denier and convicted extreme-right activist, who died in July. Its publications often carry items about neo-Nazi and revisionist agitation and one of its main aims is to fight Austria’s National Socialist Prohibition Law. Constitutional expert Heinz Mayer has stated that the AFP continues to "overtly and covertly glorify Nazi ideas and actions, cynically denies any Nazi violence, and uses hateful language with a clearly aggressive tone towards foreigners, Jews, and ‘strangers’”. The AFP has few defenders but is connected to members of the far-right both in Austria and abroad. It supports the right-wing FPÖ party at elections.
© The Local - Austria

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Greek Prosecutor Seeks Trial for 70 Far Rightists

16/10/2014- A prosecutor heading a yearlong investigation into Greece's extreme right Golden Dawn party recommended Thursday that its leader, 17 other lawmakers, and dozens of party officials and supporters stand trial on a range of charges, including running a criminal organization and murder. In a 700-page report, seen by the Associated Press, prosecutor Isidoros Doyiakos describes Golden Dawn as a staunchly hierarchical organization that aimed "to propagate and impose its political beliefs and theories through violence." The party, founded in the mid-1980s as a fringe Neo-Nazi group, saw a huge increase in support since the start of Greece's financial crisis five years ago and won 18 seats in the 300-member parliament in 2012 elections. Doyiakos wrote that Golden Dawn's ideology was of "no criminal interest" but argued that it organized assault squads "armed with bats iron bars, brass knuckles, and knives" to carry out frequent attacks against immigrants and left-wing activists.

The report, based largely on testimony from a protected witnesses and material from computer hard drives seized in multiple police raids, is the most damaging to the party since a crackdown was launched by judicial authorities last year. The investigation was launched after an alleged Golden Dawn volunteer was arrested for the murder of a left-wing rap singer, Pavlos Fyssas, in a knife attack. Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and eight other lawmakers are currently in jailed for pre-trial detention, while the others regularly attend parliamentary sessions. A panel of judges is expected to issue final indictments next month. If it upholds Doyiakos' recommendations, the lawmakers face a maximum 20-year prison sentence if convicted. Speaking from prison in Athens late Thursday, party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris described the report as "laughable" and politically motivated by the conservative government seeking to regain votes lost to the far right. "There are 700 pages and not one with any real evidence," he said. "Obviously the government is panicking."
© The Associated Press

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Attacks on Albanian Shops in Serbia Condemned

A wave of attacks on Albanian businesses in Serbia has occurred in the wake of the disastrous Serbia-Albania football match earlier this week.

17/10/2014- Serbian police have arrested one person, following a series of attacks on Albanian-owned shops in Serbia that came after a football match raised tensions to boiling point in the country. An 18-year-old man was arrested on Friday on suspicion of having taken part in attacks on two bakeries in the town of Banovci owned by ethnic Albanians. Attacks on Albanian-owned businesses in the northern province of Vojvodina started after a football match between Albania and Serbia on October 14 ended in chaos and fighting on the pitch. The UK referee called off the match. A day later, two shops in the towns of Stara Pazova and Sombor were set on fire while another in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad was stoned. The attacks continued on October 15. During the night a bakery in Novi Sad was burned, while hooligans damaged five more shops in Novi Sad and Vrsac.

Bajram Temaj, the owner of Novi Sad bakery that was torched on Thursday night, said police turned down his request for protection, which he had made after attacks started a day earlier. He said the police had answered that they did not have enough patrol vehicles or the capacity to respond to his request. Serbia’s Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, condemned the attacks and stated that all citizens and their properties were entitled to protection. “These are our citizens who work and pay taxes regularly and we will guarantee them full security,” he said. “These are criminal acts and the government will respond by protecting its citizens,” Vucic added.

Aleksandar Nikolic, State Secretary of the Interior Ministry, said Serbia would not tolerate the spread of religious and ethnic hatred, and that all those who destroyed property in this fashion would be punished. “The ministry is working intensively to identify the individuals who have attacked facilities owned by our citizens of Albanian nationality,” Nikolic said. He also stated that the police would guarantee the security of all the country’s citizens. “We are doing everything in our power to prevented these and similar attacks, despite the brutal provocation at the football match”. The “provocation” referred to was a drone that flew over the stadium in Belgrade bearing a map of Greater Albania. Fighting then erupted on the pitch and some Albanian players were assaulted by Serbian fans who had invaded the field.
© Balkan Insight

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Serbia: Belgrade chaos fed off centuries of rivalry between Serbia and Albania

Abandonment of European qualifier is the latest chapter in a long history of grudges and conflict in the Balkans

15/10/2014- In the Balkans, more than anywhere else, football is the continuation of war by other means. There is a long history of violence underlying the chaos in the Belgrade stadium – this is just the first time it has taken the very 21st-century form of a drone conflict. Every scene on Tuesday night was freighted with centuries-old grudges and rivalries that last erupted into armed conflict in the 1998-9 war between Serbia and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, which left 10,000 people dead and was halted only by a Nato bombing campaign. The map suspended from the drone showed a map of a “Greater Albania” including Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. On either side were portraits of two heroes from Albania’s war of independence against the Ottoman Empire. The country that the Albanians thought they were going to get after the collapse of the Ottomans was cut in half at an international conference in London in 1912-13, and the Albanians have never forgotten.

Similarly, the Serbs have not forgotten, or accepted, the loss of Kosovo. Serbia, and its Russian allies, have not recognised Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. Serb nationalists regard Kosovo as the birthplace of their culture, and the most important date in the Serb nationalist calendar commemorates the loss of a 1389 battle to the Ottomans in Kosovo, seen as the beginning of the end for greater Serbia. The notorious Serb hooligan who led the pitch invasion on Tuesday night, Ivan Bogdanov, is not just part of the hardcore Red Star Belgrade fans, the Ultra Boys. He is also part of Movement 1389, a far-right nationalist group which has been involved in rioting against Kosovo Albanians and their western backers.

In that sense, Bogdanov is continuing a tradition of mingling football hooliganism with ultra-nationalist politics. The first really violent incident leading up to the bloody wars of the 90s was a 1990 clash between Zagreb and Belgrade fans in the Croatian capital. The most violent paramilitary leader of the Croatian and Bosnian wars, Zeljko Raznatovic, known universally as Arkan, was the leader of the most violent Red Star fans, the delije, who he recruited to form the core of his paramilitary group, the Tigers, who murdered and pillaged their way across the wreckage of Yugoslavia, before Arkan was assassinated in Belgrade in 2000. Bogdanov is sometimes described as Arkan’s heir apparent, ideologically if not militarily.

It was left to the respective team captains to remind people that it was supposed to have been a football match rather than the latest skirmish in the Serbian-Albanian territorial struggle. The Albanian captain, Lorik Cana, went out of his way to thank his Serbian counterpart, Branislav Ivanovic, for protecting his team on the field. Ivanovic said after the game: “What’s most important to us is that we stood by the Albanian representation as a team and supported them. We regret that football was presented as a secondary issue here.”
© The Guardian

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Ukraine far right battles police in Kiev

Ukrainian nationalists have hurled smoke canisters and stones at riot police during clashes outside the parliament in Kiev.

14/10/2014- Violence erupted when the protesters demanded that MPs pass a law to recognise a World War Two nationalist group which opposed Soviet forces. Fifteen policemen were injured and at least 50 protesters had been arrested, the Ukrainian interior ministry said. Meanwhile, shelling in east Ukraine reportedly killed seven people. Seventeen people were also injured when shells hit a funeral in the village of Sartana, near the disputed port city of Mariupol in Donetsk region, local officials said. Pro-Russian separatist forces are active near Mariupol, which is under government control. A fragile ceasefire has been in place since early September between government forces and the separatists, who control large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Election tensions
MPs did not vote to recognise the wartime Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Most of the crowd has now dispersed. Police used batons in the clashes and linked arms to protect the parliament. At least one petrol bomb was thrown at the parliament building in the unrest and there are unconfirmed reports that some bullets were fired. Reporting the injuries and arrests, interior ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook that "the clashes at the Supreme Rada [parliament] have just ended" and "the police used a degree of force allowed by law". Among the many Ukrainian flags in the crowd there were also flags of the far-right Svoboda and Right Sector groups. Both groups later denied that their supporters had been involved in the violence.

UPA members fought for Ukrainian independence in the war, but recognising their role is highly controversial, the BBC's David Stern reports from Kiev. At times they were allied with the Nazis and are said to have carried out atrocities against civilians. In Kharkiv, Ukraine's largely Russian-speaking second city, nationalists held a torch-lit rally on the main square on Tuesday evening, under far-right banners. The event was meant to commemorate Ukrainian soldiers killed fighting the rebels in the east. Tensions are mounting in Ukraine ahead of elections scheduled for 26 October. There are some doubts whether Svoboda will pass the 5% threshold necessary to get parliamentary seats.
© BBC News

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Bulgaria: Levski fined for mocking UEFA's anti-racism campaign

15/10/2014- Levski Sofia have been fined 19,000 levs ($12,419) after fans mocked one of the anti-racism campaigns launched by European soccer's governing body UEFA in a Bulgarian league match last month. The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) imposed the relatively small fine on Wednesday after several Levski supporters held up a banner stating "Say yes to racism" and doctored UEFA logo during their 3-2 league win over champions Ludogorets. The ugly incident caused outrage in the Black Sea state. Bulgarian soccer authorities have long been criticised by anti-racism campaigners, local media and fans for not cracking down hard enough on discrimination in sport. Levski, 26-times Bulgarian champions and one of the country's two most popular clubs along with bitter city rivals CSKA, have a history of racism at their matches. The BFU fined the club 37,500 levs after their supporters displayed a banner showing a swastika and another one marking what would have been Adolf Hitler's birthday during their game at Litex Lovech in April 2013. In 2012, Levski were fined 30,000 euros ($38,328) by UEFA for racist behaviour by fans during a Europa League match against Bosnia & Herzegovina's Sarajevo.
(1 US dollar = 1.5299 Bulgarian lev)
© Reuters

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Kyrgyz MPs pass 'anti-gay' law in first reading, ignore U.S. criticism

15/10/2014- Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to pass a bill on first reading that bans "gay propaganda," ignoring a call by the United States opposing the discriminatory changes to the Central Asian state's legislation. The bill, condemned by human rights bodies as homophobic and allowing police to take arbitrary action against sexual minorities, was passed by a 79-7 vote. It has to be approved on three readings and be signed by the president to become a law. "We supported this bill, because it reflects the hopes and expectations of our voters willing to protect the traditional family," Kurmanbek Dykanbayev, one of the initiators of the bill, told Reuters. "And from now on, there will be no possibility to arrange gay clubs, gay cafes or to hold gay rallies." The draft law proposes imposing fines or prison terms of up to one year on those "forming a positive attitude to untraditional sexual relations" among minors or in mass media. Dykanbayev said that penalties might toughened in the following readings.

Critics say the bill resembles a law banning "gay propaganda" that Russia's parliament passed in June last year. Russia, a close ally that provides Kyrgyzstan with financial assistance and keeps a military airbase in the country, came under a barrage of Western criticism after it adopted that law. The U.S. embassy in Kyrgzystan has criticized the new bill, saying that people should not be silenced or jailed because of who they are or who they love. It said that laws discriminating against one group threaten the fundamental rights of all people. The parliament retorted with a statement that said the new bill was in line with the country's constitution and its international commitments. It said the rights of those practicing "untraditional sexual ties" would not be violated. "This draft law aims not to trample on someone's rights, but to protect and defend traditional family, human, moral and historic values of society, taking into account the mentality of the people of Kyrgyzstan," it said.

Kyrgyzstan is a mainly Muslim nation of 5.5 million which borders China. It is struggling to build the first parliamentary democracy in authoritarian Central Asia, but popular revolts have toppled its two presidents since 2005 and it struggles with widespread poverty and regional and ethnic divisions.
© Reuters

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UK: Social media should not descend into a tool for far-right (opinion)

These days social media allows strangers and their opinions into our homes at all times of the day or night – but only if we allow it to
By Jade Wright

17/10/2014- It’s not every morning that I’m described as a fascist and ‘a silly young hack who resorts to insults at the first provocation’. Not before before I’ve finished my toast, anyway. Admittedly I am quite strict about separating my vegetarian fry up from my boyfriend’s carnivorous version, but most mornings are fairly peaceful in our house – until either of us picks up our phones and looks at Twitter. This week I spotted a message from a bloke (at least I think it’s a bloke, but there was no picture), which read: “Just read your June article in the Echo about Britain First. You are the reason people re-post their stuff. Wake up!” That one story, which I wrote in response to people sharing Britain First’s D-Day posts on Facebook, is still the best-read column I’ve ever written. I don’t know why, but it still gets re-posted and read every week, and I still get plenty of abuse from far-right supporters about it, as well as some nice comments too.

This bloke had clearly taken exception to me pointing out that Britain First are a right-wing political party and street defence organisation who encourage people to share their posts to spread their message. He didn't like me warning people against re-posting things without checking what they are. He said: “The issue is that people like YOU are wilfully ignoring why people like me turn to the far right. Only they give us a voice... We agree with your multicultural hogwash or you dismiss us as fascists. YOU are the fascist.” I laughed so hard I almost spat my tea out. Boyfriend looked crossly across the table, briefly distracted from his plate full of sausages and bacon. We try not to spend our rare time at home together arguing with strangers on Twitter. We have a no-phones-at-mealtimes rule.

But this was too funny for me not to respond. The man, who said he was part of the far right, was using fascism as an insult. That’s like me accusing someone of being a ‘lefty’ as a bad thing. He didn’t seem to realise that fascism is a form of authoritarian nationalism – the very thing he claims to support. Presumably he thought it was just a catch-all insult for anyone whose opinions he disagreed with. My response was probably a bit mean, looking back. I made fun of his insult and his poor use of grammar. I told him to come back and debate when he’d read his history books. This prompted the “just a silly young hack who resorts to insults at the first provoca-tion” tweet.

He’s not that far wrong – I am silly and I quite liked being described as young – but then I came to my senses, put down my phone and picked up my knife and fork. Time was when I had to leave the house to be insulted by a stranger (rather than insulted by someone I know, which happens all the time). These days social media allows strangers and their opinions into our homes at all times of the day or night – but only if we allow it to. I’m putting down my phone.
© The Liverpool Echo

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UK: Hundreds hold ‘kiss-in’ at Brighton Sainsburys after ‘disgusting’ lesbians asked to leave

Hundreds have taken part in a gay ‘kiss-in’ at a Brighton branch of supermarket chain Sainsburys, after a lesbian couple were told the sight of them kissing was “disgusting”, and could harm children.

16/10/2014- University of Sussex student Annabelle Paige said she gave her girlfriend a light kiss while the store last week, when a security guard approached and told them to either stop kissing or leave. Paige said the security guard told her they were sorry to have said it, but that a customer had complained that they were concerned about the welfare of their children, and thought it was “disgusting” to see two women kiss. Around 200 people gathered at the store, before kissing one another, and holding up banners supporting LGBT rights.

Couples same and opposite sex were welcomed at the kiss-in
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson later pointed out that the guard had been employed through a third party, and said: “This should never have happened – it is clear that Miss Paige and her partner were not behaving inappropriately and we are very sorry that they were treated in this way.” The supermarket chain added: “We have called Miss Paige to apologise and will be making a [£100] donation to a charity of her choice.”
© Pink News

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UK: Goldsmiths University Row As Holocaust Motion Voted Down Over 'Colonial' Fears

16/10/2014- A row has erupted between students at a London university after a proposal to commemorate the Holocaust was voted down, with students expressing concerns over "colonialism" and "Eurocentric" links. Students at Goldsmiths University refused to back the motion on Wednesday, which suggested organising commemora-tive events for students on Holocaust Memorial Day, as well as other genocide remembrance days. Former UKIP member and Goldsmiths student Colin Cortbus proposed the motion, which asked the student union to "organise commemorative events for students and members of the public on Holocaust Memorial Day, on the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, on the Holodomor Genocide Memorial Day Act and on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day".

On the same day the proposal was defeated, Sarah El-alfy, education officer at Goldsmiths, tweeted a message congratulating students for rejecting the "Eurocentric" motion: Wonderful support from Goldsmiths' students on preventing Eurocentric motion going through.

Defy cisnormativity @drcab1e
One student present at the debate makes clear their opposition against the motion: This is a colonialist motion. Vote it down. #gsuassembly
Defy cisnormativity @drcab1e
White people should not be proposing motions condemning genocides without a lot of thought. This does not have that thought. #gsuassembly

The row emerged following an article Cortbus co-wrote for his student website The Tab on the issue, which has been criticised for misgendering and factual inaccura-cies. According to the union, student officer Sarah El-alfy offered to help Cortbus redraft the motion and bring it to the next student assembly. However Cortbus still insists the motion was wholly rejected, telling HuffPost UK: "To see a students' union reject this tolerant, inclusive motion for remembrance on the basis of spurious arguments.. is very sad for democracy." Goldsmiths president Howard Littler assured HuffPost UK the student union had previously held commemorative events on Holocaust Memorial Day and would do so in future. The news follows the voting down of a proposal to condemn Islamic State, over fears the motion was "Islamophobic".
© The Huffington Post - UK

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UK: NUS refuses to condemn IS over fears of 'Islamophobia'

15/10/2014- The National Union of Students has refused to condemn brutal Islamic State terrorists over claims of 'Islamophobia'. A motion calling for the union's National Executive Council was rejected amid claims it would represent a "justification for war". Students backing the motion denied it was racist and hit out at "identity politics" in universities. Muslim groups from around the world have condemned Isis and denounced it as "un-Islamic" using the hashtag #notinmyname. The motion, tabled at London's Derbyshire House in September, vowed to "condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention". But a group of students blocked it, claiming that "condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamaphobia". Daniel Cooper, who tabled the original motion, hit out at the rebels who blocked it. "I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism," he said. "There is a stranglehold of "identity politics" on the student movement."

The NUS said in a statement: "At our most recent NEC meeting, a motion on this issue was presented and voted on by all members. "Some committee members felt that the wording of the motion being presented would unfairly demonise all Muslims rather than solely the group of people it set out to rightfully condemn. "NUS does not support ISIS and a new motion will be taken to the next NUS National Executive Committee meeting, which will specifically condemn the politics and methods of ISIS and offer solidarity for the Kurdish people."
© The London Evening Standard.

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UK: David Cameron in race row after posing with blacked-up Morris dancers

David Cameron has courted controversy by posing with a group of blacked-up Morris dancers at a folk festival in Banbury.

13/10/2014- The Prime Minister was on a day out with his family when a group of Morris dancers asked him to pose for a picture with them. The image was immediately shared on Twitter, with the Prime Minister drawing widespread criticism. One tweet described his decision as “crass and insensitive.” Another read: “If you're a Morris dancer and you want to black up, ask yourself if it's really appropriate. If the answer is yes, you're wrong.” Another suggested: “Maybe Cameron could organise an im-promptu photo shoot with Morris dancer to show Putin who is real man.” Martin de Vine, founder and Squire of the Foxs Morris dancers, said: "David Cameron was having a coffee and we saw him and just asked if he would have a picture taken," The Telegraph reported.

"They blacked their faces with soot because it was illegal to beg and they didn't want to be recognised. It was a disguise, in the same way that the leader of the troupe wears a top hat and is called the squire to take the mickey out of the local squire. "It's not racist and offence is never taken. People from other cultural backgrounds don't see it as that at all. We have had an Arab person dancing with us in the past - it's not seen as racist." It is not the first time such an image has provoked criticism. In April, a Labour Parliamentary candidate defended a photo he shared online which showed him with a pair of Morris dancers with their faces painted black. Will Straw, the son of former Home Secretary Jack Straw, was criticised by anti-racism campaigners who said that so-called "blacking-up" was "out of date" and "unaccep-table in modern day Britain".

Mr Straw said at the time: "Accusers [should] mug up on their history before making false accusations. The dance, which marks the return of spring, is believed to trace its roots to Moorish pirates who settled in Cornwall and became employed in local mining. "As more mines and quarries opened in Lancashire in the 18th and 19th centuries, a few Cornishmen are said to have headed to the area, taking with them mining expertise and the costume of red and white kilts, breeches, bonnets and blackened faces." To many people, a blacked-up face evokes a racist music hall tradition in which white performers pretended to be black. In the 1960s, one of the most popular shows on British television was the Black and White Minstrel Show.

