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Headlines 30 January, 2015

Headlines 23 January, 2015

UK NEWS Week 4

PEGIDA IN GERMANY AND ELSEWHERE

MORE CHARLIE HEBDO FALL OUT

Headlines 16 January, 2015

CHARLIE HEBDO FALL OUT

Headlines 9 January, 2015

Headlines 30 January, 2015

Germany: Tens of thousands at anti-xenophobia concert in Dresden

Huge crowds have gathered in Dresden for a free concert promoting tolerance and diversity. The event seeks to provide a counternarrative to the anti-Islamization PEGIDA group.

26/1/2015- So many thousands of people gathered in front of Dresden's Frauenkirche, the city's famous baroque church, for a concert promoting tolerance and diversity on Monday evening that police and event organizers were forced to close the square and direct would-be concert goers to the nearby Schlossplatz. The event - "Open and Colorful - Dresden for Everyone" - was set up to counter the idea of Dresden as the city of PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West). The right-wing umbrella group which has been holding weekly marches since October 2014 to protest what they see as the increasing influence of Islam in Germany and lax immigration policies from the government. Choosing Monday night was strategic: PEGIDA normally holds their rallies on Mondays, and had to switch to Sunday this week because of the concert. "We want to show that Dresden is cos-mopolitan, tolerant and diverse, and we endeavor to be warm, chiefly in our hearts," said Gerhard Ehninger, a member of Dresden - Place to be. Most of the performers have shared messages of tolerance and engagement with foreigners, rather than criticize PEGIDA directly. Though the band Yellow Umbrella did comment, after playing their song No PEGIDA. "It is difficult to have a conversation with PEGIDA. People say: 'The world is round.' But the PEGIDA member then says 'but not according to my opinion.'" According to event managers, the crowd which had gathered on Monday outnumbered PEGIDA's most famous January 10 rally, which had drawn more than 35,000 people.
Big name artists perform
The free concert, organized by the group Dresden - Place to be and financed by the city, has brought some of Germany's most-beloved artists to the stage. The biggest name was Herbert Grönemeyer, who international audiences might know from his starring role in Wolfgang Petersen's war epic Das Boot. His 2002 pop album Mensch is also the best-selling record of all time in Germany. All of the artists are performing free of charge, according to the organizers. In between performances, videos with messages from Dresde-ners, refugees, and immigrants are being shown. Placards bearing flags from all around the world were passed around, and the audience gladly waved them aloft, reported the regional newspaper Sächsische Zeitung.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Last Free Member Russian Neo-Nazi Group 'Volkssturm' Gets 10 Years

25/1/2015- The last free member of violent Yekaterinburg-based neo-Nazi group "Volkssturm" has been hit with a 10-year prison sentence for at least 11 attacks, including two mur-ders, on ethnic minorities. Defendant Ilya Dorokhov's alleged crimes were committed in 2007, but police only managed to detain him in 2014 after he'd been placed on an interna-tional wanted list, the Sverdlovsk Regional Court said Monday in a statement detailing its ruling. "The court determined that the 26-year-old defendant was involved in seven attemp-ted murders, two murders and [a few] robberies. In total, Dorokhov participated in the commission of at least 11 'actions.' That is precisely what the participants in the extremist group called their attacks," the court said in its statement. "The victims were individuals with distinctly non-Slavic appearances." Dorokhov now faces 10 years in a maximum security prison, and he has also been ordered to pay 100,000 rubles ($1,500) to one of the victims for moral damages. The verdict has not yet entered into force, however, and Dorokhov may appeal.

Volkssturm carried out a series of attacks and robberies targeting ethnic minorities, often videotaping the violence and then uploading the footage to the Internet. Investigators offered evidence of at least three murders by members of the group, as well as eight attempted murders, the Kommersant newspaper reported. They are also believed to have carried out more than 20 attacks on migrant workers. The other 11 members of Dorokhov's group had already been convicted and sentenced prior to his sentencing Monday. The Yekaterinburg group was named after a battalion of the Third Reich set up in 1944 at the request of Adolf Hitler. Hitler's Volkssturm conscripted all males between the ages of 13 and 60 who were not already serving as part of an active military unit.
© The Moscow Times

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Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', says head of BBC Arabic Tarik Kafala

While Mr Kafala’s comments may surprise some, they are in line with the BBC’s editorial guidelines on reporting terrorism.

25/1/2015- The Islamists who committed the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris should be not be described as “terrorists” by the BBC, a senior executive at the corporation has said. Tarik Kafala, the head of BBC Arabic, the largest of the BBC’s non-English language news services, said the term “terrorist” was too “loaded” to describe the actions of the men who killed 12 people in the attack on the French satirical magazine. Mr Kafala, whose BBC Arabic television, radio and online news services reach a weekly audience of 36 million people, told The Independent: “We try to avoid describing anyone as a terrorist or an act as being terrorist. What we try to do is to say that ‘two men killed 12 people in an attack on the office of a satirical magazine’. That’s enough, we know what that means and what it is.” Mr Kafala said: “Terrorism is such a loaded word. The UN has been struggling for more than a decade to define the word and they can’t. It is very difficult to. We know what political violence is, we know what murder, bombings and shootings are and we describe them. That’s much more revealing, we believe, than using a word like terrorist which people will see as value-laden.”

Of the Paris case, Mr Kafala said: “We avoid the word terrorists. It’s a terrorist attack, anti-terrorist police are deployed on the streets of Paris. Clearly all the officials and com-mentators are using the word so obviously we broadcast that.” While Mr Kafala’s comments may surprise some, they are in line with the BBC’s editorial guidelines on reporting ter-rorism. The guidelines state: “[The BBC] does not ban the use of the word. However, we do ask that careful thought is given to its use by a BBC voice. There are ways of convey-ing the full horror and human consequences of acts of terror without using the word ‘terrorist’ to describe the perpetrators. “The value judgements frequently implicit in the use of the words ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorist group’ can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, raise doubts about our impartiality. It may be better to talk about an apparent act of terror or terrorism than label individuals or a group.” When reporting an attack, the BBC guidelines say it should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as “bomber”, “attacker”, “gunman”, “kidnapper” or “militant”.

BBC Arabic, part of the World Service, which is now funded by licence-fee payers, broadcasts radio, online and a 24-hour news channel, throughout the Middle East.
© The Independent

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First—and last—do no harm (editorial)

Speech should be freer than it is in many Western countries

24/1/2015- The march in Paris after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo was supposed to display international solidarity over the right of free expression. In retrospect, it was a pageant more of hypocrisy than of principle. The Russian foreign minister’s attendance did not stop two of his countrymen being prosecuted in Moscow for holding Je Suis Charlie placards. His Saudi Arabian counterpart apparently saw no contradiction between the parade and the public flogging of a blogger in Jeddah two days before. Turkey is a champion locker-up of journalists, but its shameless prime minister turned up all the same. Meanwhile, somewhat misconstruing the point, in the name of modesty an Israeli ultra-Orthodox publication photoshopped the female leaders from its coverage. Terrorism was the main issue in the Paris attacks, which targeted a kosher shop as well as a magazine. But the subsidiary row they ignited—about the parameters of free speech—has been stoked rather than soothed by their aftermath, and continues to roil the world. The Economist believes the right to free speech should be almost absolute.

Begin with the obvious controversy: blasphemy. The pope last week sympathised with those who feel compelled to react to perceived slights against Islam. Disparage another’s faith, he said, and you “can expect to get punched”. Not only were his comments a little unChristian, they were also deeply mistaken. Few subjects demand scrutiny as urgently as does religion—which, erroneously or otherwise, is invoked in conflicts and disputes around the globe. Muslims themselves forcefully, sometimes lethally, debate interpretations of their creed. Any censorship regime that exempts Islam or other religions from searching commentary is perverse. Still, many Muslims see the safeguards afforded to ethnic groups in some countries by hate-speech laws and ask why their faith, which some consider more essential than their skin colour, should be denied such respect. In fact, religious faith is different, in that unlike race it is, or ought to be, a question of choice rather than biology. Nevertheless, the solution to this perceived double standard is not to carve out more exceptions to free speech, but to remove some of the existing ones.

No fire in the theatre
It is, for example, understandable that denying the Holocaust is an offence in several European countries, but it is also anachronistic: the evidence requires no help from the law to overwhelm the deniers. Geert Wilders, a disreputable far-right politician, should not face prosecution, as he now does, for pledging to reduce the number of Moroccans in the Netherlands. Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a comedian, should not have been arrested for flippantly associating himself with one of the Paris killers. Likewise, Islamist zealots are entitled to exploit the West’s freedoms to decry its decadence. Free societies are strong enough to absorb and discredit these idiocies.

That does not mean they should impose no restrictions at all. Even in America, with its admirable constitutional protections, free speech has limits. Child pornographers are rightly regarded as having committed a crime. Advocacy or incitement of violence is banned. Those caveats offer a sound precept: speech should be curtailed only when it is likely to cause serious harm—not including the emotional kind. The likelihood of harm will vary by time and place: in ethnically combustible parts of Africa, officials are entitled to be more stringent with rabble-rousing génocidaires than might be defensible elsewhere. But everywhere the rules should be as light as public order requires. The greater the leeway for suppression, the more likely rulers are to abuse it—witness the different cases of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

A common objection to this liberal stance is that, in the internet age, a book or caricature published in Europe can lead to deaths in Japan or Nigeria, as during the furores over Salman Rushdie’s novel, “The Satanic Verses”, the cartoons of Muhammad published in Denmark in 2005 and Charlie Hebdo. Such butterfly-wing effects, this argument runs, mean all governments should be stricter. On the contrary: the globalisation of outrage is further evidence that striving to pre-empt offence leads to a spiral of censorship. Take into account every fragile sensibility or unintended consequence on the other side of the world, and public discourse will shrink to vanishing. The proviso—a vital one—is that not everything that is permitted is compulsory or desirable. Many words and images should be allowed that are neither prudent nor tasteful. Editors, broadcasters, politicians and citizens should be mindful of those values, too. But they should be matters of conscience, not for the law.
© The Economist

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Headlines 23 January, 2015

Is Europe Overlooking Far-Right 'Foreign Fighter' Issue in Ukraine? (opinion)

By Lewis Barton 

23/1/2015- Think of a 'foreign fighter'. Are they a young male, aged between 19-29, probably of Middle Eastern origin, and possibly a Muslim? Are they associated with the concern and debate over Syria and Iraq? To most people it's more than likely that this is the image that comes to mind. This isn't necessary wrong, but it's definitely not completely accurate. Yet, a question has to be raised: Are extremist Islamist fighters the only foreign fighters Europe should be worrying about? The answer is no. The possibility of returning far-right fighters from Ukraine is a threat currently being overlooked. The conflict in Ukraine has provided an environment where the for-mation of foreign right-wing paramilitary groups can occur without any opposition. Both pro-Russian and Ukrainian Nationalists have operational paramilitary groups that hold right-wing extremist views, ties to neo-Nazism and welcome foreigners as fighters.

The Azov Battalion stands as a prime example of a violent right-wing group that's attracting foreign volunteers. This neo-Nazi group boasts a number of foreign partici-pants, including "Russians, Swedes and a Canadian". Their emblem includes the "Black Sun" occult symbol, used by the Nazi SS during the Second World War. The unit's founder Andriy Biletsky also heads "two other neo-Nazi groups". Most worrying is their polished social media page with powerful far right ideological material written in English. This makes the recruitment process more accessible for any potential fighters who wish to join. The appearance of foreign fighters fighting in Eas-tern Europe is not a new phenomenon. During the Russo-Chechen conflict in 1995 there was a heavy influx of foreign fighters into the region. So why should we be concerned this time around? The danger from a returning far-right fighter from Ukraine is arguably no different from that of a returning fighter from Syria. An indi-vidual with radical views who is well trained and could commit or assisting in committing a violent attack.

Currently attached to the Azov Battalion is a Swedish national, named "Mikael Skillt", a trained sniper with 7 years' experience in the Swedish Army. There is currently a "$7,000 bounty" on his head because of the danger he poses to rebels. A man with his skills, who describes himself as an "ethnic nationalist" and holds extremist views, has the potential to be very dangerous. The brutality of the conflict could also have an effect on a fighter. A group of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists, who refer to themselves as the Aidar Battalion, have been reported to have committed war crimes. The reports from local media suggest widespread abuse from "abductions, unlawful detention and beheadings".

There is a possibility of PTSD affecting any returning fighter. Without treatment it leaves open the chance that a person, who is trained and already committing violence, could snap under the right circumstances and commit a random attack. There have been a number of cases across Europe were people with mental health issues embark on violent sprees. There is also a very serious possibility that a foreign fighter in Ukraine may have a radicalising impact on others when they return. It's completely understandable that the issue of returning Islamic fighters has taken precedence. Attacks in Paris have pushed the issue to centre stage. The high volume of traffic to Syria and Iraq from Europe outweighs that of people going to Ukraine to fight.

However it only takes one returning far-right fighter to commit an attack causing utter devastation. Anders Breivik was a lone violent far-right actor and responsible for one of Europe's most horrific terrorist attack. Imagine the possibility of a returning fighter from Ukraine, who has been trained, experienced combat and has access to connections and weaponry doing the same thing. One can hope that some attention shifts towards far-right fighters in Ukraine, even though the conflict has mostly dropped out of the mainstream attention. But as long as there are organisations willing to raise the issue and attempting to counter the far-right narrative then there is still hope. The threat is there and it is very real. Let's all just hope that we don't learn this lesson the hard way.
© The Huffington Post - UK

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Auschwitz Ceremony Lays Bare Russian Tension With Europe

23/1/2015- On the eve of international commemorations to mark the liberation of Auschwitz, the normally somber event has been overshadowed by an escalating dispute over the history of the Nazi death camp's liberation. On January 27, 1945, soldiers of the 100th and 107th Soviet rifle divisions freed the prisoners of Auschwitz. The soldiers were members of what was known as the Ukrainian Front -- a geographic military designation rather than a name reflecting the force’s national composition. But a senior official in Kyiv is now crediting Ukrainian soldiers for shouldering most of the work of liberating inmates at the camp, echoing earlier statements by Poland’s foreign minister that have enraged Russia. "Ukrainians made up the majority of those who freed Auschwitz -- the Ukrainian Front," Valeriy Chaliy, deputy head of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s administration, told a January 23 press briefing. Ukrainians also played the most significant role in liberating other concentration camps and "Europe overall," Chaliy added.

At least one Auschwitz liberator, Anatoly Shapiro, was born in Ukraine, but several others recognized in recent years for freeing the camp’s prisoners hailed from various Russian regions and other republics that encompassed the Soviet Union. In July 1944 -- half a year before Auschwitz's liberation -- Soviet infantry units were made up of about 52 percent Russians and 34 percent Ukrainians, according to historian Timothy Blauvelt. Chaliy’s comments are the latest in a controversy that has escalated since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced through his spokesman last week that he will not attend a January 27 ceremony in Poland commemorating the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation. Since assuming power in 2000, Putin has been keen to highlight the Soviet Union's enormous contribution to allied victory in World War II, and few moments in this triumph are seen as more important than the fall of the notorious Nazi death camp.

But in what several media outlets have portrayed as a backhanded move by Poland to prevent Putin from attending the ceremony, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum did not send invitations to any heads of state this year. Instead, the museum notified world leaders of the event and asked who would be coming. Several, including Poroshenko, plan to attend. Relations between Warsaw and Moscow have deteriorated drastically over the past year as Poland has taken a leading role in both supporting Ukraine in its conflict with Russia and calling for tougher sanctions against Putin's government. And on January 21, when asked by Radio Poland whether Putin’s absence at the Auschwitz ceremony would be disrespectful, Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna demurred, pointing instead to the name of the military outfit that freed the prisoners. "May I tell you, to be more precise, that it was the Ukrainian Front -- the First Ukrainian Front -- and Ukrainians who liberated [the Auschwitz camp]," Schetyna said in the interview. "On that particular day, Ukrainians opened the gates of the camp and they liberated it."

Moscow responded angrily to Schetyna's comments.
"Any attempts to play a card of any sort of nationalistic sentiment in this situation is totally sacrilegious and cynical," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a Berlin press conference hours after the Polish official’s radio interview. At the United Nations, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told Boguslaw Winid, his Polish counterpart, to remind Schetyna that "over 100 ethnic groups of the Soviet Union" fought during World War II. In an e-mail to RFE/RL, the Polish Foreign Ministry appeared to acknowledge that point but defended the factual basis for Schetyna’s assertion. "We would like to stress that all nations of the former U.S.S.R., including many Ukrainians, fought in the Red Army," the ministry said. "Schetyna stated in accordance with historical facts, that Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the soldiers of the First Ukrainian Front of the Red Army, where among soldiers served also Ukrainians and other nations of the former Soviet Union. All other interpretations of this statement are misleading."

Collaboration Questions
Since February, when former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kyiv and a new pro-European government took power, Moscow has relentlessly warned about the spread of Nazism in Europe and has accused Kyiv of supporting neo-Nazi and fascist groups. While there is little evidence of far-right ideology gaining mainstream acceptance in Ukraine over the past year -- and while Moscow itself has supported ultranationalist European parties -- Russia has used Eastern Europe's own complicated history to buttress its claims. In state media and abroad, when talking about the Ukrainian experience in World War II, Russia has focused on supporters of Stepan Bandera, an anti-Soviet insurgent who collabora-ted with the Nazis before turning against them. Some historians say Bandera's followers took part in the killings of Jews and Poles in western Ukraine. Ukrainians, though, say their own immense contribution to the liberation of Europe has been given short shrift.

More than 1 million Ukrainians died fighting for the Soviet Union during World War II -- second only to Russian casualties. And in Ukraine, Poland and other eastern European states, many say they suffered under both German and Soviet occupation. But Efraim Zuroff, who leads the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center's efforts to track down and prose-cute living Nazis, says Central and Eastern European governments themselves have tried to "promote the canard of equivalency between Nazi and Communist crimes" to avoid addressing unsavory elements of their own histories. Noting that Poland itself was an exception, Zuroff told RFE/RL that there is an ongoing effort to whitewash "the extensive, extremely important collaboration [with the Nazis] of the peoples of Eastern Europe." More than 1 million people died at Auschwitz -- mostly Jews, but also tens of thousands of Roma and some 74,000 Poles. Several well-known Nazi massacres, including the extermi-nations of thousands of Jews at Babi Yar, on the outskirts of Kyiv, involved Nazi collabora-tors. The Soviets themselves massacred more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war in the Katyn forest of northwestern Russia.

The Kremlin has said it will send Putin's chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, to the Auschwitz commemoration.
© RFE/RL

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The rise of ‘soft-core’ Holocaust denial (opinion)

By Deborah Lipstadt, Author and Historian 

23/1/2015- In the last three decades of the 20th century, we witnessed a surge in Holocaust denial. Not only did it grow exponentially, but it also changed its outer garb, moving from a neo-Nazi like personae to a more (pseudo) academic and reasoned one. This appearance of rational thinking and discourse allowed deniers entry into areas that would have been otherwise barred to them, for example university newspapers. This kind of denial was mostly of the “hard core” variety, i.e. it focused on attempting to deny that the Holocaust happened. In pseudo-academic settings, such as the Institute for Historical Review or the scholarly-looking The Journal of Historical Review, deniers argued that there was no plan to kill the Jews, that gas chambers and death camps were a figment of Jews’ imagination, and that, while some Jews may have died (viz. died, not murdered), the number six million was a vast exaggeration.

Today, with the exception of certain areas of the Muslim world, most of this form of Holocaust denial has been accepted as false and invented. (This was a result in great measure of the London lawsuit brought against me by Holocaust denier David Irving. We exposed his claims as lies and distortions thereby stripping and, by extension, the denial movement of historical credibility.) There is however a new form of Holocaust denial, which I choose to describe as “soft core” denial. Soft core denial does not deny the facts. Rather, it draws false comparisons, for example by claiming there is a genocide of the Palestinians or accusing Israel of “Nazi-like” tactics. The murder of the Jews is used against them. This is sometimes called Holocaust switching or inversion: the victims are rendered into the victimisers. This is apparent not just in the charge of a genocide against the Palestinians, but also in the phantasmagorical claims of the ‘9/11 truthers’ that the Jews/Mossad were behind the attacks.

In addition to being a victim/victimiser switch, this Kafkaesque accusation has its roots in the most traditional anti-Semitic charge, the deicide myth. Just as they did at the time of the Second Temple in Jerusalem when “the Jews” crucified the innocent and pure Jesus for their own purposes, once again in 2001 Jews “crucified” 3,000 innocent Americans to serve their nefarious purposes. These newer types of denial or inversion are, in certain respects far more dangerous than what we had to fight in court. They are harder to spot and identify and will pose a challenge in the future.
© Jewish News UK

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Immunity removed from German premier so he can fight crime charge

23/1/2015- Legislators authorized prosecutors on Friday to proceed with a criminal case against Bodo Ramelow, Germany‘s first state premier from Die Linke, the hard-left party descended from the old East German communist party. Ramelow, whose historic election last month as premier of Thuringia state was a milestone in the party‘s comeback cam-paign, had asked the state legislature to remove his official immunity from prosecution so he can clear his name. He is appealing against a summary conviction for illegal assembly. During a demonstration against a neo-Nazi march in Dresden in 2010, police accused him of organizing a sit-down by leftists on the road, defying police instructions to clear the street. Ramelow denies leading the sit-in, asserting he was asked by police to mediate. The vote was taken in the Thuringia state assembly‘s committee on justice. Ramelow‘s office said he wanted his day in court and "had every confidence in the institutions of the rule of law." "The charge must now be completely wiped off the books," the statement said.

Under German law, the matter is now up to the district court in Dresden, which has the options of closing down the whole case or bringing it to trial. A court spokeswoman said, "It‘s up to the judge as to where the procedure goes next." The court entered a summary conviction in 2012 and fined Ramelow 3,400 euros (3,930 dollars), then dropped the case last year without an order for compensation. Ramelow is demanding the Saxon prosecutors pay his lawyer‘s bill for him, so the case is now back in court. The charges, which were laid in the neighbouring state of Saxony, have helped burnish the reputation of moderate Ramelow, 58, among German radicals, and they did no harm to his election campaign last year. In Germany, police regularly have to separate neo-Nazis and leftists holding opposing parades. Die Linke emerged from the poll as the second-biggest vote-getter and formed a ruling coalition with the Social Democrats and Greens, despite warnings from Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s centre-right supporters that the move was an insult to the victims of communist misrule.
© DPA

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Denmark sees asylum numbers double in 2014

The 14,815 people who sought asylum in Denmark last year is nearly double the number from the year before and an almost fourfold increase from 2009.

23/1/2015- The number of refugees seeking asylum in Denmark nearly doubled in 2014, newly-released figures from the Danish Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen - DIS) show.
A total of 14,815 people sought asylum in 2014. Although the final number ended up significantly below the government’s estimate of 20,000, it is still nearly double the number from 2013, when 7,557 asylum seekers made their way to Denmark. The 2014 numbers represent a nearly fourfold increase over 2009, when just 3,855 asylum seekers came to the country.
Nearly half of all the asylum seekers in 2014 came from war-torn Syria. The 7,185 Syrians who sought asylum in Denmark were more than three times larger than the next biggest group: 2,293 Eritreans. The number of refugees seeking and receiving asylum in Denmark was a dominant topic among the nation’s politicians and media throughout much of 2014.

In September, the government announced that it would introduce a new, temporary type of residence permit for asylum seekers fleeing civil wars such as the Syrian conflict after a huge surge in the number of applications. Two weeks later, that was followed by the introduction of new restrictions on the ability of refugees to have their family members join them in Denmark. Those restrictions were criticised by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and a long line of human rights organisations. Denmark also controversially announced that it would tighten restrictions on Eritrean asylum seekers. After the number of Eritrean refugees spiked over the summer, the justice minister called on DIS to carry out a ‘fact-finding’ mission, the results of which were so heavily criticised that the government ultimately had to admit that it had “doubts” about the report and that Eritreans can expect to be "granted asylum in many cases".

While the government was making it more difficult for refugees to get asylum in Denmark, opposition parties wanted to go even further, suggesting that asylum seekers should receive worse conditions or simply be sent back to where they came from. All of the asylum talk seemed to have a negative impact on the Danish people. One poll from December showed that 44 percent of Danes are sometimes “ashamed” by the national debate on immigration and foreigners while another showed that 51 percent of Danes think that the debate over asylum seekers has gone too far. Denmark’s integration minister, Manu Sareen, said the results of the polls should serve as a wake-up call. “We – espe-cially those of us here in Christiansborg – should sometimes stop and think about how we talk about people. Words create realities and that means that we as politicians have a responsibility,” Sareen told Berlingske at the time.

Of the 14,815 refugees who sought asylum in Denmark last year, 6,110 of them were granted refugee status. That 41 percent approval rate was lower than the 51 percent who were granted asylum in 2013. Denmark’s costs for housing refugees in 2014 is expected to be 9.2 billion kroner ($1.4 billion), a near doubling of the 4.7 billion kroner asylum costs in 2013.

© The Local - Denmark
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Controversial Danish mosque praised by cops

The controversial Grimhøj Mosque in Aarhus is making headlines once again, but this time the news has a distinctly more positive tone.

23/1/2015- Aarhus's Grimhøj Mosque was once again thrust back in the spotlight earlier this month after the airing of a documentary in which mosque leaders said that they want to see an Islamic caliphate established, that they don’t believe in democracy and that a Danish convert who carried out a suicide bomb attack in Iraq is a hero. The DR documen-tary led to a fresh round of political calls to shut down the mosque. The week after that, mosque leaders said they were receiving so many threats that they felt the need to contact police for assistance. Now the mosque is making news again, but this time it is because local authorities are praising its leadership for their role in slowing the stream of Danish Muslims who travel to Syria as foreign fighters.

East Jutland Police have previously said that around two dozen of the at least 110 individuals who have left Denmark to fight in Syria have come from Grimhøj Mosque. But a police spokesman said that only one person from the Aarhus area is thought to have gone to Syria in 2014 and that person had no association with the mosque. “Grimhøj Mosque deserves a large part of the credit for the development that we can see in 2014. If you would have asked the mosque’s chairman a year ago, he would have said that it is a perso-nal choice if one wants to go to Syria. Today, the mosque warns young people against it. We can see that the young people are listening,” East Jutland Police commissioner Allan Aarslev told Berlingske.

The head of Aarhus Council’s leisure and youth department also credited the mosque for discouraging foreign fighters and said that the calls to shut Grimhøj Mosque are misguided. “Firstly, it will just confirm among the young [mosque members] that democracy is only for the majority. Secondly, our access to the radicalized environment will be different and it will be more hidden from us [if the mosque closes]. One must remember that the mindset won’t be removed just because you close a mosque, Toke Agerschou told Berlingske.  The mosque’s chairman, Oussama El-Saadi, welcomed the praise from the police and municipality. “It’s good that we are becoming known for something besides radicalization. We don’t want the young people encouraging violence or encouraging others to travel [to Syria or Iraq, ed.],” El-Saadi told Berlingske. Grimhøj Mosque has long been accused of promoting an extremist interpretation of Islam.

Representatives of the mosque travelled the Middle East in 2006 stirring up discontent over Jyllands-Posten’s publication of 12 cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. Those cartoons were later republished by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the target of a recent terror attack in Paris. In July 2014, a video emerged of Abu Bilal Ismail, an imam at the mosque who is also featured in the documentary, calling on God to “destroy the Zionist Jews”. Two months later, the mosque made international headlines after declaring its support for the terrorist group Isis, comments El-Saadi doubled down on in the recent documentary.
© The Local - Denmark

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One in eight Danes wants a party to the right of DF

Thirteen percent of voters in a recent poll said that Denmark needs a party even more critical of immigration than the Danish People's Party.

22/1/2015- For more than one in eight Danish voters, the hardline approach to immigration from the Danish People’s Party (DF) is not hard enough. In a poll carried out for Jyllands-Posten newspaper this week, 13 percent of respondents said they wished there was a party that would push for an even harder immigration policy than DF. Among so-called ‘blue bloc’ voters – i.e. supporters of Denmark’s right-of-centre opposition parties – one in five said they want a party that would push a tougher immigration line than DF. The poll results came in the same week that the populist movement Pegida, which opposes what it calls 'Islamization of the West', made its Danish debut. Many have questioned whether Pegida can find a footing in Denmark given that DF already gives anti-immigration voters a political home. Although 13 percent of voters said they want a party to the right of DF, recent experience suggests otherwise. The nationalist Danes’ Party (Danskernes Parti) put forth several candidates in the November 2013 municipal elections but not a single one was voted in. Still, the 17,419 votes received by the far-right party were 5,180 more than in the municipal election of 2009.

Rather than needing to fear that a party will come in from the right, many political analysts said that the new Jyllands-Posten poll could actually strengthen DF. “I think that the Danish People’s Party is very satisfied with that poll even though nearly 13 percent say that they wish there was a more immigrant-critical party. Because when the voters stand there in the ballot booth, there is only DF to vote for. It’s grist for their mill as long as there aren’t any other alternatives out there,” Troels Mylenberg, the editor-in-chief of local newspaper Fyns Amts Avis, told Ekstra Bladet. DF themselves certainly didn’t seem worried about the poll results. “We are who we are and we do what we do. If someone doesn’t like it, they can vote for another party,” party spokesman Søren Espersen told Jyllands-Posten. DF, which for a decade used its position as the government’ support party to move immigration policies to the right, has had the wind in its sails as of late. The party has consistently polled higher than the 12.3 percent voter support it received in the September 2011 elections and a November 2014 poll was the first ever in which DF came out with the highest level of support.
© The Local - Denmark

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Dutch Anti-Islam politician Wilders aims to "paralyse" Dutch govt

23/1/2015- Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders is counting on concern over Paris militant attacks to help him "paralyse" the centre-right coalition government and stake a claim to greater national influence. Accused by critics of inflaming tensions in a land that has long welcomed workers from Morocco and Turkey, Wilders goes into local elections on March 18 with his Freedom Party commanding about 25 percent support -- far more than any other and enough, possibly, to give him a blocking vote in the Upper House. Wilders, who has lived under 24-hour security since the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh a decade ago by an Islamist militant, says he will make forays onto the street to cam-paign. But he will appear in public only briefly surrounded by bodyguards.

His message to Dutch electors, couched with warnings of "islamisation" of Europe, was direct. "Vote, vote today. You can perhaps send the government home," Wilders said, in an interview with Reuters. "If not, you can paralyse the government. So those are very important elections." However, while Wilders may be able to block legislation in the Upper House, he would be hard pressed to find coalition partners to form any national government. At best he might increase his power to press anti-immigrant policies. Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte's cabinet nearly collapsed in December after losing a vote in the Upper House, where he lacks a majority. "Most people expect that he (Wilders) will gain some seats, and perhaps even a considerable number of seats," Henk te Velde, a political historian at Leiden University.

"Untrustworthy Partner"
But Te velde said Wilders had gained a reputation as an untrustworthy partner by pulling out of government coalition talks in 2012 after months of negotiations, triggering snap elections. That experience, and his radical views, left him isolated from mainstream parties and made it unlikely he could lead a government after national-level elections any time soon. Wilders sees himself vindicated in his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas by Islamist militant attacks two weeks ago in Paris that killed 17 people. He accused Rutte of failing to jail militant jihadists and said the army should be deployed to protect potential Dutch targets. "If somebody makes an attack, you are not a perpetrator, Mr. prime minister, but you have blood on your hands, if somebody commits a terrorist act in the Netherlands." Wilders wants to block all Muslim immigration and take away the passports of criminal offenders of foreign descent. He is being prosecuted for alleged discrimination against Moroccans for comments made during campaigning last March which prompted 6,400 complaints to police.

He asked supporters if they wanted more or fewer Moroccans, triggering the chant: "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!" "It is damaging and painful," said Farid Azarkan, chairman of the Co-operative for Dutch Moroccans, a leading dialogue partner for the Dutch government. "The division in society has increased and Moroccans feel like second-class citizens." Wilders, on the same al Qaeda blacklist as the slain editor of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, said he would travel to all 12 provinces to meet voters. "There will be a lot of secu-rity, but I will do it anyway, even if it's just to let the other people, the terrorists, see that they will not be able to stop the democratic process." An opinion poll taken after the Paris attacks showed the Freedom Party winning 31 seats in the country's 150-seat parliament, more than doubling its showing in the 2012 elections and becoming by far the largest party. The governing Liberal-Labour coalition would win just 28 seats. "Wherever Islam gets its foot on the ground, you see less freedom, less freedom of speech, less freedom of anything," he said. "Of course not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims."
© Reuters

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Netherland: Integration courses may include greater focus on freedom of speech

22/1/2015- Compulsory integration courses for non-Europeans moving to the Netherlands may be overhauled to include more recognition for freedom of speech issues. Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher told parliament on Thursday he would look into increasing the focus on freedom of speech following a request by Labour MP Ahmed Marcouch. Marcouch called for the rethink following the terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The current integration test is far too superficial, Marcouch said earlier on Thursday. ‘There is just a multiple choice question about whether television and radio stations can broadcast their opinions freely,’ he told website nu.nl Asscher told MPs he would decide before the summer if the integration exam should be more explicit about the Dutch position on freedom. However, the integration classes do cover the constitution, history and Dutch norms and values, he pointed out. These issues are also included in the

participation declaration

Read more at DutchNews.nl: Integration courses may include greater focus on freedom of speech http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/01/integration-courses-may-include-greater-focus-on-freedom-of-speech.php/


participation declaration  which is currently being tried out in some local authority areas, he told MPs. The aim of the declaration, first mooted two years ago, is to insure all immigrants to the Netherlands, including those from other EU countries, are aware of the ‘basic principles of Dutch society.’
© The Dutch News
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Dutch Immigration minister approves permits for 290 failed asylum seekers

21/1/2015- Junior justice minister Fred Teeven said on Wednesday he had used his discretionary powers to grant residency permits to 290 people since taking office in November 2012. The permits have been given to failed asylum seekers whose situation merits a licence to stay even though they don’t qualify formally for refugee status, the minister said in a briefing to MPs. Teeven said he approved 80 of the 210 cases presented to him in 2013. Last year, however, he approved 190 out of 830 appeals for clemency. This is a similar approval rate to the previous government, Teeven, who is known as a hardliner, said. The minister does not say how many of the cases he approved concern children who were not covered by the amnesty for child refugees. Last year it was reported that Teeven had given permits to up to 75 families who were not covered by the amnesty.
© The Dutch News

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New study reveals rise of anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Europe

 A newly published study titled White Papers of Hatereveals the concerning rise of racism, xenophobia, and radical nationalist movements in 19 European countries, including in France, where four Jews were killed recently in the terror attack at a kosher supermarket in Paris.

21/1/2015- The 1,000-page study documents incidents of anti-Semitism and hate-crimes against other religious minorities, as well as immigrants. It focuses on incidents that took place between 2012 and 2013. The data shows that compared to 2012, the level of radical nationalism in France has increased significantly. France is currently ranked ninth in Europe for its level of xenophobia, according to the study. “The Charlie Hebdo tragedy reminds the world that we cannot wait to acknowledge radicalism and xenophobia, wherever it rears its head,” said Dr. Valery Engel, first vice president of the World Without Nazism organization. “The White Papers of Hate was created to track manifestations of hate so leaders can understand and properly respond to this escalating problem. We cannot wait for the next Charlie Hebdo, the next synagogue bombing or the next hate-fueled attack.”

The study also shows that in Russia, 18 percent of violent crimes result in homicide. Russia places 10th in the study's rankings on levels of radical nationalism. As of 2013, about half of the Russian population in major cities acknowledged support for slogans such as “Russia for Russians.” “Ultra-nationalism is growing, especially among youth who are drawn to ‘country first’ slogans, and yet, the international community tends to ignore the problem,” said Richard Brodsky, a former New York state assemblyman and a senior fellow of the Demos public policy organization.

“European countries need to take a unified approach to ensuring the rights of ethnic minorities and protecting all their citizens from harassment and racial discrimination," Brodsky said. "White Papers of Hate reminds us we cannot make the mistake of assuming ultra-nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism have been eradicated from Europe. By tracking and calling attention to these movements and stop thinking of them as isolated incidents, we are warning leaders—from the Putin in Moscow to Cameron in London that the world is watching; we will not allow Europe’s troubled past to reappear in the 21st century.”
© jns

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Representatives on tolerance in country visit to France (OSCE)

The Personal Representatives of the Chairperson-in-Office on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination conducted a country visit to France from 19-21 January 2015 – their first joint visit under the 2015 OSCE Chairmanship of Serbia.

22/1/2015- “Our joint visit to France was scheduled several months ago and comes shortly after the series of terrorist attacks in Paris,” said Alexey Avtonomov, the Personal Re-presentative of the Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also Focusing on Christians and Members of Other Religions. “The roots of ter-rorism and intolerance, as well as suggestions of what should be done to help the society become more cohesive and tolerant were at the focus of our discussions with French authorities, independent human rights institutions and civil society. In numerous meetings with French authorities during the visit, including with the Ministries of Justice, of Edu-cation, and of the Interior as well as with the Ombudsman and the Inter-ministerial Delegate for Combating Racism and Anti-Semitism, the Personal Representatives noted the authorities’ commitment to even more vigorously confront any form of discrimination and intolerance.

“These discussions were open and frank,” said Talip Kücükcan, the Personal Representative on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims. “We have observed that the French authorities were very concerned about rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and prepared to take any measures necessary to protect religious institutions,” he added. While the immediate response and the clear and unambiguous condemnation of the violent acts was applauded, the Personal Representatives were also pleased to learn that the French authorities envisage further reaching and sustainable projects aimed at combating and preventing intolerance and discrimination in France. “One cannot escape the feeling that the French Jewish Community is at a turning point,” said the Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism, Rabbi Andrew Baker. Referring to the terrorist killings in the kosher supermarket in Paris two weeks ago and recalling several violent incidents in the past, Rabbi Baker expressed concern over growing numbers of Jews that might con-sider emigration. "Authorities therefore need to develop new proposals and to take actions that will reverse the situation,” he concluded.

The three Representatives remain convinced that timely joint country visits prove to be mutually enriching in efforts by OSCE part. States to remain united against attempts to create divisions on the basis of religion or ethnicity, as was stated in the recently adopted OSCE Declaration.
© OSCE

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Kippah-wearing Swedish reporter assaulted in Malmo

23/1/2015- A Swedish reporter who walked around Malmo while wearing a kippah to test attitudes toward Jews was hit once and cursed at by passersby before he fled for fear of serious violence. Sveriges Television on Wednesday aired secretly recorded footage from Petter Ljunggren’s walk through Malmo, which documented some of the incidents that occurred within the space a few hours. In one scene, Ljunggren — who, in addition to wearing a kippah was also wearing Star of David pendant — was filmed sitting at a café in central Malmo reading a newspaper, as several passersby hurled anti-Semitic insults at him. Elsewhere, one person hit his arm, the reporter said on camera, though this was not recorded. One of the people who cursed Ljunggren called him a “Jewish devil,” “Jewish shit” and another told him to “get out.” One person on a scooter approached Ljunggren to warn him to leave for his own safety. In the heavily Muslim Rosengard neighborhood, Ljunggren was surrounded by a dozen men who shouted anti-Semitic slogans as eggs were hurled at his direction from apartments overhead. He then fled the area.

The experiment was part of a 58-minute documentary titled “Jew-hatred in Malmo.” The walk was a repeat of a similar experiment conducted in 2013 by journalist Patrick Riley, though Riley reported that he received only strange looks and drew giggles from onlookers when he walked by wearing a kippah. Dozens of anti-Semitic incidents are recorded annually in Malmo, a city where first- and second- generation immigrants from the Middle East make up one third of a population of roughly 300,000. Several hundred Jews live there. Fred Kahn, a leader of the local Jewish community, told JTA that most incidents are perpetrated by Muslims or Arabs. Hanna Thome, a municipal councilor for culture and anti-discrimination, told the Expressen daily that she was shocked by the events documented by Ljunggren. “There is much more to do, and both the municipality and the police have a great responsibility. But I also want to emphasize that there is great solidarity in the city,” she said in reference to several so-called kippah walks, where Jews and non-Jews marched through Malmo’s street while wearing yarmulkes to protest against anti-Semitism.
© JTA News

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Greece election: Neo-Nazi party still vocal despite its leaders being in jail

22/1/2015- It’s doubtful whether the rally’s organisers intended the analogy, but the sight of rows of people staring at an empty stage and breaking into chants in response to the slightly muffled, staccato voice blaring out from the loudspeakers made it difficult not to compare the scene with something from a dystopian George Orwell novel. The crowd, gathered in a hotel in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, had already stood to attention before the floor was handed over to the man they call the “leader”, Nikos Michalolia-kos. And by the time Golden Dawn’s imprisoned boss had finished his speech 20 minutes later, most of them were still on their feet.

Custody
Along with half of his party’s MPs, Michaloliakos has been in custody since late September 2013, pending trial for forming and running a criminal organisation. His arrest followed a crackdown on the neo-Nazi party triggered by the murder of left-wing rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a party member. “Golden Dawn will become the country’s third political force in the elections on January 25th,” Michaloliakos told the rally over the phone from his Athens prison cell. Lashing out at the government and the election favourite Syriza party, he claimed his party was the target of a “political conspiracy”. Unlike the two election campaigns in 2012, when the party’s spokesman assaulted a woman opponent on live televi-sion, Golden Dawn is barely visible in this contest – although like all contestants it does enjoy allocated slots for party political broadcasts on all TV channels.

Party support
The prosecution of its leadership and the reduced media exposure, however, have barely dented the party’s support. “Golden Dawn has maintained much of its popularity because unfortunately none of the political reasons that led people to vote for them has disappeared,” says journalist Dimitris Psarras, an expert on the party. “Greece has experienced not only an economic crisis but a universal collapse of the political system, where large segments of the population no longer trust the media or democratic institutions such as the jus-tice system.” A survey published on Wednesday put Golden Dawn in fourth place, on 4.6 per cent. Given the reluctance of voters to admit to supporting the party, many expect it to perform better on election day, as happened in the European Parliament elections, when it won 9.4 per cent and had three MEPs elected.

Evidence
“If you consider that the right-wing element that votes Golden Dawn is already prone to conspiracy theories and the belief that Greece is surrounded by enemies, it is very easy for them to view the prosecution as politically motivated,” says Psarras, who believes the evidence against the Golden Dawn leadership is more than enough to convict them. “Golden Dawn’s violent activities were directed by a core of a few hundred members, organised like a militia. So when the ‘leader’ and the hierarchy were jailed, there was a dramatic decrease in night-time attacks and assaults on migrants,” he says, underlining that this demonstrates the importance of treating the party as a criminal organisation.
© The Irish Times.

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Macedonia bans same-sex marriages and civil unions

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has moved to ban same-sex marriage, as well as making it extremely difficult for any future legislation to allow same-sex civil unions to pass.

21/1/2015- The Parliament of Macedonia voted 72-4 yesterday to define marriage as specifically between one man and one woman. The amendment definise marriages as “a life union solely of one woman and one man”, and a second point reads that “legal relations in marriage, family, and civil unions are to be regulated by a law adopted by a two-thirds majority of the total Members of Parliament.” Comparitively, for same-sex civil unions to pass would require the same majority in Parliament as issues of sovereignty and the functioning of the State. A previous draft of the amendment which explicitely banned the introduction of same-sex civil unions or registered cohabitation was condemned by an advisory body of the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission. The Commission urged Macedonia to protect same-sex couples with legal recognition of their partnerships.

Tanja Fajon MEP, Vice-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, commented, saying: “Instead of taking the Opinion of the Venice Commission seriously, and guaranteeing equal rights for all couples, the government, supported by parliament, decided to ban equal marriage and create a constitutional obstacle to even create possible legislation on this issue in the future.” “Rather than institutionalising discrimination against same sex couples, I call on the government to increase protection, in line with European standards.” Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, added: “In October last year, the LGBTI Support Centre in Skopje was attacked for the zillionth time. LGBTI people in Macedonia face severe stigma and are all too often faced with hate crime, to which authorities fail to react.” “The Macedonian government should realise diversity is the source of prosperity and social stability, not an obstacle for it. Inversely, homophobia has never created a single job or indeed solved any other problem. Macedonia would be better served by following the trend of an increasing number of countries in Europe and the Americas where same-sex couples are legally recognised and protected.”
© Pink News

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Czech extremism report: Islamophobic group uses cyber-bullying

23/1/2015- The ultra-right scene in the Czech Republic has recently focused on "combating Islam". The most active group is the Czech Defense League (CZDL), represented by "We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic" (IvÈRN) on the Facebook social networking site. Those are the findings of a report by the Czech Interior Ministry on the last quarter of 2014. A total of 51 actions were held during that time that were either convened directly by or involving the participation of politically extremist entities, 29 events on the ultra-right side of the spectrum and 22 on the ultra-left. Year-on-year a significant decline in the number of ultra-right actions was noted, as well as a slight decline in ultra-left ones. "The ultra-right scene continues to act in a comparatively fragmented, inconsistent way. Its long-term, frequently-mentioned crisis of financing, issues and personnel has created limits as to what its active entities can do. The scene has had long-term problems, not only in reaching the broader public through its actions and winning adherents, but also in convening and mobilizing its existing sympathizers," the report says. The Interior Ministry says this is exemplified by the comparatively low turnout for an assembly marking the 17 November holiday in Brno last year. Only 80 ultra-right participants attended that event.

Islamophobes use cyberbullying as a weapon
According to the report, the ultra-right scene has recently oriented itself more toward manifesting Islamophobia. The Czech Defense League (CZDL), represented by "We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic" (IvÈRN) on the Facebook social networking site, is a group that has long profiled itself in this particular way. "A rising number of cases of the group cyber-bullying those opposed to it have been alleged," the report reads. The Workers Social Justice Party (Dìlnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) and its youth organi-zation, Workers Youth (Dìlnická mládež - DM) are also mentioned in the context of Islamophobia. The DSSS has interpreted the Muslim community as a threat, not just from a security perspective, but from that of the demise of European culture and traditions. "The exploitation of that topic is linked to their closer collaboration with West European ultra-right entities in particular, as well as to their efforts to reach out to new followers," the ministry warns.

Nazi salute given at neo-Nazi concert in Brno
At the end of 2014 there were several neo-Nazi concerts in the Czech Republic. Approximately 80 people attended a concert in Brno on 16 November by the bands Squad 96, Karlos Band and the Slovak performer Reborn. Police had to address several audience members giving the Nazi salute there. Activists from the "Generace identity" (Generations of Identity) group organized a concert on 29 November at the Na Kopeèku restaurant in Ústí nad Labem, primarily for an audience who crossed the border from Germany to attend. The ad for the concert described it as taking place in "Central Germany". The German bands Blutzeugen and Confident of Victory performed there, who are infamous on the so-called White Power Music scene.

Left-wing extremists mobilize, support cheated employees
The ministry reports that the ultra-left and, by extension, the anarchist scene continues to mobilize. "A rather high turnout of around 300 people was noted at the ultra-left demon-stration on 17 November in Prague convened under the name 'Dignity, Housing, Income'," says the report. "Part of the anarchist scene has found an opportunity to apply itself by participating in activities and support for the Most District Solidarity Network (Mostecká solidární síť - MSS) and for Solis Praha. The aim of these entities is to draw attentoin to the alleged wrongdoing by employers against employees (e.g., alleged non-payment of wages)," says the report, noting an action against the Prague restaurant Øízkárna, where some employees were not being paid. MSS convened protests at the restaurant and police intervened against those participating. The ministry says these are activists, often from ultra-left environments, who do their best to present themselves as an alternative to both non-state and state institutions. "Demand for the 'services' of such entities has grown. It may be that this group is now testing a strategy against smaller businesses that could then be applied against a larger num-ber of businesses," the report says.

"Speaking hyperbolically, the fact that activities on behalf of working people who have been harmed are now being monitored by the autho-rities is a testament to their success," a participant in the action against the Øízkárna restaurant told news server Romea.cz. The ministerial report also called the occupation of the "Clinic" on 3 December in the Žižkov quarter of Prague an action by the extreme left. "During December there were actions expressing solidarity and support for the Clinic initiative, and not just in Prague, after the allegedly brutal clearance of the building by the Police of the Czech Republic. A demonstration in Prague on 13 December was attended by roughly 700 people. The scandal also sparked discussion for a certain time on the possible full or partial legalization of squatting," says the report, warning that there was an attempt to set a police vehicle on fire in connection with the Clinic. "The 'Anarchist Solidarity Action' took responsibility for that deed and its performance sparked a postive respon-se from radical activists in particular. The Clinic initiative distanced itself from it," says the report.
© Romea.

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Czech Rep: Islamophobes may enter politics

21/1/2015- The We Do Not Want Islam in the Czech Republic (ICRN) group, that is largely active on the Facebook and until recently was almost ignored, has sensed a chance of being transformed into a political movement, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes yesterday. "A year ago, we were nothing but a gang of online chatters who were hardly able to muster 50 people outside the Palestinian embassy. Now established parties are accepting our agenda," ICRN representative Martin Konvicka said at the Friday rally against the threat of Islamisation at Prague Castle, the seat of the Czech heads of state. The demonstration was attended by about 300 people who carried Czech flags and posters saying "Europe, Wake Up!" "There Is No Moderate Islam" and "Islam is Evil." In his speech at the rally, Konvicka, 45, said the Prophet Muhammad was a sadistic psychopath, LN writes.
"I learn every day that according to the Islamic Sharia, as a woman I only have a half of the brain," Jana Cernochova, a deputy of the right-wing opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), said at the rally.