Morris dancers who black up their faces claim that there is no racial connotation at all. They say they are reviving a tradition associated with Border Morris dancing, in which Welsh Morris dancers on the English border used black cork to disguise themselves as they went begging in the streets.
© The Independent

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UK: Criminals' money hands anti-racism charity a Ł10k cash boost

Show Racism the Red Card has received £9,250 from the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent’s Partnership Fund

13/10/2014- Show Racism the Red Card has been awarded a share of cash seized from criminals in Gwent. The charity was awarded funding of £9,250 from the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent’s Partnership Fund, which is funded by the proceeds of crime awarded to the police and from the sale of unclaimed found property. The Commissioner’s Partnership Fund was made available in May 2014 for charities, voluntary organisations and community groups in Gwent involved in activities that have a positive impact on their communities. Following a rigorous process of assessing each bid on its merits, a total of 40 organisations or groups have been notified that their bid has been successful. Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston said: “Show Racism the Red Card do a fantastic job in Wales and play an essential role in stemming the tide of racism. “It’s taking the messages into schools and using role models in the world of sport to spread the word and highlight that racism is poisonous and needs to be eradicated.”

Sunil Patel, from Show Racism the Red Card, added: “We are pleased to have been selected as one of the recipients of the award and look forward to visiting pupils across the area. “Former footballer Steve Jenkins and Christian Roberts will be part of the Education team delivering workshops to over 1,000 pupils in the coming months.” The projects funded contribute to delivering the Commissioner’s priorities for Gwent which include reducing and preventing crime; taking more effective action to reduce anti-social behaviour and protecting people from serious harm. A total of £157,000 was awarded to projects from Mr Johnston’s Partnership Fund earlier this month. The Commissioner has also decided to refer a number of projects which submitted applications – amounting to nearly £100,000 in total – for consideration.
© Wales Online

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PS MP of Finland ready to patrol streets and take law into his own hands

Remember what people said when the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* won their historic election victory in 2011? ”Nothing is going to happen you’ll see…they’ll soon implode like the Rural Party did in the 1970s…” some said playing down the whole matter. After almost four years, the PS continues to polarize society by instilling fear and fueling racism but has now opened a new terrifying chapter in its strategy to gain power: mob rule.

PS MP Tom Packalén, who falsely claimed on a blog entry that only migrant youth gangs in East Helsinki attack white Finns, has unleashed the darkest and most racist side of Finland. Not only are MP Pakclaén’s claims false, they have been disproven by the police. "And let’s not forget the publication, Uusi Suomi, where MP Packalén’s blog entry and many others by the PS have been published. They are just as responsible as the PS for spreading racism in Finland". In this latest bout of xenophobia in Finland, it’s the silence of the political parties and the media that doesn’t surprises us once again.

Making racist claims and victimizing migrants and minorities has become such a “normal” activity in this country that not even the PS leadership cares what some of their members say or will do. The aim of parties like the PS and far-right associations like Suomen Sisu is to keep Finland white like the graffiti that reads “white power.” Suomen Sisu is a far-right association chaired by PS MP Olli Immonen whose aim is to keep Finland white. In a statement, Immonen warned that “if officials don’t have the will or resources to protect the security of its citizens,” Suomen Sisu will take matters into its hands. Yes, no translation mistake since what you read is correct. A PS MP, a lawmaker, of a far-right association is ready to patrol Helsinki’s streets against real or imagined youth gangs.

While the PS has always shown its ugly and hostile side to migrants and minorities, the suggestion by one of its MPs to patrol streets with others like neo-Nazi Kansallinen Vastarinta and other PS members, which MP Packalén’s blog entry has encouraged, is totally unacceptable in a democracy such as Finland and should be condemned. The blog entry by MP Packalén shows the desperate state of the party, which needs a big boost to come close to their 2011 election victory since the last three elections have been disappointing. "Finland needs the PS, the silence of other parties and a media that is blind because it is white like a hole in the head. The lack of leadership that we are witnessing today in the face of such racism and hostility is shameful".

Far-right and nationalistic parties in Finland, as is Europe, have become a grave threat to democracy and to the right of minorities to live in peace. It’s clear that matters will get worse as these parties, like the PS, get more power since the scapegoating won’t stop but get worse. Such intolerance has the danger of destroying our society. We must do everything to stop the menace that is placing Finland in harm’s way and that danger is the PS and our shameful silence. Leadership is needed more than ever now.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.Thank you Pia Grochowski for the heads up!
© Migrant Tales

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France: Marine Le Pen plan to change Front National name angers father

Front National confirms questionnaire will be sent to party members, despite founder Jean-Marie Le Pen calling name change idea "completely moronic, scandalous, indecent"

14/10/2014- Marine Le Pen is considering changing the Front National's name, in a move designed to move the far-Right party away from its xenophobic roots which is likely to prompt a new clash with her father Jean-Marie. According to her party's number two, Florian Philippot, Miss Le Pen may include the matter in a questionnaire that will be sent before the end of the year to the party's 75,000 members, The move, just weeks after Miss Le Pen's cat was reportedly mauled by her father's Dober-man, is expected to shown new divisions within the family at the helm of the Front National. Jean-Marie Le Pen has previously described as "completely moronic, scandalous, indecent". Miss Le Pen herself was more guarded when asked about the plan, saying only: "The idea of sending a questionnaire has been agreed upon but its content has not been decided."

But she said late last year that the question of a name change was "not taboo" and that if the question arose "it would be thrown open to party members to see what they think". That comment drew a furious response from her father. Miss Le Pen took over the official leadership from her firebrand father in 2011 and since then has sought to sanitise the far-Right group as she prepares to run for the French presidency in 2017. Her strategy appears to be working. After strong showings in municipal and European elections, the Front last month won its first ever seats in the French Senate, and a recent opinion poll said she would win the French presidency in a run-off election against the incumbent Socialist François Hollande. There was no indication of what any new name might be, but for parliamentary elections in 2012 Front National candidates ran on a Rassemblement Bleu Marine (Marine Blue Rally) ticket.

The Le Pen family usually presents a united front, but there are signs that the 48-year-old daughter is increasingly seeing her 86-year-old father, who is the party's honorary president, as a liability. In June Miss Le Pen described as a "political mistake" a joke made by her father, who has several convictions for racism and anti-Semitism, that appeared to be mocking the Holocaust. He angrily hit back, saying "the real political fault" was to turn the Front National into a "bizarre", insipid, and conformist party like any other. Earlier this month it was reported that Miss Le Pen had moved out of the opulent chateau estate she shared with her father after one of his Doberman dogs savagely killed one of her Bengal cats. Her party declined to comment on the report that Miss Le Pen had taken her remaining cats and fled the Montretout domain to move to a new residence nearby.
© The Telegraph

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The EU-sponsored man hunt “Mos Maiorum” is discriminatory and costly

A two-week EU-wide police operation, dubbed ‘Mos Maiorum’, was launched on 13 October to detect, detain and possibly deport irregular migrants. This massive control operation is extremely worrying both in terms of discriminatory stop and search practices and protecting the basic rights of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

16/10/2014- The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) condemns this ‘Fortress Europe’ approach to migration and the disastrous consequences it has for migrants, as well as ethnic and religious minorities as a whole, across Europe. This operation is leading to hundreds of random identity checks at train and bus stations, on highways and in public spaces, and anyone looking ‘foreign’ is being targeted. The use of racial, ethnic, national, or religious characteristics as a way of singling out people for identity or security checks - racial profiling - is discriminatory. This adds to existing racial profiling practices, confirmed by research showing that Black people are 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people in England & Wales and 6 times more in Paris.

This operation is also fuelling xenophobia in Europe, as it is reinforcing the myth of a criminal invasion to Europe, further stigmatising and criminalising migrants. In reality, most undocumented migrants in Europe are fleeing war-torn countries including Syria. During a similar police operation last year, 36 percent of the 10,459 migrants intercepted were Syrians, and the second and third-largest groups were Eritrean and Afghan nationals, according to an EU document.

In times of austerity, we are also concerned by the significant amounts of financial and human resources mobilised for such poor EU-wide results. The populist rationale of such operations is highlighted by the fact that the official communication around them does not take into account their real impact on European economies: for two weeks, thousands of migrants do not go to work for fear of being controlled and have even less access to health support, further impeding on their ability to sustain themselves and their families. All this has a cost for European economies, which is not compensated by any of these security measures. It’s a lose-lose approach, heavy on the tax-payer’s money.

“Instead of favouring a security agenda at all costs, the EU should focus on respecting the human rights of migrants and refrain from fuelling xenophobic sentiments”, said Sarah Isal, ENAR Chair. “The results of the European elections have shown the dangers of tacitly encouraging negative discourses about migrants. We call on the European Commission to undertake an in-depth fundamental rights and cost-benefit impact assessment of this operation.”
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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Police launch EU-wide crackdown on migrants

14/10/2014- A two-week massive EU-wide border control and police crackdown on irregular migrants was launched on Monday (13 October) by the Italian EU presiden-cy. Thousands of police officers from the 26 countries in the EU’s Schengen border-free zone will be dispatched to border crossings, railway stations, bus depots, and elsewhere in a joint-police operation called Mos Maiorum. The Schengen zone includes 22 member states as well as Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland. But one unnamed Schengen country has refused to participate. Latin for "laws of the elders", Mos Maiorum’s objective is to seize and possibly deport people without proper documents in an intelligence gathering exercise which the EU presidency says is necessary to “identify, prosecute and disrupt organised crime groups.”

Police will be required to fill out colour-coded forms of those intercepted. A red form is for people caught at the external borders and a blue form for those intercepted inside the Schengen states. Details such as age, nationality, date of birth, place and time of interception, means of transport, migrant routes and asylum applications, if any, will be included. Fake documents will be seized. Police will also try to obtain information on how much money a migrant has paid to enter the EU, their final point of destination, and the names of people who may have helped them along the way. The operation was revealed when an internal EU document was leaked to press.

It follows statements made last week by Angelino Alfano, Italy’s minister of interior, when he announced an imminent end to the Italian-led naval search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum. Mare Nostrum is credited with saving over 100,000 boat migrants since the start of the year. But a separate and much smaller EU-led operation Triton will take over with a primary mandate to carry out border surveillance. The new Mos Maiorum police crackdown is co-ordinated by the central directorate for immigration and border police of the Italian ministry of interior along with the EU’s border agency Frontex. Frontex itself was quick to distance itself.

In a carefully worded statement, Frontex executive director Gil Arias Fernandez said the agency “would like to stress that it has not had any role either in the planning or in implementation of this operation.” Fernandez noted it only provides the Italians with statistics and data analysis of migratory flows. “Its [Mos Maiorum] goals and way of execution is of ‘intra-Schengen’ and ‘police co-operation’ nature, which are not within the mandate of Frontex,” he said.

Estimates suggest there is anywhere from 150,000 to 450,000 people without proper documents are in the EU. Thousands are likely to be people and families that have fled war-torn Syria and oppressive countries like Eritrea. “Only a minority come with a visa valid for entry to the European Union,” said German Green MEP Ska Keller.
Mos Maiorum’s final results will be discussed by the "Working Party on Frontiers", a special committee in the Council – representing member states – on 11 December.
© The EUobserver

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Germany: Anti-Semitism was limited to Nazi period, judge says

Statement in lawsuit brought by Green Party founder against far-right journalist triggers outrage.

17/10/2014- A regional judge in Munich is embroiled in a highly charged dispute over her statement in a civil case that German anti-Semitism was limited to the Nazi period of 1933-1945, suggesting that post-Holocaust anti-Semitism is not a factor in Jew-hatred. The Munich regional judge, Petra Grönke-Müller, sparked outrage on October 8 with her courtroom assertion during a civil case that “a fiery anti-Semite is someone in Germany who talks, with conviction, in an anti-Semitic way and, with conviction, does not condemn the Third Reich and cannot view the period 1933-1945 as separate from the background of history.” The case, which goes to the heart of a modern understanding of anti-Semitism in Germany, pits a co-founder of the German Green Party, Jutta Ditfurth, against an extreme nationalistic journalist, Jürgen Elsässer. During a 3Sat television interview in April, Ditfurth called Elsässer a “fiery anti-Semite.”

In response, Elsässer wrote that she had “defamed“ him and engaged in “character assassination,” and filed a lawsuit against her. He further claimed that her accusa-tion threatened his livelihood as a journalist. In a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Ditfurth said she had called Elsässer a “fiery anti-Semite” because he worked together with anti-Semites and traffics in anti-Semitic demonstrations and organizations. She also claimed he used “many forms of disguised anti-Semitism.” She said Elsässer worked with Ken Jebsen, a former radio host who wrote: “I know who invented the Holocaust as PR.” Jebsen’s station, RBB, fired him over the criticism leveled against him for denying the Holocaust. Efforts to reach Elsässer at his publishing address in Leipzig were not successful.

German journalists and legal experts on anti-Semitism quickly weighed in on the judge’s comment. Speaking to the Post on Thursday, Nathan Gelbart, a leading Berlin attorney, said Grönke-Müller lacked an understanding about anti-Semitism, calling this “very dangerous.” He said the comment meant that “other forms of Jew-hatred” cannot be considered anti-Semitism. A telling example, he said, is when Muslims at anti-Israel demonstrations over the summer yelled “Gas the Jews.” Gelbart, who won a legal case in which a judge attempted to strictly limit the definition of anti-Semitism, said Grönke- Müller’s definition ignored anti-Semitism before and after the 12 years of National Socialism. Henryk M. Broder, a Die Welt columnist and leading German expert on anti-Semitism who testified on modern expressions of Jew-hatred at a hearing in the Bundestag, wrote in his column on Wednesday that the judge was attempting to legally restrict anti-Semitism to the Third Reich period. “That is as logical as if one would only accept a gangbang as rape,” he stated.

Uwe Habereder, a spokesman for Grönke-Müller, told the Post on Thursday that he could not comment on the matter because the case was still being heard. He said the judge’s decision will likely be issued on November 19. In 2009, Elsässer defended the annual Al-Quds Day rally in Germany, which calls each year for the destruction of Israel and attracts Hezbollah activists, supporters of the Iranian regime and neo-Nazis. Prior to the rally he wrote in his blog – with the headline “Demonstration of Islamic groups against imperialism and Zionism” – that he could not find anything anti-Semitic about the event. This year, Green Party lawmaker Volker Beck termed the rally “a hate event” that denies Israel’s existence. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency lists the Al-Quds Day event under the section of “Islamism/Islamic terror-ism.” Elsässer’s attorney, Michael Hubertus von Sprenger, did not immediately respond to email and telephone queries from the Post. Ditfurth, who is also a sociologist and known for her anti-fascism work, has posted a notice on her website seeking donations to cover her mounting legal costs.
© The Jerusalem Post

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Germany: 'Neo-Nazi' magistrate quits Bavarian post

A magistrate in Bavaria resigned on Tuesday after police discovered that he was a former singer in a neo-Nazi band and had long standing links to the far-right scene.

15/10/2014- The young lawyer, who was working in a court in Lichtenfels, Upper Franconia, met the president of the higher state court in Bamberg on Tuesday and resigned. After studying in Brandenburg, the lawyer was named as a magistrate on a provisional basis by the Bavarian judiciary in November 2013. While a student, he had been under observation by the Brandenburg security services between 2003 and 2013 due to his alter ego as “Hassgesang” (“hate song”), his neo-Nazi one-man music project. Although the Brandenburg security services informed their colleagues in Bavaria of the man's change of address, they neglected to mention that he was a lawyer interested in entering public service. But a police officer noticed that his name matched that of the reported extremist when he reported a minor crime.

Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann and justice minister Winfried Bausback told a state cabinet meeting on Tuesday that they now aim to introduce rules calling for a mandatory check on new magistrates, judges, prosecutors and police officers by security services in Bavaria. The plans echo the former “radical decree”, which saw all applicants for public-sector jobs investigated by until 1991. Many people were prevented from taking up jobs by the rules, which were directed at preventing Communist infiltration of the West German state. “The question is, don't we need this tool for applicants to especially security-relevant state activities, such as when someone wants to become a judge?” Bausback asked.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Bavarian court employs far-right magistrate

A magistrate in Upper Franconia is proving an embarrassment for the Bavarian justice system after it emerged he sang in several far-right bands while a student.

14/10/2014- One of the bands the man, named only as Maik B., sang in was called “Hassgesang” - or “song of hate” - a one-man project whose lyrics included praise of Adolf Hitler. “There is no place for right-wing extremism in Bavaria or in the Bavarian justice system,” state justice minister Winfried Bausback said following the revelations. Like every would-be magistrate, Maik B. would have been asked if he was a member of any anti-constitutional organisation when he was appointed, Bausback added. If he concealed a far-right background then it would be grounds for dismissal, Bausback said. Police in Bayreuth said that they had looked into B.'s background before informing the state justice and interior ministries and there was almost no doubt that he and the singer of “Hassgesang” were one and the same.

B.'s far-right past was only spotted after he reported to police that his locker had been broken into. A sharp-eyed policeman remembered that intelligence services in the state of Brandenburg had notified their colleagues in Bavaria of an extremist of the same name changing his address to the town of Lichtenfels, Bavaria, in February. Bavarian state security services had investigated B. when he moved from one state to the other, but found that he was no longer active in the right-wing scene – and completely overlooked his taking up of a public office. The Bavarian justice system and security services have been under intense scrutiny due to their failure to properly investigate murders committed by the National Socialist Underground (NSU) far-right group. A surviving NSU member remains on trial in Munich.
© The Local - Germany

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Xenophobia drops in Europe: Swedish study

A new Swedish study has found that xenophobia is decreasing around Europe, despite a rise in support for anti-immigrant political parties.

14/10/2014- The nationalist Sweden Democrats more than doubled their support in September's election, winning 12.9 percent of the country's vote. Despite this, and the fact that similar parties around Europe have enjoyed comparable successes, researchers from Umeå University say that talk of increasing xenophobia around Europe is a "misinterpretation". In a paper published on Monday, sociologists Andrea Bohman and Mikael Hjerm found that there were a variety of other factors that contributed to rising success at the polls - such as the parties being more organized and better at delivering their messages in ways that make people more comfortable voting for them. "In theory you'd expect that the presence of radical right parties would bring out anti-immigrant attitudes, but they haven't - and this was surprising," Hjerm told The Local.  He added that the pair studied statistics measuring people's attitudes to immigrants, especially at the time of elections, and measuring the effect that the far-right parties had on the public.

How the Sweden Democrats went mainstream
The researchers looked at 16 European countries and various survey results from between the years of 2002 and 2012. They determined that there is no correlation between an anti-immigrant sentiment and the appearance of far-right parties on the political stage. "Our studies led us to the conclusion that political parties on the radical right don't automatically influence people's attitudes towards immigration," the researchers wrote in an article in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper on Monday. They added that such parties are just getting better at attracting voters who already sympathize with their policies. Hjerm told The Local that Swedes tended to be more tolerant than their European neighbours. "The level of anti-immigrant attitudes was much lower in Sweden than in other countries, but that's nothing new, we've known that for a long time, and we weren't interested in specific countries," he said.

As for what's likely to happen in Europe in the future:
"That's the million-dollar question," he responded. "Tolerance towards immigrants has been increasing in the 20th century and we've seen it flatline somewhat in the 21st century. But for these parties, there are more people to convince and they can definitely grow. "But they haven't been able to convince people who don't support such politics. They can only grow (at the moment) if they get a larger proportion of those with aversive attitudes to vote for them."
© The Local - Sweden

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Hungarian far-right party tells Roma to conform or leave

The far-right Jobbik party took control of an industrial town in northeastern Hungary after an election campaign in which it promised to issue an ultimatum to the Roma minority - follow our rules or leave town.

13/10/2014- The town of Ozd, with 35,000 people, is the biggest prize won by Jobbik in a nationwide round of municipal elections on Sunday in which it increased the numbers of City Halls it controls from three to fourteen. The party is accused by critics of being anti-Semitic and racist. Though still a long way behind the ruling centre-right Fidesz party, in Sunday's elections it overtook the Socialists to become the second biggest opposition force. The new mayor of Ozd, 27-year-old David Janiczak, on Monday morning took a walk around the main square, receiving congratulatory handshakes from townspeople. He said he would crack down on crime and poverty on behalf of all residents, whatever their ethnic background.

Yet the programme on which Janiczak ran in the election is explicit in singling out the Roma community. The manifesto, posted on the Jobbik Internet site next to a photograph of Janiczak, states: "We think there are two ways to solve the Gypsy question...The first one is based on peaceful consent, the second on radical exclusion." "Our party wishes to offer one last chance to the destructive minority that lives here, so first it will consider peaceful consent. If that agreement fails, then and only then the radical solution can follow." The programme threatens to "chase off people who are unable to conform".

Measured Language
Jobbik has denied that it is racist or anti-Semitic. One of its members of parliament caused a storm of outrage when he proposed drawing up lists of Jews, but he later apologised and said he had been misunderstood. The municipal elections give clues as to what Jobbik would actually do if it ever took power nationwide. Interviewed on Monday outside his new office in City Hall, the mayor-elect of Ozd used much more measured language about the Roma than his election manifesto. "Conditions are horrid on the outskirts of town where most Roma live," Janiczak told Reuters. "This is not only the Roma's fault but the leaders who wanted nothing from them but their vote - locally as well as nationally." "We need to create jobs and enforce order for Roma and Hungarians alike. The voters trust we will do that."