The rally was attended by some deputies for the opposition Dawn of Direct Democracy movement, including its leader Tomio Okamura, LN writes. Dawn deputy Olga Havlova said she was against the halal food and another Dawn deputy, Marek Cernoch, stated that "Czech culture must be preserved," it adds. The rally was moderated by Jana Volfova, a for-mer deputy of the Social Democrats (CSSD) and current chairwoman of the extra-parliamentary Czech Sovereignty party, LN writes. In the past year, tens of thousands of Czechs joined the Facebook campaign that launched a petition against Islam and demands an amendment to the church law for which the Dawn is lobbying in the Chamber of Deputies.
Under the proposal, a church or religious community demanding special rights should not come under the suspicion that it will threaten the Czech Republic' foreign political inte-rests, national security and public order. The secret services and the police should express binding opinions on their applications [for the special rights enjoyed by churches in the Czech Republic], according to the draft amendment.

Culture Minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) said the proposed amendment was redundant because the existing law was strict enough and the secret services were monitoring the work of churches and religious communities, LN writes. "If politicians from the established parties fail to accept the basic sensible agenda such as selective immigration, we will have to form our own political movement," ICRN spokesman Artur Fiser is quoted as saying. A trained biologist, Konvicka is a senior lecturer at University of South Bohemia in Ceske Budejovice, LN writes. He made his mark last autumn, when the ICRN sent a petition to the Chamber of Deputies in which it protested against Islam being granted the special rights. The petition has been signed by 22,000 people, it adds. "The petition contributed to the legitimisation of the group in the public space. For this reason, the media started paying more attention to it," media expert Jan Motal is quoted as saying.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Italian neo-Nazis convicted of anti-Semitic acts

Six sentenced to terms of 8-18 months; two men who attempted to reconstitute the Fascist Party among those arrested

21/1/2015- Two leaders of Militia were among six members of the Italian neo-Nazi group convicted for racist and anti-Semitic activities. A Rome court convicted the men on Tues-day. They were sentenced to prison terms of eight to 18 months. Among those charged were Maurizio Boccacci and Stefano Schiavulli, who were directly responsible for many hate incidents against Jewish targets. They also attempted to reconstitute the Fascist Party. Militia recently had publicly marked the anniversary of the death of Erich Priebke, an SS captain convicted of war crimes for participating in the massacre at the Ardeatine caves in Rome on March 24,1944. Priebke died in October 2013. During a hearing last March, Schiavulli also threatened Rome Jewish community leader Riccardo Pacifici. Last August, Militia called for a boycott of Jewish-owned stores through a massive poster campaign.
© JTA News

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Standing Up Against Racist Violence in Russia (Opinion)

By Maria Rozalskaya 

20/1/2015- Nearly 500 people attended a pro-tolerance march in Moscow on Monday to commemorate the murders of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. Some held signs that said "I am Markelov" and "I am Baburova" — in a nod to the "I am Charlie" campaign. A group of pro-Kremlin, Christian Orthodox activists followed the marchers and tried to provoke them into fighting along the route. I once asked Stas Markelov how he endured a life of death threats, gory cases and indifferent judges. We had just left the Moscow City Court, where Stas was representing the mother of a murdered anti-fascist activist. I went to the court, along with others, to support the victim's family and cheer for their attorney. But the atmosphere was dominated by a loud and intimidating crowd of the accused murderer's buddies from Moscow's booming neo-Nazi scene. Afterward, Stas and I clung onto the handrails of our shaky metro carriage. He wore some kind of a cloak and was joking and laughing. It was then that I asked him — but I can't remember now what he said in response. He probably made a joke instead of answering with something important. I've been trying to remember his words for days, but they won't come.

A year later, on Jan. 19, 2009, Stas was shot on the street, in broad daylight, along with Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova. The neo-Nazis convicted of their murders have been in prison for a while now, with related cases involving new defendants popping up from time to time. The fact that I can't remember Stas' words is not so important; in the end, we weren't even that close. Eventually I'll forget the image of the slim figure in the cloak. He will be remembered by friends, relatives, and close colleagues. But I will never forget Stas's work, or why he was killed. Every year since those murders, the January 19 Committee has held an anti-fascist march in Moscow on the anniversary of Stas and Anastasia's death; activists in other cities hold rallies as well. This year, the organizers announced that it would be held not only in memory of Stas and Anastasia and other slain anti-fascist activists, but also in memory of the known and unnamed victims of racist and nationalist violence in Russia.

The committee's agenda is desperately needed, and focusing on eradicating racism and xenophobia is more appropriate for anti-fascists, whether they be youth groups or human rights attorneys, than attempting to save the Khimki forest or joining radical nationalists to elect an Opposition Coordination Council — the most prominent displays of the anti-fascist movement's activity of the past six years. It's a pity that those high-profile causes have pushed out of the public's eye an array of other critical issues. As a result, victims of racist violence have had even fewer people to turn to for support in our xenophobic society. Hate crimes are terrible not only because good people die as a result. Rather, hate crimes are terrible because they are a kind of terrorism aimed at silencing entire groups. It is dangerous to impose one's ideological views on the deceased. We are also on thin ice if we appeal to their memory or enlist their influential shadows for a cause.

But I have no doubt Stas would support the initiative, having worked on behalf of several murdered anti-fascists as well as the family of Elza Kungayeva, a woman who was abduc-ted and murdered by a Russian colonel during the second Chechen war. As the world has recently been covered by the inscription "Je suis Charlie," we must also say: I'm Markelov, the human rights lawyer. I'm Baburova, the brave journalist. I'm Khursheda Sultonova, the blameless 9-year-old Tajik girl stabbed to death. I'm Judge Chuvashov, the fearless judge who worked on hate crime cases, killed in a stairwell. I'm the nameless migrant janitor stabbed to death in a dark corner.
Maria Rozalskaya is a researcher at the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis.
© The Moscow Times

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Canada: Roma family fearful of deportation to Hungary

Anasztazia Szilagyi loves everything about her new life in Canada.

20/1/2015- She loves that her 10-year-old daughter, Mercedesz, is thriving in Grade 4 in École Bedford in Côte-des-Neiges. She loves her job as a caregiver for elderly patients. But what she loves most is being treated as an equal, instead of living in fear as a member of Hungary’s despised Roma minority. “They always tell me: ‘You are a Gypsy bitch. Go back to India,’ Szilagyi, 35, said Tuesday, describing the persecution she and her family endured before fleeing Hungary in 2011. But the new life she has built with her husband, Dezso Nemeth, 47, and their two children will end irrevocably Jan. 28, barring a last-ditch intervention by the Federal Court. That’s when Szilagyi, Nemeth and their two youngest children are scheduled to be deported, following the rejection of their refugee claim in 2013. “We have a future here. We built a life. We learned a new language. My daughter is a good student,” Szilagyi said.

“They are killing my whole future.”
There is no doubt Hungary’s Roma minority is the target of widespread discrimination and escalating violence, particularly with the rise of neo-Nazi groups in recent years. “In the last five years in Hungary, the establishment of vigilante groups and hate crimes against Roma and other minority groups has characterized a climate of increasing social and econo-mic exclusion,” according to a 2014 report on anti-Roma violence in Hungary by the Harvard School of Public Health. A 2006 study showed 80 per cent of Hungarian employers rare-ly interviewed or hired Roma applicants regardless of their job qualifications. Despite that, a majority of Roma refugee claimants, tarred as “bogus refugees” by the federal government, have been deported since the Conservative government passed the Refugee Exclusion Act in 2012. Under the act, people from countries designated by the federal government as “safe” — including Hungary — have shorter deadlines to complete their applications, are not allowed to appeal their refugee decisions, and must wait three years after their refugee claim is rejected to apply for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) — meaning they will probably be deported before they can apply.

The act drastically reduced the number of Roma refugees from Hungary, which was the leading country of origin for refugee claimants from 2010 to 2012. But Szilagyi, whose family was the target of three violent attacks, can’t understand why her family’s claim was rejected.
· In September 2010, Dezso, a pianist, was beaten up by skinheads in a bus station on his way home from performing at a wedding.
· In April 2011, Mark, now 21, Dezso’s son by a previous marriage, and a friend were beaten up on their way home from school by skinheads who threatened to kill them if they returned to school.
· And in August 2011, Szilagyi and a friend were beaten and threatened by four members of the far-right Hungarian Guards. They reported the attack to police, who closed the investigation six weeks later, saying the attackers could not be found.
The third attack was the last straw, Szilagyi said. In November 2011, the family sold everything and fled their home in Sarhida, 220 kilometres west of Budapest, for Montreal, where Dezso has a brother. “You can feel freedom here,” she said.

“You can start your whole life (again) and not be afraid.”
When Mark was attacked on his way home from school, he didn’t want to say what had happened at first, she said. “He was black and blue. He was afraid to tell us.” The truth only came out when she pressed Mark to tell her why he didn’t want to go back to school to write his final exams, she said. While the Nemeths’ refugee claim was rejected, Dezso’s two eldest children, Dezso Jr., 25, and Patricia, 23, who came to Canada in 2012 after thugs threw stones at their house and threatened them, were accepted as refugees last June. The fact that the two older children were accepted shows violence against the Roma is real, said Leah Freedman, a spokesperson for Solidarity across Borders, a non-profit group that is helping the Nemeths. “It shows clearly there’s violence present and a lack of protection,” she added.

It is unjust that the Nemeth family is being ripped apart, with four members deported and two members and their offspring allowed to stay, even though their stories were very similar, Freedman said. Now, the Nemeths’s only chance of avoiding deportation is a hearing at the Federal Court scheduled for the day before their departure. Sonia Lesage, a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, wrote in an email in response to questions from the Montreal Gazette that due “to privacy laws, we are unable to provide you with details of an individual case.” She added that the Immigration and Refugee Board, which hears refugee claims, “provides a fair hearing to asylum claimants. Decisions are made based on the merits of the specific facts presented in an individual case, and in accordance with Canada’s immigration laws.” Lesage added that the government’s “Designa-ted Country of Origin (DCO) policy allows for faster processing of asylum claims” and that countries on the list, like Hungary, “generally respect human rights, offer state protection and have mechanisms for redress if these are infringed. ‎”

An investigation by the Toronto Star in 2011 showed the IRB member who heard the Nemeth family’s case, Anna Brychcy, was one of the strictest, granting asylum in just six per cent of cases in 2010.
© The Montreal Gazette.

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At International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Roma remain ‘underreported’ victims

Misunderstood and still persecuted, the Roma people (also known as Romani or Gypsies) remain what some experts consider a relatively underreported ethnicity ahead of this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

20/1/2015- Drawing support from many non-Nazi Germans who harbored social prejudice towards Roma, the Nazis judged Roma to be “racially inferior.” The fate of Roma in some ways paralleled that of the Jews. Under the Nazi regime, German authorities subjected Roma to arbitrary internment, forced labor, and mass murder. German authorities murdered tens of thousands of Roma in the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union and Serbia, and killed thousands more in the concentration camps at Aushwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. “The Roma are a small minority, and due to long-term persecution in the various societies Roma have lived, they have, as a group, tended to be reluctant to advertise their ethnic background,” Peter Black, a senior historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), told JNS.org. “The Roma have, for the past two or three centuries, been the victims of negative and violence-inciting stereotypes about them and their behavior.”

Black explained that the Roma “were reputed as travelers to be indifferent to indigenous social mores and legal structures, and to be inclined to engage in small-scale criminal beha-vior.” Those tendencies, Black said, are what Americans will typically bring up today when asked about what negative stereotype they have heard about Roma or Gypsies. The Roma were thought to have come from Egypt—hence the name Gypsies—but in fact, they trace their roots back to northwestern India, Pakistan, and Iran. “They migrated via the Middle East into southern Europe or via Russia into Eastern Europe,” Black said. “They came primarily as skilled craftsmen and musicians. Initially, Europeans welcomed them, but eventually they tended to be suspicious of Roma mores and also envious in terms of competition of the skilled crafts. By the late 16th and 17th centuries, Roma were already being excluded from the guilds which determined who could produce and sell hand-made goods.” Black estimates that between 196,000 and 220,000 Roma were killed by the Nazis—about 20 percent of the entire European Roma population at the time.

“[The Nazi persecution of Roma has been] relatively underreported and there has not been the same level of study, country by country, that there has been about the destruction of the Jews in Europe,” Black said. “Part of this is due to widely differing policies toward Roma. There were vast differences between the treatment of Roma in German-occu-pied and German-controlled Europe than the Jews. The Jews [in those areas of Europe] were killed at levels of between 75-80 percent [compared to 20 percent for the European Roma].” Born in Czechoslovakia, Petra Gelbart is a granddaughter of Roma Holocaust survivors. An ethnomusicologist, musician, and singer, she uses both her research and her voice to educate and advocate for Holocaust remembrance of Roma victims. “I try to take what people think they know about so-called ‘gypsies,’ and replace it with something that’s much more based in reality,” Gelbart said on a USHMM podcast called “Voices on Anti-Semitism.”

Gelbart said the main stereotype about Roma is that “we are nomadic, even though for most of history, for most of the past several hundred years, the majority of Roma have been settled.” There are also “stereotypes about us not wanting to work, and being criminals,” she said. “When you have a group, the majority of which lives in poverty, you’re going to have issues with unemployment, low education, and you’re going to have issues with petty crime,” said Gelbart. “But in Europe it’s very hard for [Roma] to get a regular job because the employment discrimination is just massive. The thing that people should really be worried about is not are we a criminal or ‘work-shy’ people, but rather what is the access to jobs that we have or don’t have.” Are Roma still persecuted today? In 2011, the USHMM released a statement calling attention to the issue, saying it was “alarmed by the precarious situation of the Roma in today’s Europe” and urging European governments “to uphold the rights and freedoms of Roma in accordance with international and regi-onal obligations.”

“Recent anti-Roma acts and sentiment span [across Europe],” USHMM said. “Violent attacks against Roma have occurred in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and the Russian Federation and government authorities have organized deportations in France and Italy. In many places, Roma are singled out for isolation and denied their civil rights, and a number of national and local government officials have recently made anti-Roma statements.” Andy Hollinger, USHMM’s director of communications, told JNS.org that “Roma certainly continue to face threats in Europe, so yes, we stand by the general principle” of the 2011 statement. “That said, if you are looking at a specific circumstance or statistic [on the persecution of Roma], that may have changed [since 2011],” he said. In his 2001 book “The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies,” Guenter Lewy draws upon thousands of documents from German and Austrian archives to trace the escalating vilification of Roma during the Nazis’ widespread crackdown on the “work-shy” and “itinerants."

Lewy shows that Nazi policy towards Roma was inconsistent. At first, local officials persecuted gypsies, and those who behaved in gypsy-like fashion, for allegedly anti-social tendencies. Later, with the rise of race obsession, the Roma were seen as a threat to German racial purity—though Nazi military commander Heinrich Himmler himself wavered, trying to save those he considered “pure Gypsies” descended from Aryan roots in India. Indeed, Lewy contradicts much existing scholarship in showing that, however much the Roma were persecuted, there was no general program of extermination analogous to the “final solution” for the Jews. USHMM’s Black believes that while Lewy’s book contains valuable factual information, it might focus too much on how the persecution of the Roma differs from the persecution of the Jews.

“I thought that was a distraction,” Black said. “The persecution was somewhat different between the two groups. But both Jews and Roma in Nazi ideology were a people who were not going to be permitted to live with Germans. The Nazis went back and forth and had trouble deciding how extreme a policy they wanted to carry out against the Roma. This permitted a relatively small minority of Roma to survive in Germany, which was somewhat different than the Jews.” According to Black, while the Jews were perceived in Nazi ideology as being a priority enemy, the Roma were seen as tools of the Jews. “In the occupied Soviet Union and occupied Serbia, Roma and Jews were shot side by side,” he said. “The policy against them was more or less absolutely the same in terms of practical day-to-day actions. The Jews were a more important priority enemy, although the fact remains that nearly 80 percent of Roma who lived in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic prior to 1939 were dead in 1945.”

Black said it is important to “place the treatment of the Roma into a broader context,” but perhaps more important to remember the “individual stories” of the Roma who sur-vived the Holocaust, which have not been as widely reported as Jewish Holocaust stories. “Unlike Jewish survivors of the Holocaust who were writing about their experiences almost as soon as World War II was over, Roma have been reluctant because of ongoing discrimination and persecution up until the present day,” he said.
© JNS

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Malta rescues 80 migrants, 20 feared dead

A Maltese patrol boat rescued about 80 migrants in a drifting dinghy off the island early on Thursday, but another 20 people were feared to have perished.

22/1/2015- Along with southern Italy, Malta is one of the main points of arrival for migrants attempting the crossing from North Africa into Europe. A government spokesman in the Maltese capital Valletta said the migrants appeared to have been in the dinghy for a number of days and needed medical treatment. He said they had told their rescuers that there had been 100 people in the boat, but 20 had died. The nationality of the migrants is not yet known. Malta has been pressing the European Union and Mediterranean rim states to cooperate in efforts to stem migrant arrivals and help send them back home, or integrate into European countries. People smugglers have taken advantage of lawless conditions in Libya to send out hundreds of small, unseaworthy boats. Thousands have died during the crossings in recent years. An Italian coastguard vessel picked up a separate boat carrying around 70 migrants off the coast of Libya on Thursday. Arrivals from North Africa have slowed in recent months with more coming on larger cargo ships from Syria.
© Reuters

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Lithuanian MP Warns LGBT Human Rights Defenders about “Massacre [as] in Paris”

On January 18th, 2015 the Member of the Lithuanian Parliament Algirdas Vaclovas Patackas publicly warned the Board Chair of the national LGBT* human rights asso-ciation LGL that the organization is “playing with fire” and that its activities might result in a “black, repulsive and totally unacceptable response” similar to that which “happened in Paris.” The statement by the MP was issued as a response to the organization’s humour-based suggestion to store 10-litas notes as LGBT* souvenirs.

19/1/2015- In the message, initially published by the right-wing news portal alkas.lt, the MP accused the LGL’s Board Chair Vladimir Simonko of “provocation” that might result in “dead bodies”. “For black, repulsive and totally unacceptable challenge-provocation you might face no less than black, repulsive and totally unaccep-table response. Because in Lithuania, as in every land which calls itself Christian, not everyone turns the left cheek; there are many, who believe in the principle “an eye for an eye”, i.e. the main cause of what has happened in Paris” – warned the MP. As a result, the MP Patackas urged the Board Chair of the national LGBT* organization to “cancel the provocation”.

LGL has immediately approached the national law enforcement officials with the request to investigate comprehensively the truthfulness of the alleged threats to the organization. According to the LGL’s Board Chair Vladimir Simonko, the news were highly disturbing. “Despite the fact that this message is directed to me as the head of the organization, all staff members view this message with great unease. If these allegations are real, we place our trust in the national authorities. If this is some sort of a “joke”, I believe that the MP Patackas has very poor sense of humour, which is totally unacceptable in the light of recent tragic events in France,” – said Mr. Simonko. LGL is of the position that in case the MP Patackas has any information about planned attacks against the organization or its staff members, he must share this information with the law enforcement officials immediately.

The MP Patackas is the author of the controversial draft amendment to the Lithuanian Criminal Code, removing criminal liability for homophobic hate speech. The proposed amendment states that the “criticism of sexual behavior or sexual practices, convictions or beliefs, or persuasion to change this behavior, practices, convictions or believes cannot be per se qualified as harassment, humiliation, incitement to hatred, discrimination or incitement to discriminate.” On December 16th, 2014 the draft bill was returned to its drafter for the improvement.

Hereby the translation of the full message by the MP Patackas is provided in English.

“A. Patackas. A warning to citizen Simonko
An announcement appeared in the press that LGBT* and his leader, that is Simonko, intends to distribute ten litas banknotes with a playful note that Darius and Girënas are gay. If two men standing next to each other seem to appear to be gay, there is a name for it – paranoia. „LNK“ television also spoke about this intention in an overly playful, supposedly indignant tone, and mocked exasperated Graţulis, but not the author of this provocation. This piece of news, however is not playful, it threatens with no less miserable consequences as the recent massacre in Paris. Everything there also began in a playful manner but ended with dead bodies, because words hurt like a knife.

Will there be another attempt to “expand the boundaries of freedom of speech“? We say in advance – it will fail. Lithuania is not France where in the Parisian Bastille and the communes the heads of Marie Antoinette and Robespierre Marije were chopped, many priests were killed, nuns were desecrated, and where the secularist state recently revealed its black side. Lithuania was not all that (except Carine and Soviet periods, but the occupants did it). Lithuania has its heroes, noble men to respect by every normal Lithuanian for their deed and especially for their testament for young Lithuania that will remain of eternal value.

This is why citizen Simonko must be warned – stop, it is neither witty nor playful – you are playing with fire. For black, repulsive and totally unacceptable challen-ge/provocation you might face no less than black, repulsive and totally unacceptable response. Because in Lithuania, as in every land which calls itself Christian, not everyone turns the left cheek; there are many, who believe in the principle “an eye for an eye”, i.e. the main cause of what has happened in Paris. (
emphasi-zed by author) And hardly anyone in Lithuania would bear an inscription “I am Simonko“. Fight to satiety for your colored rights – every citizen is entitled for it by democracy – but in a civilized, non-provocative way.

And still, who are you, citizen Simonko, to dare to make fun of a fellow citizen, his sacredness and values? Who taught you and what values were instilled by your family? You live in Lithuania, but you speak Lithuanian with an accent, apparently you first heard of Darius and Girënas when their images appeared on the litas. But you are a citizen of Lithuania, so you must always act responsibly and civilly.


So, wishing namely citizenship based on common sense, but insisting to cancel the provocation, disrespectfully – the author.”
© The National LGBT Rights Organisation Lithuania

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French Prisons Prove To Be Effective Incubators For Islamic Extremism

22/1/2015- Among the sweeping changes France is proposing in the aftermath of this month's terrorist attacks in Paris are new measures to fight Islamic radicalization in its prisons. It is an enormous problem brought into starker relief because two of the suspects in the attacks earlier this month were products of the French penal system Cherif Kouachi, one of the brothers behind the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, went from petty criminal to violent jihadist after just 20 months behind bars. There, he also met a Muslim convert named Amedy Coulibaly — who went on to help the Kouachi brothers in the Paris attacks. The problem of radicalization in French prisons starts with numbers. More than half the people in French prisons today are Muslim — and that has made it easy for radical Islamists to target new recruits. "The U.S. problem that you have with high rates of Afro-American and Hispanics populating the prisons seems to be like now we have a high rate of Muslims living in the prisons," says Laila Fathi, a Muslim activist in Paris who lives in the 19th arrondissement, not far from the housing projects where Cherif and Said Kouachi grew up. "The problems are similar."

Perfect Environment For Radicalization
Many inmates convert to Islam or rediscover their Muslim roots behind bars. Some do it for protection, some for camaraderie; others, just to fit in. Francesco Ragazzi, a political science professor at Leiden University and researcher at Sciences Po, a French university in Paris, says while there are deep believers who aren't radical in French prisons, the environment makes it easy for Islamists to prey on prisoners. "Prisons are ripe for radicalization because you have people in a confined space who have nothing else to do than talk to one another," he says. "People who initially might not be part of violent networks — or networks related to jihad — end up caught in these kinds of networks. There is a simple gang logic [at work] that we find in many other types of settings in prisons in the U.S. or Europe."

Myriam Benraad, a researcher at Sciences Po, says the thought of embracing Islam may help prisoners cope with the simple stress of incarceration. "A lot of inmates who have been jailed are depressed, they are without direction, they are looking for some raison d'etre," she says. "And it is true that Islam has become very popular, very successful within French prisons as a rebirth for these people." What's more, she says, Muslim prisoners can also give the impression that they are coping with prison, and that is attractive to those who might not be. "As opposed to other inmates, Muslims prisoners look like models. They are very calm, they are very self-contained, very determined," Benraad says. "So to people who find themselves in crisis as they adjust to prison, Islam can seem like a refuge and that makes it easy for radical Islamists to draw others to them."

Cherif Kouachi spent nearly 20 months inside Fleury-Merogis prison, in Paris' southern suburbs, awaiting trial. There, he was exposed to one of France's most radical jihadists, Djamel Beghal. Beghal had trained with Osama bin Laden and was sent to France decades ago to set up a terrorist cell there. Prosecutors say the group was supposed to target American interests. In 2001, Beghal was convicted of plotting to bomb the American Embassy in Paris. He was kept in isolation at Fleury-Merogis, but young men like Kouachi and Coulibaly managed to contact him anyway.