He said he would revamp public safety using civilian law enforcement volunteers and jump start the local economy through projects including animal husbandry and growing crops in greenhouses on land around the city. In Ozd, unemployment is endemic. Around a quarter of the city's population are Roma, and most of them live in dire poverty, receive state welfare payments, and have frequent run-ins with the police. Conditions are so bad that for the Roma community, fear about the persecution Jobbik might bring is mixed with hope that a radical new party might finally do something to improve their lot where all others have failed. "Like most Roma we are afraid what might happen to us, because the news was always that some people wanted us dead and they would ship us off in trains like Hitler did with the Jews," one local woman, Szilvia Orosz, told Reuters.

She was speaking in the centre of one of the town's toughest Roma slums, which has no water or sewer system. "But if this kid Janiczak can act the way he talks about work, honour and peace, and gives us long-term employment, then there won't be racial discrimination." However, many of the people who voted for a Jobbik mayor said they did so at least in part because Jobbik had promised to tackle what the party describes as "Gypsy crime". Mihaly Balo, a 70-year-old pensioner, said he did not believe Jobbik would persecute the Roma community. But he said: "In the 1970's I walked from one end of the city to the other at midnight, no problem. I wouldn't dare do that today... The problem is with not all Gypsies, but some of them."
© The Irish Independent

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Hungary's Fidesz widely dominates voting

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party has been declared the clear winner in nationwide municipal elections.

13/10/2014- The party's candidates won the mayor's post in the capital, Budapest, and in 20 of Hungary's 23 largest cities. Speaking to supporters after preliminary results were announced on Sunday, Orban vowed to "make Hungary great" and boasted of winning elections for the third time this year, after victories in the national elections and for the European Parliament. The far-right Jobbik, trying to distance itself from earlier anti-Roma and racist statements, finished mostly far behind Fidesz but ahead of the left-wing opposition in most rural areas. Jobbik won in nine smaller cities, up from three in 2010. The splintered left-wing opposition, led by the Socialist Party, was projected to win five of Budapest's 23 districts, at least two more than four years ago. With 83 per cent of the votes counted, turnout was about 42 per cent, 4 percentage points less than in 2010.

Orban won re-election in April when Fidesz secured a new two-thirds parliamentary majority. A July speech expressing his desire to turn Hungary into an "illiberal state" sparked international criticism. Western nations are alarmed at the way Orban has been trying to consolidate power, including cracking down on rights groups. However, he has defended his stance against a range of causes, from women's and gay rights to media freedom and anti-corruption campaigns. In his July speech, he called them "paid political activists attempting to assert foreign interests".
© The Australian

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Netherlands: Government opposes special refugee ruling for army interpreters

15/10/2014- The cabinet has decided there is to be no new ruling to protect foreigners who act as interpreters for the Dutch army on foreign missions, despite opposition calls for action. MPs on Tuesday night debate the safety of interpreters in light of the case of Abdul Ghafoor Ahmadzai. He worked for the Dutch army in Uruzgan and first fled to Norway in 2010 after his brother was murdered. He came to the Netherlands when his asylum claim there was rejected. Junior justice minister Fred Teeven had planned to deport Ahmazai to Norway, where he faced being returned to Afghanistan but has now relented and told the immigration services to investigate his case.

Abandoned
Opposition MPs had called on the government to come up with proper rules to cover interpreters but Labour MPs said this is unnecessary. Defence minister Jeanine Hennis told MPs during the debate interpreters and other locals who work for Dutch missions are not abandoned. ‘They deserve full support,’ she said. There are, she said, sufficient options to protect interpreters. Military chiefs can request protection – which may lead to refugee status – and interpreters can request it themselves, although many are not aware of this option. Around 120 locals worked for the Dutch as interpreters in Uruzgan between 2006 and 2010.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: CoE- End 'legal limbo' for immigrants who can't go home

14/10/2014- Illegal immigrants in the Netherlands are in a legal limbo and urgent action needs to be taken to end the impasse, the Council of Europe’s high commissio-ner for human rights said on Tuesday. Nils Muiznieks said in a new report by the Strasburg-based body that if it is impossible or extremely difficult for people to return to their country of origin, they must be allowed to remain in the Netherlands. A large number of undocumented immigrants live in poverty on the streets or in camps without access to emergency provisions. ‘This situation must be dealt with urgently, because anyone, regardless of the residence status, has the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing and shelter,’ Muiznieks said. Several hundred failed asylum seekers are currently squatting and living in temporary accommodation in Amsterdam.

Children
‘The Netherlands has a solid human rights protection system, but in practice there are shortcomings that need to be addressed, in particular in the case of migrants and children,’ the commissioner said. The commissioner said he welcomed moves to give residency rights to people who cannot return to their country of origin and the amnesty for child refugees, introduced for youngsters who have put down roots in the Netherlands. Nevertheless ‘a humane and human-rights compliant approach is needed,’ he said. ‘Where return is impossible or particularly difficult, the relevant person should be authorised to stay in the Netherlands.’

Roof
The council’s social rights committee said last year the Netherlands must continue to provide failed asylum seekers with food, clothing and a roof over their heads. The Netherlands has a policy of evicting failed asylum seekers from refugee centres if they refuse to cooperate with their deportation. Refugee organisation Vluchtelingen-werk estimates some 5,000 would-be refugees are put on the street every year.
© The Dutch News

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Dutch abandon 'black Pete' Saint Nicholas tradition over racism row

16/10/2014- Black Pete, the jolly sidekick of the Dutch Saint Nicholas, is finally getting a facelift after years of bitter debate including death threats against those calling for change. An Amsterdam court's ruling in July that Pete - traditionally dressed in a gaudy medieval costume with a blackened face, red lips and an afro wig - is a 'negative stereotype' encouraged many to try to change the deeply rooted custom. 'It's the beginning of change, it will continue for years to come because more and more people agree it should change but it's going to take a long time,' said historian Gabor Kozijn, author of a study on Black Pete for the Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage. With less than two months before Dutch kids' favourite day, December 5, when Saint Nicholas and Pete hand out presents, the debate has reached fever pitch, with Black Pete's defenders refusing to admit there is anything racist about the playful character.

In Gouda, where Saint Nicholas and dozens of Petes will 'arrive' on November 15 with a gift-filled boat from Spain in a national event broadcast live on television, the mayor on Tuesday decided to introduce some new colours. Besides a number of Black Petes, there will also be 'Cheese Petes' with yellow faces and 'Stroopwafel Petes' with striped, light brown faces resembling the traditional Dutch syrup biscuit of the same name. 'There is no simple way to find a solution that everyone can identify with,' said Gouda Mayor Milo Schoenmaker. Gouda's Black Petes 'changed several years ago to dark brown without stereotypical big red lips and earrings,' the city hall added. Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan has said that a 'substantial' number of this year's Petes will not be black but will have some 'soot marks' on their faces, ostensibly from climbing down the chimney. And a White Pete will for the first time be present during a daily televised 'news bulletin' on Saint Nicholas's activities.

Dutch shops will have fewer Black Petes this year, although discount retail chain Hema in August denied rumours that it planned to remove him entirely by next year. Customers at supermarket Albert Heijn will have different coloured Petes to choose from, including black: 'Saint Nicholas is for everyone,' the chain said in a state-ment. Despite compromising on Black Pete, the two chains are being threatened with boycotts. Many people in The Netherlands do not want to see the national tradition changed because what they consider a minority of people see it as racist. Last year's debate about Pete's skin colour was particularly heated amid a UN rights probe of the matter. The UN working group released its findings in July, concluding that Black Pete is indeed a racist figure and that many Dutch did not recognise him as a throwback to colonial times and slavery.

This year, Dutch celebrities who called on Facebook for a 'Pete makeover' have received death threats. After investigative journalist Peter R. de Vries entered the debate on Facebook he received an email saying: 'If I meet you you'll get a bullet through your head.' A 'Pietitie' (Pete-ition) on Facebook calling for action against changing Black Pete's face has more than two million likes, in a country of 17 million. Populist Geert Wilders, who heads the anti-immigration PVV party, tweeted: 'Black Pete must stay black!' 'What children want is presents. Whether the person who hands them out is Black or White Pete, a woman, yellow or bald is of no importance,' actor and presenter Paul de Leeuw said on Facebook. 'It's a popular family event, celebrated by millions of people who want their kids to experience what they experienced as children: it's more of an emotional than a rational debate,' historian Kozijn told AFP. Even if it is the beginning of the end for Black Pete, Kozijn said the character will be around for a while yet. 'If the average life expectancy of children who now know Black Pete is 80, then he will in any case remain a figure that people know,' he said.
© The Daily Mail.

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Netherlands: Albert Heijn supermarkets hit back at Zwarte Piet row with poem

13/10/2014- Supermarket chain Albert Heijn published a poem in all the main national newspapers on Monday in response to the row about its decision to phase out the use of ‘black face’ Zwarte Piet characters. Last week, the Dutch market leader said Zwarte Piet, played by white people in blackface make-up, will not be used in advertising either in the media or in the stores themselves in the run up to the Sinterklaas celebrations. ‘We have customers from all walks of life and are taking every sentiment into account,’ a spokesman told broadcaster Nos. ‘Sinterklaas is a fun celebration for everyone and we are taking that into account.’

Boycott
The news prompted calls for a boycott of the company and analysts said there would be a knock-on effect on sales. In the six-line poem, Albert Heijn says that reports that Piet has been banned from its stores are ‘absolutely not true’ and that Piet will ‘be on the shelves like every year’. ‘We think you are fabulous in black and other colours, but let everyone in the Netherlands make their own choice’, the poem concludes. Poems poking fun at people or scoring points are a traditional part of the Sinterklaas festivities.
© The Dutch News

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Russia: Moscow Tear Gas Attack Shows Rise of Anti-Semitism in Putin Era

Rosh Hashanah Battle Points to Disturbing Trend.
By David E. Fishman


12/10/2014- On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, a group of five or six men disrupted a Jewish concert in the Great Hall of Moscow’s International Music House with a tear gas attack. A half-hour into the program, the men, who were seated in the first row, began shouting menacing insults at rock star Andrey Makarevich, the featured performer of the evening, and hurled canisters of pepper gas into the hall, forcing the audience of 400 to evacuate the building teary-eyed and coughing. To the Russian Jewish Congress, a major national Jewish organization, this was a clear anti-Semitic attack. In a statement after the onslaught, the group condemned the incident as a desecration of the Jewish holiday, which many members of Russia’s largely nonreligious Jewish population celebrate through cultural rather than religious observance. The use of gas against Jews was especially hurtful, the RJC said, conjuring up painful memories of the Holocaust.

But state-controlled Russian TV networks presented things otherwise. NTV, for example, described the attack as a legitimate expression of outrage at Makarevich “for his friendship and support of the fascist junta in Ukraine,” where pro-Russian rebels, with Russian military aid, are battling government forces. Television and the mainstream Russian press coverage have made no mention of the Jewish nature of the occasion (Rosh Hashanah), the concert program (“Yiddish Jazz”) or the makeup of the audience. In the media’s reading, the incident had nothing to do with anti-Semitism; it was all about Makarevich’s politics.

The truth lies somewhere in between, but closer to the RJC position than to that of NTV. Over the past year or two, Makarevich, lead singer of the iconic Russian rock band Time Machine (Mashina Vremeny), has been on two journeys. One has been an exploration of his Jewish roots: His mother is Jewish and reportedly lives in Israel, while his father is Belarusian. That journey took him to the American Yiddish swing music of the 1920s and ’30s, to songs such as “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn,” made famous in America by the Barry Sisters. He produced a CD of “Yiddish Jazz,” which brought Yiddish music (sung mainly in English and Russian translation) into the mainstream of Russian popular culture.

The other journey has been Makarevich’s increasingly vociferous condemnation of the Putin regime and of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He has marched in protest rallies in Moscow and traveled to Ukraine to perform, and his latest song is called “My Country Has Gone Insane.” (“My country has gone insane, / and there’s nothing I can do to help. / What should you do, how should you live, / if everything is topsy-turvy? / You don’t have to grow the wings of an angel; / just don’t be a shit. I’m sure of one thing: / it’s time to choose. / I’ve decided not to be a shit / and to live and die with a clear conscience.”)

Makarevich hasn’t connected his Jewish and dissident journeys, other than to say that he wants to be a more open person. But the xenophobic Russian extreme right, which the authorities have elevated to a legitimate position on the political spectrum, has connected the dots. For them, Makarevich represents an age-old paradigm: the treacherous kike. At a protest demonstration in the spring, a right-wing heckler shouted out at him, “Look at Andrey, the zhid has sold himself to Bandera.” That was a reference to Stepan Bandera, leader of the ultra-nationist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists during World War II.

A group called the National Bolshevik Party took credit for the attack on his Rosh Hashanah concert. The assailants — who called out “Makarevich is a traitor of the homeland” in deep menacing voices for a full minute before hurling their tear gas canisters — didn’t shout anti-Semitic slogans. But the National Bolsheviks have a long-documented history of anti-Semitism. And ethnically Russian performers have not been vilified, nor have they had their concerts disrupted. Makarevich is not alone; there are several activists of Jewish heritage in the Anti-War/Anti-Putin Movement, which attracted 30,000 to a protest march in September. Several were targeted in the recent propaganda film “The Junta’s Thirteen Friends,” which aired on NTV. At least five of those featured were Jewish in a country where Jews constitute an estimated 0.25% of the population. The film is a classic Soviet hatchet job, a genre now making a revival in Russia. In it, ominous background music accompanies secretly filmed videos and unrelenting character assassination. Among the Jews accused of treason, fascism and acting as paid agents of the Ukrainian junta were Makarevich, journalist Viktor Shenderovich, author Dmitryi Bykov and economist Stanislav Belkovsky.

But when the film came to activist Mark Galperin, who has helped organize several recent protests in downtown Moscow, it went out of its way to point out his Jewishness. Galperin himself has shown no particular interest in Jewish affairs or his Jewish identity, but he did write a Facebook post a year and a half ago, calling upon Jews not to work for the Putin regime or to receive honors from it. The film lashed out at him for his “unpatriotic” appeal. It then quoted a non-Jewish “expert” commentator: “Galperin is a disgrace to the Jewish people. We’ve seen many times in history how provocateurs like Galperin have been the catalysts and stimulators of the terrible phenomenon of anti-Semitism.” So here we are again: Jews are “the catalysts and stimulators” of anti-Semitism. The charge was a not-so veiled warning by the state-controlled propaganda machine: Jews should be quiet and not join the protests, or they will face an anti-Semitic backlash.

The emotional statement issued by the Russian Jewish Congress after the Makarevich concert suggests the organization is worried that the backlash has begun, and that it will grow if it isn’t nipped in the bud. Meanwhile, the other major Jewish umbrella organization, the Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, known by the Russian acronym, FEOR, did not react to the tear gas attack. The federation has been a loyal ally of the Putin regime and presumably didn’t want to appear to be defending a Jewish “Fascist and Banderist,” even against a tear gas attack while playing apolitical Yiddish music. In other words, FEOR decided to heed the propaganda film’s advice. (A third major group, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, issued a condemnation of the attack, without the RJC’s rhetorical flourishes.)

In September I tried to console a colleague of mine in St. Petersburg who complained in a Skype conversation about the “difficult moral and psychological conditions” under which he and other intellectuals are living: “Come on,” I said to him. “You lived through Soviet times, you should be used to this kind of stuff.” He replied: “This time it’s much more aggressive. And it’s not just talk.” The next day, an unknown assailant splattered a bucket of green disinfectant on Galperin, when he left his home on his way to a demonstration. Galperin attended the protest covered in green gook from head to toe. The police have not apprehended Galperin’s or Makarevich’s assailants. Don’t hold your breath.

Just a few weeks ago, I sent Jewish New Year greetings by email to another colleague in St. Petersburg. I wrote to him in Russian, but he responded in Hebrew — which surprised me, since we usually corresponded in Russian. But it dawned on me as I read on that his choice of language was intentional. The chances that the Russian security services would bother to scan Hebrew-language email messages were lower. “All my hopes for the future of my beloved country have been crushed,” he wrote. Then he quoted a poem by Chaim Nachman Bialik: “Now my well is like a wound; it only drips sometimes. And my heart smokes in secret, rolled in dust and blood.” That sums up the mood of many. There is a war going on in Ukraine. And Jews face difficulties there as well. But friends tell me that the line in front of the Israeli Consulate is much longer in Moscow than in Kiev.
David E. Fishman is professor of Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He directs JTS’s program in the former Soviet Union, Project Judaica.
© The Forward

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Italy: Rome Mayor Denounces 'Vulgar' Tribute to Nazi War Criminal Erich Priebke

source: JTA
Killer Died at 100 Exactly One Year Ago

12/10/2014- The mayor of Rome condemned a public commemoration in the city for the late Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke. Ignazio Marino called Saturday’s event downtown a “vulgar provocation” that “wounds the entire civic community and represents a real slap in the face to the city of Rome, which played a fundamental role in the Italian Resistance.” Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, thanked the mayor and called on all civic authorities to be vigilant against any similar episodes. At the commemoration, which was organized by Priebke’s lawyer to mark the first anniversary of Priebke’s death at the age of 100, an improvised Mass was celebrated at a makeshift altar made of flowers and placards set up against a lamppost on the Sant’Angelo Bridge. Posters reading “Ciao Captain” — Priebke was a Nazi SS captain — were plastered on some walls in Rome. Priebke died on Oct. 11, 2013 while serving a life sentence under house arrest for his role in the 1944 massacre of 335 Romans, about 75 of them Jews, in the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome.
© The Forward

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Italy's mayors go to the barricades to defend same-sex marriages

Italian cities are leading a rebellion against the state over its hard-line stance on gay marriage.

12/10/2014- The mayors of Rome, Milan, Bologna and Naples are openly defying an order by the coalition government's right-wing Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano, to remove from city registers any gay and lesbian unions performed abroad. Italy is the last major Western nation not to allow even civil partnerships for gays and lesbians. As a result, hundreds of same-sex couples have travelled to the US or other EU countries to tie the knot. Mr Alfano says that the inclusion of same-sex couples on marriage registers contravenes Italian law. The minister insists he is trying to protect the traditional family but the edict has sparked a major backlash as campaigners, centre-left politicians and even some on the centre-right say that Mr Alfano and the state are desperately out of touch with the rest of Europe.

Corriere Della Sera reported last week that, among centre-right voters, eight out of 10 now support the introduction of civil partnerships and Rome's mayor, Ignazio Marino, dismissed the diktat, saying he would continue to register same-sex couples. "Anyone looking today for conflict over love probably lives in the wrong century," Mr Marino told a gathering on Rome's Capitoline Hill. "I believe that a discussion of this type in 2014 on any civil union reflects the feelings and visions of the 1900s." Last Friday, Giuliano Pisapia, the left-wing mayor of Milan, in effect stuck two fingers up at the Interior Minister by declaring that he had just "personally signed, as an official of the civil state, the transcription of seven marriages of persons of the same sex who were married abroad". Such registrations, while largely symbolic, do allow gay couples equal access to municipal benefits.

Hours after Mr Pisapia's declaration, police arrived at Bologna's town hall to seize the city's register, which contains the names of four same-sex couples married abroad. But Bologna's mayor, Virginio Merola, was defiant. "I will not annul the registrations," he told reporters. "Italian cities, and in particular Bologna, wish to be part of Europe and not have first- and second-class citizens."
© The Independent

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Czech Rep: Government to compensate forced sterilization victims by 2015

17/10/2014- The Czech government is planning to compensate victims of forced sterilization by 2015, the news agency ČTK reported quoting the government’s response to the UN Committee for Human Rights. The cabinet says it will next year put forward legislation that should comprehensively address compensation and other claims of the victims towards the state. In 2004, several dozen mainly Romany women approached the authorities with complaints there were forcibly sterilized. The government apologized to the victims in 2007 but the issue of compensation has not since been resolved. The UN committee has repeatedly criticized the Czech Republic for its failure to compensate the women as well as other issues including the wide-spread discrimination and segregation of Romanies.
© Radio Prague

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ERTF reproaches Czech Republic for being too restrained in combating racism

The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) is reproaching several European states, the Czech Republic included, for their "restraint" in combating anti-Romani racism and improving everyday life for Romani people. Agence France-Presse reports that the ERTF named the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and four other countries in a report published yesterday as examples.

11/10/2014- "The situation of Romani people is no better today than it was 40 years ago. In some aspects it is even worse," says the organization, which is headquarter-ed in Strasbourg and has a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe. The ERTF is complaining that many recommendations about Roma issued by the Council of Europe to its member states have not been implemented. "What is even more serious is the restraint of certain member states when it comes to implementing legally binding judgments," issued, for example, by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the ERTF report complains. "There is a lack of political will - most countries do not consider the Romani issue a priority, or they say they don't have enough money to improve the situation," the ERTF says. The report points to persistently "high levels of intolerance" or even "racism" toward Romani people, whom politicians frequently use as "scapegoats".

The ERTF report says the situation is "problematic in each of the 47 Council of Europe countries". However, the group believes it is especially disturbing in six countries: the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania and Slovakia. Agence France-Presse reports that the ERTF is reproaching the Czech Republic for the "segregation" of Romani children in the schools. The report recalls that Prague was found responsible for the practice by the ECtHR in 2007, but says "nothing has changed since then." The ERTF says the same problem exists in Slovakia. Roma there are reportedly also treated unequally when it comes to housing conditions.
© Romea.

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Headlines 10 October, 2014

Italy: Arrest of ‘fake’ Hitler shows muddled Italian take on Fascism law

A man dressed as Charlie Chaplin’s parody of Adolf Hitler was detained, but neo-Nazis unchallenged by police in northern Italy.

10/10/2014- A man was arrested in the northern Italian city of Bergamo last Sunday for showing up at a protest dressed as Adenoid Hynkel, Charlie Chaplin’s parody of Adolf Hitler in the 1940 anti-Nazi movie “The Great Dictator.” His alleged crime was apologia del Fascismo (literally, “apology of Fascism”). However, on the very same day the openly neo-Fascist group Forza Nuova demonstrated in another northern city, Bologna, undisturbed by the authorities. Publicly expressing sympathies to Nazism and Fascism is explicitly prohibited by Italian law since the 1950s. But the application of such law is so arbitrary that it may well defy the purpose. “I find it quite puzzling that I got arrested while people from Forza Nuova and CasaPound can walk freely with all their Mussolini paraphernalia, and can even have authorized demonstrations,” said Giampietro Belotti, 29, referring to the country’s two largest far-right groups. Belotti, a self described “fervent anti-Fascist,” says all he wanted to do was use movie references in order to mock homophobes.

As the Italian parliament is discussing a new “anti-homophobia law” that sanctions discrimination based on sexual preferences, an umbrella of right-wing groups called the Sentinels organized protests against it in several towns. Belotti showed up to one of these demonstrations wearing the Hynkel costume (that resembles a Nazi uniform but has a fictional “double-cross” symbol instead of a swastika), holding a copy of “Mein Kampf” and the sign “Illinois Nazis support the Sentinels,” a reference to “The Blues Brothers.” Within 10 minutes he was taken to the police station and his “Illinois Nazis” sign confiscated as evidence. However, the police could not confiscate his copy of “Mein Kampf,” notes Belotti, since it is not a banned book (you can buy it online on numerous Italian websites). Belotti was held for three hours and then released. Charges against him were dropped by the examining magistrate on Wednesday.

Also Sunday, Forza Nuova – a far-right nationalist group founded in the 1990s from the ashes of two disbanded neo-Fascist parties – joined another protest against the “anti-homophobia law” in Bologna. Although Forza Nuova and the Sentinels have no official ties – FN has accused the Sentinels of being “too moderate,” while the Sentinels describe themselves as “nonpolitical” even though their founder belongs to the ultraconservative Catholic Alleanza Cattolica movement – they share the same anti-gay-rights agenda. No one was arrested in the Bologna protest, although police intervened when clashes erupted between Forza Nuova’s militants and left-wing activists leading a counterprotest. Forza Nuova has announced a new anti-gay-rights protest in Bologna on October 18. The city police say they do not rule out the possibility of prohibiting it, but only on security grounds. “Everyone is free to express his or her opinion, even if we do not agree with them,” said Vincenzo Stingone, head of the local police. Unless, perhaps, he’s dressed as a Charlie Chaplin character.
© Haaretz

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Netherlands: Defence ministry denies jihad recruitment claims at airbase

10/10/2014- A former soldier who converted to Islam has not been trying to recruit former colleagues at the Volkel airbase to take part in jihad, the defence ministry said on Friday afternoon. The Telegraaf said on Friday morning a former member of the armed forces had made threatening overtures to people serving at the base, and that the matter had been reported to the security services. The military security service MIVD investigated the claims and, according to the defence ministry, 'found no reason to assume this was about recruitment for violent jihad'. The MIVD said the man had 'normal contacts' with some of his former colleagues. The Netherlands has sent eight F-16 fighter jets, normally based in Volkel, to take part in the allied bombardment of Islamic State militia in Iraq.
© The Dutch News

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Dutch far-right populist Wilders could face racism charges: prosecutors

9/10/2014- Dutch authorities moved closer toward prosecuting far-right politician Geert Wilders on Thursday, naming him as a suspect and summoning him for interrogation over alleged racist remarks he made in March. Wilders will be questioned on suspicion of insulting a group on the basis of race and inciting discrimination and hatred, prosecutors said in a statement. If convicted, he could face up to a year in prison or a fine of up to 7,400 euros ($9,400). Wilders, whose controversial brand of anti-immigration, anti-Muslim populism has propelled his Freedom Party to second place in opinion polls, provoked widespread condemnation when he called for "fewer Moroccans" at a campaign rally in March. Interrogating a suspect is the final step in the process of bringing charges, prosecutors said. A spokeswoman stressed no decision had yet been taken about charging Wilders but said there was a "significant chance" he would end up in court.

"I'm furious ... that I am being investigated by prosecutors and will probably end up in court," Wilders told journalists in parliament after learning of the summons. Prosecutors received over 6,400 complaints and several of his party's most prominent lawmakers resigned from the party after Wilders asked supporters at a rally in The Hague if they wanted "more or fewer Moroccans in this city?" The crowd chanted: "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!" Wilders smiled and responded: "We'll take care of that." In a later interview with broadcaster RTL Z, he said "Moroccan scum" should leave the Netherlands. Moroccans were over-represented in crime statistics and in the number of people receiving social benefits, he argued. Wilders, who has lived for many years under 24-hour police protection after receiving death threats because of an anti-Islamic film he made, called the decision to interrogate him "incomprehensible". "I'm combative and angry. I said what millions of people feel," he told reporters. "It's a scandal that when the world is in flames, prosecutors choose to focus on a lawmaker who points out problems." Prosecutors should focus on the phenomenon of Dutch citizens going to fight in Syria, "more than three quarters of whom are Moroccans," he added.

Wilders has a history of statements that upset Muslims and Eastern European migrant workers. He was prosecuted for hate crimes and discrimination in 2007 for calling Islam a fascist ideology but acquitted four years later when a judge ruled that criticising a religion was not the same as racism. "This time the remarks were directly aimed at a certain population group - all Moroccans are put in the same box," said prosecution spokeswoman Nicolette Stoel. The Netherlands, which long prided itself on its liberalism, admitted millions of immigrant workers from Morocco and Turkey to fill jobs in an expanding economy after World War Two. But attitudes have hardened as growth has slowed and jobs have become scarce, propelling a string of anti-immigration politicians to the top of opinion polls over the past decade.
© Reuters

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Q&A: Wilders summoned as a suspect

9/10/2014- Press prosecutor Alexandra Oswald answers questions about the Geert Wilders case.

Geert Wilders has been invited for questioning by the Prosecution. Does this mean that you are planning to prosecute him?
It means that we want to question him as a suspect because we believe that he has made remarks which may constitute a criminal offence. The suspicion is such that prosecution stands to reason. At this time, the investigation has been concluded for the greater part and this interrogation is one of the last steps in the investigation. After that, the Prosecution will take the definitive decision whether or not to prosecute him.

What is Geert Wilders exactly suspected of?
Geert Wilders is suspected of insult based on race and of incitement to discrimination and hatred. This is based on remarks he made on 12 and 19 March 2014. First at a market in The Hague and after that on election night in a bar in The Hague. The Prosecution sees both similarities and differences between those remarks. At this time it is too early to go deeper into this matter.
How did the Prosecution come about this suspicion?

In total more than 6400 persons filed a police report and over 15,000 discrimination reports were filed as well. These were studied. In addition, an extensive legal analysis of the remarks was carried out, involving various experts. The resulting conclusion was that Geert Wilders’ remarks constitute a criminal offence. That is why we have decided to question him.

When do you expect to disclose whether or not Geert Wilders will be prosecuted?
The investigation is in its final stage. After the interrogation, it will be largely completed and the definitive decision concerning prosecution will be made. At this time I cannot give you an exact date.

Why is this case different from Samsom’s and Spekman’s case?
Geert Wilders’ remarks are directly related to a population group without a link to behaviour. So in that sense they differ from the remarks made by Diederik Samsom and Hans Spekman.
© The Public Prosecution Service

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Netherlands: Schools struggling to cope with rise in refugee children

6/10/2014- A number of Dutch schools are struggling to cope with the rise in the number of refugee children, Nos television said on Monday. A special work group set up to monitor education provision for refugee children is phoned by worried school heads and council officials on a daily basis, the broadcaster said. ‘Schools are not only struggling with paying for the rise in pupil numbers but with language issues,’ said spokeswoman Marieke Postma. ‘They want to know how to deal with traumatised children and how to make sure they have enough teaching staff.’

Syria
Children in refugee centres have the right to education within eight weeks of their arrival. There has been a surge in refugee numbers, particularly from Syria, in recent months. In the first six months of the year, the some 12,300 people have requested asylum in the Netherlands, double the 2013 figure. For example, 1,400 asylum seekers are soon to move into a holiday village in Drenthe and local school chiefs don’t know how many children to expect. ‘We’ve been told to base ourselves on a figure of 10% when it comes to the under-12s. That means we may have to find primary school places for 140 children alone,’ spokesman Jos van Kimmenaede told the broadcaster. By the beginning of September, there were some 21,600 people living in Dutch refugee centres, of whom around 20% were school age children.
© The Dutch News

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Contrasts: Estonia approves same-sex partnerships; Kyrgyzstan considers anti-gay legislation

Estonia on Thursday became the first former Soviet nation to legalize gay partnerships, while Kyrgyzstan - another ex-Soviet republic thousands of kilometers east - considers anti-gay legislation.

9/10/2014- The parallel moves reflect starkly divergent paths taken by the countries that once were parts of the Soviet empire. In Estonia, lawmakers voted 40-38 vote to approve a partnership act that recognizes the civil unions of all couples regardless of gender. Twenty-three lawmakers were absent or abstained in the third and final reading of the bill. The new law will gives those in civil unions - heterosexual or gay - almost the same rights as married couples, including financial, social and health benefits provided by the government and legal protection for children. It does not give adoption rights for couples in such unions but does allow one partner to adopt the biological child of the other. It comes into force in January 2016, after it has been signed by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves who supported the bill.

The Estonian Human Rights Center hailed the vote as "historic," saying it would send a strong message to neighboring Russia, which passed what it called "a draconian anti-gay law" last year. "Estonia (has) made a leap toward a society that is freer, more equal and values human rights for all," the group's director, Kari Kasper, said. The United States also wel-comed the new law. "The U.S. government supports equal treatment under the law for all groups and believes the new cohabitation bill extends important rights and protections to unmarried couples and their families," the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn said in a statement.

In contrast with Estonia, lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian nation about 3,500 kilometers (some 2,170 miles) east, on Thursday began considering a bill that would make gay "propaganda" punishable by a prison term of up to one year. Kyrgyz rights activists saw the bill as a copycat version of a Russian law adopted last year that prohibits vaguely defined propaganda to minors of "non-traditional sexual relations" and has provoked international outrage. Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished mostly Muslim Central Asian nation on China's mountainous western border, has cultivated close ties with Russia and aspired to become a member of a Moscow-led economic bloc. The bill's authors have described it as a necessary measure to support "traditional family values."

Estonia, which like Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union for almost five decades, is considered the most Western-oriented of the former republics, with a long history of cooperation with its liberal-minded Nordic neighbors. However, there has been little tolerance of gays in the small Baltic nation of 1.3 million, particularly among the sizeable ethnic-Russian minority and in rural areas where traditional values prevail. The law has been under preparation for years and stirred one of the fiercest public debates since the country regained independence in 1991.
© The Malta Independent

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Macedonia Court Throws out Abortion Challenge

Judges reject claim NGOs’ complaint about changes to abortion law, saying they merely regulate the procedures.

9/10/2014- Macedonia’s Constitutional Court has rejected a challenge to the changed law on terminations, adopted in September 2013, saying the changes do not prohibit abortion but only regulate the procedures. Several NGOs had submitted complaints to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the new requirements put undue physical, administrative and time-related pressure on pregnant women. The changes oblige women to file requests for abortions, attend counselling, inform “spouses” of their intention and meet a gynaecolo-gist. The change to the law further prohibits women from having a second abortion within a year. However, the court made clear its lack of sympathy with the NGOs’ complaints. Judge Sali Murati told the court on Thursday that he was “totally against abortion”, maintaining that it was “not an exclusive right of the mother. “It also concerns the father, the wider family and the society,” he said. “We should protect the unborn child, whose life begins when the embryo is formed,” he added. Noting that there were more terminations than births in Macedonia 30,000 as opposed to 24,000 - he added: “If this trend continues, the mankind will come to an end.”

Judge Natasha Gaber Damjanovska, on the other hand, criticized the changes made to the law, saying it placed new limits on the women’s right to choose. “This law discriminates against pregnant women,” she said. “They should not need to seek permission from committees on such a very intimate and sensitive question.” Her vote was not enough, how-ever. The majority of the judges in the court voted for the law to stay as it is, guided by article 42 of the constitution, which says the state has a duty to protect motherhood and children. NGOs opposing the law include the Association for Health Education, HERA, the think tank REACTOR – Research in Action, and the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.

On Thursday, at a joined press conference the NGOs said that they will not stop fighting against this law. Igor Jadrovski from HERA said they "will use every international mechanism in order to protect the women who want to terminate their pregnancy”. “The secondary commission formed by the Minister for health is the one that decides who can terminate the pregnancy. After the initial counseling, the women are asked not to kill their unborn children, they are judged and aggressively told to keep the baby. "All these procedures delay the abortion, and afterwards they do not have time to terminate the pregnancy”, says Jadrovski. In 2009, the government of Nikola Gruevski launched a media campaign against abortion, which was backed by the influential Macedonian Orthodox Church.
© Balkan Insight

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Latvian Archbishop: not anti-gay, but gays are destroying human identity

A Latvian Archbishop has claimed that homosexuality is destroying human identity – but denies being anti-gay.

8/10/2014- Catholic Archbishop Zbigňevs Stankevičs made the comments in an interview with American Christian news website LifeSiteNews. He claimed: “Homosexual relationships are destroying our identity. Not only our Christian identity, but also our human identity, the identity of man and the identity of woman. “We are not against homosexuals, we are for these persons. We are invited to disarm a lie and let in the truth in such ways.” Last year, Latvia was condemned by Amnesty International for lacking protection against homophobic and transphobic crime. The Catholic Church is currently holding a meeting of over 200 Catholic bishops, which is expected to reaffirm the church’s teachings on homosexuality. The ‘extraordinary synod’ follows up on a worldwide consultation earlier last year, which found the Church was out of touch with ordinary Catholics on issues involving sex and sexuality. However, bishops are expected to focus on small-scale reforms pertaining to contraception and divorce, rather than risk changing the Church’s policies on homosexuality.
© Pink News

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Greece: Clashes in Parliament as vote of confidence debate begins

8/10/2014- The debate leading up to Friday’s confidence vote got under way in Parliament on Wednesday, with New Democracy and SYRIZA attacking each other straight from the opening exchanges. “The opposition did not engage in constructive criticism over the past two years,” said Health Minister Makis Voridis, who opened the discussion due to Premier Antonis Samaras being at a European Union leaders’ summit. “I remind you of the swearing, the threats, the terrorizing and the nooses when the coalition MPs were trying to keep the country standing.” Voridis also accused SYRIZA of engaging in “hate speech,” which stoked political tension and, according to the minister, played a part in the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn member and the assassination of two members of the neo-Nazi party, Argyris Kapelonis and Giorgos Fountoulis. His comments prompted an immediate response from SYRIZA’s opening speaker, economic spokesman Yiannis Dragasakis.

“Isn’t Mr Samaras the architect of the theory of the two extremes?” he asked. “And who was it that was in contact with the criminal organization [Golden Dawn]?” he added in reference to the revelations earlier this year that the prime minister’s former aide Panayiotis Baltakos had a secret meeting with Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris. Dragasa-kis then accused the government of succumbing to pressure from businessmen to change laws. “Today it just takes a powerful businessman, a major publisher, sometimes even a medium-sized publisher, a shipowner, a friend of the prime minister to call up and have a law abolished or a fine scrapped,” said the SYRIZA lawmaker. State Minister Dimitris Stamatis challenged Dragasakis to provide some examples to back up his allegations. “Of course we will name names but I am not ready to do so now,” said the opposition MP. “I will decide when to do so. Until then, check the amendments that were made by Mr Baltakos and after that we can speak again.”

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos and another five extreme-right lawmakers who are in pretrial custody are to lodge appeals with the Greek judicial system and the European Court of Human Rights after a prosecutor rejected their requests to appear in Parliament ahead of Friday night’s vote of confidence in the government. Apart from Michaloliakos, requests were made by the party’s second-in-command Christos Pappas, spokesman Kasidiaris, the MPs Nikos Michos and Panagiotis Iliopoulos, as well as Stathis Boukouras, who quit the party in March and is now an independent lawmaker. In a statement released via his lawyer, Michaloliakos condemned the decision as “unprecedented” and “a blatant violation of the Constitution.” Of GD’s 16 MPs, nine are in custody pending trial on a series of criminal charges.
© Kathimerini

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Greece: jailed neo-nazi MPs will not vote for confidence

Prosecutor rejects their request to attend the proceedings 

8/10/2014- A prosecutor on Wednesday rejected a request by six jailed Golden Dawn MPs to attend ongoing parliamentary proceedings for a vote of confidence, as Kathimerini online reports. The request was made by party chief Nikos Michaloliakos, as well as Christos Papas, Ilias Kasidiaris, Yiannis Lagos, Giorgos Germenis, and Nikos Kouzilos who remain in custody pending trial of belonging to a criminal organization. The 3-day debate is set to conclude on Friday with a vote. The conservative-led coalition government holds a narrow majority of four seats and is expected to win the vote in the 300-seat Parliament.
© ANSAmed.

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Austria: Neo-Nazi Waves Knife Outside Vienna Synagogue

Biker shouts anti-Semitic curses while threatening with a knife outside the capital of Austria, birthplace of Hitler.

7/10/2014- The rampant anti-Semitism that has been ratcheting up worldwide spilled out in another incident targeting Jews this week, this time in the Austrian capital of Vienna. A neo-Nazi biker stopped in front of a synagogue where he began to shout out anti-Semitic epithets and curses while waving a knife, reports Kol Yisrael (Israel Radio) on Monday, in an incident shortly after Yom Kippur which occurred on Saturday. Police arrived to arrest the man, according to the report. It should be pointed out that the incident of neo-Nazism occurs in Austria, the birthplace of genocidal Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Austria has been the scene of shocking anti-Semitism, including one incident during Operation Protective Edge in late July when pro-Palestinian protesters physically attacked Israeli soccer players from the Maccabi Haifa team as they were playing a pre-season friendly match. The protesters, who were holding up Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) flags and were reportedly of Turkish origin, stormed the field as the game against the French soccer team Lille was going on. They proceeded to spit at, curse and kick the Israeli players. Some of the players retaliated, as a brawl erupted on the field - fortunately no one was injured in the clash. Anti-Semitism has been skyrocketing internationally in recent months, as evidenced in a recent survey that found incidents of anti-Semitism rose 383% worldwide in July compared to the previous year. In Europe, where Austria is located, that rise was even higher at 436%, with many arguing the climate of anti-Semitism has reached epidemic proportions.
© Arutz Sheva

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Roma ‘slums’ face demolition in Orban’s Hungary

Municipality says Miskolc, home to 168,000 people, should be made more ‘liveable’

10/10/2014- With bulldozers at their doorstep, beginning to tear down their homes, it is hard to imagine life could get worse for the Roma of Miskolc, Hungary’s impoverished third-largest city. But with the far-right Jobbik party possibly about to win the Miskolc mayorship in local elections on Sunday, it could. In May, the city council — which, like Hungary’s parliament, is run by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing Fidesz — voted to demolish 13 areas inhabited predominantly by Miskolc’s 20,000-strong Roma, or Gypsy, community. The wrecking machinery arrived in August. So far only around a dozen homes have been razed — but this is just the start. “We have nowhere to go, we will be left homeless,” Eva Molnar, a 50-year-old Roma whose respiratory problems mean she can’t work, told AFP as she clutched an eviction letter giving her until October 20 to vacate her home.