Attempts To Isolate Radical Jihadists
Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere was the investigating magistrate who sent Kouachi to prison while he awaited trial in 2005. "I was very concerned about the situation in prisons," Bruguiere says. "We tried to separate them. ... When I was chief we ordered them to separate, but it is not possible anymore. The prisons are overcrowded. Inmates find ways to communicate illegally ... through messages and cellphones. It's impossible. We have to take these people and put them in a totally separate facili-ty to stop this from happening." One of the proposals now under consideration by the French government is to create a separate facility for Islamists who are trying to radicalize others.

Several years ago, inmates at Fleury-Merogis managed to smuggle a video out of the prison to show the outside world how bad conditions were there. The video cuts to showers green with mildew and cells so narrow a man can extend his arms and touch both walls. Fleury-Merogis is what's known as a supersize or titan prison; it holds nearly 4,000 prisoners and is the biggest prison in Europe. And that, say officials, is a perfect setting in which radicalization can occur. "The prisoners are a vulne-rable population," says Fathi, the Muslim activist, who worries about the social issues — crime, poverty, substandard schools — that lead to the high rates of incarcera-tion among Muslims. "How can we avoid more Kouachi brothers coming out of prison now?" she says. "The government has to take some steps beyond just trying to isolate Islamists behind bars. The issues are bigger than that."
© NPR

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France hands out first fines for anti-gay tweets

Three French Twitter users were fined this week for sending tweets that included homophobic hashtags. It's the first time a French court has handed out convictions for homophobic abuse on Twitter.

21/1/2015- The convictions date back to offences committed in 2013 when several homophobic hashtags appeared on Twitter in France, including "Gays must die because...", (#Lesgaysdoiventdisparaîtrecar). The three who were convicted in the Paris court this week posted tweets using the hashtag "let’s burn the gays on..." (#brûlonslesgayssurdu). The case against the three had been brought by French charity Comité Idaho, which organizes the International Day Against Homophobia in France. It had filed a complaint against the users for inciting hatred and violence on the basis of sexual orientation. The punishments handed down however were fairly light - one was fined €300 while the other two were forced to pay €500 - given the maximum punishment is up to a year in prison and a €45,000 fine. Although all three were forced to pay the same amount to Comité Idaho, which welcomed the ruling this week.

“It’s a significant victory,” Alexandre Marcel, president of the Comité Idaho, told The Local. “But it’s a small amount to pay for calling for the death of homosexuals.” Gay rights groups in France regularly report homophobic hashtags, which Twitter then removes from trending topics to make them less visible. But in August 2013 the hashtag #lesgaysdoiventdisparaîtrecar (Gays must die because), was displayed at the top of the list, and wasn't immediately taken down. France's then government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was forced to step in and took to Twitter herself to denounce the trend. “I condemn homophobic tweets. Our work with Twitter and groups against homophobia is essential,” she said at the time. Wednesday's court ruling was also welcomed by "SOS Homophobie", which reports on homophobic tweets.

“We’re positive that this will send out the message that the Internet is not a place with no rules where you can do whatever you want,” Yohann Roszewitch, president of the association told The Local. Last year the anti-homophobia association released a report revealing that the number of homophobic acts in France had increased by 78 percent in 2013, the year in which gay marriage was legalized. According to the association the huge surge in the number of homophobic incidents was without doubt linked to the bitter row over the legalization of gay marriage, which divided France and led to mass demonstrations that frequently ended in violent clashes between police and extremists.

This isn’t the first time that Twitter has been embroiled in controversy in France surrounding hateful messages. In July 2013, The Local reported how the website was forced by a French court’s ruling to hand over information identifying Twitter users who had published anti-Semitic comments, including under the term #UnBonJuif (A good Jew). Speaking after the court’s decision, lawyer Philippe Schmidt told The Local that remarks made on Twitter should be treated the same as if they were made in any public forum.
© The Local - France

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France: Le Pen's far-right FN party in turmoil over video equating Islam with Nazism

France's far-right Front National party has been thrown into chaos by a video which equates Islam to Nazism.

21/1/2015- The video was filmed by Aymeric Chauprade, an MEP in Brussels and international affairs advisor in Le Pen's Front National (FN) party. Chauprade filmed the video in Strasbourg and posted it under the title "France is at war." In the video, Chauprade said that "Islam poses a very serious threat to France in the future", adding that "the roots of violence and totalitarianism are in Islam, even in its sacred texts". He then drew parallels between Islam and the rise of Hitler in the 1930s, saying: "We are told that a majority of Muslims are peaceful, certainly, but a majority of Germans was before 1933 and German National Socialism." Chauprade's comments are not permitted by French law. The MEP could be sued for racial defamation, and incitement to racial hatred, and if found guilty, he could face jail.

Le Pen distancing herself
Since the publication of the video, Le Pen has attempted to distance herself from Chauprade, even though he appeared smiling by her side on flyers for the May 2014 European elections, and was then filmed celebrating with Le Pen's party after they polled an historic 25% of the vote. Almost immediately after the video was published, Le Pen sent a circular to her departmental secretaries asking them not to relay Chauprade's video "for judicial reasons". On Tuesday (21 January), Le Pen appeared on France Inter, where she was questioned about the video, and reminded how close she has been to Chauprade , in his capacity of international affairs advisor. "Yes, like 45 other people, yes", the FN leader responded, attempting to show that she was not the only one close to Chauprade. When it was put to her that Chauprade was still the head of the NF delegation in the European Parliament, Le Pen insisted: "[He is] in the middle of 24 other European Deputies, [because] we needed one." She added: "Aymeric Chauprade made a video, which is taking a personal position [...] So I leave him the responsibility for his remarks".

Schism within the FN
Despite Le Pen's attempts to sever her ties with Chauprade, the video could hinder her chances in France's presidential elections in 2017 - and it has already caused a rift within her party. Five days later after Le Pen sent the letter to her departmental secretaries, her niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen reposted the video on her Twitter account on, writing: "'France is at war', Chauprade's analysis on the terrorist attacks", in what appeared to be an act of defiance. Maréchal-Le Pen is a close friend of Chaurpade. Together they wrote an article for the Egyptian daily Al Akhbar Al Yawm, which asserted that "at the gates of power, the National Front is for Arab friends". Chauprade has long been known for his violent rhetoric about French jihadists who join the fighting in Syria and Iraq, even calling for them to be "eliminated" in an editorial last summer.

He expounded his extreme views in an blog post entitled France and the Islamic question: credible choices for a French future, in which he wrote: "We know that almost 1,000 jihadists with French nationality have joined the fighting in Syria and Iraq [...]. We should eliminate them in situ and our special services should start dealing with the matter now. We cannot run the risk of waiting for them to return." At the time, some of the NF politicians at least partially rejected his words, but he was not disciplined for his blog post by the European Parliament, which has few tools at its disposal to punish an elected member for opinions expressed outside their parliamentary role.
© The International Business Times - UK

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Racist Incidents Fall Through France's Information Gap

There were 1,274 incidents of racism in France in 2013, the nation's government reports, but it's not clear who was affected and how. NPR's Rachel Martin learns more from data analyst Mona Chalabi.

19/1/2015- UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: 52. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: 11:52. UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: 25. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: 6.1125 UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: 25,856. RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Time for some number crunching from our data expert Mona Chalabi from fivethirtyeight.com. She has given us this number of the week.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #5: 1,274.
MARTIN: That is the total number of incidents that were either racist, anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic reported in France in the year 2013. Mona Chalabi joins us from our studios in New York to talk more about this number. Hey, Mona.

MONA CHALABI: Hello, Rachel.

MARTIN: So in the days since the terrorist attacks in Paris, first on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, then on the Jewish supermarket, the French government has repeatedly called for unity amid real fears that minorities in the country might be targeted. Based on the data that you have seen, who is most vulnerable?

CHALABI: So the most recent numbers on this are from 2013. And it's those 1,274 incidents that were mentioned. And they were recorded by the French Ministry of the Interior. Half of those were categorized as racist acts or threats of violence, a third were anti-Semitic in nature and the rest were labeled as anti-Islamic. But it's not always clear to me on what basis those incidents get categorized. So let me give you an example. We know that in the five days after the attacks, 54 Islamophobic incidents were reported in France. Some of those are pretty unambiguous, like in Corsica where a boar's head and entrails were left outside a Muslim prayer room with a note saying next time it will be your heads. But in the city of Poitiers, someone graffitied the words death to Arabs on the main entrance to a mosque. Now I'm not 100 percent sure that's Islamophobic. Was the target of hatred there a race, was it a religion, or was it just Arab culture? And I don't know how the government will record an incident like that in the statistics.

MARTIN: Do we know how many people are affected by it? Do we know how this breaks down within these communities?

CHALABI: I'm afraid it's going to be a be difficult here as well. We can actually work out victimization rates because the French government calls itself a secular state, and so it won't collect any statistics on religion.

MARTIN: OK, so you just said it - France doesn't collect information on religious identity in its population data. So what does that mean for trying to understand victimization rates in France? Are there other stats that you point to?

CHALABI: Yeah. I looked at some of the surveys that have asked French people about their attitudes towards minority groups. In fact, it's actually the government that comes up with those surveys. In December 2013, they asked the question - do you see the following group as a part of French society? More than half of respondents said they didn't see Muslims as part of French society and 31 percent said the same about Jews.

MARTIN: Wow. I mean, that seems like a problem for a country that prides itself on the idea of fraternity or brotherhood.

CHALABI: I wouldn't necessarily say that. I mean, some of those respondents might just think that Muslims don't see themselves as part of French society. They might be wrong to assume that, but it's not necessarily Islamophobic. But there is other research that kind of gets to your question more directly. So last year, a survey from Pew asked French adults whether they had a favorable opinion of certain groups in their country. One in 10 respondents described their opinion of Jews in France as unfavorable, and one in four said the same about Muslims in the country.

MARTIN: Any idea how that compares to other countries, in Europe in particular?

CHALABI: Yeah. So Pew asked that in several countries, and there were even more unfavorable opinions of Muslims in other European countries like Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and Spain. And the trend is basically the same for Jews. France actually does well compared to its neighbors with the exception of Germany, where only five percent of respondents said they have an unfavorable opinion of Jews.

MARTIN: The reports that we're hearing now about Jews leaving France over fears of anti-Semitism, is that in some way being overplayed in the media?

CHALABI: As far as French migration to Israel is concerned, it's true. There has been a real rise in numbers in recent years. But this statistics don't look at why. And there are a range of factors that might influence people's choices, including a stagnant French economy and the prospects of work in Israel. And this goes back to this issue of an information gap that I mentioned earlier. To really understand victimization rates and to really understand where the anti-Semitism or Islamophobia is worse in France, the French government has to collect better information about specific religious groups, which basically means it would have to acknowledge the country's divisions in its statistics no matter how much it wants to emphasize unity.

MARTIN: Mona Chalabi of fivethirtyeight.com. Thanks so much, Mona.

CHALABI: Thanks, Rachel.
© NPR

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Marine Le Pen’s New York Times op-ed is a knife in the back for France (opinion)

By Emma-Kate Symons

19/1/2015- Since 17 people were murdered in the Paris terror attacks that started with a massacre of cartoonists, staff, and police at Charlie Hebdo magazine almost two weeks ago, The New York Times has not deemed fit to print even one caricature by the French satirical weekly, citing Muslim sensitivities. But today the Times opened up her august op-ed pages to France’s extreme right Front National (FN) party president, Marine Le Pen, the chief Gallic spokesperson for Islamophobia and racism. We must explain who Le Pen is here because the Times did not include even a phrase qualifying its op-ed contributor as a far right party boss, nor explaining her movement’s long history of Muslim-baiting, incitement to racial hatred, Holocaust denial, and generalized anti-foreigner bile stretching back to the grimmest days of World War II collaborationist Vichy France.

The deliberately divisive FN leader is less Pat Buchanan, the renegade Republican, as she is white supremacist David Duke, and it is highly doubtful the Times would give an op-ed to either, especially on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The daughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, an avowed Algerian war-torturer, she appropriated the legacy of Albert Camus and Georges Clemenceau, then purported to speak for ‘The French people’ ‘French values’ and the national value of ‘laicité’, secularism built upon the strict separation of church and state. In 2010, to cite one notorious example among many, Le Pen compared Muslims praying in French streets (for lack of Mosques) to an ‘‘occupy-ing force’’ akin to the Nazis, though such outrages were airbrushed from her carefully-worded Times screed.

Her op-ed, littered with half-truths and lies, distorts the position of the French government, which strongly condemned the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the murder of police, and the attack on a Kosher market, as terrorism, driven by Islamism, and as fundamentally anti-Semitic. Of course Le Pen did not dare mention anti-Semitism, and she conveniently neglec-ted to detail that her party promises to end all immigration, send migrants ‘home,’ strip non-white French people arbitrarily of citizenship, close mosques and prayer halls, deport Roma peoples, close France’s borders and Europe’s free movement of peoples, leave the euro zone, and install the ‘national preference’ for only ‘real’ French i.e., white, natio-nals, thus forcing out millions of French people with dual nationality. Le Pen is hoping to having a real shot at the French presidency in the 2017 elections, and her popularity is soaring, with more than one third of French agreeing with her views. Her success would mean a hijacking of French democracy as we know it.


The FN’s DNA is firmly fascist and Le Pen has never renounced the core of her father’s ideology; she has just presented a more acceptable face, refocused the hatred on Muslims, and calibrated her incoherent economic ‘platform’ to sound like far-left anti-globalization populism. But the leopard has not changed its spots. The FN remains what it always has been. It is a fascist-derived front party that capitalises on hatred of the other, chiefly immigrants, and today, especially Muslims. Its platform espouses a monocultural white France, and its supporters are among France’s most virulently anti-Semitic voters. Le Pen’s values are an insult to French values—the Front National abhors the legacy of the French revolution, and the universalist notion of French citizenship, as something that is not tied to race, but tied to republican French values of liberty, equality and fraternity. The par-ty, without any sense of shame was not invited and did not attend the ‘Marche Républicaine’ the enormous march for the values of the French republic attended by around 5 mil-lion after the attacks.

For good measure, The Times took the unusual step of publishing Le Pen’s editorial in French, a decision that gave the op-ed top billing as Le Monde’s most shared article of the day. As The New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch tweeted, ‘‘Marine Le Pen Op-Ed @NYTimes & in French, too! A milestone in her radical right National Front’s quest for legitimacy." Evidently we were all France and all Charlie for about one day, however the loyalty quickly wore off. The Times’ disturbing dual errors of editorial judgement—banning Charlie, the scourge of clerics, Islamists, and ultra-orthodox preachers everywhere, and giving a bully pulpit to Le Pen—was unquestionably a knife in the back for France, for the Charlie Hebdo victims, the three police officers, and the four Jews murdered at the Paris Kosher market during the three days of attacks.

What France and the victims needed after this catastrophe was solidarity from other nations and international media organizations who share the same Western values grounded in the democratic, secular commitment to freedom of speech. They did not need censorship and unexplained promotion for a right-wing extremist movement that is seeking to exploit tensions after a terrorist attack launched by home-grown radicals and is desperately seeking mainstream acceptability. Obviously Le Pen has the ‘right’ to be published wherever her savvy communications team can manage to get their chief’s name up in lights, but did the New York Times have to do her bidding? And on a weekend when violent riots swept the Muslim world, French cultural centres and consulates were attacked and threatened, French flags were burned, and churches burned down by Islamist mobs screa-ming, they were, ‘not Charlie?’

Loyal readers of the Times, and writers and journalists around the world have struggled with the newspaper’s bizarre decision to refuse to show any Charlie Hebdo caricature. The policy persisted a week on from the massacre when in a five million print run, the magazine put out its cover featuring Mohammed saying ‘All is Forgiven’ and ‘Je Suis Charlie’. At least when Pope Francis expressed sympathy with the angry jihadists, declaring that no one should have their religion insulted, and comparing the shock to having your mother in-sulted, an act that could result in ‘punches’ being thrown in response, there was no surprise. But the Times is in the news and free speech game, it does not answer to religious and political leaders and should never do so. Comic book artist Art Spiegelman, the author of Maus,  pinpointed the problem when he criticized the “mega-fanatic zeal to be poli-te” in the US press.


“I think it’s so hypocritical to drape yourself in freedom of speech and then self-censor yourself to the point where you are not making your readers understand the issues,” he told AFP, noting that a 2006 Charlie Hebdo cartoon that ostensibly ridiculed Mohammed “was not making fun of the prophet, it was excoriating the believers who would kill.” Sure the Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan has queried the editorial decision of executive editor Dean Baquet to censor because the Charlie cartoons were ‘‘gratuitously insulting’’ and ‘‘not satire.’’ Her latest post argued that ‘‘news value should have prevailed’’ and Times readers should not have had to go elsewhere to find the post-massacre Charlie Hebdo cover cartoon of Mohammed. What will Sullivan say about Le Pen’s spectacular entrée to the most valuable op-ed real estate in the old media? The Opinion Pages are run indepen-dently from Baquet by his counterpart, Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, but did Le Pen better belong in an objective report or profile?

Of all the French ‘experts’ on the trouble roiling the country, was Le Pen the only person Rosenthal could find? French political, media and cultural figures have penned multiple open letters, commentaries and essays since the attacks, many of them calling these attacks what they were: Islamist terrorism. The editors could have turned to the numerous French authorities on Islam, or writers like French-Moroccan novelist Tahar Ben-Jelloun, historians such as Olivier Roy, or the expert on extreme right and Islamist radicals, Caroline Fourest. Can we now expect Le Pen’s fellow travelers across the European extreme right spectrum, from Geert Wilders in Holland, to Golden Dawn in Greece, the British National Party, and German’s anti-Islam haters PEGIDA to get a guernsey in the op-ed pages?

For any democrat with even a rudimentary knowledge of recent French history and the Second World War Le Pen’s ‘arrival’ on the New York Times op-ed pages was a shocking development, given France’s risks of falling into civil strife stoked by an anti-Muslim far right and a growing domestic jihadi problem. That it could occur at the same time as the Times and some other Western media were censoring Charlie Hebdo beggars belief. At least if the Times feels obliged to publish Le Pen, run the Charlie cartoons, too! The ques-tion now for the Times is: How did such a grievous, and yes dangerous error of judgement occur? Somehow this needs more than another tortured column from public editor Sullivan.

© QUARTZ

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Fortress mentality on EU migration creates xenophobia, warns Italian PM

Matteo Renzi says defensive attitude in debate about freedom of movement opens the door to right-wing nationalism

20/1/2015- The Italian prime minister has warned against a fortress mentality in the debate over European immigration, as the Guardian published new data showing tens of thou-sands of British migrants are claiming unemployment benefits in other EU countries. Matteo Renzi, the Italian leader who has argued it would be a disaster if Britain left the EU, suggested defensiveness about freedom of movement led to nowhere apart from opening the door to “right-wing xenophobia and nationalism” in Europe. Renzi made the remarks when asked about his views on EU migration ahead of the publication of a new analysis showing at least 30,000 British nationals are claiming unemployment benefit in other mem-ber states.

Speaking just before the terrorist attack in Paris, Renzi told the Guardian, which translated his comments: “The logic of a fortress under siege leads nowhere and in fact, on the contrary, has so far been the key that has opened the door to right-wing xenophobia and nationalism in Europe. We need responsibility, safeguards, controls, collaboration, and rights and obligations – as Europe has always been capable of showing in its best moments.” The Guardian’s research, based on responses from 23 of the 27 other EU countries, found about 2.5% of Britons in other EU countries are claiming unemployment benefits. This is about the same level as the roughly 65,000 EU nationals claiming jobseeker’s allowan-ce in the UK.

The data reveals that unemployed Britons in Europe are drawing more benefits in nine of the wealthier EU countries than their nationals are claiming in the UK. In Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, France and Ireland the number of Britons banking unemployment cheques is almost three times as high as the nationals of those countries receiving parallel UK benefits – 23,011 Britons to 8,720 nationals of those nine countries in the UK. Four times as many Britons obtain unemployment benefits in Germany as Germans do in the UK, while the number of jobless Britons receiving benefits in Ireland exceeds their Irish counterparts in the UK by a rate of five to one. There are not only far more Britons drawing benefits in these countries than vice versa, but frequently the benefits elsewhere in Europe are much more generous than in the UK. For example, a Briton in France receives more than three times as much as a jobless French person in the UK.

Responding to the research, Downing Street said on Monday that any curbs on EU benefits would be “reciprocal” so changes would apply equally to Brits living in EU countries as EU nationals living in the UK. “In terms of the changes he is seeking, in terms of welfare reform, he has set out there would be reciprocal changes across the EU,” David Cameron’s official spokesman said. “The prime minister is seeking a number of changes to welfare rules, directly linked to immigration. Clearly those changes would apply across the board.” Asked whether unemployed Brits could be deported back to the UK from other EU countries under changes to welfare rules, the spokesman said: “The prime minister spoke about understanding clearly the reciprocity of changes across the EU ... He was clear about the EU-wide nature of changes he was seeking.”
© The Guardian

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Spain: RFEF creates new Security, Respect and Tolerance Commission

The Spanish Football Federation has constituted the Security, Respect and Tolerance Commission, which will be used in “supervising and implementing the security rules recently approved by the RFEF that supervises respect and tolerance in football.”

19/1/2015- Following the recent rise in violence among Ultra groups in Spain, the RFEF has taken action in an effort to eliminate the recent rash of violence that recently lead to the death of a Deportivo La Coruna fan at the hands of Atletico Madrid ultras. A statement by the RFEF on Monday evening confirmed the formation of the Security, Respect and Tolerance Commission in their efforts to prevent “violence, raciscm, xenophobia and intolerance in football,” as well as altering the criteria on respect and tolerance in Spanish football. The Security, Respect and Tolerance Commission of the Spanish Football Federation has been constituted, after the first meeting held in at the RFEF Headquarters

The Commission presided by Vicente Temprado, President of the Madrid Football Federation within which all the football statutes are represented, both in professional and amateur football, figured in the National Football League, Valencia CF SAD, the Autonomic Federations of Asturias and Castilla y León, the Spanish Footballers Association, the Referee Technical Committee ad the Coaches Committee. All of whom are represented by their respective presidents and assisted, among others, by the National Team Manager Vicente del Bosqueand international referee Carlos Velasco Carballo. The Commission was created by the RFEF Executive’s Board and that has the main funcitons of supervising and implementing the security rules recently approved by the RFEF and that supervises respect and tolerance in football.

The meeting, whereby RFEF President has also been present, has helped to establish the basis of the RFEF in termas of preventing violence, raciscm, xenophobia and intolerance in football, as well as fixing the criteria for respect and tolerance that have to board football events in our country. Furthermore, it has been established that the body of spe-cialized officials, in a battle against violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance in football, will temporarily, be taken up by the Information Delegations of the RFEF. The meeting will take place on February 9th 2015 and will count with the different proposals of the members who will belong to the Commission, just like the current partials of the stadiums.
© Inside Spanish Football

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Let's Replace Blasphemy Laws With a Little Common Respect (Editorial)

22/1/2015- We in the liberal, pluralistic West are pretty smug about distancing ourselves from what appears to have motivated a couple of Muslim terrorists to massacre French cartoonists: responding to blasphemy. We don’t intuitively comprehend what is so terrible about poking fun at the Prophet Muhammad because ridiculing and challenging religious symbols is an accepted form of public discourse in many corners of 21st-century America. Even if we don’t feel comfortable with Charlie Hebdo’s extreme forms of satire, even if we don’t quite understand it, we’ll march for the right of those wicked pens to draw whatever they want.

Blasphemy laws — criminalizing anyone who holds God or the divine in contempt — are so Middle Ages. #JeSuisBlasph`eme.

Except in Massachusetts. And Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming, where anti-blasphemy statutes remain on the books.
Not to mention the 32 countries that, as of a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, have laws criminalizing blasphemy. (Those 32, by the way, represent 16% of the 198 countries in the survey.) Many are in the Middle East and North Africa, places that are religiously hegemonic and not exactly fans of Jeffersonian democracy, but others on the list may surprise you. Denmark, Germany, Greece, Singapore, Poland, the Netherlands. (Netherlands abolished the blasphemy law in 2014- ICARE)
Ireland right now is roiled in public debate because its blasphemy law is mandated in the Constitution and can be eliminated only by public referendum, which may or may not occur this year. Blasphemy laws were abolished in England and Wales only in 2008.

And while we may unconsciously give into stereotypes and assume that the only nations actually imposing these ancient laws are those seeking to suppress anti-Muslim speech, that’s simply not the case. As cited in the Pew study, along with a Christian girl arrested in Pakistan for allegedly burning pages of a Quran, India used its law to threaten to prose-cute a man who angered Catholics, while in Greece a man was charged with blasphemy for posting satirical references to an Orthodox Christian monk on Facebook. All in 2012. With no iconic representation of the divine, no Jesus Christ or Muhammad, Jewish tradition is not as prone to that kind of prosecutorial overreach or, worse, the violence that was inflicted on Paris earlier in January. We do have our own form of blasphemy: Uttering God’s name, which tradition says is so holy it cannot be spoken. So afraid are we to pronounce it out loud that we routinely use a pseudonym (Adonai, my Lord.) To further guard against verbal desecration, some Jews use a pseudonym (HaShem, the name) for the pseudonym.