The area where she lives, squeezed between a derelict communist-era metalworks and a football stadium slated for an upgrade, is quiet, since many of her neighbours have already left. “They’ll not be happy until we’re all gone,” Molnar said. The municipality says Miskolc, home to 168,000 people, should be made more “liveable” and rid itself of slums that are “unsuitable for normal life”. One Fidesz official called the Roma areas “hotbeds of crime”. Many local residents support the move. “About time,” one shopper at a bus stop told AFP. “Slums have no place in Miskolc.” The mayor claims that 35,000 signatures have been collected in support of the demolitions. “The Roma have to leave Miskolc as around 70-80 percent of Hungarian society simply doesn’t not want to see them or have anything to do with them,” Mihaly Simon of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union rights group told AFP.

Four years after Orban was elected, and despite his promises to improve their misery, the European Union member state’s Roma trail in practically every indicator from living standards to health, as they do throughout eastern and central Europe. Under Orban, 51, who has been accused at home and abroad of eroding democracy, many Roma — who comprise eight to nine percent of Hungary’s 10 million population — have been forced into “workfare” schemes, doing menial work in order to continue receiving welfare payments. But not all of the properties in Miskolc are tumbledown shacks or Hungarian versions of the favelas of Brazil. Many are one-storey houses — lots of them crumbling, but some of them well-maintained. And where Miskolc’s Roma are supposed to go is unclear. Several nearby villages have warned they have no money to provide work or benefits to any newcomers, and are collecting petitions opposing the “export” of the poor.

“It’s barbaric, there were no impact studies for this, nobody spoke to the Gypsies,” Gabor Varadi, head of a local Roma political grouping, told AFP. “The council is spending billions of forints [millions of euros (dollars)]... on the new football stadium instead of social housing for poor people,” he said. A few of those being evicted in Miskolc — those with indefinite-term leases — are being offered money or flats elsewhere, but Jobbik’s candidate in Sunday’s election, Peter Jakab, says he will scrap even this if elected. Jobbik, which won 21 per cent of the vote in general elections in April, sparking alarm throughout Europe, says it will flatten the houses immediately and force the Roma to cover the demolition costs. “They knew when they signed the lease that it would expire one day, that the owner might kick them out,” Jakab told AFP.

Jobbik, which has sought to soften its image in recent years, still says it wants to stop “Gypsy crime”, create ghettos for Roma “deviants” and create a rural “gendarmerie” of the sort last seen in Hungary before Second World War. The local elections are expected to see Orban’s party remain firmly in control. But nationwide, Jobbik is forecast to more than double its control of municipalities, from 12 currently to around 30.
© AFP

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Hungary's far-right faces hard slog despite prospect of winning town halls

10/10/2014- Hungary's far-right Jobbik party is on track to take over dozens of city halls in a municipal election on Sunday, handing it new powers that, critics say, it will use to persecute ethnic minorities. Already the second biggest force in parliament, Jobbik is one of Europe's most influential far-right parties. Its rise has drawn international concern, notably when one of its lawmakers suggested that lists of Jews should be drawn up -- a comment for which he later apologized, saying he had been misunderstood. But the experience in one town where Jobbik is already in power is that even the most hardline agenda ends up running aground in the swamp of budget shortfalls, petty squabbles and failed schemes that make up local politics in Hungary.

Erik Fulop, the 32-year-old Jobbik activist who since 2010 has been mayor of Tiszavasvari, came to power on a promise to tackle "Gypsy crime" -- a rallying call for Jobbik supporters who resent Hungary's large and mainly poor Roma minority. But two years after he took office, the local militia he created to implement that promise -- made up of 10 men, two cars and an electric scooter -- had to abandon its patrols because he ran out of money to fund it. For the town's Roma, many of whom live in a slum of mud huts where half-naked children play in a trash-strewn ditch, the budget shortfall meant at least they did not have to add harassment by a far-right militia to their list of problems. "There's been no trouble so far, thank God... there's been nothing," Andras Rezmuves, a 40-year-old Roma man, said in the slum, known to locals as Narrow Street.

A think tank, Political Capital, forecasts that in Sunday's election Jobbik has a good chance of winning in 41 municipalities -- out of 3,200 in Hungary -- where it came a close second in this year's parliamentary election. Those places include Miskolc, Hungary's second-biggest city. Yet to date, Jobbik has been a party of opposition, with eye-catching and divisive policies, tough rhetoric, and little to show how it would behave if it won real power. It has insisted that Roma would not be persecuted on its watch, pledging in its election program a "color-blind" crackdown on crime and a nuanced approach toward minority issues.

Red Mud
Tiszavasvari, a town of 13,000 and by far the largest Jobbik-controlled municipality, is the nearest thing the party has to a track record. In the four years since Fulop took office, there has been little lasting improvement in the lives of the town's Roma. One initiative to help turned into a farce. Zsolt Raduly, a deputy principal at a local school, said the town authorities filled potholes in the slum neighborhoods with red brick dust from a nearby factory. "The first winter washed out all of it," said Raduly, who ran unsuccessfully against the Jobbik mayor. "The Roma called it the red mud disaster. Their shoes were all red, so were cars that passed through there. It was a slum stigma." Asked by Reuters about the Roma community, Fulop said he had an action plan to improve conditions for people living in the slums. "But we also demand that they conform to the minimal rules of coexistence," he said. "Improving the living standards for Gypsies is primarily a state function... Municipalities, mayors are just cogs in a machine - but of course we try to do the best we can."

Twin Towns
The mayor's record has been mixed on another part of his manifesto: bringing jobs and investment to Tiszavasvari, about 200 km (125 miles) east of Budapest. A list of European-funded projects on the town's web site shows Jobbik secured 170 million forints ($700,000) for education, 160 million forints for drains and about 100 million forints to fix up the municipal building. The mayor had pledged to invigorate the local economy through international business ties to countries like Iran, China and Turkey. All that has materialized so far on that front are a handful of symbolic twinning agreements with foreign towns, and a half-finished upgrade at a factory owned by a local businessmen that won new business from Iran and added a few dozen extra jobs.

Another mundane detail of local politics -- infighting -- grew so bad the Jobbik-led administration dissolved itself in 2012, though it won the subsequent election and so held on to power. Despite the missteps, the mayor is still popular. A straw poll Reuters conducted among residents suggests Fulop has a good chance of winning a new term in Sunday's vote. The Socialist opposition is so weak it has not fielded candidates in the town, and Jobbik strikes a chord with voters as the only party proposing to solve the "Roma issue", even if experience shows it is not that simple. "Erik may have a hard time bringing jobs to everyone but if he doesn't get support from the powers that be, he really cannot be blamed," Julianna Kiss, a 54 year-old hairdresser, said of the mayor. "I'll stick with Jobbik."
© Reuters

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Hungary: Far right holds secret congress

The atmosphere beneath the arches of Budapest South railway station was reminiscent of a 1980s, communist-era protest meeting rather than a far-right European get-together banned by the Hungarian government as a "racist conference".

6/10/2014- Older men with wispy beards, young men in black shirts sporting crew cuts, secret policemen in the shadows, uniformed policemen, and a small huddle of journalists, all wondering what was going to happen next. In true dissident style, small groups peeled away one by one to the secret meeting place nearby. But the world has changed. This was meant to be the European Congress of the National Policy Institute (NPI), based in the US state of Montana, a nationalist think-tank which billed the Budapest event as a "forum in which groups and individuals throughout Europe… can come together to compare notes, discuss ideas, and perhaps prepare the ground for collective action". Despite his nationalist reputation, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban ordered Saturday evening's event to be banned as "an attempt to breathe new life into Nazi and… fascist ideology".

Even Hungarian far-right party Jobbik which won over 20% in April's general election stayed away. Jobbik's rhetoric has softened this year, as it tries to court both conservative and former Socialist voters. Local elections take place next weekend. In a traditional Hungarian restaurant just around the corner, about 70 participants from a dozen countries gathered around long tables laden with meat and wine. The atmosphere was tense. NPI President Richard Spencer was taken away by police the previous evening from a Budapest bar. He had initially evaded a ban on the eight planned speakers entering the country by arriving by train from Vienna. Earlier in the week his colleague, William Regnery, was arrested on arrival at Budapest airport from London. After a night in detention, he was expelled the following morning.

Standing ovation
Jared Taylor, head of American Renaissance, a webzine which champions "racial difference", gave the main after-dinner speech. He congratulated those present for the commit-ment they had shown for reaching the meeting "despite the threats that we have received, despite the oppression". He called for "a world brotherhood of Europeans", of white people around the world, who regard Europe as their motherland, who should defend themselves from the "dilution" which immigration was causing in the European race. "And the greatest threat to Europe is this poisonous ideology of diversity that my country wants to force upon you," he added. "Men of Europe, my brothers, stand together and we will prevail," he concluded, his voice cracking with emotion. He was rewarded with a standing ovation.

The participants came from many countries of Europe, as well as the United States. Many were supporters of the "identitarian" movement, popular among radical right-wing circles in Europe. "Identitarian means to stand up for your own identity, against globalisation, against liberalism, and against multiculturalism," said Jens Derycke of the Flemish NSV student movement in Belgium. "I don't think we have anything in common with National Socialism. That was a modernist ideology of the 1930s based on racial supremacy, whereas we don't consider ourselves superior to other races. We just want to defend our own culture." Sitting at the same table, Robert from the Netherlands, a campaigner for an independent Flemish state, also dismissed the neo-Nazi label: "Today there are new, different dangers in Europe."

There were several dividing lines between participants. Much of the debate focused on Russia, and the figure of President Vladimir Putin. There is admiration in nationalist circles in Eastern and Western Europe for Mr Putin as a Russian nationalist and strongman, who has made his people proud to be Russian again. The lead speaker at the Budapest congress was due to be Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist thinker who has championed the annexation of Crimea and Russian intervention in Ukraine. He stayed away after allegedly being warned through police channels that he would not be allowed to enter Hungary. Originally billed as a speaker, Jobbik MP Marton Gyongyosi told the BBC he had pulled out because of other commitments, and because he disagreed with the views of the US hosts.

America was another point of contention. While Jared Taylor lambasted his own country as "a monstrous mix", allowing its whites to be outnumbered by Hispanic and black people, another speaker, Tomislav Sunic from Croatia, praised the United States for bringing the bloodshed in Bosnia to an end in 1995. All participants opposed widespread immigration, but some insisted on white supremacy, which others rejected. Apart from the waitresses rushing between the tables, I counted only four women present at a very male gathering. Beneath a display of traditional painted plates from rural Hungary, a young man with a guitar sang from a booklet of nationalist songs from across Europe, printed in Gothic script.
© BBC News

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Portugal: First gay Catholic congress to press pope for change

Gay and lesbian Catholic groups are holding an international congress in Portugal this week as they seek to make their voices heard by the Vatican.

5/10/2014- Opening on Monday in the southern resort of Portimao, the three-day event aims to formally federate some 30 associations representing homosexual Catholics from around the world. Together they intend to press for an "urgent change of attitude from Catholic authorities" towards gay parishioners, said Jose Leote whose group Rumos Novos (New Directions) is organising the event. Their congress coincides with an extraordinary synod which began at the Vatican on Sunday to review the Church's attitude to marriage, cohabitation and divorce. Fifteen to 20 delegates will meet in person in Portugal, with the same number joining in by videoconference, to draw up a statement to send to Pope Francis and the nearly 200 bishops meeting for two weeks in Rome. "Jesus began with 12, and look at what that has become," said Francis DeBernardo, head of the US-based "News Ways Ministry" which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics.

DeBernardo intends to act as a bridge between the congress and the synod that opened Sunday in Rome, where he will also be holding a seminar on the place of gays in the Church. The US group wrote to the pope a few months ago, thanking him for his openness to discussing LGBT issues and urging him to go further. "I think this will be a major question of the synod," said DeBernardo. "The topic of homosexuality is so widespread in so many societies and it affects so many people, not only those who are LGBT, but their families, friends, co-workers." The Catholic synod could potentially lead to change in attitudes to marriage, cohabitation and divorce. While the Roman Catholic Church is certainly not about to embrace gay marriage, it could send out a signal of compassion by making it clear priests should be ready to baptise the children of same-sex couples.
© Expatica - Portugal

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Russia Risks Spread of Extremist Islam, Prosecutor General's Office Warns

8/10/2014- With thousands of Russian Muslims pursuing religious education abroad, the country faces a proliferation of extremist Islamic ideology and increased ethnic tensions, the Prosecutor General's Office has warned. "If in the 1990s, this [the import of nontraditional forms of Islam] was carried out by foreign preachers, now more and more frequently it is done by our own youth who have gone overseas to receive a religious education," Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin warned in comments carried by the Interfax news agency. Grin referenced data made available by the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service. "Foreign Islamic educational institutions not only offer significant funds from charity donations, but also receive direct government support," Grin said, noting that Russia's own educational institutions must become more competitive in this sphere.

These religious study-abroad programs likewise contribute to ethnic tensions at home by importing social norms and behavior that are considered abnormal in Russia, Grin said. "Migrants' negligent attitudes toward local practices and traditions is frequently aggravating for the native [Russian] community, provoking a growth in ethnic friction," Grin was cited as saying. Many young people from Russia's predominantly Muslim republics Chechnya and Dagestan have studied Islam abroad, in the United Arab Emirates, Syria and Egypt. Likewise, Islamic clerics from these countries have visited Russia to offer workshops and lectures. Although Grin did not elaborate on what specific educational themes were thought to be worrisome, Dagestan has seen numerous radical Salafi preachers emerge in recent years advocating the implementation of sharia law.

Their growing popularity is believed to be a factor in fueling the militant insurgency in the region, a phenomenon that has made shootouts between police and extremists a regular occurrence. The expansion of the Salafi movement has also pitted hardline militants against the more moderate Sufi Muslims in the region, who have increasingly become targets in guerilla-style attacks by insurgents.
© The Moscow Times

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FIFA VP: 'Huge challenges' with racism in Russia

8/10/2014- FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb warned Wednesday that eradicating racism from Russian football ahead of the 2018 World Cup will be a major challenge. The latest episode of fans' racism has led to CSKA Moscow being ordered to play its next three UEFA competition matches in an empty stadium, following several incidents in domestic games where players have been abused. "There are huge challenges with Russia," Webb, who heads FIFA's anti-racism task force, said Wednesday. "It must start with education and really it must come from the top down that diversity is good, that integration is good and there's nothing to fear." Webb also dismissed calls to get the Women's World Cup in Canada to be played on grass instead of artificial turf, following legal action from players. "Artificial pitches are the future," said Webb, who heads the CONCACAF confederation that covers Canada. "They have been well regarded. If you have the best artificial pitches in the world I think that's much better than having bad grass." Webb was speaking at the Leaders' Sport Business Summit in London.
© The Associated Press

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Why Bulgaria and Uefa must act over ‘yes to racism’ banner

Last week Levski Sofia fans mocked the governing body with a banner saying ‘Say yes to racism’ but if the club, the Bulgarian FA and Uefa do not react then the problem will only get worse.

7/10/2014- Ten days after supporters of Serbian Partizan Belgrade displayed a banner “Only Jews and Pussies” in the Europa League game with Tottenham, another disgraceful incident occurred 400km further to the east. In the Bulgarian capital Sofia supporters of Levski held up a banner saying “Say yes to racism” during their team’s dramatic 3-2 win against Ludogorets, rivals of Liverpool in the Champions League group stage. Not only did they mock one of Uefa’s most famous anti-racism campaigns, but to make things worse they changed the logo of European football’s governing body. The map of the European continent was replaced by a pistol with the words “Uefa Mafia” around it.

The disciplinary body of the Bulgarian Football Union opened an investigation but a spokesman at Uefa told the Guardian on Friday that it was unaware of the incident. Possible sanctions from the Bulgarian federation vary from a fine of €19,000 to a couple of games behind closed doors. Levski’s next home game is on 25 October against rivals CSKA, which means that for the first time in its 66-year history Bulgaria’s best known football game could take place without any spectators there to witness it. Officials from Levski have so far not commented publicly on the incident and that not only fails to solve the problem but actually becomes part of it. And as time goes on it will only exacerbate the matter. The only official statement came from Levski Sofia National Fanclub whose members explained the incident as “idiotic behaviour from a few masked boys who don’t want to become part of our organisation”. Given the fact that some of the supporters are stewards during the home games and help police with the security issues their reaction towards the incident against Ludogorets could have been stronger.

This is not the first time Bulgarian football has been involved in such shameful scandals. Back in 2012 Levski played Bosnian FK Sarajevo in Sofia ,in the first leg of their Europa League second-round match, and supporters of The Blues displayed a banner “Ratko Mladic and Arkan have fucked you. Now it is our turn”. Uefa fined the Bulgarian club €30,000 and the incident almost led to a diplomatic scandal between the two countries. Playing with history is often like playing with fire – it is dangerous and somebody will almost certainly get hurt. And mixing the massacre of Srebrenica, one of the greatest tragedies in recent history, which was led by general Ratko Mladic in which 8,000 Bosnians lost their lives, with football is not merely a display of bad taste. It is sick and pathetic and the only appropriate punishment for such inappropriate behaviour is a lifetime ban from attending football games.

A few weeks back, Ludogorets were told by Uefa to close a section of their stadium as a punishment for racist behaviour during their game against Steaua Bucharest. “A group of Ludogorets fans chanted anti-Roma slogans targeting Steaua supporters,” fans’ discrimination monitoring group Fare said. Unfortunately, those kind of tough sanctions are yet to become a part of Bulgarian football. Part of the problem lies in the poor football infrastructure in the country. Although cameras are required by the regulations of the Bulgarian federation, some of the stadiums are still without them – making it impossible to identify the fans upon whom the sanctions should be imposed. Even the national stadium, Vasil Levski, one of Bulgaria’s most modern football venues, has not been free of this type of incident. This is where Bulgaria played Denmark in a World Cup qualifier in October 2012 and made headlines for the wrong reasons after the Danish defender Patrick Mtiliga was subject to racist abuse from Bulgarian fans during the game.

Every time the left-back touched the ball there were monkey chants from the stands. A month later Fifa ordered Bulgaria to play its next home game behind closed doors and that was the first time football’s world governing body made such a decision based on racist remarks. If it is true that a football match could reflect the problems in one society, then there is a long road in front of Bulgaria as a nation. A source at the Bulgarian FA said that the governing body held a meeting with representatives of the United orgnisation of football fanclubs in Bulgaria recently. The FA gave them handbooks from Fare in an attempt to educate fans and to avoid these incidents happening in the future.

The problem of racism is, however, not restricted to football. Two weeks before the unsavoury incident during the LevskivLudogorets game residents of a village near Sofia refused to let their sons and daughters go to school because 10 children of refugee families from Afghanistan and Somalia were due to attend the school. In the end the refugees were relocated to Sofia to start their education there. It is fair to conclude that the message these Bulgarian children received from the incident was … say yes to racism. It simply is not good enough and there is much still to be done to stamp out these sinister events in society and on the terraces of Bulgarian football.
© Talking Sport - Guardian Blog

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I Went on a Spa Date with One of Europe's Right-Wing Extremists (interview)

Driven by an agenda that's anti-corruption, anti-Zionist, anti-homosexuality, anti–European Union, and anti-Roma, Hungary's far-right Jobbik party won 20 percent of the vote in the country's April general elections. This coming weekend, Hungary is holding a municipal election and it looks as though Jobbik's popularity is likely to grow
By Pierre Sautreuil 

7/10/2014- Twenty-six-year-old Ferenc Almassy—his name has been changed at his request—has been living in Hungary for the past four years working as a liaison of sorts between Jobbik and French nationalists, who have similarly gained power in recent elections as part of what seems like a general rightward drift in Europe. Budapest has more than 100 thermal spas in its area, so I thought it'd be fitting to meet Ferenc in one and try to understand how he had come to work for such an extremist group.

VICE: Why did you leave France for Hungary?
Ferenc Almassy: Paris was driving me insane. In Hungary I found a healthier environment and, above all, a country that doesn't ask for qualifications to give me a chance at a job. Before I moved to Hungary, I used to visit a month every year. When I was 22, I fell in love with a girl here, and she persuaded me to move.

Have you always been interested in politics?
I've never been affiliated with any French movement. Like any angry teenager, I was an anarchist for a while. Working on construction sites, I came face to face with corruption, to such an extent I never thought possible. It nourished in me a disgust for globalized capitalism. I spent a lot of time on the internet, and I've had my Islamophobic, xenophobic, and racist phases. Eventually, I took interest in racialism, the scientific study of human races. I think that's what got me to stop being a racist.

Why did you choose to affiliate yourself with Jobbik?
It's a unique movement in Europe. It opposes the liberal world, economically as well as politically and morally. There's nothing like that in France. As far as I know, no party in Europe has such an intelligent, ideologically strong, and—most importantly—realist position. In France, this kind of movement would only gather 20 or so suckers. Here, Jobbik is the second most powerful political force, while still speaking a discourse that would have Marine Le Pen [the head of France's far-right National Front party] crying in fear.

Can you describe what your role as a consultant to Jobbik entails?
I started last year as an interpreter, when a French guy came to visit Marton Gyöngyösi, Jobbik's number two. Gyöngyösi manages international affairs, and I gained his confidence, and he told me it would be interesting if a half-French, half-Hungarian guy “kept an eye” on what happened in France. I do press reviews in French when there is press on Jobbik, and I explain to them certain French social phenomena that are hard to understand from a Hungarian point of view.

And you're also looking for Francophone Hungarian nationalists to rally to your cause.
It's at the heart of my action. I'm using social networks, and I meet up with people each time I'm in France. Without trying to form official bonds, I'm closely following the French nationalist milieu, and I scout the talent. It's a small world; everyone knows each other. Besides, if a guy wants to spend a few days in Budapest, I host him, I tour the city with him, and I introduce him to the people he needs to know in Jobbik. I cannot give you names, but in total, I've hosted a good 50 or so people from the great French nationalist family.

With which French movements would Jobbik like to cooperate?
The problem with France is that the parties we're interested in don't want to associate with us. On the other hand, those who want to associate with us aren't serious enough partners. The National Front doesn't want anything to do with us since Marine Le Pen took charge. There are other groups, like the Bloc Identitaire, but we don't want to associate with them.

Why doesn't the National Front get along with Jobbik?
In Hungary, you can say things that in France you cannot. Here, we can proclaim ourselves openly anti-Zionist, against immigration, say that democracy is full of shit and that Hungary is a Christian country. The National Front is secular, they can't say they're anti-Zionists, and they're for regulated immigration. Jobbik is for re-migration, which is the return of immigrants and their descendants to their origin countries. Before Marine Le Pen took charge of the National Front, Jobbik was considered a young movement but appreciated by the party's old guard. Nowadays, [French nationalists] are conducting a type of de-demonization; they have to show they are clean, and that implies keeping Jobbik at a distance. It's understandable, but it's a pity.

How do you see the evolution of the nationalist movement in France?
Since the Dieudonné affair and the death of Clément Méric, there is not a single nationalist in France who doesn't think, It stinks for us here. The social stigma we face is harder and harder to bear, but it leads to us getting tougher. Still, there are many who want to stop the fight. Some have even gotten in touch with me to help them leave France and settle in Hungary.

Can you tell me more about it?
In the past four years, I've been nourishing this kind of crazy idea to create a community of French nationalists in Hungary. Four years ago, I was still told that it wouldn't work, but now people are starting to show interest—people who went through a grieving process over France and don't see any future there for them or their children. This organization's aim would be to help French nationalists move to Hungary. Hungary has really flexible politics toward communities. If it reaches 1,000 members, this community will be recognized as a French minority in Hungary.

What will that community look like?
I imagine villages whose economy is based on crafts, cooperative farming, and energy autonomy. Hungarian population numbers are down, with many villages starting to depopulate to the capital. It would be fantastic for French patriots to settle in those villages. Of course, Hungary is neither a paradise nor an El Dorado, but for these people, it will always be better than France. Eight people, including a young family, are settling in Hungary as part of this project. Some of them have already sold their house in France.
© The Vice

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France: Racism Alleged as Police Arrest Guinean Students for Using €500 Bill

8/10/2014- Authorities in northern France are facing accusations racial prejudice over a Kafkaesque case involving two Guinean students arrested for paying with an authentic banknote. The troubles began for the pair, a man and a woman in their 20s, as they handed a €500 bill to a cashier at a E. Leclerc supermarket in Douai district, off the Belgian border, to pay for purchases worth a total of €210 (£165). Suspecting the rare note could be a fake, the cashier alerted her boss, who in turn called police - all without previously checking the bill with one of the store's counterfeit detection devices. "We have some fake note detectors but they are not 100% reliable," a store manager later explained to local newspaper La Voix Du Nord. "There were some major doubts about this bill."

The two Guineans, who had recently arrived in the area to study law at the nearby Artois University, were subsequently arrested and taken to the local police station. There they were detained for more than 20 hours, until a bank eventually confirmed to police the note was indeed authentic. One of the two students told newspaper Nord Eclair she was "revolted" by police treatment. The woman claimed police gave them almost nothing to eat after they refused pork and asked them a series of questions unrelated to the case, including if they had Ebola. Douai procurator Eric Vaillant later apologised for the arrests, which he said came against the backdrop of an increase in fake notes in circulation in the area.

A spokesperson for Leclerc dismissed the incident as human error: "We were suspicious of the bill, not the clients". Anti-racism activists urged authorities to issue a stronger public apology. "They were humiliated," Aggeex Hutin, chairman of non-profit group CEDYFART-Africa International, told France Info. "We also feel insulted, because this assumes that any African who goes to a store with a €500 bill is suspected of using counterfeit money". €500 notes - the highest denomination in the Eurozone - are a rare sight in Europe and are infamously popular among criminals as they make it easier to smuggle a small package of high-value dirty money. In 2010 the bill was withdrawn from circulation in Britain after the Serious Organised Crime Agency found that the vast majority of such bills were handled by criminals.
© The International Business Times - UK

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France: Thousands expected in 'family values' demo

Tens of thousands were expected to take to the streets in Paris and Bordeaux on Sunday to demonstrate for what protesters see as "traditional family values".

5/10/2014- The demonstrations are organised by the "Manif pour Tous" ("Protest for Everyone") group that waged an ultimately unsuccessful grassroots movement against the adoption of same-sex marriage in France last year. Their target this time is medically assisted procreation techniques for lesbian couples and surrogacy, which must be "fought at all costs," according to the group's president Ludovine de la Rochère. The group says they are hoping for a "slightly better" turnout than for their last protest in February, which attracted around 100,000 people according to police. Seeking to calm passions ahead of the rally, Prime Minister Manuel Valls stressed that surrogacy "is and will remain banned in France."

Manif pour Tous mounted a vigorous campaign against same-sex marriage -- at one point claiming to have 1.4 million on the streets of Paris -- but President Francois Hollande defied the protests and in April last year, France became the 14th country worldwide to legalise same-sex marriage. An Ifop poll for the Atlantico website on Sunday showed that less than a third (31 percent) of French people were behind the values of the demonstration. And the "All Out" gay rights organisation has called for a counter-demonstration "for equality of all couples and families". They have launched an Internet petition that had attracted more than 200,000 signatures by Sunday morning.
© The Local - France

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Asylum-seeker sets fire to himself in France

A Chadian suffered serious burns after setting himself alight on Friday inside a French courthouse when his final chance at obtaining asylum was thrown out, the court said.

4/10/2014- The 38-year-old man, who was carrying a bottle, doused himself with petrol before setting himself on fire and suffered serious burns to his scalp and torso.
Pascale Girault, the secretary general of the National Court of Asylum, said the man's first demand for asylum was rejected by the Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People (OFPRA) a few months ago. "He filed an appeal which was rejected" by the court, Girault said. On Friday the man returned to the asylum court in the eastern Parisian suburb of Montreuil "for information on how his situation could be re-examined." When staff at the front desk explained the decision he "doused himself in fuel and set fire to his clothes," said Girault. Security guards used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames, said a police source.

In theory a request for asylum cannot be examined a second time unless the person furnishes new information, said a spokesman for OFPRA. A police source said the man had arrived in France via Syria. "He was two metres from the front desk, looked at the notice board and doused himself with a large bottle filled with a transpa-rent liquid," said Maya Lino, who witnessed the scene. "His eyes were glazed. He pulled out a lighter, tried a first time, it didn't work and everyone screamed," she added. "He tried again a second time and burst into flames all the way to his head. He began running." Every year some 40,000 asylum seekers appeal to the court after their cases are denied by OFPRA. If the court rejects an appeal, the asylum seeker is usually expelled from France.

"Often the decisions of the court are perceived as dramatic and I understand that because they can end someone's life plans," said Pierre Henry, director of an organisation which supports asylum seekers. "But this was a desperate act, which fortunately is an exception. We should put our feelings aside and not exploit this tragedy to challenge an entire process," he said. Of the 38,540 decisions taken by the court last year, 108 concerned Chadians. It found in favour of only 17 of these applicants.
© AFP

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Czech Republic: Neo-Nazis hack websites of human rights NGOs

8/10/2014- The website of the Czech Helsinki Committee (ČHV) has been targeted for attack by "nationalist" hackers from the White Media group. The hackers publicly announced on their own website that they attacked the human rights organization as part of their annual "Week against Anti-Racism and Xenophilia", which began on 28 September. In addition to the ČHV's website its Facebook profile was attacked, as was the personal Facebook profile of director Lucie Rybová and her personal email account. The Brno branch of Amnesty International in the Czech Republic was hacked as well.

"It's alarming how defenseless you are in such a situation," Rybová told news server Romea.cz. While negotiations with Facebook regarding the blocking of the profiles and creating new slogans took place fairly quickly, negotiations with the operator of her email account and the operator of the ČHV website are remarkably problematic, according to Rybová. "The operator of the Czech Helsinki Committee's website, the Forpsi server, says it has never encountered such a situation. We reported the hacking to them and asked them to post a text on the site explaining why the pages are not available, but all that shows up there is the message "inoperative", thanks to which we seem unreliable. It looks like we haven't paid for the domain, and it is also harming us in other areas, including our clients - they can't access our contact information so they can't call the counseling center," Rybová said.

In addition to the organization not being able to fully focus on some of its activities because of its non-functioning website, ČHV also cannot now report online about those activities, which is usually a frequent obligation with respect to projects. Addressing the situation with the stolen email account is even more complicated. The hackers have stolen Rybová's password to her personal email account on Seznam and have changed it. "I have to prove the email is actually mine, using the same online form as when you forget your password. I have done it three or four times and nothing happens. When I call the hotline they refer me back to the online form and are unable to connect me with anyone who can handle my situation or even temporarily block the account," she explained to Romea.cz.

While Seznam has taken a passive approach to the situation for several days already, the neo-Nazis have continued to enjoy unfettered access to Rybová's personal email account. ČHV is considering filing a criminal report against the hackers. Even that, however, will not be easy, because while the racist and xenophobic content of the White Media website violates Czech law, its domain is registered with a web hosting company in California and is subject to the laws there. Those laws are much more benevolent when it comes to freedom of speech, including the dissemination of hate, than are laws in the Czech Republic.
© Romea.

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Czech Rep: Advocate says Roma want to be part of society

4/10/2014- Prague has hosted yet another Roma Pride parade. Along with Romani people, rather a lot of people from the majority part of society, migrants living in the Czech Republic and tourists enjoyed the event as well. Almost 300 people walked from the Old Town Square across the Charles Bridge to the Church of the Infant of Prague, where they prayed together for good coexistence and reconciliation. Romani people from many towns across the country attended, with the Brno contingent running a Roma Pride stand. The event began with a program on the Old Town Square where the main musical attraction was the Hradec Králové band Terne Èhave and an Indian temple dance. People clapped, danced and sang along to the rhythmic Romani music. The stage, decorated with flowers and signs reading "Hate is No Solution" and "Roma Pride", also was home to the reggae music of Michal Šepse. During the Terne Èhave concert more than 500 people were in attendance, but only around 300 participated in the march.

Ivanka Mariposa Èonková of the convening organization Konexe greeted the participants, as did Božena Fílová, the coordinator of Romani advisors in Prague, Margita Rácová from Brno, and Jožka Miker from Krupka. "We are here together, blacks, whites, and that's how it should be," the speeches between the musical performances emphasized. Romani representatives thanked those present for showing through their attendance they will not tolerate for any form of racism. "Until the pig farm erected on the site of the Romani Holocaust is removed there will be no tolerance in this country. First get rid of that pig farm and then you can talk about 'inadaptables'," Miker said in his remarks. The event focuses on Romani people sharing a feeling of pride in their identity and on being open to people from the majority society. It celebrates Romani culture and identity and does its best to draw the public's attention to topics such as the existence of the industrial pig farm on the site of the former concentration camp for Roma at Lety by Písek.

Roma Pride marches are taking place this weekend in 15 European countries. In Prague the parade was led by a horse-drawn wagon carrying musicians from Terne Èhave and singer Veronika Kaèová who sang Romani folk songs the whole time. Romani youth marching in the parade shouted slogans like "Black, White, Together We Fight" and "Stop Racism". Romani marchers also called out "Gadje, come with us!" to bystanders, some of whom actually did join the march, clapping and dancing to the Romani rhythms. People were carrying Romani flags and banners reading "Black, White, Together We Fight", "Strength in Unity", "Roma Pride", "Stop Ghettos", and "We Want Schools for All". According to Ivanka Mariposa Èonková, the main motto of Roma Pride is "Towns without Racism and Schools for All Children". She also said Romani people want to be part of Czech society. "All of Europe can see that antigypsyism in the Czech Republic is a problem. There is a need to stop segregating people," she said.

The activist believes it is necessary to work on getting the majority society to open up to Romani people. "We are proud Romani people who have our place in the Czech Repu-blic," she said. Saturday's program ended with with a workshop on traditional Romani dance and song and a discussion with Paul Polansky and his guests regarding the genocide at Lety. What was originally a disciplinary labor camp at Lety was transformed by the Nazi Protectorate administration into a "gypsy camp" in 1942, through which 1 308 Romani people had passed by May of the following year, 327 of whom perished there and more than 500 of whom were transported to Auschwitz, where most of them were murdered. Survivors of the camp and their relatives are insisting the pig farm be removed, and its existence has reportedly been criticized by the UN and other intergovernmental institutions. The Czech Government, however, claims to have no money to purchase and remove the agricultural campus.

This evening, at the Podnik club in the Bubenská quarter of Prague, traditional Romani music will be performed, the Romani dance ensembles Cikne Èhave and Gypsy Kubo will perform, and the young political hip hop and dance group De La Negra from Krupka will perform. At 22:30 a program called Romano Jam - Musicians of the World, Unite! will begin, culminating at midnight with an item called "Anyone Can DJ".
© Romea.

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Danish parties seek deal to block Eurosceptic party from policy

10/10/2014- Denmark's mainstream parties, ruling and in opposition, are rushing to conclude an agreement governing their policies towards the European Union before an election next year in which a far-right Eurosceptic party is expected to make strong gains. The Danish People's Party, which like others around Europe won strong support in May's elections to the European Parliament, said this week Denmark should hold a referendum on its EU membership if Britain went ahead with its own vote. British Prime Minister David Came-ron has promised his voters an in-out referendum on continued EU membership in 2017 if his ruling Conservative Party wins next year's UK election. In response to the Danish People's Party pledge, larger Danish parties have said they want to forge a formal written agreement on EU-related issues.

Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard from the Danish Social Liberal Party, a junior partner in the Social Democrat-led coalition government, said the Danish People's Party should be excluded from all decision-making on EU issues. "The government is very interested in a new EU political agreement as soon as possible to create stability in Denmark's EU politics, preferably a long-term agreement covering both this election period and the next," Lidegaard told Reuters. Earlier this week Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt called for a referendum on whether Denmark should adopt EU justice rules, from which Denmark - like Britain - has a legal "opt-out". Along with Britain, Denmark is also the only member of the 28-nation EU with a legal opt-out from having to adopt the euro currency. Danes voted resoundingly against joining the euro in a 2000 referendum and remain opposed today.

Liberal Party Silent
Lars Barfoed, spokesman on EU issues for the opposition Conservatives, said his party was also interested in joining the planned agreement. "Such an agreement should of course include a referendum to remove Danish reservations about defense and police cooperation (with the EU). The question of the euro has to wait," he said. However, the Danish People's Party may yet gain an influential voice at the table. Opinion polls show the main opposition centre-right Liberal Party with the highest support ahead of the 2015 election, ahead of the governing Social Democrats, but with only 24 percent. The Danish People's Party is now the third most popular party on 20 percent and the Liberals may yet need their support to form a new coalition government. The Liberals have declined to comment on whether they would join the EU policy agreement.

Mainstream political parties in Denmark, which joined the EU with Britain and Ireland in 1973, have had a decades-old tradition of striking cooperation agreements on EU policies. But Danish People's Party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl told Reuters the party would no longer toe the line. "It is obvious that if David Cameron succeeds with a referendum on leaving or changing EU membership in 2017, Denmark should also have a similar referendum," Thulesen Dahl said. Denmark's growing scepticism about the EU was on display in the European Parliament elections, when the Danish People's Party received the largest share of the vote with 26.6 percent, doubling their number of seats in the assembly to four. "We just can't ignore the fact that so many people gave us their vote because of our EU scepticism," Thulesen Dahl said.
© Reuters

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Is art the ultimate refuge of racism in Denmark? (opinion)

The controversial decision to sell and display Dan Park's art in Denmark is emblematic of Europe's history of dehumanising black people, the head of the European Network Against Racism argues.
By Sarah Isal, chairwoman of the European Network Against Racism

9/10/2014- This week sees the start of the latest in a series of trials against Swedish self-declared artist Dan Park, convicted in August of defamation and incitement to racial hatred. The controversial art pieces – banned by several galleries in Sweden following the indictment – are now on sale online in Denmark, where the Danish Free Press Society will also display the pictures at an art gallery in Copenhagen later this month. The society seems to pursue what looks increasingly like a tradition of swapping a responsible use of freedom of expression with some sort of ‘entitlement racism’, therefore claiming a ‘right’ to insult and bully ethnic minorities. Dan Park notably created and distributed posters with a picture of the human rights defender Jallow Momodou, Chair of the Pan African Movement for Justice (Afrosvenskarnas forum för rättvisa) and Vice-Chair of the European Network Against Racism, superimposed on the image of a naked slave in chains. Park's posters were distributed around Malmö and also included Momodou's name and contact details. Other pieces by the ‘artist’ include a picture of three black men hanged on a bridge, one of whom is Jallow Momodou and the other is a victim of racially motivated violence, with the caption ‘hang on Afrophobians’.

This questions the extent to which art can be used freely to offend minority groups, in this case the millions of people of African descent living in Europe, and in the most extreme cases, incite to racial hatred. Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy, in particular for artists and journalists. Extensive and vibrant case-law by the European Court of Human Rights shows that the balance between freedom of expression and other individual or collective rights is a matter of careful analysis. However, it is clear that when art or freedom of expression crosses the line into incitement to, or the promotion, of hatred, we need to set certain limits. The glorification of violence by the Swedish artist against identifiable individuals is clearly incompatible with fundamental rights. Hate speech can be perceived as an authorisation to take action and often does lead to violence. This case reveals a worrying underlying problem: the denigrating and dehumanising portrayal of black people. These representations are not isolated incidents and are the result of a long European history of negation of Africans’ and black people’s humanity, rooted in the legacy of slavery and colonialism.

Some 150 years after the abolition of the slave trade, black people continue to be perceived and constructed as second class citizens in European societies. The fact that our parents or grandparents might have visited human zoos, in which Africans were exhibited in cages, is but one indication of the bedrock of racism that underlies the mentality prevalent in European societies. Human zoos are still a reality today, albeit in a slightly more subtle format: an installation that replicates the ‘human zoo’ has been touring different European cities this year. Such representations of black people reinforce deeply ingrained negative stereotypes and perpetuate power structures within European societies, leading to high levels of discrimination. They also send the message that racist prejudices are socially and legally acceptable. It is therefore essential that everyone acts responsibly to redress these twisted representations, in particular through intelligent and sensitive art. In addition, European states must show political will to combat the specific form of racism that is Afrophobia. They must recognise the severe and ongoing impact of Europe’s history of hostility and violence towards blacks, and develop effective strategies to counter the structural and everyday racism that prevents the inclusion of many blacks in European society.
Sarah Isal is the chairwoman of the European Network Against Racism, a Brussels-based group that connects local and national anti-racist NGOs throughout Europe
© The Local - Denmark

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Danes cautioned about visiting Muslim countries

In a rare move, the Foreign Ministry has changed its travel recommendations to 28 countries with large Muslim populations.

4/10/2014- The Foreign Ministry has changed its travel recommendations to 28 Muslim countries in light of Denmark’s military campaign against Isis in northern Iraq. While the Foreign Ministry's citizen services department (Borgerservice) is not explicitly telling Danes to avoid travelling to the countries, it warns Danish travellers to use caution in the Muslim countries. Among the advice is to be aware of risky situations, and to avoid being either the only foreigner in a particular area or spending a lot of time in areas that have a high concentration of Westerners, such as airports. Borgerservice spokesman Ole Egberg Mikkelsen told Politiken that the sharpened travel guidelines are due both to Denmark’s participation in the coalition fighting Isis and the general security risks in the affected countries.