But that’s a custom, a religious injunction, without the force of civil law. What is so disturbing about the resilience of anti-blasphemy laws — and their close cousins, laws against defamation of religion, which are even more common — is not only the way they can be used and abused: it’s also that there’s no evidence that criminalizing speech, thought and belief in this way actually works. “One of the first things to note is that blasphemy is a social offense,” said Sarah Barringer Gordon, a historian and law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “God is not the one who is harmed or offended. The crime is against society. The followers are harmed. Blasphemy is socially-constructed by definition.” The strong protections of the First Amendment thankfully inoculate the United States from federal blasphemy laws, but the persistence of state statutes is more than a punchline. Consider that in Massachusetts, the law makes it a crime to blaspheme “God by denying, cursing or (insulting) his creation, government or final judging… Jesus Christ… the Holy Ghost… or exposing to contempt and ridicule the holy scriptures.” Punishment has changed over the years; still, the violator can be thrown in jail for up to a year and incur a fine of up to $300.

After the Paris terrorist attacks, Robert Jakubowicz, a columnist for The Berkshire Eagle, argued that it was time for Massachusetts to swipe its law off the books as a way of showing international support for freedom of expression. It also would be, he argued, “a teaching moment about intolerance and the Puritans by removing the lingering stain of this intolerant anti-blasphemy law.” You think? At least Massachusetts’s law hasn’t been used in many years. Not so in Pennsylvania — founded, ironically, as a beacon of religious tole-rance — where as recently as 2007, a businessman was told that he violated a state anti-blasphemy law because he wanted to name his new film company “I Choose Hell Produc-tions LLC.” He sued and won when, in 2010, a federal judge struck down the law, noting that the measure let state officials bar certain words “based on nothing but their own religious beliefs.” The law was finally repealed last year. William Penn would be relieved.

Just to illustrate how some otherwise-enlightened nations still fear blasphemous speech, Ireland updated its law in 2009 with a broad definition of blasphemy and a punishment of up to 25,000 euros (about $29,000.) “So Irish law has now enshrined the notion that the taking of offence is more important than free expression,” Padraig Reidy wrote in the Guardian. The referendum on the law is still not scheduled. The Pew Research Center’s work in this area has led to an important observation: Countries with laws against blasphe-my, apostasy or defamation of religion also tend to have higher government restrictions on religion and higher social hostilities involving religion. Whether the laws breed hostili-ty, or hostility encourages the laws, the connection is clear.

The impulse to outlaw blasphemy once reflected a need for social order and a belief that boundaries around the sacred can protect the sacred. We live in more fluid times, when government attempts to restrict beliefs usually backfire and when the task for a tolerant society is not to banish intolerance, but to learn to live with it by elevating and protecting the sacred — willingly.
© The Forward

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UK NEWS Week 4

UK: Police plan for proposed far-right march involving Welsh Alliance and EDL in Newport

23/1/2015- Police are putting plans in place to deal with a proposed Welsh Alliance and English Defence League march in Newport next week. Gwent Police have said they have been “in contact with individuals who have stated their intent to stage a march on January 31”. It is believed the march is being organised by the Welsh Alliance, previously known as the Welsh Defence League which is a splinter group of the EDL. In December the Welsh Alliance reportedly posted a banner on their Face-book page notifying members of next week’s march, organised in response to a Muslim procession which took place last year. A spokesman for Gwent Police said they are agreeing a route with them as part of their role “to facilitate a lawful, peaceful gathering”. It is understood the Welsh Alliance organised the march after more than 500 Muslims held their annual procession in September last year to commemorate the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson.

The peaceful Muslim march, which has been running for more than 30 years, was disrupted by members of the far-right party the National Front who shouted chants and held up flags. The Islamic Society for Wales, which has its headquarters in Newport, reacted to news of the Welsh Alliance march by organising a series of peace and unity events. On Sunday [January 18] the Victoria Road mosque hosted Newport’s first ever Peace and Unity conference, welcoming more than 70 people and multi-faith and cross-party speakers including Green Party leader Pippa Bartolotti. The ISW is now holding a Peace and Unity candlelit vigil this Sunday [January 25], in a drive to “unite people of all faiths and nationalities for peace” and to “say no to terrorism and racists”.

Mubarak Ali, secretary of the ISW, said: "Our march is a peaceful march, we’ve been doing it for more than 30 years. When the National Front came to our march, our crowd ignored them and stayed peaceful. “We want to make the point to people, ISIS or the Taliban have got nothing to do with us. That’s not Islam, that’s pure evil. “We want to have more get-togethers with different people of multi-faiths so we can break these barriers down.” David Phillips, chief executive of South East Wales Racial Equality Council, said Newport is an integrated city and many of the protesters are likely to be outsiders. He said: “The fact is in Newport our communities do spend much more time together. There is much more integration here than in some other cities." The Peace and Unity candlelit vigil will be held at 6pm on Sunday, January 25th. All are welcome to join, meeting at the Islamic Society for Wales mosque on Victoria Road before walking down Hill Street and into the city centre.
© The South Wales Argus

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UK: Racism blamed as objections made to Bristol mosque expansion

Plans to increase the size of one of Bristol's mosques have been met with a barrage of objections – from towns across the country, including Blackpool, more than 200 miles away.

22/1/2015- But despite the objections – which also come from as far afield as Preston, Enfield and Cornwall – the objections are outnumbered by people who have written to the council in support of the application. Most of the objections are on the grounds that an increase in the size of the mosque in St Mark's Road in Easton will cause disruption and noise in the surrounding streets. But one of the letters simply says that "enough is enough" and gives no other reason for any objection while another argues that more mosques should not be built in a Christian country. But most of the letters support the scheme. Out of 130 letters received by the council, just under 100 were in favour of the mosque. Mosque chair-man Abdul Malik believes the letters were a coordinated attempt by a far-right group to undermine the planning application. He said: "There was a Facebook page set up by a group to undermine what they are describing as 'a super-mosque in Bristol'.

"The language that was being used in some of the objections was clearly racist and anti-Islam in nature. "It is deeply disappointing to see this kind of reaction to something that is really a local matter." He added: "The consultation period has now come to an end and these letters will not change any decision which will be made by the council. "But what has really overwhelmed me is the number of people in the Easton area who are in support of the mosque. "Since the application has been made public we have numerous messages of support from people living in the area. I have been truly moved by the support we have received from people who actually live and work in Easton." Jamia Masjid mosque has requested planning for a two-storey extension to cope with growing numbers of worshippers. The lack of space has meant the congregation has overflowed into the open court-yard in recent years.

A new extension topped with a dome and green roof will cover the courtyard looking onto St Mark's Road if the application is successful. At the moment the planning application will be dealt with under delegated powers and will not go to a public meeting.
© The Bristol Post

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'Christian Patrol' In UK Shows How Pointless They Really Are

Britain First's so called 'Christian Patrols' have hit Blackburn.

22/1/2015- Well, two men from the far-right, pseudo-militia group posted some leaflets through some letter boxes on deserted streets under the cover of darkness. Three if you include the cameraman. The self-declared vigilante organization filmed their numerically limited troupe in what they called "Muslim-occupied" Blackburn. Steve Criscole, who carries the utterly meaningless title of 'Commanding Officer - North West, appears to be leading the trio. He says: "We've been walking up and down a predominately Muslim area. Obviously as we've been handing out leaflets we've been getting some funny looks and we've even had someone trying to video us through a car window. "At the moment every-thing seems to be quiet and there aren't any problems which is good so we'll just keep on walking."

Undeterred by the fact the streets are calm, peaceful and distinctly lacking in Islamic roadblocks, gangs or any other clues that would indicate a "Muslim-occupancy", they carry on. Criscole adds: "Hopefully they're all tucked up in bed." Ah, the 12-hour days of an occupying force, that'll be it. Undeterred, they move around to "one of the areas that is predomi-nantly Muslim". Criscole says: "What we're doing is driving around slowly to see if anybody is walking the streets, keeping an eye on the streets and it doesn't appear there are. "So that's a bonus, I suppose. No result is actually a result for a change." Sure Steve, sure. The video then ends with some headlines from Tuesday announcing the resumption of their patrols, although it cut shorts of showing any of the negative reaction which makes up the main body of the articles.

The latest plea for attention comes shortly after their leader, Paul Golding, and deputy, Jayda Fransen, took issue with London's Brick Lane, again, calling it "Muslim-occupied". A contingent of the continuously misinformed Britain First descended upon the area in their characteristic armored Land Rover more commonly seen on the battlefields of Afghani-stan. Once out of the van, Fransen explained why they are there handing out leaflets stating: "Muslim patrols are operating in this area confiscating alcohol and harassing women."
She said: "This is in response to the Muslim patrols that have been carried out in this area and we just want to be sure our people are safe on the streets."
© The Huffington Post

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UK: Far-right ‘Christian Patrols’ back in Whitechapel targeting Muslims

“Christian Patrols” returned to Whitechapel this week as far-right campaigners claiming to target Muslim extremists roamed the East End.

21/1/2015- Members of the nationalist group Britain First drove an armoured van to the East London Mosque on January 16 before handing out anti-Muslim leaflets in Brick Lane. A similar “patrol” took place in the same area a year ago in response to so-called “Muslim Patrols” that resulted in Islamists being jailed for abusing the public. On that occasion the group said it hoped to “bait” Muslims with alcohol and cigarettes in order to provoke trouble. Police were alerted about the so-called Christian patrols and spoke to members of the group, but said no crimes were committed and no arrests made. They added police presence had already been beefed up in Brick Lane for the area’s busy nightlife. Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said there was no place for the “divisive” patrols in the East End. A spokesman for the East London Mosque in Whitechapel Road said: “They came outside the mosque and unfurled a banner, and quickly moved on to Brick Lane.” He added: “These incursions into Tower Hamlets are very provocative and divisive and stir up tension and hatred. And they’re not welcome here.”

Rushanara Ali, who is the UK’s first British-Bangladeshi MP, said: “Time and again, people in the East End have come together to reject hatred and intolerance. “The divisive rhetoric of fringe groups such as Britain First has no place in our East End, the proud home to one of the most vibrant and diverse communities in the UK.” A Met police spokesman said: “Additional patrols take place in and around the Brick Lane area at weekends due to the lively night-time economy and Brick Lane has a dedicated ward team. “We work to ensure our officers are in the right place at the right time to reassure the local community and deal with any issues that arise.” He added: “Police continue to monitor the situation.”
© The East London Advertiser

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UK: Far-right activists prepare to march on Port of Dover in borders rally

Far-right protestors set to march through town this weekend have been blasted by Dover MP Charlie Elphicke.

22/1/2015- The extreme nationalists are hoping the rally on Sunday will attract "more support" than last October's failed bid to blockade the Port for a weekend. But Mr Elphicke told the Express that groups like the National Front and South East Alliance are "not welcome" in Dover. He said: "These people are the other side of the same coin of extremism as Islamic hate preachers. We could do without them and the division they sow. "We need greater integration in our nation – not the division of multiculturalism." The London Anti-Fascists have pledged to hold a counter-demonstration in Dover when the far-right arrive. A spokesman for the group said: "We call on all anti-fascists and anti-racists to join us on the day to stop the fascists and show solidarity with the people stuck in Calais, fleeing the horrors of war and imperia-list intervention."

Nationalists marched along the A20 to try to blockade the Port in October last year. The National Front and former BNP chairman Nick Griffin were among 50 people who managed to prevent access to the Eastern Docks for around an hour. The event was promoted by Facebook group "Support the Dover to Calais Truckers". A mes-sage posted on the page last week said: "Hopefully the January 25 protest will attract more support and send a clear message out. "That we're all sick to death of illegals entering our country and drivers being fined for these criminals hiding on they're [sic] trailers without the drivers [sic] knowledge." The group compared the proposed rally to marches held by anti-Islam group Pegida in Germany.

A post on their Facebook page on January 6 said: "Our French cousins will be demonstrating in Calais and blocking the port at exactly the same time as we will be in Dover. "Recently in Italy and Germany the people have demonstrated against mass immigration. "Now it's our turn to show the European Union that we the British still have fight in us. And we are sick of uncontrolled immigration." Most lorry drivers have refused to be associated with the far-right protests.
© The Dover Express

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UK: Manchester 'gay school': Petition launched against plan

There should be equality for all in all schools, says transgender campaigner.

21/1/2015- A petition has been launched against proposals to build the UK’s first 'gay school' in Manchester. LGBT Youth North West, based in the city centre, are in ‘early stage’ discussions to create a school for gay, lesbian and transgender pupils. Plans for the ‘inclusive’ school have already divided opinion among teachers, parents and faith leaders. The petition on change.org calls for existing plans to be cancelled and ‘equality for all’ in schools. Tara Hewitt, who is transgender, set up the petition and says separating gay and transgender pupils will not solve the problem of discrimination in schools. Tara, 39, said: “There seems to be a general consensus among the LGBT community that segregating young people from mainstream education would damage our equality. “One of the biggest challenges for transgender people is that many people don’t know anyone who is trans-gender.

“If you move transgender, gay, lesbian or bisexual pupils away from mainstream education, it will only make discrimination worse. “Without a doubt, this would be a step back-wards. I thought the petition would provide an extra space to discuss what LGBT Youth North West are suggesting. “I hope it will be used as part of the consultation.” The group, based in the Joyce Layland Centre off Oxford Road, has received a £63,000 grant from the government to look at whether it can run an LGBT centre. The school would take 40 full-time students and offer up to 20 part-time places for pupils who want to continue attending a mainstream school. Reports in the national press claimed the organisation planned to open a school based on the famous Harvey Milk School in New York, for pupils who have been bullied over their sexuality. Tara, from the Wirral, added: “America is definitely not the best example of an equal society.

“There is still a lot of division in their society and they are very much behind when it comes to LGBT rights. “We should look to our own schools to highlight best practice when tackling homophobia and transphobia.” The organisation says the idea for an ‘inclusive’ school - which would be open to all children - was at a ‘very early consultation phase’.
© The Manchester Evening News.

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UK: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles 'discriminated against gypsies and flouted human rights'

21/1/2015- Gypsies and travellers were discriminated against by Eric Pickles, the top politician in charge of community cohesion and harmony. The High Court ruled groups of Roma gypsies had their human rights impacted by the communities secretary. Pickles elected to take on cases about traveller sites, normally handled by planning inspectors. As a result, cases were delayed and took up to six months for a ruling, meaning Pickles fell foul of the Equality Act's imposition to avoid indirect discrimination. The sites in question were often located on green belt land, with sensitivities about habitation and development on the spots. But two claimants from Romany and Irish groups claimed they should be entitled to camp on the green belt due to special circumstances. Planning Minister Brandon Lewis, responding to the judgment, said: "This government makes no apologies for seeking to safeguard Green Belt protection and trying to bring a sense of fair play to the planning system. "The government's planning policy is clear that both temporary and permanent traveller sites are inappropriate development in the Green Belt. "Today's judgment does not question that principle."
© The International Business Times - UK

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UK: Hate attacks on Jews soared 94% last year, police figures show

Hate crimes against Jews increased to almost 300 incidents in London while crimes against Muslims dipped slightly, Scotland Yard data indicates.

21/1/2015- The number of hate crimes against Jews nearly doubled last year, according to latest police statistics. Figures from the Metropolitan Police, released amid growing concern over anti-Semitic attacks in the wake of the Paris terrorist atrocities, showed there were 297 hate crimes against Jewish people in the year to August. The figure was up from 153 in the previous 12 months, a rise of 94 per cent. In the same period the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the capital dipped slightly from 518 to 495 last year, a four per cent fall. Last week police announced they were stepping up patrols in areas with large Jewish populations.

Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of Scotland Yard, said officers would liaise with Jewish community leaders in light of “continu-ing anti-Semitic rhetoric from extremists”. A review of overall security measures is also looking at the safety of other minority communities including Muslims, and at how to pro-tect police officers who might be deliberately targeted by Islamist extremists, he said. A Scotland Yard spokesman refused to comment on whether the review of officers' security would lead to more police routinely carrying guns on the streets of Britain. However, it is understood more officers may be equipped with Taser stun guns.

Mr Rowley said last week: “The global picture of terrorist activity does give us heightened concern about the risk to the Jewish community in the UK. “We are seeing continuing anti-Semitic rhetoric from extremists and attacks on this community in France and elsewhere. “In addition to our existing security measures, we are in dialogue with Jewish com-munity leaders about further actions that we will be taking, including more patrols in key areas.” David Cameron said the increased security was a “sensible precautionary mea-sure”, and added: “It is very important to that we speak up and stand up for these communities and give them the protection that they deserve.” Last week police in London launched an investigation after posters for a Holocaust memorial event were daubed with graffiti including the words "liars" and "killer".

The Metropolitan Police said the incidents, which took place at three locations in Stratford, in the east of the capital, were being treated as a "hate crime”. In the new figures, released by Scotland Yard under freedom of information laws, overall hate crime was up 12 per cent to 10,020 incidents in the year to August.
© The Telegraph

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UK: Hundreds expected to unite in Mold in stand against racism

The event in Daniel Owen Square comes after the vicious attack on 24-year-old dentist Sarandev Singh Bhambra in Tesco

20/1/2015- Hundreds of people are expected to meet in Mold on Thursday night in a “show of solidarity” against racism. The event has been organised by the Mold United Against Racism Facebook page, set up by Cambria Band member David Shinn, in response to the attack on 24-year-old Sarandev Singh Bhambra in the town’s Tesco last week. The young dentist was left with “life-changing injuries” as a result of the incident. More than 100 people have already signed up to take part in the event which will start in Daniel Owen Square at 6pm. Mr Shinn says people have been left “shocked and saddened” by the attack on Mr Bhambra and hopes the community will come together on Thursday to make a stand.

He said: “I, like the majority of the people in the area, was shocked and sickened that an attack like this had taken place. “A friend suggested that maybe we (the Cambria Band) should hold an event to show that our communities won’t be divided by this attack. “I took the initiative to organise the event as I felt it was a brilliant idea and that it would help bring our communities together in a positive way during these often bleak times. “We have over the years played for many different communities and groups across the length and breadth of Wales and find Wales to be very inclusive.” Members of the Sikh community in Wales say many are living in fear for their safety after the attack in Mold.

Delyn MP David Hanson said he will be attending the event. He added: “I’ve been in touch with the organisers of this event on Thursday and I will be attending. “My thoughts continue to be for the victim and his family and I hope events like this can help pull the community together.” Zack Davies, 25, of King Street in Mold, was charged with attemp-ted murder following the alleged machete and hammer attack at the store and will be asked to enter a plea in March. A provisional trial date has been fixed at Mold Crown Court on June 22.
© The Daily Post

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UK: Will Nigel Farage’s hardline rhetoric be the undoing of Ukip?

The British electorate, even the disaffected, don’t like extremist parties, and by courting the far right with wild pronouncements, Farage is in danger of entering Nick Griffin territory.
By Hugh Muir


18/1/2015- Enjoying the election campaign so far? No, thought not. Still, this is not a counsel of despair. I believe that, however shouty or tedious it gets, by close of play on 7 May, you are duty bound to have thrown your weight behind someone or something and to have made that clear at the ballot box. I wouldn’t make failure to vote illegal, but I’d like to make abstinence socially embarrassing. I heard myself the other day telling a jovially disengaged taxi driver – who had said our great nation was sliding into hell – to vote Ukip if that was where the logic of his thoughts took him. Better that than indolent spluttering from behind the wheel. By the end of our conversation, he said he would, especi-ally as that Farage seemed a good bloke. I only hope his vote, delivered late, with the cab illegally parked and the meter running, doesn’t hand Farage another seat.

I’m beginning to wonder about Ukip. There is the narrative that the bandwagon will roll through to May and the Nigel-ites will prove unstoppable, with all the deleterious reper-cussions that might have for cohesion and communal harmony. But increasingly, I’m not so sure. Just as it is accepted that many voters may have last minute doubts about endor-sing Ed Miliband, might a few not have worries about Nigel by the opening of the polls? An interesting study emerged last week. The campaign group Hope Not Hate says that, with the implosion of the BNP and EDL, far-right support is at a 20-year low. Ukip has benefited from that, embracing some of that support. But it makes a terrible mistake when it sounds like a far-right party itself, because I just don’t think the British electorate, even the disaffected among them, likes extremist parties.

When Nigel used the Charlie Hebdo outrage to brand Muslims fifth columnists and followed that up by telling Fox News (where else?) that many French cities are no-go zones for non-Muslims – with no hope of being able to substantiate that claim – he did seem to be entering that loopy, cranky, far-right Nick Griffin territory that grabs headlines but also unsettles the electorate. It’s early days; he has a lot on his shoulders. And now he’ll have a real clown – Al Murray, the Pub Landlord – mocking him man to man in Thanet. He could yet unravel.
© The Guardian

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PEGIDA IN GERMANY AND ELSEWHERE

Germany Pegida: Protest leader quits in 'Hitler' row

The head of German "anti-Islamisation" movement Pegida, Lutz Bachmann, has resigned after a photo of him apparently posing as Hitler emerged.

21/1/2015- Mr Bachmann stepped down just as tens of thousands of people were expected to rally in the eastern city of Leipzig for the latest Pegida rally. Prosecutors are investiga-ting insulting comments about refugees attributed to him by German newspapers. A Pegida spokeswoman sought to play down the Facebook photo as a "joke". But the German government condemned the photo. Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Bild: "Anyone in politics who poses as Hitler is either a total idiot or a Nazi. Reasonable people do not follow idiots, and decent people don't follow Nazis." Pegida focused on Leipzig after police banned a protest by the movement in Dresden on Monday over reports of an assassination plot against the movement's leaders.

What is Pegida?
# Founded in Dresden by Lutz Bachmann in October 2014
# Acronym for Patriotische Europaer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West)
# Umbrella group for German right wing, attracting support from mainstream conservatives to neo-Nazi factions and football hooligans
# Holds street protests against what it sees as a dangerous rise in the influence of Islam over European countries
# Claims not to be racist or xenophobic
# 19-point manifesto says the movement opposes extremism and calls for protection of Germany's Judeo-Christian culture

Pegida Groups around the World
© BBC News

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Pegida is only the latest in a long line of German far-right movements to mobilise against Islam

A large number of rallies have been held in Germany over recent months by the ‘Pegida’ movement (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West). Nitzan Shoshan notes that while Pegida have made headlines across the world, they are by no means the first far-right movement in Germany to protest against immigration and Islam. He writes that the experiences of previous far-right groups provide some insights on the potential harm that such movements can cause in local communities.
By Nitzan Shoshan, Professor at the Centro de Estudios Sociológicos in El Colegio de México.

20/1/2015- While commentators have warned of a potential hike in Islamophobic currents across Europe following the terror attacks in Paris earlier this month, and while critics have condemned as dangerous and cynically manipulative the rhetorical uses to which far right leaders such as the UK Independence Party’s Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen of France’s Front National have put the assassinations, observers of European politics will rightly note that, throughout the continent, anti-Islamic and anti-immigration xenophobia hardly stood in need of a helping hand. Quite the contrary, both Farage and Le Pen have scored significant electoral gains in recent years, and immigration, particularly – if far from exclusively – of Muslims, has for quite some time established itself as the central and unifying theme of a European far right that seems to agree on little else besides.

European patriots
Perhaps nowhere in Europe has Islamophobia occupied as predominant a place in public debates over the past year as in Germany, where the steady ascent of the Dresden-based
movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (or Pegida, following its acronym in German) has forced even the firmly conservative Angela Merkel to repeat, in her recent New Year’s speech, former president Christian Wulff’s controversial statement that Islam is part of Germany. Founded by the self-described “foreigner friendly” Lutz Bachmann, who has withdrawn from the public limelight (though not from key organisational activities) following the exposure of his past criminal convictions for burglary and drug related offences, Pegida has consistently shunned the media, befuddled the experts, and frustrated political leaders. Some understand the movement as a pres-sure-valve for airing a range of resentments, while others see in it the contemporary prevalence of “culture wars” discourses. North Rhine-Westphalia Social Democrat Minister of Internal Affairs Ralf Jäger drew fire for describing Pegida followers as neo-Nazis, while Federal Finance Minister Christian Democrat Wolfgang Schäuble attributed the move-ment’s success to the demographic rise of financially-secure retirees who have nothing better to worry about in their free time.

Aside from the evident diversity of its sympathisers – many, though by no means all, of whom apparently have no previous involvement with far right (or any) political activism – some of the confusion probably owes to Pegida’s manifesto. Among its 19 points, the document affirms the right of asylum, calls for better integration of and improved counseling for refugees, supports sexual diversity, and condemns hate speech; all starkly untypical positions for the German far right. But most observers rightly pay little or no heed to the document, which contrasts sharply with the blatantly anti-refugee and anti-immigration language of both speakers and attendants at weekly demonstrations in Dresden and else-where, whose turnouts have shot up from a few hundreds in October to approximately 25,000 (40,000 according to the organisers) most recently; not to mention the explicitly xenophobic nationalism that Pegida leaders have allegedly expressed in internal online forums. A burgeoning anti-Pegida movement has taken to the streets in a number of German cities, most forcefully on 12 January, to protest against racism and Islamophobia.

A crowded field
And yet, its current dominance in media coverage notwithstanding, the three-month young Pegida entered an already rather crowded political arena of Islamophobic racism and xenophobic nationalism. The last year has witnessed a marked rise in demonstrations against asylum seeker shelters in numerous German cities, while violent attacks against existing shelters have similarly skyrocketed. Earlier this month in Dresden, under the shadow of regular Pegida marches, local resident groups successfully pressured a hotel owner to scrap the imminent conversion of his property into residence for asylum seekers. For some two years now, marches protesting against the construction of residences for asylum seekers have regularly taken to the streets of Berlin’s district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf. Against the hopes of their local political opponents, far from petering out, the demonstrations – led by the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) – have instead progressively augmented both their frequency and their attendance.

The crowds at such events appear to comprise a relatively high proportion of visually identifiable soccer hooligans, neo-Nazis, and NPD supporters, though many, too, describe themselves as concerned local neighbours and display no visible signs of political belonging. The rhetoric, with its thinly veiled racism and its indignant condemnation of asylum fraud and immigrant criminality, is scarcely distinguishable from what one hears at Pegida demonstrations. The considerably less civil Hooligans against Salafists (HoGeSa), with multiple links to a number of local anti-refugee movements as well as to militant neo-Nazi groupings, abruptly broke into the headlines last October following a spectacularly violent demonstration that paralysed Cologne’s central train station area, where an estimated 5,000-strong mob overwhelmed a far outnumbered police force, injuring dozens of officers.

Incomparably more urbane and difficult to locate on the political map is the current Wunderkind of German electoral politics, the Eurosceptic, culturally conservative, and econo-mically liberal party Alternative for Germany (AfD). Emboldened by a series of surprising successes at the polls, most notably in last year’s European Parliament elections, the AfD has focused on reclaiming economic and fiscal sovereignty and has emphatically rejected accusations of anti-immigrant xenophobia. Nevertheless, its chair Bernd Lucke has recently expressed sympathy for Pegida and, even as his second-in-command Hans-Olaf Henkel exhorted against the possibly racist nature of the anti-Islamic movement, AfD supporters and activists have evidently attended its demonstrations. Arguably more compromising for the party’s attempt to maintain a respectable image is the fact that AfD’s state-level electoral gains appear to correlate with electoral losses for the NPD.

Looking nice
While the Hooligans of HoGeSa, the neo-Nazis of the NPD, and other militant nationalists continue to thrive in certain German settings, emergent xenophobic movements on the far right today struggle for what Germans call Salonfähigkeit and can roughly be translated as social acceptability or presentability. Entrepreneurs in Dresden sweat over the potential harm that movements like Pegida could spell for the city’s high-tech firms, for its tourism industry, and for its institutions of higher education; much as the leaders of such movements work hard to produce and protect their reputation as moderate and upright. But perhaps the distinction between what is and what is not Salonfähig is a false one. The two appear rather to feed on each other, enable each other, and shape each other reciprocally. The fatal saga of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), whose intricate details have unfolded over the past few years in courts and special parliamentary committees at the Federal and state levels, illustrates this comfortable symbiosis with horrifying lucidity.

The NSU terrorist trio, which committed a series of execution-style racist assassinations and numerous armed bank robberies, no doubt belonged with the most militant and violent fringes of German nationalism. As the hearings startlingly revealed, however, its capacity to carry on with its cold-blooded killings for over a decade owed a great deal to norma-lised racism in the state’s law enforcement and intelligence institutions. With a wealth of information at their disposal, police and intelligence agencies repeatedly brushed off numerous clues that suggested the perpetrators were neo-Nazis. Instead, and despite the absence of any supporting evidence, they continued to search for the murderers among immigrant communities, effectively criminalising the families and acquaintances of the victims. In a similar vein, perhaps the adamant insistence of Pegida’s leaders on the move-ment’s nonviolent ways is beside the point. It is too early to determine whether participants in the latest march of 12 January in Dresden had anything to do with the deadly stab-bing of an Eritrean asylum seeker, sometime between that evening and the following morning. But, whether or not they and others succeed in branding themselves as reasonable patriots, history suggests that their Islamophobic discourse will not fail to produce more dead bodies in Germany and elsewhere.
© LSE - blog

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Germany: Right-wing anti-Islamist PEGIDA movement is losing steam, says study (interview)

The PEGIDA protest movement has sparked a fundamental debate in Germany: the right to demonstrate. However, the group's drama shouldn't be taken that seriously, says leading sociologist Dieter Rucht.

19/1/2015- German news outlets were again jam-packed with commentaries and analysis of the right-wing "Patriots Against the Islamization of Europe," or PEGIDA, movement on Monday, this time following a ban on the group because of reported threats to its leader Lutz Bachmann. Politicians of the highest level also joined the debate, with a spokesman for Chancellor Merkel calling the decision to ban PEGIDA a "one-off." According to a study conducted by the Social Science Research Center in Berlin and presented Monday by its head, Dieter Rucht, PEGIDA could well be on its way out. Rucht and colleagues from the universities of Bochum and Chemnitz had spent the last week poring over data collected online to come to their conclusions.

DW: In your experience with protest movements, have you ever seen anything like PEGIDA?
Dieter Rucht: No, not really. The picture you get from Dresden is very ambivalent. On the one hand, you have what looks like very ordinary people out on the streets. It could be your neighbor from around the corner, for instance, and the marchers also seem to present themselves in that light. Together in the same group, however, you have what appears to be right-wingers marching alongside these "normal people." We have never seen such a strange mixture like this, no. It makes you wonder why people who claim to be your neighbor and very ordinary middle class citizens would want to go marching with right-wing extremists.

Is this a movement of the people?
That's what they say. "We are the people," is their most popular chant. But this is not the case at all. They have absolutely no claim of representation, and from our data and observations, we could perhaps say that this group is primarily right-wing populist, which contains pockets of genuinely racist and xenophobic people. Again, this fits with the incredibly ambivalent nature of the demonstrators and the way the demonstrations are organized. On the stage in Dresden, if you listen to the speakers, you hear very contradic-tory messages, for instance: "We are the people, and we are ordinary and peaceful, and we have nothing against foreigners and asylum seekers," and in the very next peace you hear the complete opposite.

The results of your study suggest that PEGIDA won't last long, that it may well already be losing momentum. Why is that?
I must preface by saying that our study is not representative; only several hundred people responded to our online requests. From the responses we did receive, and from our experience with such protests, we believe the movement will slowly fade away. If it continues the way it has over the past 13 weeks, it will become very repetitive. In this way, perhaps, we could draw comparisons to the Occupy Movement. After a while, a kind of inflationary effect sets in. If nothing new happens, the media will lose its interest, and once the media loses its interests, the people who were motivated by media coverage will no longer be moved to the streets. Then, PEGIDA will have hit its peak.

And nothing could change that?
Well, it's impossible to predict, but perhaps a terrorist attack could galvanize the people. But again, there is no way of predicting what circumstances or events could influence the popularity of such a movement.

Do you think the rapid growth of PEGIDA will thwart its longevity?
I do think that. This is where the comparison to modern protests such as the Occupy Movement becomes viable. Despite its complete difference with regard to social composition and political statement, PEGIDA was powered by social networking, communication via the Internet and extraordinary interest in the media. We saw for months the dramatic pic-tures of the Occupy Movements around the world, and as a result, the people who were active in the streets began to feel that they were the center of the world, or of history. These people truly believed they could make a change, and their over-evaluation of their own importance was a deciding factor in their motivation. When the air comes out, that motivation dwindles. This could very well - or may, I must be careful - be the case with PEGIDA.

Are we dealing with a real change in protest culture as a result?
It's very hard to say. There are so many protests in the world, and the movements we've been talking about are just one pattern that is in the public interest at the moment. In two years time, this type of mobilization may already be forgotten history. I'm not saying that people will stop running around on the streets with their ideas and stereotypes, or that they will change their minds. I'm just saying that PEGIDA, as one particular manifestation of this, will most likely fade away. But this could take a few months.
Dieter Rucht is an honorary professor of sociology and leading researcher at Berlin's Freie Universität. He is particularly well known for his research and contributions in the fields of protest and social movements.
Interview conducted by Gabriel Borrud

Monday – 19 January 2015 [all figures are official/police figures]
Pegida Demonstrations and counter demomonstration provided by Hope not Hate UK
Berlin:
Bärgida – 400 Bärgida pack up and go home – blockaded by anti-fascists
Berlin- Marzahn-Hellersdorf: nazi demonstration – no information received yet
Braunschweig: Bragida – 250 met by 5,000 anti-fascists – Bragida demo called off.
Köln: Kögida – on Wednesday
Dresden: Pegida – cancelled because of alleged threats
Düsseldorf: Dügida – 160 – 1,000 anti-fascists
Duisburg: Pegida NRW – 660 – 4,000 anti-fascists
Hameln: Hamgida – demonstration called off
Kassel: Kagida – 160 – circa 600 anti-fascists
Munich: Bagida – 1,100 – 12,500 anti-fascists
Northeim: Norgida – racists failed to appear – 300 anti-fascists
Würzburg: Wügida – 300 – 1,200 anti-fascists
Stralsund: Mvgida – 600 – 700 anti-fascists
Magdeburg: Magida – 600 – called off after blockade by 7,000 anti-fascists
Suhl: Sügida – 1,000 – 500 anti-fascists
Saarbrücken: Saargida – 100 – anti-fascists 1,000.
Wiesbaden: – no Pegida event – 10,000 anti-fascists demonstrate
Nürnberg: – no Pegida event – 2,700 anti-fascists hold city center rally
Leipzig: – no Legida event – 5,000 anti-fascists demonstrate
Bielefeld: – no Pegida event – 10,000 anti-fascists demonstrate

© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany’s anti-Islamic movement Pegida is a vampire we must slay (opinion)

As suspicion of Muslims grows in Germany and France, the danger of a vicious spiral is palpable. We need to counter this xenophobia now – before it is too late
By Timothy Garton Ash

18/1/2015- No, no, surely not. On top of everything else, not that. Three days before a young Eritrean was murdered in Dresden, a swastika was daubed on the door of his flat. On the evening he was stabbed to death, last Monday, the xenophobic movement already known around the world as Pegida had held its largest demonstration so far in that lovely city on the River Elbe. And it’s not just Germany. As a foiled Islamist terrorist plot in Belgium follows hard on the heels of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, politicians on the xenophobic, anti-immigration far right are looking to pick up votes across Europe. There is a real and present danger of a downward spiral in which radicalised minorities, Muslim and anti-Muslim, will drag anxious majorities, non-Muslim and Muslim, in the wrong direction. Only a conscious, everyday effort by each one of us will prevent it.

The Dresden case is fortunately, thus far, not typical of Germany as a whole. Dresden sits at the scenic heart of a quite unusual corner of the former East Germany. Unlike most big west German cities, it has a low level of immigration, and little experience of living with cultural difference. In communist times, this corner was known as the “valley of the clueless”, because its inhabitants could not receive West German television broadcasts. Reports suggest that, so far, most of the participants in the Pegida demos have been middle-aged, and therefore shaped by a sheltered life in the old East Germany. Since unification, Saxony has seen an unusually high vote for far-right parties, including a shocking 9.2% for the NPD (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands) in state parliament elections in 2004.

The protesters have taken the 1989 velvet revolutionary chant of Wir sind das Volk and given it a quite different meaning: not “We are the people”, aspiring to democratic self-determination, but “We are the Volk”, ethnically defined, as in the mouth of Adolf Hitler. The very title of the movement breathes a certain anachronism. Pegida stands for Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, usually translated as Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the west. But the word Abendland is a strikingly old-fashioned one, meaning literally “evening land” (ie where the sun sets). It was used by Oswald Spengler in his monumental post-first world war tract of German cultural pessi-mism, Der Untergang des Abendlandes, only weakly translated as The Decline of the West. “Patriotic Europeans” also has an odd mix of cultural coyness and assertiveness. God help us, you feel they almost want to say Christians; oh yes, and white – white with brown edges.

And who, may we ask, are the unpatriotic Europeans? One of Pegida’s organisers, Thomas Tallacker, posted on Facebook in 2013: “What should we do with the 90% uneducated hordes that milk welfare here and bleed our social state dry?” And, after a local knife attack: “Surely it was again a deranged or half-starved Ramadan Turk.” For years, Tallacker was a member of the city council in the famous porcelain-manufacturing town of Meissen, representing Angela Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union. Back in Paris, Jean-Marie Le Pen last week tweeted, in English: “Keep Calm and vote Le Pen”. The fact that the friendly, polite Muslim guy who delivered pizza (as one of the Kouachi brothers did) turns out to be an Islamist assassin is bound to increase suspicion of Muslims among so-called ordinary people. British mosques and Islamic centres have reported a sharp increase in threatening messages. According to a study commissioned by the Bertelsmann Foundation, a shocking 57% of non-Muslim Germans now see Islam as a threat.

And there are plenty of politicians, journalists and rabble-rousers around to stir that suspicion. Ukip’s Nigel Farage has even talked of a “fifth column” amid his English folk. (Or is that Volk?)  This in turn will produce more anxiety among European Muslims and, if we are not careful, more radicalisation among a small minority of them. Ironically enough, Mon-day’s Pegida demonstration has been called off after what appears to be a Jihadist threat to one of its leaders. The symptoms of radicalisation include an increase in antisemitic attacks, which now seem to come more from extreme Muslims than from old-fashioned “patriotic European”, swastika-daubing antisemites. It is horrifying to hear French Jews, members of one of the largest and oldest Jewish populations in Europe, say they no longer feel safe in France. Such antisemitic attacks feed into more suspicion and fear of Muslims, which in turn …

How do we stop the vicious downward spiral? Traditionally, European parties of the centre-right such as the CDU and the Conservatives have tacked to the right to win back such voters. Up to a point, that is legitimate. But beyond that point you have to do what Chancellor Merkel has now done and say: enough – thus far and no further. The messages deli-vered by politicians are important. So are those we hear from religious leaders, and the way these stories are covered by the media. But in the end, it’s down to us, the citizens. The great French historian Ernest Renan wrote that a nation is a “daily plebiscite”. On the Sunday after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, more than 3 million people on the streets of France gave a magnificent example of how a great European nation – indeed, let me say as an Englishman, the quintessential great European nation – responsd.
© Comment is free - Guardian

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Germany: Armed hooligans stopped from disturbing vigil

Police in Cologne on Sunday had to stop around 30 armed hooligans from joining a memorial that was marking the 14th anniversary of the first bombing there by a neo-nazi terror group.

19/1/2015- According to WDR broadcaster, the police encircled the group just before they reached the memorial, where about 200 people had gathered. The authorities confis-cated Tasers, brass knuckles and tear gas from the hooligans. The group was not from Cologne themselves, but had travelled to the city to disturb the gathering. In 2001, the National Socialist Underground (NSU) set off a pipe bomb in a shop owned by a German-Iranian family, severely wounding the shop owner's then-19-year-old daughter. The NSU had stuck the homemade explosive and brought into a store through a Christmas cake container. There were three instigators in the NSU, two of which have died. The third member, Beate Zschäpe, is currently on trial for 10 counts of murder of people of southern European origin. Four other associates are also on trial. In October, a Hooligans against Salafists demonstra-tion in Cologne attracted around 4,000 participants and turned violent, leaving 59 police officers injured and several vehicles damaged.
© The Local - Germany

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Tensions high ahead of Danish Pegida events

Police promise a 'very visible' presence at demonstrations for and against Pegida in Copenhagen and Aarhus as death threats from Isis terrorists lead to the cancellation of the weekly Pegida march in Dresden, Germany.

19/1/2015- Despite rumours to the contrary and the cancellation of the weekly Pegida march in Dresden, the organizer of a Monday Pegida event in Copenhagen vowed that it will go on as planned. Nicolai Sennels, the man behind the Copenhagen march, told The Local that “fake press releases, fake Facebook pages etc are spreading false rumours” about the cancellation of his event, which he said is about expressing resistance to a “violent type of Islam” that his group fears is spreading across Europe. The cancellation rumours circula-ted at the same time that death threats from the terrorist group Islamic State (Isis) led Dresden organizers to call off Monday’s Pegida event there. Monday’s events mark the first significant Pegida presence in Denmark. The movement, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, has been drawing tens of thousands of people into the streets of Germany over the past three months, both in support of and opposition to the anti-Islam group.

There are concerns that Monday’s events in both Copenhagen and Aarhus could potentially turn violent. The Copenhagen march will be met by a counter demonstration from the group Revolutionære Antifacister (Revolutionary Anti-Fascists) and the two groups are likely to cross paths. Although the Revolutionary Anti-Fascists, like the pro-Pegida group, have promised a peaceful demonstration, a Facebook post from the anti-fascist group encourages participants to “show their resistance” to Pegida supporters. “We still encourage all anti-racists, anti-fascists and other comrades to remain in the area or head toward the National Gallery of Denmark and the Little Mermaid after the demonstration is over and show their resistance against Pegida DK in the way you wish to do it,” the post reads. A police spokesman told broadcaster DR that there will be a “very visible” police presence at the duelling Copenhagen events.

“We have put together a large police operation with a large set-up. We will be very visible at the location to ensure that everything goes down peacefully and orderly,” Copenha-gen Police inspector Mogens Lauridsen told DR. Pegida spokesman Sennels has gone to great pains to say that racists and Nazis are not welcome at the event, but the left-wing re-search collective Redox reported that “several known people from Neo-Nazi circles” are planning to attend the Pegida march. Sennels told Redox that the Neo-Nazis "are wel-come in the demonstration as individuals". Mogens Camre, a prominent Danish People’s Party politician who has twice faced racism charges for comments made about Muslims, has also announced that he will join the Pegida demonstration.

Since the announcement of Monday’s event, many of Sennel’s own anti-Islam writings, which can be read on his website, have come under fire from critics who have accused him of stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment. Sennels, a former candidate for the Danish People’s Party, told The Local last week that the Copenhagen march “is not about a political stance or about being on the left or right.” “There are a lot of completely normal Danish people - school teachers, my mother, etc - who don’t necessarily vote for the right wing but who should be able to voice their aversion to this violent type of Islam,” he said. As of Monday afternoon, some 300 people had registered on Facebook to attend Pegida's demon-stration against fundamentalist Islam, while around 800 had signed up for the counter-demo. The Pegida march begins at 6pm at the National Gallery of Denmark, while the demon-stration against Pegida starts at 5pm at Sankt Hans Torv.
© The Local - Denmark

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Norway: Anti-Islam march to go ahead in Oslo

Anti-Islam protesters are set to go ahead with a planned march on Monday despite death threats made against the Pegida movement's organizers in Germany.

19/1/2015- Officials in Dresden ordered the cancellation of the weekly march by the so-called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida) after Isis jihadists threatened to kill its organizers. “The cancellation in Germany affects all of us,” Norwegian Pegida spokesman Max Hermansen told news agency NTB. “It’s tragic that we lose some of our freedom of expression because someone doesn’t like what we say.” Police said 190 people took part in last Monday’s march in Oslo, with Hermansen hoping for more this time. “I’ll be glad if 250 people come but I’m hoping for 400. We’re ready to go out every Monday for a long time.” Anti-Pegida protesters are also planning to take ot the streets on Mon-day evening. "We had a good dialogue with them last time and we hope it will be as pewaceful this time," said police spokesman Tor Grøttum. "But we are prepared if anything happens." The 54-year-old Hermansen said he had been in contact with potential Pegida organizers in other Norwegian towns and cities. “There are discussions about starting mar-ches in Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger, Kristiansand, Tønsberg and Lillehammer. These are very enthusiastic people who want to do the same in their own towns.” “We need to start marching to show anyone who's sitting on the fence that it's serious now. We can no longer just sit and watch the big elephant in the room.”
© The Local - Norway

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MORE CHARLIE HEBDO FALL OUT

Czech Rep: Lower house to discuss security, immigration with gov't

21/1/2015- The Czech Chamber of Deputies will discuss security issues and the country's immigration policy with the government on February 10, the lawmakers decided yesterday, supporting the right-wing opposition's proposal. As an argument for its proposal, the opposition gave the recent attacks by Islamist terrorists in Paris. At the beginning of the Cham-ber's session yesterday, the lawmakers observed a minute of silence in commemoration of the victims of the Paris attacks. The lawmakers added a debate on security policy in the agenda of the lower house's current session based on an agreement of deputies' groups. Opposition TOP 09 deputy chairman Frantisek Laudat unsuccessfully demanded that the lower house start discussing the immigration policy as early as this week, in view of Islamic State's activity and the possibility for the Czech Republic to accept Christian refugees from the afflicted countries. The deputies refused to put a debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) project and on the authorities' practices in returning formerly confiscated property to churches on the session's agenda.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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Netherlands: Wilders' PVV remains largest party but does not benefit from French attacks

21/1/2015- The anti-Islam PVV party led by Geert Wilders would win between 17% and 19.8% of the vote if there were a general election tomorrow, according to the Peilingwijzer poll of polls. However, the poll, which collates the results of the four main Dutch opinion polls, shows only a 0.2 percent point rise in support for the PVV since the terrorist attacks in France earlier this month. Poll compiler Tom Louwerse told broadcaster Nos the results indicate that the impact of the increased terrorist threat and the rise of the IS is already incorporated into PVV support. It is now becoming more difficult for Wilders to find new supporters and people who disagree with him are unlikely to have changed their minds following the recent attacks, Louwerse said. Support for the PVV is now back at its October 2013 peak and remains well ahead of the polls’ number two, the Liberal democratic party D66, which would win up to 16.5% of the vote. The poll of polls puts the ruling right-wing Liberal party VVD at up to 14.4% of the vote, around half its current support in parliament. This is the same as the opposition CDA. The other coalition party, the PvdA, remains below 10%.
© The Dutch News

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British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks

Records suggests 'significant' increase in incidents in schools with both parents and teachers reporting verbal and physical attacks against Muslim students

23/1/2015- Muslim pupils across Britain are suffering a backlash of bullying and abuse following the Charlie Hebdo massacre amid a broad rise in Islamophobia in schools which the Government is failing to tackle, campaigners have told The Independent. The sole UK charity monitoring anti-Muslim hate crime said it had recorded a “significant” increase in incidents in schools in the wake of the killings in Paris with both parents and teachers reporting verbal and physical attacks against Muslim students. In one case, a teenage Muslim pupil at a school in Oxfordshire was this week allegedly slapped and called a “terrorist” by classmates after a teacher raised the murders of 12 people at the French magazine in a classroom discussion and suggested Muslims should be “challenged” by the display of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. The boy told his parents he did not wish to return to school.
Teachers unions and anti-racism groups told The Independent they have recorded an increase in Islamophobic incidents in schools with the 400,000 Muslim pupils in British schools increasingly likely to be taunted as “terrorists”, “paedophiles” or “immigrants”. The NASUWT, the teaching union, said the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment is causing “uncertainty and fear” in schools. Tell MAMA, which monitors anti-Muslim hate crime in Britain, said it had logged 112 reports of physical and verbal violence in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings, including nine incidents which related specifically to schools in locations from West Yorkshire to East Sussex.
© The Independent

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UK: 'Islam must die' and swastikas daubed on University of Birmingham and nearby mosque

Police are believe the two incidents are linked and are investigating the case

19/1/2015- Vandals sprayed Islamophobic and anti-Semitic graffiti including “Islam must die” and large swastikas on the walls of a university campus and mosque in Birmingham. The offensive message were sprayed in black paint on the red brick wall of the University of Birmingham, in Edgbaston, student newspaper The Tab Birmingham reported. Police believe the incident is linked with another incident of Islamophobic graffiti that was daubed on Jalalabad Trust Mosque – less than a mile away from the campus in Selly Oak – as the graffiti appears to be similar, a spokeswoman for West Midlands Police confirmed today. The graffiti, which has been removed from both sites, is thought to have been sprayed some time between Friday evening and yesterday morning. Police are now investigating the case and reviewing CCTV footage to catch the culprit. West Midlands Police urged witnesses who saw anyone spraying the words and the symbol associated with the Nazis on the side of the Psychology building to come forward.