“This affects Muslim countries or countries with large Muslim populations. We are doing this because we have seen beheadings in some of the countries and we want to make people aware that that if they choose to travel there, there could be a specific terror risk and a focus on Danes,” Mikkelsen said. Mikkelsen said that although it is rare that Borgerservice changes its travel guidelines for so many countries at once, it has happened before. The affected countries are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Palestine, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
© The Local - Denmark

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Germany: 'I was at anti-Semitism rally. Now what?'

Berlin writer Donna Swarthout has been left frustrated by the lack of openness of Jewish groups in Berlin. September's landmark anti-Semitism rally in Berlin should have focused more on the positives of Jewish life in Germany, she argues.

10/10/2014- “It’s a fortress mentality,” said my friend as we sat outdoors over a glass of wine on a mild September evening after attending a back-to-school night at the John F. Kennedy School of Berlin. “Jewish organizations in Germany are closed, restrictive organizations that don’t seek volunteers and don’t have the transparency of Jewish groups in the States.” Punkt. “But I want to do something to address the rise in anti-Semitism and promote cross-cultural unity,” I said. Silence. A sympathetic nod. Time to move on, I thought. Less than a week earlier I had attended a rally against anti-Semitism organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany. About 6,000 people, a rather disappointing turnout, gathered around the slogan “Steh Auf – Nie Wieder Judenhass” (Stand up – Never again hatred of Jews). I had simmered with disgruntlement over this slogan in the days leading up to the rally. Why couldn’t they have chosen something more positive and inspirational? I’ve lived in Berlin for more than three years and never felt hated.

Yes, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, but let’s rally for a more just society for Jews, Muslims, and other minorities. Our freedom is intertwined with every legiti-mate group that encounters hatred. The rallying cry “Nie wieder Judenhass” was the cry of a persecuted minority, one whose dark history is never far from mind. But the last seven decades have brought significant changes to Germany, not the least of which is a thriving Jewish population. How can our response to present acts of hatred and intolerance be informed by the past and yet account for the different circumstances of today? Anti-Semitism remains a stubborn stain on German society, but consider “the Pew Foundation 2014 Global Attitudes survey which suggests that in Europe unfavourable attitudes towards Roma and Muslims are more prevalent than those toward Jews.” In the months prior to the rally and during a summer of street demonstrations in Berlin over the Gaza conflict, I had been looking for a way to get involved in interfaith or cross-cultural awareness programs.

I searched the web and sent numerous emails, but I found little to no information about social action and volunteer opportunities in Berlin’s Jewish community. My hopes were raised when I met with a prominent Jewish leader who welcomed my offer of help but has since not answered any of my messages. I’m used to being bombarded with online invitations to join campaigns, contribute resources, and help make a difference. This is not the case with regard to the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Jewish community of Berlin. Perhaps I’ve missed something, but I cannot determine how the Jewish leadership in Germany would like me to help build a society that is free of hatred and intolerance towards Jews. Standing up to rally against hatred should be just the starting point.

Germany has become one of the world’s most democratic nations. Most observers praise the German government’s efforts to memorialize Holocaust victims and provide accurate education about the past. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet have taken a firm stance against anti-Semitism. Jewish life and culture is on display in many parts of Germany, lending affirmation to Merkel’s statement at the rally that Jewish life belongs in Germany and “is part of our identity.” It’s time for Germany’s Jewish organizations to shed some of their protective layers and show more leadership in community action for social justice. These organizations already provide valuable religious, cultural and social services to Germany’s growing Jewish population. Their websites list many great programs and resources and I hope to soon see some new outreach and education initiatives as well. In the meantime, I’ve just agreed to work with two Berlin churches to form an interfaith youth group. Perhaps I’ll be able to convince the Jewish community to participate.
Donna Swarthout is a freelance writer in Berlin, Germany.
© The Local - Germany

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Muslims in Germany fear fellow Germans' wrath

German Muslims are horrified by the "Islamic State" extremists, but by the same token, they also fear the potential effects of a new wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in Germany.

4/10/2014- A young woman wearing a headscarf sits behind the counter of her decoration shop surrounded by ribbons, bows and piles of colored paper in the western German city of Cologne. The scent of oriental perfume fills the air, and the sound of traffic creeps in through the open door. "We see something coming," Meral Sahin said. "And it's not for the first time." The advance of "Islamic State" militants in northern Iraq and Syria, the brutal expulsion of Christians, Yazidis and Muslims and the savage slaughter of human beings has shocked her to the core. "Islamic State has nothing to do with religion," she told DW. "They are terrorists who misuse Allah's name." To what extent can Germans differentiate between vast majority peace-loving Muslims and the tiny minority that comprises the barbaric radical Islamists? Meral said she hopes they can disentangle the two, but admitted to being afraid of what she described as "another round of alienation."

Just four months ago, Sahin, who is also chairwoman of Cologne's Keupstrasse community interest group, walked down the street with German President Joachim Gauck. It was the 10th anniversary of a nail bomb attack carried out by the far-right National Socialist Underground group (NSU), and the German president's presence was seen as a symbol of multi-cultural understanding. At the time of the attack, the police initially suspected it to be the work of a foreign group. Many living in the district where it happened were Turkish, and there was a general sentiment that they had been unfairly placed under suspicion. Ten years on, 70,000 Cologne residents took part in a major cultural festival bearing the slogan, "Birlikte," which is Turkish for "standing together."

Preventing conflict
The festival was a major success for Maria Fichte. As a community manager, she co-ordinates the activities of various organizations, associations and religious groups. Part of her remit is to ensure that the multi-cultural district is a place of harmony. "There are a lot of Turkish residents here, as well as Germans and people from Africa," she told DW. "We try to prevent problems from arising." Ahmet Erdogan's mosque shares a courtyard with a Turkish food shop. Sitting cross-legged on the carpet of the prayer room, he said he doesn't believe the majority of Germans will paint Muslims and terrorists with the same brush - despite a rash of polarizing media reports'. But he does have other concerns. As a father, he is worried about the fate of younger Muslims who are being radicalized. "We should be worried," he explained, with a tremor in his voice, "it can happen in any family."

He said those who spread hatred know exactly where and how to find children susceptible to their false promises. "They seem to give them a feeling of friendship, a feeling of 'we're in it together', a feeling of being strong," he said. But all of that, Erdogan said, is followed by the ideology, by the growing of the beard, and by the asking of certain questions. Erdogan has his own questions, and is not afraid to put them to himself. "Are we doing something wrong? Are families doing something wrong? Is everyone doing something wrong?" he asked, his voice filled with lament. "We have already lost a lot of children, and I feel compelled to do something about it."

"Murderers not Muslims"
While many pedestrians in the neighborhood don't want to speak openly about politics, others are glad for a chance to make their views known. One woman, who describes herself as a "Turkishified German," a Muslim with Turkish roots and a German passport, said fear is widespread. "We are afraid of being put in the same category as the terrorists, and we worry that people don't look to see that these terrorists are not Muslims, but terrorists and murderers," she said. She added that all they want is power and money, not God's peace and blessings. "I am sure that we Muslims will have to start justifying ourselves again," she said. For her part, Meral Sahin said she likes to think back to June and the success of the Birlikte festival that brought so many people together. But now she, like many others, is now left wondering what happens next.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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A men-only UN conference on gender equality? If only it was a joke (opinion)

Has feminism advanced so far that women’s voices no longer need to be heard? The decision not to invite any female speakers to a forthcoming meeting in Iceland smacked of missing the point
By Erica Buist

6/10/2014- How do you feel about the fact that Iceland planned to hold a conference on gender equality, feminism and sexual violence – without a single female invitee? “It will be the first time at the United Nations that we bring together only men leaders to discuss gender equality,” Iceland’s foreign minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, announced to the UN last week. The organisers later backtracked and said women would be involved, although it seems they will be barred from some sessions. It might sound somewhat counter-intuitive that, so soon after feminism became cool enough for Beyoncé to silhouette herself against the word “feminist” at the MTV Video Music awards, women should be ushered out of the room to let the men talk. My gut says this is, overall, a terrible idea. But has my gut considered the potential pros?

Traditionally (read: stereotypically), feminism was something about which women talked and men rolled their eyes. If male leaders are planning to talk about it among themselves, perhaps the discussion is no longer something women are expected to teach, explain and drag men into. As the journalist Robyn Pennacchia puts it: “The tendency many well-intentioned men have of derailing conversations with easily Google-able questions and then asking: ‘Well, how can I learn feminism if you won’t teach me?’, tends to be frustrating for many of us.” The writer Leigh Alexander points out the uniquely frustrating issue that stalks online comment boards beneath reports of women experiencing online harassment in a blog entitled, “But what can be done: dos and don’ts to combat online sexism”. Women experiencing online harassment often also have to contend with the question: “But what solutions would you recommend?” She describes this as being “akin to walking up to a person who is on fire and asking them to bring you a bucket of water so that you can ‘help’”.

Perhaps this conference is an encouraging step towards male leaders joining the fight, and well-intentioned men working out where they can source buckets of water as needed. While in many ways men benefit from a world that values them over women, one of the strongest recent messages in the feminist movement is that misogyny adversely affects men, too. If a dislike, distrust and disgust of the feminine weren’t baked right into the culture, it wouldn’t be shameful to do things deemed “girly” such as talking about emotions and problems before they spiral into the horrifically high rate of male suicide. If it weren’t shameful to be unmanly, the country with the greatest number of gun deaths wouldn’t market guns as a way to demonstrate manliness.

What’s your gut saying so far? Wrong as it often is, mine isn’t fully convinced that removing either gender from a discussion on gender equality is a smart move. First, it assumes that women are feminists by default, even though some have enough internalised patriarchal teachings to say things such as, “I’m a woman so I can’t drive as well as my husband” without a trace of irony. Second, Emma Watson only just managed to convince many people that men should be involved in the fight for equality before this was quickly followed by the suggestion that men should be the only ones in the room. There would be no doubt that a conference on racism with only white invitees would be inappropriate, unhelpful and more than a little gross, so why are we stroking our chins over whether a conference on gender equality with no female voices is a good idea?

It has taken until 2014 to even get the argument that there is no position between sexist and feminist into mainstream discussion, just as there’s no position between racist and not-racist. Doesn’t an all-male conference on gender equality smack of “We’ll take it from here, sweetheart”?
• This article was amended on 8 October 2014 to include the information that the organisers later said some women would be involved in the conference.
© The Guardian - Women's Blog

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Ireland: Migrant women experience high level of domestic violence

One in three new Women’s Aid clients were migrants, agency says

8/10/2014- Migrant women experiencing domestic violence continue to feature significantly in calls made to Women’s Aid, director Margaret Martin has said. “One-third of the new clients Women’s Aid saw last year were migrant women.” The issue of domestic violence in migrant communities is “no different” from in native communities, she said, “but some-times more recently arrived women are living at significant risk because they are very isolated.” Women’s Aid’s Telephone Interpretation Service guarantees that a caller can speak to someone in their own language within a minute. “You need to be able to say, or to get someone to say, what language you speak, you are put on hold and we ring an interpretation service based outside the State. They will be on the line within 60 seconds.” Following contact via the helpline, a women will be seen by her key worker with an interpreter if she so wishes.

In 2013, 67 per cent of callers who used the Women’s Aid telephone service spoke a range of EU languages including Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Slovak. Polish speakers were the biggest group. They are also the largest minority in the Irish State at 2.7 per cent of the population. The non-EU languages included Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Dari, Farsi, Georgian, Kurdish, Mandarin, Russian, Somali, Thai and Yoruba. “The language issue is huge,” Ms Martin said. “We were looking to get the service up and running for a long time. It’s about breaking down barriers. You need to be able to talk to a woman directly in a language she understands, is comfortable with and can make herself understood. It reduces confusion and means we can treat every woman as an individual.”

Women’s Aid were surprised by the range of languages they encountered, said Ms Martin. “We were told we needed five or six languages, so we made sure we had access to them, then our first call was in Albanian, and we didn’t have it,” added Ms Martin, who believes all languages are now catered for. Ms Martin points out that domestic violence is not culturally specific. “It cuts across cultures and it is not the case that any particular sector is more likely to experience domestic violence.” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) research found that in Ireland in 2012, 14 per cent of women have experienced physical violence by a partner (current or ex); 6 per cent of women have experienced sexual violence by a partner (current or ex) and 31 per cent of women have experienced psychological violence by a partner (current or ex).

Some newly arrived women are encouraged to find there are legal protections here to which they are entitled. Difficulties arise, however, when a woman flees her country of origin to escape partner violence and her partner follows her here, Ms Martin said. “Women who don’t meet the conditions of Habitual Residency may go to a refuge, but that refuge will not be entitled to any payment for her, so she can’t remain there.”
Women’s Aid Telephone Interpretation Service can be accessed via the National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 from 10am - 10pm, seven days a week. It is a confidential service and is free.
© The Irish Times.

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Nigel Farage: Ban HIV positive migrants from entering the UK

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been accused of “a new level of ignorance”, after proposing a blanket ban on people with HIV entering the UK.

10/10/2014- Farage made the comments in a Newsweek interview, and when asked which kinds of people should be allowed to enter the UK, he said: “People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start. And people with a skill.” When challenged by Newsweek interviewer Robert Chalmers on the issue, he said: “There are 190 countries in the world that operate like that. That is what Britain should do. I have never said that we should not take refugees. We have a proud record of accepting refugees.” Then, on the Today Programme on Radio 4, Farage suggested that a similar ban was in effect in the US and Australia, and said those with “life threatening diseases” should not be allowed to migrate to the UK because the NHS would have to treat them. He said: “We should do what America does, what Australia does, what every country in the world does. We want people who have trade and skills. But we do not want people with criminal records and we cannot afford to have people with life threatening diseases, “We have leading cancer experts in Britain saying the burden now of treating overseas people is leading to huge shortages in the system. I do not think those (immigrants) with life threatening diseases should be treated by NHS”.

There was previously a blanket ban on people living with HIV entering the US, which operated between 1987 and 2009. Farage said he would also ban those with murder convic-tions from entering the UK, as well as that he would like to be appointed as minister for Europe at next year’s general election. He said he would like to be remembered as the man who secured independence from the EU for Britain. Dr Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, condemned Farage for bracketing people who had tested positive for HIV with murderers. She said: “The idea that having HIV should be used as a black mark against someone’s name is ridiculous and shows an outrageous lack of understanding of the issue. “It is to the UK’s credit that for more than three decades successive governments, no matter their political stamp, have refused to put in place border controls against people living with HIV. “Major international organisations, including the United Nations, agree that such draconian measures would have no impact on the epidemic. “In bracketing those living with the condition with murderers, and suggesting there is no place for them in his vision of Britain, Mr Farage has stooped to a new level of ignorance. He should be truly ashamed.”

The comments by Farage came as Douglas Carswell, who defected to UKIP earlier this year, won at the Clacton by-election last night. :Labour’s candidate in the Heywood and Middleton by-election only beat UKIP by just over 600 votes.
© Pink News

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UK: Salman Rushdie condemns 'hate-filled rhetoric' of Islamic fanaticism

Salman Rushdie says all religions have their extremists but "the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam"

9/10/2014- Accusations of 'Islamophobia' are being levelled at anyone who dares to speak out against the "hate-filled rhetoric" of Islamic fanaticism, Salman Rushdie has claimed in a speech condemning Isil and "this new age of religious mayhem". Rushdie voiced his fears that the language of "jihadi-cool" is seducing young British Muslims, many via Twitter and YouTube, into joining the "decapitating barbarianism" of Isil, the group also referred to as Islamic State or Isis. In his PEN/Pinter Prize Lecture, the author said all religions have their extremists but "the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam". Last week, Isil beheaded taxi driver and charity worker Alan Henning, the latest Western hostage to die at their hands. The so-called "jihadi-cool" image romanticises Isil, using rap videos and social networking to recruit followers - posing with AK-47s and bragging about their "five star jihad" in videos showing fighters lounging around in luxury villas as they urged the destruction of the West.

Rushdie defined "jihadi-cool" as "the deformed medievalist language of fanaticism, backed up by modern weaponry", saying: "It's hard not to conclude that this hate-filled religious rhetoric, pouring from the mouths of ruthless fanatics into the ears of angry young men, has become the most dangerous new weapon in the world today". He said: "A word I dislike greatly, 'Islamophobia', has been coined to discredit those who point at these excesses, by labelling them as bigots. But in the first place, if I don't like your ideas, it must be acceptable for me to say so, just as it is acceptable for you to say that you don't like mine. Ideas cannot be ring-fenced just because they claim to have this or that fictional sky god on their side. "And in the second place, it's important to remember that most of those who suffer under the yoke of the new Islamic fanaticism are other Muslims...

"It is right to feel phobia towards such matters. As several commentators have said, what is being killed in Iraq is not just human beings, but a whole culture. To feel aversion towards such a force is not bigotry. It is the only possible response to the horror of events. "I can't, as a citizen, avoid speaking of the horror of the world in this new age of religious mayhem, and of the language that conjures it up and justifies it, so that young men, including young Britons, led towards acts of extreme bestiality, believe themselves to be fighting a just war." The author said members of other religions have distorted language, but to a much lesser degree. "It's fair to say that more than one religion deserves scrutiny. Christian extremists in the United States today attack women's liberties and gay rights in language they claim comes from God. Hindu extremists in India today are launching an assault on free expression and trying, literally, to rewrite history, proposing the alteration of school textbooks to serve their narrow saffron dogmatism.

"But the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam, and much of it has its roots in the ideological language of blood and war emanating from the Salafist movement within Islam, globally backed by Saudi Arabia." For these ideologues, "modernity itself is the enemy, modernity with its language of liberty, for women as well as men, with its insistence of legitimacy in government rather than tyranny, and with its stroninclination towards secularism and away from religion." We live in a time when we are "too frightened of religion in general, and one religion in particular - religion redefined as the capacity of religionists to commit earthly violence in the name of their unearthly sky god... in which the narrow pseudo-explications of religion, couched in the new - or actually very old - vocabulary of blasphemy and offence, have increasingly begun to set the agenda".

Rushdie's publication of The Satanic Verses in 1989 led to him being placed under a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, who deemed it to be blasphemous. The author spent years in hiding under police protection. In his speech, delivered at the British Library, he said of the reaction to his novel: "People are entitled to judge a book as kindly or as harshly as they choose, but when they respond to it with violence or the threat of violence, the subject changes, and the question becomes: how do we face down such threats? We have all been wrestling with the answer to that question on many fronts ever since." Rushdie was speaking as he accepted the PEN Pinter Prize, established by the writers' charity English PEN in 2009 in memory of the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter. The prize is awarded annual to a British or British-based writer who "exemplifies the spirit of Harold Pinter through his or her engagement with the times". Each year the winner shares the prize with an international writer who has risked their own safety in the name of free speech. Rushdie chose Mazen Darwish, a Syrian journalist and lawyer who is currently in prison.
© The Telegraph

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British ISIS-Supporter Expresses Support for Hitler

Prominent British Islamist and founder of 'Sharia Patrols' says rise of ISIS marks 'the end of Zionism' in anti-Semitic lecture.

9/10/2014- The anti-Semitic lecture was delivered by Muslim convert Abu Rumaysah, also known as Refi Shafi, who focused significantly on the 19th century anti-Semitic forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and encouraged listeners to look to it as proof of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy - as well as a justification for the Nazi Holocaust. Rumaysah is a close confidante of infamous British Islamist cleric Anjem Choudary, and a founder of vigilante "Sharia Patrols" phenomenon, in which Islamist thugs attempt to impose Islamic law (sharia) in neighborhoods with Muslim populations. The phenomenon has since spread to other European countries, most recently Germany. Ironically, while attacking Jews and Zionists for "trying to take over the world", Abu Rumaysah expressed his support for ISIS's objective for Muslim world domination, and ended his address by expressing confidence that Islam will soon take over the world.

Other ironic snippets include a claim by Rumaysah - a vocal supporter of Al Qaeda and ISIS - that "Zionists" have "no regard for human life", bizarrely citing as proof the prominence of Jews in the medical profession, which in his words includes some drugs which have "adverse side-effects". He also claimed that the founder of Shia Islam - which Sunni Islamists such as himself consider as heretics - was a Jew. Anti-Semitism in the UK has seen an alarming rise in recent months, fueled largely by incitement from Muslim extremists, on the heels of Israel's 50-day war with Islamist terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
© Arutz Sheva

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UK: New powers for victims of hate crime and anti-social behaviour

Victims of hate crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB) have new powers to trigger case reviews if they feel the authorities are not taking them seriously.