Sergeant Pete Sandhu said: “Mindless hate of this kind has no place in 21st century Birmingham and work is underway to find the person responsible.” Second-year student Hannah Sharron wrote in an open letter to the vandals: “You will not force Jewish students off campus. You will not intimidate Muslim students. You will not disrespect the memories of every minority persecuted under the Nazi regime, for whom any adjective – vile, disgusting, horrible – seems too mild.” Fiyaz Mughal from organisation Tell MAMA UK (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) said of the graffiti: “This is appalling, where someone has the guts and chutzpah to place such a statement inferring that Islam must die on a university campus that has lots of Muslim students. “If that is the case, one can easily infer that this person wants Muslims to be killed and was trying to put themselves outside of hate speech.”
© The Independent

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UK: Muslim leaders accuse ministers of being like 'far right'

Ministers say they are 'disappointed' after the Muslim Council of Britain hits out over government letter telling every mosque to help root out 'men of hate'

19/1/2015- Muslim leaders have compared the government to the "far right" after it wrote to every mosque in the country to tell Muslim leaders that they must do more to root out the "men of hate" who preach extremism. The Telegraph disclosed that Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has written to 1,100 imams and Islamic leaders urging them to publicly condemn the Al Qaeda terrorists behind the Paris massacres. Whitehall is unable to defeat jihadist ideology alone and Muslim leaders have “a responsibility” to prevent young men and women from becoming radicalised, Mr Pickles said in a letter sent last Friday. The Muslim Council of Britain responded by urging Mr Pickles to clarify his request, asking if like "members of the far right" he was suggesting that Islam is inherently apart from the rest of British society. Harun Khan, the council's deputy secretary, said: "We will be writing to Mr Eric Pickles to ask that he clarifies his request to Muslims to 'explain and demonstrate how faith in Islam can be part of British identity'. Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?"

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a local government minister, said that the council's response is "disappointing". Speaking on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, he said: "I think his response is disappointing. Within the letter there's an explicit paragraph which says British values are Muslim values. All Muslims should be non-violent, Islam is a religion of peace. Perhaps he wasn't clear in what the letter said. It is about reassurance." However Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, said he sympathised with the concerns of the Muslim community about the letter. He told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: "That letter suggested that the Muslim community within Britain can contain its own radicals. The truth is that Islamism like all modern political movements is a global phenomenon transmitted by the Internet, transmitted by social media. I would not be surprised if the Muslim community did not say you're asking of us something that is not actually under our control.

In the letter Mr Pickles and Lord Ahmad, the communities minister, said imams must declare “more clearly than ever before” that Muslims should be proud to be British. Young Muslims must be told that there are “other ways to express disagreement” and that jihadism has “nothing to offer them”. The ministers said they were “proud” of the reaction of the Muslim community so far, which has been “sickened” by the “heinous crimes” of Kouachi brothers in France. But they went on: “There is more work to do.” “We must show our young people, who may be targeted, that extremists have nothing to offer them. “We must show them that there are other ways to express disagreement: that their right to do so is dependent on the very freedoms that extremists seek to destroy. “We must show them the multitude of statements of condemnation from British Muslims; show them these men of hate have no place in our mosques or any place of worship, and that they do not speak for Muslims in Britain or anywhere in the world.

“Let us assure you that the Government will do all we can to defeat the voices of division, but ultimately the challenges of integration and radicalisation cannot be solved from Whitehall alone. Strong community-based leadership at a local level is needed.” “You, as faith leaders, are in a unique position in our society. You have a precious opportunity, and an important responsibility: in explaining and demonstrating how faith in Islam can be part of British identity. “We believe together we have an opportunity to demonstrate the true nature of British Islam today. There is a need to lay out more clearly than ever before what being a British Muslim means today: proud of your faith and proud of your country. We know that acts of extremism are not representative of Islam; but we need to show what is.”

Mr Pickles has previously written to imams to offer support after arson attacks and invasions by far-Right groups, but it is the first time he has challenged them to stand up against Islamist extremism. Baroness Manningham Buller, the former head of MI5, this week warned the Government’s counter-radicalisation Prevent programme is “clearly not working” given at least 600 Britons have gone to fight with Isil in Syria and Iraq. David Cameron said at the weekend that he disagreed with Pope Francis’ remarks that people who insult religion could “expect to get punched.” Mr Cameron, on a trip to Washington, told CBS News: “I think in a free society, there is a right to cause offence about someone’s religion. “I’m a Christian, if someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive, but in a free society I don’t have a right to, sort of, wreak my vengeance on them.”
© The Telegraph

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UK: London mosques sent death threats after Paris attacks

Finsbury Park Mosque has received hate mail in emails and letters.

17/1/2015- Mosques in London have been sent death threats, hate mail and drawings of the Prophet Mohamed in the wake of the Paris attacks. Tell Mama, which records Islamopho-bic hate crime in Britain, said it had received reports of incidents at the East London Mosque, in Tower Hamlets, and Finsbury Park Mosque. Among the 15 emails and letters sent to the Finsbury Park Mosque were hand-drawn cartoons depicting the Prophet worshipping the devil. Mohammed Kozar, the general secretary, told Sky News that despite the spike in abuse there had been many messages of support. “Most of them are nasty drawings about our prophet and our books,” he added. “Some of them make death threats against our com-munity, so it's quite frightening for our community and our mosque.” Finsbury Park Mosque’s former links with radical preachers resurfaced after the Paris attacks as it was alleged that the Charlie Hebdo gunmen were followers of Djamel Beghal, a radical preacher based there in the late 1990s.

Cherif Kouachi, 32, was said to be radicalised by Beghal while they were both in prison on terror charges in France. Kouachi was jailed in 2008 for helping jihadi fighters go to Iraq, while Beghal had been convicted for conspiring to bomb the US embassy in Paris. He was alleged to be one of al-Qaeda’s top European recruiters, drawing in Richard Reid, the failed “shoe bomber”, Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the 9/11 plotters, and Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of the four suicide bombers who blew themselves up on public transport in London on 7 July 2005. Reda Hassaine, who wrote a book about his work as an MI5 informant at the Finsbury Park Mosque, said Beghal had connections with Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada. Abu Hamza – who has one eye and no hands - once headed the mosque as its chief imam but was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month in New York on multiple terror charges.

The mosque’s new management, focusing on community work, anti-extremism and improving interfaith relationships, has earned it several awards. Mr Kozbar said he was “upset and very angry” that the association with past extremists continues despite the reforms. “People should realise that changes have taken place here from 2005 until now and the community feels it's not fair to always link the mosque in a such negative way to what's happening elsewhere,” he told Sky News. “It's not fair for them after the work they've done here; changing it from a hostile atmosphere to a cohesive atmosphere.” He said Beghal has not been linked to the mosque since his tenure started in 2005 – when the extre-mist started his prison sentence in France – but would not confirm or deny his involvement before that year. Fiyaz Mughal, director of Tell Mama, warned in a column for The Independent that there has been a rise in Islamaphobic abuse, particularly on social media.

Muslim women have told the group they have been abused since the Charlie Hebdo attack with comments like “I'm Charlie - you are not”. Mr Mughal said many Islamophic incidents stem from people associated with far-right groups, usually white men under the age of 40. “After the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013, the real impact of far right sympathisers was felt in the United Kingdom,” he wrote. “Since May 2013, over 50 mosques have been attacked.” Tell Mama is urging any mosques or Islamic groups receiving abuse to get in touch for assistance.
© The Independent

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Islamophobia body observes sharp rise in anti-Muslim incidents in France

France has seen almost as many anti-Muslim acts since the Paris attacks earlier this month as in all of 2014, a French Muslim body says. The figures could be higher as they do not include incidents recorded in Paris.

23/1/2015- There were 128 anti-Muslim actions or threats between 7-20 January in France - not including the densely populated Paris region - compared to 133 in all of last year, including Paris, according to an internal study released on Friday by the French Council of the Muslim Religion. Police in Paris are yet to release their own figures. The 128 anti-Muslim incidents are made up of 33 acts against mosques, and 95 threats reported to authorities, the Council said. According to its own figures, the incidents in 2014 represented a drop of 41 percent from 2013.

January 7 was the day brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, who have been linked to al Qaeda, burst into the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, killing 12. They were themselves killed days later by French security forces following a siege. A third gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a policewoman and four hostages in a Jewish kocher supermarket in Paris, himself also killed later on in a police raid. In total, the days of attacks left 20 people dead, including the three gunman.

Charlie Hebdo last week published a 'survivors' edition' following the attacks, featuring a controversial cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover. The French government deployed thousands of troops to protect key sites - including mosques and synagogues - since the attacks. On Friday, a burial took place for the super-market gunman Amedy Coulibaly. According to news agency AFP, Coulibaly was buried in the Muslim section of the Thiais cemetery in the Paris region. It was also reported that his family had requested he be buried in his country of origin, Mali, but the government there refused. The Kouachi brothers were  buried last weekend in unmarked graves.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Social media must curb hate speech, says France

France is calling for the international regulation of social networks in order to crack down on “racist and anti-Semitic propaganda,” a senior minister said on Thursday at the UN’s first-ever summit on tackling anti-Semitism.

23/1/2015- “There are hate videos [online], calls for death, propaganda that have not been responded to, and we need to respond,” Harlem Désir, France’s State Secretary for European Affairs, told reporters on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting. “[Those who propagate] terrorism, religious fanaticism, jihadism and radical Islam use the Internet enormously,” he said." We must limit the dissemination of these messages.” Désir lambasted social networks for what he described as a failure to take responsibility for “racist or anti-Semitic” content published on their platforms, citing Facebook and Twitter as examples. “We want to be clear with what we have seen – that those networks are used to promote violence, discrimination, and hatred.

The answer from these companies has been to say that ‘we are not responsible for what is said’.” In response, France wants to create a legal framework that would “place the responsibility on those who are passing the message, even if they are not deciding the message,” he said. Désir spoke alongside his German counterpart Michael Roth, two weeks after four Jewish shoppers were shot dead in a kosher supermarket as part of a three-day assault by Islamist terrorists in and around the French capital. The call for stricter online regulations comes as part of a wider programme to heighten security and increase surveillance, as France reels from its worst terror attacks in decades.

‘Difficult’ issue of freedom of expression
Désir was keen to stress that the proposed law would not target freedom of expression, a principle for which some four million people in France marched in support after the ter-ror attacks, which began on the morning of January 7 with the massacre of “blasphemous” cartoonists at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. “It’s very difficult because we are pro-foundly attached to the principle of freedom of expression,” he said. “There needs to be a clear distinction between freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right, and the liberty to incite hate, discrimination, and death.” Comparing hate speech with the dissemination of child pornography, he called for a consensual international effort to curtail it. “This can’t be done country by country,” he said, adding that the European Union member heads of state would address the issue on February 12. The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, described Désir’s plan as an “interesting proposal” that would require consulting both the general public and the private sector. “We’re very alert to the extent to which social media platforms are being exploited by violent extremists across the board, including by al Qaeda and Islamic State,” Power said, also stressing the impor-tance of protecting freedom of speech.

Islamophobia too?
Responding to questions by FRANCE 24, Désir said the rise in anti-Semitism had been partly fuelled by the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. “We don’t want this conflict to be a pretext used by a new anti-Semitism to promote the hatred of Jews,” he said. “You have the right to disagree with the policy of either government. But you don’t have the right to promote discrimination, hatred or violence,” he reiterated. France has long been criticised for failing to address Islamophobia as seriously as anti-Semitism, a critique exacerbated by a spike in Islamophobic incidents following the Paris attacks. Désir insisted that members of the two faiths were treated equally across the continent. “The common basis across Europe is that you can and you are condemned if you promote hatred against Muslims the same way you are if promote hatred against Jews. There is the same condemnation for an attack on a mosque as there is for an attack on a synagogue,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the UN, Abdullah al-Mouallimi, stressed the relationship between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. “We have witnessed with gro-wing concern the increase in hate crimes around the world, and we are very concerned because some arbitrarily reject their responsibilities in this regard,” al-Mouallimi said on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation. “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and all crimes that are based on religious hate are inextricably linked, they’re inse-parable.” Bernard Henri-Lévy, a controversial French philosopher who is ridiculed in France as much as he is respected, opened the summit on Thursday with an impassioned address, describing anti-Semitism as “the mother of all hates”. Lévy said that "faulting the Jews is once again becoming the rallying cry of a new order of assassins, unless it is the same but cloaked in new habits”.
© France 24.

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France/UK: Fox News sorry for claim of 'totally Muslim' zones

Under-fire US television network Fox News has apologized several times for claiming there are "totally Muslim" no-go zones in Europe, comments that aired on the station following deadly attacks in France.

19/1/2015- Commentators on the network and anchors suggested there were areas in France and Britain in particular where non-Muslims aren't allowed in and police won't go. An expert on Fox News outraged and baffled members of the French public last week after listing eight "no-go zones" for non-Muslims in Paris, areas where Islamic rules were adhered to rather than those of the French state. National Security Analyst Nolan Peterson, who spent two years in Paris a decade ago, told the channel that areas within a ten-minute drive from the Eiffel Tower were comparable with Baghdad, adding that he had seen people wearing t-shirts supporting Osama Bin Laden. The sentiments were echoed by Nigel Farage, the leader of the Eurosceptic Ukip party in the UK, who said that the zones in Paris matched a rise in the "big ghettos" of Europe.

Fox news followed its interview with an article on the same topic, which prompted outrage from French users who said the risks were blown out of proportion. The zones inclu-ded the Porte Saint Denis neighbourhood, Porte de Clignancourt, Porte de Clichy, the southern part of the Belleville neighbourhood, and the La Goutte d’Or. They were classified by the French government in 1996 as "sensitive urban zones". Locals in the area brushed off the claims when The Local visited last week. "Of course non-Muslims are welcome. Everybody is," a 49-year-old man said. "The atmosphere is very social, everybody sticks together. You could walk into that restaurant right now and the people would give you food for free if you didn't have any money. Try doing that at the Champs-Elysées."

Another security analyst Steven Emerson also told the channel that "non-Muslims just simply don't go in" to the British city of Birmingham, during a discussion of multiculturalism. Following an uproar on Twitter and elsewhere, Fox News aired a lengthy apology during several broadcasts Saturday. "Over the course of this last week, we have made some regrettable errors on air regarding the Muslim population in Europe," anchor Julie Banderas said. Three days of violence in France left 17 people dead earlier this month, including 12 people at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The newspaper had angered many Muslims over its repeated publication of cartoons depicting Islam's Prophet Mohammed.

In the wake of the attacks, Fox News had suggested some Muslims were out of control in Europe, drawing mockery online and from European public officials. Prime Minister David Cameron called Emerson a "complete idiot." Fox News said "we deeply regret the errors," but also added a caveat. "There are certainly areas of high-crime in Europe, as there are in the United States and other countries, where police and visitors enter with caution," it said. The Fox News segment drew scorn from French TV programme Le Petit Journal, where reporters donned helmets and riot gear before interviewing a decidedly calm public in the area. See the video, with English subtitles.
© The Local - France

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Muslim Father Stabbed To Death In France

17/1/2015- In one of the most horrible Islamophobic attacks following Paris shooting spree, a Muslim father was stabbed to death in his own home in southern France by a neighbor who claimed to be avenging Charlie Hebdo. “The Islamophobic aspect will be investigated when we interview this boy who claims to have heard voices," police spokesman told Agence France Press (AFP) on Friday, January 16. Shouting "I am your god, I am your Islam", a 28-year-old assailant repeatedly stabbed his Moroccan neighbor after breaking into the victim's home, according to the National Observatory Against Islamophobia. The 47-year-old victim, Mohamed El Makouli, who was stabbed 17 times, was disarmed during the attack that happened in his house in the picturesque village of Beaucet near Avignon just after midnight on Wednesday. His wife, 31, has also suffered wounds to her hands and couldn't save him, fleeing the scene to call the police for help.

According to the prosecutors, the attacker has been charged with "murder, attempted murder and possession of drugs", before being committed to a psychiatric hospital in nearby Montfavet. Condemning the bloody attack, the president of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, Abdallah Zekri, said that that the victim's partner was very clear about what the man shouted, "she is sure of what he (the attacker) said." Meanwhile, the regional Muslim council said it will be waiting for "the conclusions of the enquiry", expressing fears that the anti-Muslim sentiment would increase after Paris attacks. France has witnessed a blood-soaked week after a series of terror attacks that left 17 killed in the capital. In less than a week, the French Muslim community has been hit by more than 50 hate incidents, according o the Central Council of Muslims in France (CCIF).

Among the 54 anti-Muslim incidents, there have been 21 reports of shootings and grenade throwing at Islamic buildings, as well as 33 cases of threats and insults. Seeing the Charlie Hebdo attack as a betrayal of Islamic faith, leaders from Muslim countries and organizations have joined worldwide condemnation of the attack, saying the attackers should not be associated with Islam. In the wake of several anti-Muslims attacks, Justice Minister Christiane vowed to toughen laws against racism and anti-Semitism, along with blocking hate websites that promotes prejudice. Showing solidarity with the Muslim community after the recent Islamophobic attacks, French President Francois Hollande said that attacks against Muslims are “also attacks against the Republic”. A similar support was expressed by the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who stressed that Islam has its” full place in France”.
© On Islam

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After Charlie, an opening for Le Pen

The softening of its image scarcely conceals the essential character of the National Front 
By Philip Stephens 

22/1/2015- Marine Le Pen thinks careful language is the route to power. Jean-Marie Le Pen, her predecessor as leader of France’s far-right National Front (FN), worries that his daughter’s craving for office will dilute the rabid xenophobia of the party he co-founded. My friends in Paris say they are both right. Shocking as the prospect is to outsiders, France is beginning to imagine a president Le Pen. This weekend Europe will be watching the elections in Greece. Governments across the continent worry that victory for the populist left Syriza party could provoke another crisis in the eurozone. My guess is that the immediate fears are overdone, though on its present trajectory the euro’s long-term future is far from assured. Never mind. If the present backlash against austerity in Greece could shake the EU, the rise to power of the FN in France would certainly break the 28-member union.

The Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks brought an outpouring of national unity. The optimist in me says the mood may endure. Two of the heroes of the outrage — one a murdered police officer, the other a worker in a Kosher supermarket — were Muslims. François Hollande has been given a chance to rescue his ailing presidency. Manuel Valls has promised that necessary measures to tighten security against Islamist extremists will be accompanied by action to end the economic and social exclusion of much of France’s Muslim popula-tion — apartheid, the French prime minister calls it. The politician who punctures such optimism is Ms Le Pen. Shut out, and rightly so, from the demonstrations of solidarity, she could be the leader who profits most from the murders.

Across Europe, leaders of the populist right have crafted a narrative that puts Muslim minorities alongside liberal capitalism, the EU and political elites as enemies of the people. Ms Le Pen has notched up big victories in local and European elections. Recent polls suggest its leader would win the first round of a presidential contest. What baffles me is the fatalism, some would say complacency, such a prospect engenders among large sections of France’s political class. Ask senior figures from the centre-right or the socialist left whether the FN’s unapologetic xenophobia is morally abhorrent, and the answer is yes. Yet the signs Ms Le Pen is poised to capitalise on, Mr Hollande’s unpopularity and the disarray among conservatives, are greeted with a seeming shrug of resignation.

The other day I sat in on a gathering of the French elites in Paris. The FN was at once conspicuous in its absence and present in almost every conversation. Yes, said the informal consensus, Ms Le Pen could well make the second round of a presidential contest. And, yes, if she faced Mr Hollande in the run-off, supporters of former president Nicolas Sarkozy might just decide to fall in behind her. Conversely, if Mr Hollande were to fall at the first hurdle, many on the left might prefer to loan their votes to Ms Le Pen than support the loathed (by Socialists) Mr Sarkozy. What startled me about these conversations was the absence of anger and indignation. Perhaps I misread it, but the prevailing mood was “what can you do?” The economy is mired in a slump, unemployment is stubbornly high, Mr Hollande will struggle to recover and Mr Sarkozy’s return has reopened deep wounds within the centre-right.

Anyhow, this narrative continues, Ms Le Pen’s hopes of winning would demand she move further into the political mainstream. The FN leader, I heard, has already modified her opposition to French membership of the EU to concentrate her fire on the euro. And she has abandoned the overt racism and anti-semitism of her father’s generation of FN supporters. Mr Le Pen, we should all remember, has referred to the Holocaust as a “detail” of history. His daughter prefers whipping up fears that France is overrun by Muslims. He was an unapologetic demagogue; she chooses her words carefully. This softening of its image, though, scarcely conceals the essential character of Ms Le Pen’s party. Ethnic prejudice runs through its every pronouncement. The warnings about “Islamisation” are calculated to create a permissive environment for its thuggish supporters and to sow fear in the minds of the low-income and unemployed voters who have borne the brunt of economic failure.

Ms Le Pen has no need to attack Muslims directly. She can raise questions about their “otherness” and about whether Islam and secular republicanism can ever sit easily together. Just as the anti-semitism of her father’s era questioned the allegiance of the Jews, Ms Le Pen casts doubts on the loyalties of Muslims. The enemy, as ever with the ugly nationa-lism that Europe knows too well, is the outsider. The FN prospectus, which includes unabashed protectionism and state control of big industries, runs counter to everything that Europeanism has been about since postwar reconciliation. It seeks to replace the Europe of the second half of the 20th century with that of the first. Its target is the liberal demo-cracy that brought us peace. Those now shrugging their shoulders are right when they say there is no magic riposte. That is no reason to surrender. The success of populism is the failure of mainstream politics. Ms Le Pen can prosper only for as long as Messrs Hollande, Sarkozy and the rest fail to present a credible alternative. Europe must hope they have not left it too late.
© The Financial Times.

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How Marine Le Pen is winning France’s gay vote

The Front National now has the support of a quarter of Paris’s gay voters – and only 16 per cent of the straight ones.

21/1/2015- A week before the attack on Charlie Hebdo, France’s leading gay magazine, Têtu, announced the winner of its annual beauty contest. His name was Matthieu Chartraire, and he was 22, doe-eyed and six-packed, with perfectly groomed hair, stubble and eyebrows. A pin-up in every way — until he started talking. To the anger of many of the maga-zine’s readers, the Adonis of 2015 turns out to be an outspoken supporter of the Front National. Têtu’s editor-in-chief, Yannick Barbe, refused to play censor. ‘It’s within his rights to vote for the FN even if we don’t share his beliefs,’ he said. ‘This is a beauty pageant, and our readers’ vote was only based on a single criterion! He only stands for himself and not for the gay community.’ Barbe has a point (although from next year, it’s worth noting, entrants for Têtu’s beauty contest will have to sign a code of ethics that rejects discrimina-tion).

But his assertion that Chartraire does not stand for the gay community overlooks a trend that has been accelerating over the last decade: French gay votersare falling for the Front National’s leader, Mari-ne Le Pen. A survey by the polling firm Ifop indicates a dramatic increase in support for the FN among homosexual and bisexual voters since the French presidential elections of April 2012. It showed, for instance, that in Paris 26 per cent of homosexuals supported Le Pen, compared with 16 per cent of hetero-sexuals. ‘After the financial crisis started you could tell that a switch [to the far right] was happening across the nation. But the fact that it was happening in the gay community was particularly telling,’ Didier Lestrade, a gay activist who has written a book on the subject, tells me. ‘We knew that not all gay people are from the left. Even so, it was hard for my genera-tion [he is 56] to believe that anti-Arab and anti-black opinions were starting to pop up on apps like Grindr and Cruise.’

An insight into the phenomenon comes from Patrick McCarthy, a young gay blogger who lives in Bordeaux. ‘Up until 2005, Bordeaux was a very gay-friendly city,’ he says. ‘Same-sex couples could openly walk down the street holding hands without any problems. However, in the space of two months, five gay men were murdered in the city. The blame was put on Bordeaux’s Muslim community since some of these hate crimes were carried out by people of Arabic origins.’ The Bordeaux gay scene has dwindled since the attacks, but McCarthy says that he, like Lestrade, is alarmed at the way that assaults by a few Arabs have created a major polemical opposition between gays and Muslims. The Front Na-tional now offers a welcoming home to gay people who feel judged by Muslims and share wider concerns about immigration and the loss of French identity. That gay men now feel comfortable with the Front National is the result of a deliberate effort by its leader, Marine Le Pen, who has pursued a programme of detoxification (the French term is ‘de-diabolisation’) ever since she took control of the party in 2011. Her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who led the FN from its founding in 1972 until Marine took over, described homo-sexuality as a ‘biological and social anomaly’. In the 1980s he argued that all individuals with Aids should be kept in isolation, and in the 1990s was still declaring that ‘There are no queens in the National Front.’