8/10/2014- From this week, anyone who feels that a hate crime or ASB incident is badly handled can use the ‘community trigger’ to spark a review of the case. All agencies involved must then report back within 10 working days. Marc Turczanski, hate crime officer for Hastings Voluntary Action, welcomed the changes, but said it was too early to say how effective the community trigger would be. “It’s not a bad thing to make more accountability, but a lot depends on how well it is communicated and managed,” he said. “We won’t know how successful this measure is till further down the line.” Reports of hate crimes in Hastings have nearly doubled in the past year, with 56 offences being reported compared to 37 the year before. Police say this jump is not a concern, as new initiatives have lead to more victims speaking out: “we believe that these crimes were being vastly under-reported in the past,” said chief inspector Paul Phelps, Hastings District policing commander.

Hastings Borough Councillors (HBC) voted unanimously to adopt the new measure in a cabinet meeting on Monday (October 6). National legislation - the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime, and Policing Act 2014 - says community triggers must be adopted by all local authorities by October 20. Anyone can use the trigger, but there is a threshold. An individual must have made three complaints about ASB or hate crime within a six month period before a review can begin. These complaints can be to any relevant agency - police, clinical commissioning group, or local authority, for example. Paris Nolan, a committee member of the Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance and co-leader of that organisation’s Trans Sub-Group, was surprised by the three-complaint threshold, saying that any one serious incident should be enough to spark a review if necessary.

Speaking more broadly about hate crime in Hastings, Paris said: “In the trans group we experience it more than our gay group now. We stand out more. And Hastings has quite a lot of transient people on holiday who may have been drinking. You do get abuse but to be honest it’s not too bad. It’s unpleasant when it happens, but is usually dealt with well by the police.” Chief inspector Phelps said: “Anti-social behaviour isn’t a major problem in Hastings and this is in no small way down to the way it is dealt by a number of agencies who meet weekly to tackle the issue. “Not everyone is comfortable reporting hate crime to the police for a variety of reasons. We are working hard to increase trust and confidence of victims and to make it easier for them to report directly to us.”
© The Hastings Observer

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Muslims ‘fearful’ amid row over UK hate-crime stats

5/10/2014- Like many victims of hate crimes against British Muslims, Asma Sheikh never reported what happened to her to the police. It was the summer of 2013, and anti-Muslim sentiment was at a high following the violent killing of British Army soldier Lee Rigby, who was stabbed to death in a London street by two Islamic extremists. The murder saw dozens of apparent reprisals against innocent UK Muslims, including acts of vandalism and women having their veils ripped off. In the week following the killing, there were seven Islamophobic offences recorded per day in London, compared with the average of one a day. Sheikh, 35, was one of the victims. Shortly after Rigby’s murder, she was walking to her car when she noticed that all four tires had been slashed.

“It was no coincidence. There was a note on the windscreen saying ‘go back home’,” said the mother-of-two from northwest London. “There was a lot of hate going on at that time, a lot of name-calling.” Sheikh, whose mother runs a shop in Kilburn selling traditional Islamic dress, says that most of her Muslim friends have fallen victim to some kind of hate crime. “Nearly everyone has faced something, whether it was just name-calling or whether someone pulled their hijab off,” she said. Sheikh said her son attends an Islamic school, and once had his uniform ripped by an assailant on a commuter train, while one of her friends had her veil torn off. “After that day, she didn’t come out of her house for about a month. And when she did, she didn’t wear her veil,” Sheikh said.

Hate crimes
Sheikh is not alone as a victim of UK hate crime. And nor is she alone in not having reported it to the police. “I thought it would be investigated further, police would come down, and matters would get worse. The community would know that I called the police, and things would get nastier,” she told Al Arabiya News. Such a reluc-tance to report incidents is seen as a factor in an emerging row between London’s police service and community groups over trends in Islamophobic crime. According to a BBC report this week, hate crimes against Muslims in London have “risen by 65 percent” in the last 12 months. The BBC cited figures from the Metropolitan Police. But when contacted by Al Arabiya, London’s police service disputed this, saying the BBC did not cite its latest statistics, and that the report did not reflect the trend on the ground.

The number of hate crimes against Muslims has in fact declined by 5.9 percent in the last year, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said. Harassment makes up the majority of the hate crimes against Muslims, but offences also include criminal damage and graffiti, police said. “Our most recent set of figures show a fall in Islamophobic crime from 512 offences in the year to August 2013 to 482 in the year to August 2014,” the spokesperson told Al Arabiya News. The police service said the numbers used by the BBC refer to the last two financial years, rather than the year-to-date as stated by the BBC. But the BBC stood by its coverage, saying that it had used figures supplied by the Metropolitan Police late last month.

‘Politicizing’ the issue
Despite the assertion by the Metropolitan Police that Islamophobic attacks are on the decline, several experts said the opposite is true. Fiyaz Mughal, director of the Islamophobia monitoring group Tell MAMA, said that the police statistics do not reflect the trend on the ground. While he said a 65 percent increase would be on the high side, Mughal estimates that hate crimes against Muslims have increased by about a third in the last 12 months. “Over the past two years, Muslim communities have told us that they feel anti-Muslim incidents have got worse. And that’s a fact, there’s no getting away from it,” he said. While the Metropolitan Police statistics may be technically accurate, they do not account for unreported crimes. And the figures are skewed because of the spike in attacks last year after the murder of Lee Rigby, Mughal said.

“The Met can say ‘Islamophobic crimes are dropping’ – but it’s dropping from a point that was significantly high last year after the murder of Lee Rigby. That’s what they’re not telling you,” he said. “They’re comparing it to a peak. They’re so cheeky… For their own political reasons, they’re saying it’s going down. It’s not factually incorrect, but it doesn’t show us the wider picture.” The Metropolitan Police did not specifically respond to that allegation. It did say however that it “takes all hate crime seriously and would urge London’s Muslim communities to come forward and report hate crime when it happens.”

Reluctance to report
Other spikes in anti-Muslim sentiment followed this year’s revelations of sexual abuse against children in Rotherham, England, as well as international events such as the beheadings by the violent extremist group Isis, community groups say. “Islamophobia is there, and unfortunately it affects people’s lives on a daily basis. It really shows itself where there is a national or international incident,” Mughal said. But a reluctance to report hate crimes to the police – especially among women such as Asma Sheikh – is a “major problem”, Mughal added. “A lot of women say ‘we don’t need the hassle, it will affect my family’,” he said.

Talha Ahmad, chair of the membership committee at the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), agreed that the official numbers on Islamophobic attacks are lower than the reality. “Many people are not reporting crimes,” he said. “One of the issues is a lack of confidence that anything will happen. There’s an ongoing issue with trust in the police force.” Not all police forces in the UK record Islamophobic attacks as a separate category, as the Metropolitan Police does. Ahmad urged the government to make this compulsory across all forces. “The government should also invest in a strategy and campaign to encourage people to report these crimes,” he added.

Ahmad blamed media coverage of Muslims as being a major factor behind the claimed rise in hate crimes. “Much of the coverage is very negative and some of it could be viewed as the demonization of an entire community. And once a community is demonized, it becomes a very easy target,” he said. “We have seen mosques coming under attack after Rotherham. And we are seeing a rise in attacks after Isis… The perception is that incidents against Muslims have increased.”

‘Too fearful to speak’
Standing outside her mother’s abaya shop on Kilburn High Road in London, Asma Sheikh says she is certain that Islamophobia is on the rise. Despite the street being thronged by people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, including many women wearing the hijab and other forms of Islamic dress, Sheikh says she believes the rise to be even greater than the 65 percent cited by the BBC. That’s partly due to a reluctance to report such incidents, Sheikh said: “Off the top of my head, I know 100 people who are too fearful to say anything,” she said. Sheikh said she too has noticed an increase in hate crimes when there is a national or international incident involving Muslims.

“It yo-yos. When something happens, it becomes more heated. And suddenly Muslims say, ‘we have to be careful – don’t go out after Maghrib, the last prayer… Don’t go through Richmond, don’t go through Camden’. It’s depressing,” she said. “The media has a big part in all of this… It needs to be shown that it’s not all about war. There are some [Muslims] out there that just want peace.” Despite her concerns, Sheikh has anything but a fearful demeanor. She is something of a character on Kilburn High Road, chatting confidently to passers-by and a local café owner like old friends. Sheikh may not have reported the crime against her to police – but is determined not to keep quiet now. “Unless there’s a change in the way the media portrays us, it will continue. People like me need to be heard,” she said. “Somebody’s got to speak out.”
© Al Arabiya

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UK: Ukip Defend Controversial Ex-Christian Party Leader Joining Party

Ukip has been forced to defend the fact that controversial ex-Christian Peoples Alliance leader Alan Craig, who once dubbed gay rights activists the "Gaystapo" in a reference to Nazi Germany's secret police, is joining their party.

7/10/2014- Craig, who has described same-sex marriage as "social vandalism" and tantamount to "child abuse", revealed in a recent blog post that he had been campaig-ning in Clacton for Tory defector Douglas Carswell in his bid to become Ukip's first elected MP, and had himself applied to join the party. The ex-Newham councillor told the Huffington Post UK that he was joining Ukip because he wanted Britain to leave the European Union and to break up the "Lib/Lab/Con cartel and the suffocating grasp of the metropolitan political class". He said he also admired "Ukip's courage in standing against the gay marriage tsunami that [David] Cameron et al. hit us with last year". In controversial comments published in the Church of England Newspaper in 2011, Craig compared gay marriage to the "invasion of Poland", warning that it could be a "catalyst for war and a cultural fight-back". The “Gaystapo”, he said, “want to change our language, manipulate our culture and thereby impose their world-view on us all. Cultural domination is their aim and fascist-type intolerance of politically-incorrect dissent is their weapon.”

A Ukip spokesman admitted that Craig had used more "ripened" language about same-sex marriage, telling the Huffington Post UK: "We're not prejudiced against traditional, old-school Christians just as we're not against homosexual people. I'm very wary of joining in a witch-hunt against somebody who holds those views, that the vast majority of the world would also hold." The spokesperson expressed sympathy for the ex-Newhan councillor's call to "rise up" against the "cultural domination of the 'Gaystapo'" in a swipe at "the more excitable parts of the gay lobby". "It's not about tolerance, it's not about tolerating other people's points of view. It's actually about dominating, control and refusing to allow anybody else to have a point of view," he said. The news that Craig, who stood as a London mayoral candidate in 2008, was joining Ukip sparked fury on Twitter.

Craig told HuffPostUK that he did know if he was officially a Ukip member yet, as he had applied less than a fortnight ago. He was nominated "Bigot of the Year" by the gay rights group Stonewall over his controversial attack on the "Gaystapo". In response, Craig said: “By attempting to bully, intimidate, humiliate and generate hatred of individuals through the award, Stonewall fully justifies the Gaystapo tag which I gave the organisation and for which apparently I have been nominated." The former councillor recently wrote: "Whatever you think of the issue itself, the gay marriage legislation last year was a democratic disgrace. Faithful one man/one woman marriage has been a defining and enduring bedrock of our society and culture – and the preeminent place of nurture for the nation’s children – for a millennium and a half.”

“Yet without warning, electoral mandate, Green or White Paper consultation or intelligent debate, and egged on by media, the PR industry, Hollywood celebs and the all-powerful gay lobby on both sides of the Atlantic (the UK perennially follows where the US leads), our political leaders like lemmings rushed off the marriage cliff and into the gay sea while emoting loudly and stupidly that it is ‘all about love’. “Overnight, unitedly and unnecessarily they redefined, enfeebled and wrecked a hugely beneficial social institution.” Craig's former party, the Christian Peoples Alliance, has garnered its own share of controversy. Current leader Sid Cordle drew laughter from fellow studio guests when he told the BBC that it was pretty likely that gay marriage caused flooding in England. "I think all Christians believe that God does, and can do, things with nature," he told the Daily Politics. "A lot of Christians believe God is angry over gay marriage and God can show that anger." Cordle previously told the Huffington Post UK that Christians needed to "take to the streets" to protest against same sex marriage.
© The Huffington Post - UK

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UK faces 'nuclear option' if it scraps European rights charter

The European Commission may seek to suspend the UK's voting rights at the EU level should it withdraw from the European convention of human rights.

6/10/2014- The threat surfaced after a Tory policy document issued last week by the UK’s justice secretary Chris Grayling revealed plans to downgrade the jurisdiction of the European court of human rights to that of an advisory body. UK conservatives want to renegotiate the decades-old pact with the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, should the court's judgments remain binding. “In the event that we are unable to reach that agreement, the UK would be left with no alternative but to withdraw from the European convention of human rights,” notes the eight-page position paper. EU member states also have an “explicit obligation” to the convention under the EU treaty rules. Should a Conservative-led UK government decide to scrap it, the commission could invoke article seven of the treaties. “Such a situation, which the commission hopes will remain purely hypothetical, would need to be examined under articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union,” a commission source told this website.

Article 7 is commonly referred to as the ‘nuclear option’ of the commission’s enforcement arsenal and could lead to the suspension of a member state's voting rights. It has never been used. Austria was once threatened over fourteen years ago when the centre-right party went into government with the far-right Freedom Party. Invoking the article is also not easy. A large backing of member states and the European Parliament must “determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach” of values outlined in the charter of fundamental rights. London-based think tank Open Europe says making such a legal argument for a values breach, should the UK withdraw, would be difficult because there is a commitment to enshrine the convention in Britain’s domestic law. Prime minister David Cameron had mooted the policy move earlier this month when he pledged to scrap the UK’s human rights act. “Let me put this very clearly: we do not require instruction on this from judges in Strasbourg,” said Cameron in a speech at a party conference in Birmingham. Critics describe the Tory policy brief and Cameron's pronouncements as an attempt to attract Ukip voters in the lead up to the elections and possible referendum to leave the EU.

Few case rules against UK at Europe court
The origins of the Tory grief is rooted, in part, in three disputed judgments handed down by the Strasbourg-based court on prisoner voting, life sentences for prisoners, and the deportation of alleged terrorist Abu Qatada. All three decisions are unpopular in the UK, sparking complaints against the overall binding nature of the European court judgments on British law. While the judgments are binding, their enforcement is limited to exerting peer pressure from the council of ministers, a political body. The UK wins most of the cases brought against it. Last year, the court dealt with 1,652 applications concerning the UK - 1,633 or 98.8 percent were declared inadmissible or struck out. Only in eight cases – or 0.4 percent - did the court find at least one violation of convention rights. The UK has had a total of 499 judgments passed onto it between 1959 and 2013. By comparison, Turkey has had 2,994, Italy 2,268, Russia 1,475 and France 913.

There are four possible scenarios for the UK and the Council of Europe. First, it can remain a member. Second, it can withdraw after a six-month notice and join Belarus as the only other European nation not in the body. Greece, while under military dictatorship rule, is so far the only country to have ever withdrawn membership. Third, the Council can either accept specific arrangements for the UK, which don’t apply to the other 46 states running the risk that Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, possibly others may also make similar demands. Fourth, the Council can accept in principle that the court’s judgement just becomes advisory. The UK was among the first to ratify the European convention of human rights in 1950.
© The EUobserver

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Spain's Catalonia region passes 'world's most pioneering laws against homophobia'

The person accused of homophobic acts will have to prove his or her innocence, rather than being presumed innocent until proven guilty as is usually the case.

4/10/2014- Spain's autonomous region of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital city, on Thursday passed a controversial law to protect lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGTB) from homophobic attacks. Calling it the 'world's most pioneering laws against homophobia', the state-run Catalan News Agency (ACN) reports that it includes fines for homophobic behavior at the work place and positive discrimination measures, such as having to prove one's innocence if accused of homophobia. 'This positive discrimination measure is already in place for other offenses, such as domestic violence against women, in instances when it is very difficult to prove,' the ACN report said. The new provisions will punish those who attack gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals with fines of up to €14,000 ($17,700).

The report says 80% of the Catalan Chamber has backed the new law and the only group who voted against the law was the conservative Spanish nationalist People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, while the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, which runs the Catalan Government, split its votes. One of the most vocal defenders of the new law, Catalan Socialist Miquel Iceta said, 'I feel furious when someone appears to deny or play down the discrimination that we gays have suffered or run the risk of suffering.' 'They speak derisively of a gay lobby. But look at this room! This is not a group of people working undercover to achieve illegitimate goals. This is a group working to defend the rights of everyone.' Said Iceta who is one of the first Spanish politicians to come out as gay.

Spain is one of the more progressive countries in the world on gay rights. It legalized same-sex marriage in 2005 under the former Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The country is however seeing a rise in homophobic attacks yet only a fraction are reported to the authorities, according to gay rights groups. According to a study on hate crimes, the first of its kind, published by the government, it showed that out of the 1,172 hate crimes recorded in 2013, a majority (452) were based on the victim's sexual orientation, followed by race (381) and disabilities (290).

hate crimes

© Gay Star News
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Brazilian striker Wellington suffers racist abuse in Romania

4/10/2014- Concordia Chiajna striker Wellington has complained he was the victim of repeated racist abuse from a section of visiting Rapid Bucharest supporters during their Romanian league match on Friday. Wellington accused Rapid fans of throwing a banana at him while TV footage clearly showed a number of supporters making monkey gestures and racial slurs against the Brazilian forward during the tense goalless draw, featuring 10 yellow cards. "It's incredible what happened... my wife and my child were in the stands," Wellington told local media on Saturday. "I wanted to get out of the field, I'm not a monkey." The ugly scenes caused outrage in the Black Sea state. "I told the referee (about the incidents) and he gave me a yellow card!" added Wellington, who burst into tears at the end of the match. "Those who did that are idiots, I hope the federation will do something about it." The Romanian football authorities were not immediately available for comment.

The incidents occurred less than two months after champions Steaua Bucharest were hit with partial stadium closure by European football governing body UEFA following racist behaviour from their fans during a Champions League match in July. Rapid boss Marian Rada, who began his sixth stint as the Bucharest-based club's coach in the match against Concordia, made an extraordinary statement afterwards. "Was he crying? Don't you see what's happening in theatres? Maybe Wellington should have cried because he didn't score," said Rada. "How do we know it was a Rapid fan? Maybe a banana just slipped out of someone's hand in the stands." At the same time, the Romanian police said an investigation has been launched after a Rapid Bucharest fan entered the stadium in Chiajna with a flag with Nazi symbols printed on it. Police said they will use video evidence when tracking the offender who could face from six months to five years in prison. Concordia are 14th in the standings with nine points from 10 matches, just behind the three-times Romanian champions Rapid who also have nine points.
© Reuters

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Just Because a Hate Crime Occurs on Internet Doesn't Mean It's Not a Hate Crime (opinion)

Let's talk about nude photo leaks and other forms of online harassment as what they are: civil rights violations
By Danielle Citron

7/10/2014- Over the past few weeks, a prominent—and nearly all female— group of celebrities have had their personal accounts hacked, their private nude photos stolen and exposed for the world to see. Friday brought the fourth round of the aggressive, invasive, and criminal release of leaked photos. Whether the target is a famous person or just your average civilian, these anonymous cyber mobs and individual harassers interfere with individuals’ crucial life opportunities, including the ability to express oneself, work, attend school, and establish professional reputations. Such abuse should be understood for what it is: a civil rights violation. Our civil rights laws and tradition protect an individual’s right to pursue life’s crucial endeavors free from unjust discrimination. Those endeavors include the ability to make a living, to obtain an education, to engage in civic activities, and to express oneself—without the fear of bias-motivated threats, harassment, privacy invasions, and intimidation. Consider what media critic Anita Sarkeesian has been grappling with for the past two years. After Sarkeesian announced that she was raising money on Kickstarter to fund a documentary about sexism in video games, a cyber mob descended.

Anonymous emails and tweets threatened rape.
In the past two weeks, Sarkeesian received received tweets and emails with graphic threats to her and her family. The tweets included her home address and her family’s home address. The cyber mob made clear that speaking out against inequality is fraught with personal risk and professional sabotage. Her attackers’ goal is to intimidate and silence her. Revenge porn victims face a variant on this theme. Their nude photos appear on porn sites next to their contact information and alleged interest in rape. Posts falsely claim that they sleep with their students and are available for sex for money. Their employers are e-mailed their nude photos, all for the effort of ensuring that they lose their jobs and cannot get new ones.

Understanding these attacks as civil rights violations is an important first step. My book Hate Crimes in Cyberspace  explores how existing criminal, tort, and civil rights law can help combat some of the abuse and how important reforms are needed to catch the law up with new modes of bigoted harassment. But law is a blunt instrument and can only do so much. Moral suasion, education, and voluntary efforts are essential too. Getting us to see online abuse as the new frontier for civil rights activism will help point society in the right direction.
Danielle Citron is the Lois K. Macht Research Professor & Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. She is an Affiliate Scholar at the Stanford Center on Internet and Society and an Affiliate Fellow at the Yale Information Society Project. Her book, Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, was recently published by Harvard University Press.­­­­
© Time

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