By contrast, Marine has worked hard to expand the FN’s membership beyond obvious bigots, racists and skinheads. She has publicly condemned anti-Semitism and insists that, far from being racist, her party is the only one that defends secularity and democracy against Islamisation. A key part of this strategy is using the Islamist threat to court the sort of people that the far right has traditionally persecuted. It’s working. In the 2012 presidential elections, Le Pen won 13.5 per cent of the Jewish vote. A surprising enough statistic, but her appeal to gay activists has created even more waves. Just before Christmas, her deputy Florian Philippot was outed as gay by Closer: the same magazine that exposed Hollande’s affair with Julie Gayet. Around the same time, Le Pen appointed a new adviser: Sébastien Chenu, one of the founders of the activist organisation GayLib. FN tradi-tionalists complained loudly that their party was being taken over by a gay cabal. (Those complaining included Marine’s 25-year-old niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, an MP and a rising star in the party.)

What, beyond support against the threat of Islamic fundamentalists, does Marine Le Pen’s FN claim to offer to a gay political activist? Officially Le Pen does not support the lega-lisation of gay marriage, which the French government passed last year. But like other far right leaders in Europe, notably Geert Wilders of Holland’s Freedom party, she sees the value of the gay vote. When huge demonstrations were held against gay marriage in Paris in 2013, she refused to take part. She seems able to walk the conceptual tightrope between what her party’s old membership wants and what its potential members need to hear. Her response to the outing of Philipott was to attack Closer and change the sub-ject: ‘Florian Philippot is entitled to a private life as much as François Hollande,’ she said.

Switching attention back to the hapless president was a shrewd move. Hollande’s dismal popularity ratings (at the end of last year they sank to 12 per cent, the lowest recorded score for a sitting president) also contribute to the Front National’s success. Although Hollande pushed through the legalisation of gay marriage last year, many left-wing gay voters were disappointed that he failed to give the bill his personal support until the last minute. The centre-right UMP, meanwhile, issued a legal challenge the moment the bill had been approved by vote. Even critics such as Lestrade recognise that the FN offers more to ambitious young gay political activists than the more mainstream parties. ‘I think if you are gay, you’re going to make a difference there in a way you won’t get a chance to in the Socialist party or the UMP,’ he says.

Bruno Clavet is an out and proud gay activist for the FN. A politics graduate and a former underwear model, he tells me that when he was 18 he worked for Nicolas Sarkozy during the 2007 presidential election, but switched to the FN just before the most recent one. I ask him if it troubles him that his party has a strong anti-gay past. ‘I don’t think the FN is anti-gay,’ he replies. ‘We are against ghettoisation [into racial or sexual communities]. For me there is only one community, it’s the national community — the French people.’ This is the new spirit of French nationalism, one that resonates loudly in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack.
© The Spectator

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Post-attacks, France's Le Pen struggles to be heard

20/1/2015- Support for French far-right leader Marine Le Pen was widely expected to soar in the wake of the deadly attacks on Paris by Islamist militants. In the event, the possible next leader of France was outmaneuvered by President Francois Hollande. Along with other party leaders, Le Pen was invited to Hollande's Elysee Palace as security forces hunted the two men who shot 12 people at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a third who would that day kill four in a Jewish supermarket. But once inside, Hollande refused her pleas to overrule a decision by his Socialist party to ban her from a mass "unity rally" the following Sunday on the grounds her views were extremist, officials from her National Front (FN) party said. "Despite appearances he's a sly old fox," FN party treasurer Wallerand de St Just told Reuters. Le Pen attended a unity march in 2012 after Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead seven people in the southern city of Toulouse. It boosted her ratings, helping her anti-immigration party to striking local and European election gains last year.

This time, Le Pen's score has barely budged while Hollande's went from all-time lows late last year to as much as 40 percent approval in a survey by the Ifop group released on Monday. A separate survey released this weekend by pollster BVA showed a similar rebound and noted that Hollande's Socialist Party, on 30 percent, had now edged ahead of the FN on 28 percent for the first time since last September. The ban, which Le Pen learned of via Twitter, has made life tough for the party and its leader and highlighted internal tensions over her efforts to appeal to the mainstream while keeping her distance from the "elite" she so vilifies. "It's been a difficult period," said St Just, one of the eight officials present at a Jan. 8 National Front leadership crisis meeting, told Reuters. "Everyone wants to know what will happen to our little shop." FN vice-president Louis Aliot, who is also the partner of Le Pen, a 2017 presidential hopeful, told Reuters the 30-minute exchange she had with Hollande was frank but that the president refused to back down.

Hollande has dominated the post-attack agenda, and his tough-talking Prime Minister Manuel Valls, by declaring war on Islamist militants, has made it hard for the usually strident Le Pen to make her views stand out. The unity march attracted 1.5 million people, an unprecedented street turnout since Paris's 1944 liberation from Nazi rule and a defining political event for millions. Le Pen and her party had no choice but to stage local rallies in their heartlands after the failure of her lobbying of Hollande, proposed by the party lieutenants she consulted on Jan. 8 after cancelling a trip to Brussels in the wake of the attacks. Le Pen struggled to bring together more than 1,000 people in a march in the southern town of Beaucaire. "For Le Pen, missing out on such a unique display of unity was a failure, no matter how it came about," said Dominique Reynie, a political scientist at Sciences Po uni-versity. Even so, the FN could reverse its fortunes and make new poll gains if the mood of national unity wanes, further attacks are carried out in France or the media spotlight shifts back to the economic crisis in Europe, analysts and FN officials said.

"Charlie Martel"
As the ruling Socialist Party ensured Le Pen was frozen out of a Paris march that made world headlines, someone closer to home managed to further undermine her - her father Jean-Marie. A critic of his daughter's efforts to clean up the image of the party he founded four decades ago, Le Pen senior remembered past conflicts between the FN and the left-wing Charlie Hebdo, which in 2012 called for the party to be banned and had even depicted Marine Le Pen as a steaming lump of excrement. While the party around Marine Le Pen had, according to her EU affairs adviser Ludovic Dedanne, agreed to pass over its differences with Charlie Hebdo and mount a robust defense of free speech, Le Pen father had other ideas. In a tweet which drew an avalanche of criticism, he mocked the "I Am Charlie" slogan used in solidarity with victims by tweeting "I Am Charlie Martel" - a reference to a Frankish king who halted an 8th century invasion of France by Muslims from the Umayyad Caliphate.

During the kosher supermarket standoff, he posted a photo of Marine on Twitter overlaid with "Keep Calm and Vote Le Pen", drawing accusations of tastelessly trying to exploit the drama. "He thinks using violent, provocative words is productive but I don't, not anymore," said St Just. "I've told him as much, and he wasn't happy about it." The question for the FN is: where does it go now to build on the gain in support it has seen over the past two years? In the run-up to local elections in March, one FN official Sebastien Chenu said the party would continue to court France's have-nots by criticizing immigration, the European Union and the Socialist government for its failure to halt the attacks and stop the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in France. But St Just said the rhetoric could be tailored to appeal to a new, elusive constituency: French Muslims who feel mistreated by left-wing governments and stigmatized after every attack. "Muslims have suffered horribly, hugely, from all these failures and all these attacks," he said. Asked if party officials would speak more about Muslim difficulties in coming weeks he said: "Absolutely".

Attracting Muslim voters may be difficult for Marine Le Pen, who in a rare public slip was accused of incitement to racial hatred for a 2010 remark likening Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation of France. Far-right specialist Sylvain Crepon said the open disagreement with Jean Marie Le Pen showed the fundamental split between Marine Le Pen's smoothed-over FN and its hardline origins, still enshrined in policies such as limiting social housing and other benefits to French nationals and determining nationality according to blood-lines. "The contradiction allows Le Pen to toggle between moderate sounding positions and provocations," said Crepon. "But if she really wants to go mainstream she might have to make choices on such points."
© Reuters

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France: Paris attacks: Internet fuels conspiracy theories

Was the Charlie Hebdo attack orchestrated by the French secret service? Or perhaps Israel's Mossad? Almost two weeks after the bloody shooting, conspiracy theories are still rebounding around the web. We take a look at some of them.

19/1/2015- When asked about the Charlie Hebdo attack a group of French schoolchildren reportedly told their teachers they didn't believe the official version of events. Their minds may have been swayed by some of the wild conspiracy theories that have spread around the web. Could the January 7 Charlie Hebdo attack have been a secret service operation, or perhaps an anti-Muslim plot? The wildest conspiracy theories found their way onto the Internet within hours of the Paris bloodbath. Just as it did in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the rumour machine moved into top gear from the very moment the first reports emerged. Among the most frequently mentio-ned is the apparent change in colour of the rearview mirrors of a car used by the Kouachi brothers -- white on an image taken near the Charlie Hebdo office where they killed 12 people and black in a later image of the abandoned vehicle.

Experts put the change down to the fact that the mirrors were made out of chrome, a material that can change colour according to the light. Other details providing rich material for the conspiracy theorists included the identity card mislaid by one of the Kouachi brothers and the telephone receiver not properly put back on its hook at the supermarket where gunman Amedy Coulibaly killed four people during a hostage siege two days later. Even the route of the January 11 solidarity march through Paris has been given dubious significance in the minds of some, with claims that it mirrored the outline of Israel's borders.

Official theories too dull
Emmanuel Taieb, a professor at the Sciences-Po Lyon university in central-eastern France and a specialist in conspiracy plots, said that for many the official interpretation of events -- as provided by the police, politicians and analysts -- was simply too dull. "It is considered poor, disappointing. So it is ruled out or questioned in favour of a more appea-ling, worrying analysis," he said. Observers say that young people, for whom the Internet is their main source of information, are particularly vulnerable to believing everything they read online. Mohamed Tria, 49, a business executive and president of the La Duchere football club in a tough area of Lyon, said the mainstream interpretation of the attacks was far from the norm in some places. "I met around 40 kids aged between 13 and 15 in my club. I was astounded by what I heard," he said. "They had not got their information from newspapers, but from social networks, it's the only accessible source for them and they believe what they read there as if it is the truth," he said.

Others said adults now have far less control over what young people opt to believe. "For 30 years, 90 percent of what children learned came from either their parents or school. Now, it's the other way round. We need education about social networks," a teacher at a roundtable discussion in the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles said last week. For Guil-laume Brossard, co-founder of the website hoaxbuster.com, a site that allows people to check the validity of information, it is as if the self-expression made possible by the Internet was custom-made for rebellious teenagers. "Adolescence is a time when one needs to assert oneself and rebel against adults, the established order, society etc... Alterna-tive theories are therefore a wonderful area of self-expression for them," he said.

"The explosion of social networks has seen what would once have been classroom discussions take place on Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram," he added. Olivier Ertzscheid, a lectu-rer in information science in the western city of Nantes, noted that established media such as the daily Le Monde responded fairly quickly on social networks with counter argu-ments knocking down the various conspiracy theories. Speed was of the essence if a balanced picture was to emerge, he said.
© AFP

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France: 42 % oppose publishing caricatures of Mohammed

18/1/2015- More than two-fifths of people in France (42 %) believe the press should avoid publishing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed and half agree with restricting freedom of speech online. The French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche published the results of a survey it conducted on the issue today. When asked to respond to the statement that "some Muslims feel attacked or injured when caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed are published", 57 % of respondents said such reactions should be ignored and that publication of such images should continue. As many as 81 % of respondents agree with stripping persons of French citizenship should they also have citizenship of another state and have been convicted of committing terrorism on French soil. Of those surveyed, 68 % favor banning the return to France of citizens suspected of participating in fighting in other countries or regions con-trolled by terrorist groups. Similarly, 68 % favor banning people suspected of intending to travel to such areas from leaving the country. Fully 57 % of respondents oppose France get-ting involved in military interventions in restive countries such as Libya, Syria and Yemen. Similarly, 63 % oppose intensifying French military operations in Iraq, as French President François Hollande indicated he would do several days ago. The survey was performed by telephone between 16 and 17 January. The sample was comprised of 1 003 people.


© Romea.

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CH Cartoons Are 'Racist Bullying;' Islam Unequivocally Condemns Terrorism, Says Duke Uni's Islamic Studies Director

19/1/2015- Duke University's director of the Islamic Studies Center, Omid Safi, has said that French satirical newspaper Chalie Hebdo's controversial drawings are "racist bullying" disguised as "freedom of speech." At the same time, Safi said that Muslim leaders have made it very clear that Islam does not condone terrorism of any kind, and dismissed claims made by HBO host Bill Maher that hundreds of millions of Muslims support violence. Safi shared his views on a number of topics concerning the recent terror attacks in Europe in an email interview with The Christian Post on Monday. He affirmed that Muslims "have already, consistently and unequivocally, spoken out against terrorism." At the same time, he called Charlie Hebdo, the magazine that published several cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, "bad satire" for continuously targeting Muslims and their religion. "I view Charlie Hebdo as bad satire. Real political satire, as it has been said, is the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. It's speaking truth to power, against the state, against hierarchy, against wealth, privilege, status," Safi said.

"In this case, we see a mockery of the most marginalized and disenfranchised community in France, who are marked as 'other' racially, religiously, and socioeconomically. So no, I do not see this as pure political satire, but something more akin to racist bullying disguised as freedom of speech." He insisted, however, that the murder of the 12 cartoonists by jihadist gunmen was a "vile and indefensible response." While millions of people in France have marched in support of Charlie Hebdo and have defended its freedom of press, a number of religious leaders have said that mocking other's faith, the way the magazine has been doing, does not benefit prospects for peace. "You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others," Pope Francis told journalists when asked about the Charlie Hebdo situation last week. Charlie Hebdo's editor in chief Gerard Biard responded by telling "Meet the Press" that his magazine does not attack religion, "but we do when it gets involved in politics." "If God becomes entangled in politics, then democracy is in danger," he added.

In the aftermath of the Paris shootings, Safi posted a blog post titled "9 Points to Ponder." In it, he called on others to turn to faith at times like this. "We turn inward, not because the answers are easy, but because not turning inward is unthinkable in moments of crisis," the Islamic Studies Center director wrote. Safi noted that it is important to mourn those who have died, and remember that terror attacks are continuing around the world on a daily basis — at least 37 people died in Yemen due to a suicide bomber on the same day of the Paris shooting. As for the Charlie Hebdo drawings, he defended the free speech rights of the publication, but noted that it's important to point out that some Muslims do not object to the cartoons simply because they depict Muhammad. "What many of them object to is not the pietistic miniatures depicting Muhammad ascending to heaven, but rather the pornographic and violent cartoons lampooning Muhammad," he wrote. Safi highlighted, however, that there is no point apologizing for actions that deserve no defense. "The shooting of artists, satirists, journalists, heck, the shooting of any human being, is an atrocity that stands as its own condemnation," he wrote.

He added that the shooters "have done more to demean people's impression of the religion of the prophet than the cartoonists in Charlie Hebdo ever did. If the shooters wanted to do something to bring honor to the prophet, they could begin by actually embodying the manners and ethics of the prophet." In his interview with CP, Safi hit back against those who have suggested that Islam supports terrorist attacks. Maher, who has spoken out against Islam on a number of occasions, said earlier in January that there are "hundreds of millions" of Muslim people who support the attack in Paris. Safi said he would like to see the "'extemist-wand' that Bill Maher is waiving over the globe to get these numbers.'" "My sense is that the majority of Muslims both disapprove of the racism of the cartoons and disapprove of the murders. Surely there has to be room to articulate that position," Safi said.

Tensions in other parts of Europe have also been rising in recent weeks, in particular with the PEGIDA "anti-Islamisation" marches in Germany, where tens of thousands have parti-cipated in demonstrations against Germany's open immigration system and the Muslim communities that have been established there. Safi said that such developments are cause for concern, as there have been a number of reported attacks on Muslims in Germany, including one which resulted in a death. As for examples of various Muslim voices that have condemned violence done in the name of Islam, both in the Paris shooting and in the rise of terror group ISIS in Iraq and Syia, Safi linked to a number of sources, which can be read here, here, here and here. "The real issue is not whether Muslims are condemning terror, but whether the rest of us are willing to hear it. And if we are not, what does that say about our own presumptions?" he asked.
© The Christian Post

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Were Charlie Hebdo cartoons only about free speech? Maybe not.

The Monitor's former European bureau chief writes that there is another facet to the French magazine's publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, one that involves a relentless anti-Islam campaign in Denmark.

18/1/2015- For an international media unfamiliar with Europe's recent history of publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, the furor that Charlie Hebdo and other outlets have stirred up looks like an open-and-shut case of free speech. The widespread assumption about the controversy sparked by Charlie Hebdo's publication of cartoons goes something like this: Here was a newspaper from liberal Europe being attacked by intolerant Islamic radicals who couldn’t take a joke. But the truth is not so simple. In fact, much of the Muslim world's vitriol over the French satirical magazine was first focused on Denmark, where a darkly racist politics arose, stoked by its most important daily newspaper, Jyllands-Posten (JP), more than five years prior to its own 2005 publication of 12 cartoons of the prophet.

Denmark's rightward swing
The rise of what is often called “Islamophobia” in Europe started slowly, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, says anthropologist Peter Hervik, whose scholarly book, “The Annoying Difference,” catalogs the rise of “neo-racial and neo-national” politics and media in Denmark. Borders were becoming looser and new refugees and asylum-seekers were arriving in Denmark. By the late 1990s, minorities from Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East had begun to set up in urban areas. That in turn brought friction and the rapid rise of Europe’s most successful far-right party, the Danish People’s Party. At the same, a far-right tabloid press developed quickly and pushed a daily diet of stories on immigrants as freeloaders and criminals, then started in on Muslims and Islam.

Presenting Islam as a threat to Denmark sold papers and attracted voters. Then-Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmus-sen, whose ruling Liberal Party depended on the far right, decla-red a “culture war of values” between the West and Islam. Much of the fear played off the idea that Islam as an ideology threatened to subsume and take over Denmark, despite Muslims being only 2 percent of the population and relatively poor. In an interview in 2011 at his office in the parliament, Danish People’s Party official Soren Esperson told the Monitor: “We are not against the Muslims but against Islam taking political control of our society and canceling our democracy. Islam [is] the same danger as communism or Nazism.”

A media campaign
JP wasn't the first newspaper to join the Islam-bashing party. But when it did, it made an impact. Unlike Charlie Hebdo, JP is not a motley, circulation-starved satirical weekly. It is The New York Times of Denmark, the daily paper of record. Founded in 1871 and boasting some 800,000 readers in a country of 5.5 million, the paper and its urban, affluent readers powerfully shape the national mood and debate. It began to lead the anti-Islam drumbeat in 2001 after a sensational story about a young, Danish-born feminist of Pakistani origin, Mona Sheikh, that captivated Denmark for months. Ms. Sheikh, a socialist and Muslim, tried to enter Danish politics. She was accused in press reports – later condemned – of an Islamist agenda to infiltrate Danish politics, and of supporting both the Sunni Taliban and the late Shiite ayatollah of Iran. JP wrote constantly about Ms. Sheikh and the story proved a hot seller of papers.

JP, which became the voice of the ruling coalition, went on to promulgate the clash of civilization theories of American scholars like Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis. Lea-ding JP journalists, like cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and cultural editor Flemming Rose, met regularly with anti-Muslim populists like Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders and the Dutch Somali feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, as well as with American scholar Daniel Pipes. “Jyllands-Posten’s official voice was more critical of Islam than anyone else, often speaking about Islam and Muslims as an enemy,” says Mr. Hervik. “The veil was compared to the swastika, Muslims to tumors, and Islam was called a plague to be fought like Nazism…. There seems no limit to what can be said in the Danish public.” Typical was a 2005 JP editorial ahead of the Muhammad cartoons stating that Muslims in Denmark must be prepared to be “insulted, ridiculed, and mocked.”

The cartoon crisis
The Muhammad cartoon crisis actually began with Kare Bluitgen, a Danish Marxist author who is avowedly secular and anti-Islam. Mr. Bluitgen wanted to illustrate a children’s book on Islam that would depict the face of Muhammad, something that is offensive to orthodox Muslims. According to a 2005 Danish wire story, Bluitgen commented at a dinner party that Danish artists were afraid to draw the prophet. The story was an overnight sensation. In fact, after the dust settled, only one illustrator was ever found who refused to take on Bluitgen’s book project. Yet based on the wire story, the JP cultural editor, Mr. Rose, decided to test Danes' self-censorship. On a Wednesday, he issued an invitation to Danish cartoonists (not illustrators, about whom Bluitgen complained) to draw Muhammad “as you see him.” By Friday, 12 of Denmark's 25 working cartoonists responded with images. They were published in the paper on Sept. 30, 2005, next to an editorial titled “The Threat of Darkness.” The cartoons were not uniformly anti-Muslim. Because of JP's reputation for Islam-bashing, several of the 12 cartoons actually made fun of the campaign, one calling it a "PR stunt."

Another showed a Muslim migrant schoolboy in Denmark called “Muhammad” pointing to a blackboard with the words, “The editorial team of Jyllands-Posten is a bunch of reac-tionary provocateurs.” In retrospect, Hervik argues, the Danish cartoons picked up by Charlie Hebdo were always intended to be part of the provocative local anti-Muslim cam-paign sweeping Denmark, not a statement about free speech. And for many Muslims, it was the last straw in what they saw as a long anti-Muslim campaign by Denmark. Protesters condemning the cartoons took to the streets worldwide, sometimes resulting in violence. Boycotts were orchestrated against Denmark and Danish goods, and several Western embassies were attacked. On Oct. 12, 2005, 11 ambassadors representing 730 million people in the Muslim world sent a letter to Mr. Rasmussen asking to meet on an “urgent mat-ter.” It was no longer possible to ignore a Danish “smear campaign” against Muslims and Islam, they said. Danish politicians openly called Muslims a “cancer” in the parliament and the minister of culture accused them of being “medieval.” The 12 cartoons making fun of Muhammad were a final indignity.

Hate speech and free speech
When the campaign got noticed by the Muslim world, the issue was virtuously framed as solely an issue of free speech. Many Western outlets, including Charlie Hebdo, republished the cartoons as a show of solidarity with JP. Mr. Rose, the JP culture editor who ordered the cartoons, wrote in the Telegraph this week that he “stumbled … into sparking what came to be known as the cartoon crisis.” He argued that as societies become mixed and multicultural, that free speech becomes more important. But the publication of the Muhammad cartoons 10 years ago by JP was not born of an innocent, isolated jibe about the prophet. Rather, it was thought up amid a larger, overtly antagonistic campaign against Muslims, backed by both Denmark's leading newspaper and its government. It is through that context that orthodox Muslims view the controversies stirred up by Charlie Hebdo. Whether intentionally malicious or not, the French magazine's anti-Islamic drumbeat tapped into a years-long campaign in Denmark that captured and defined the rise of anti-Islam sentiment in Europe.
© The Christian Science Monitor

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French Mayor Bans Anti-Jihadist Muslim Film

A study in the dangers, and absurdities, of censorship

17/1/2015- While Charlie Hebdo returned to Parisian newsstands with a defiant image of a contrite Mohammad emblazoned on its cover, Timbuktu, a much-praised, Oscar-nominated movie by the internationally known Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako was unceremoniously yanked out of a theater in the Paris suburb, Villiers-sur-Marne. The district, which has a large North African population, is the birthplace of Hayat Boumeddiene, the fugitive companion of the perpetrator of the Hyper Cacher massacre Amedy Coulibaly. The town’s mayor Jacques-Alain Bénisti (a member of the Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement) first called the movie, which he had not seen, “an apology for terrorism” and then had it removed Friday from the Cinema City Casino because he feared that young people might take the jihadists for a model.

In fact, Sissako’s point, impossible to miss, is that the first victims of jihadism are Muslims. Far from idealized, the jihadists are shown as brutal enemies of Malian tradition and culture. This exquisitely photographed movie bluntly details a jihadist reign of terror, including the implementation of sharia law, in an idyllic village in northern Mali—a region where, for much of 2012, Islamic fundamentalists, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, held sway. (Last January, the French army intervened and fighting in concert with Malian troops, retook the Islamist strongholds, including the ancient city of Timbuktu. Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita marched arm in arm with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the head of the massive unity march through the French capital last Sunday.)

Timbuktu was premiered last May at Cannes and released in Paris last month. According to its distributor Jean Labadie noted that the movie had already been shown in more than 1,500 French cities “without causing the slightest incident.” Under pressure from social media and the Socialist opposition, Bénisti revised his position, telling Le Monde that Timbuktu would be rescheduled in two weeks and shown in the context of a debate featuring Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders “et pourquoi pas, if they wish, members of the film crew.” The day before Timbuktu was banned in Villiers-sur-Marne, the French government declared that Lassana Bathily, the 24-year-old Malian stock clerk at the Hyper Cacher, who successfully hid a dozen or more customers in the market’s basement freezer, would be given French citizenship.
© Tablet Magazine

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Call out Muslim Phobia, debunk Islamophobia (opinion)

By Sankrant Sanu

22/1/2015- The attacks in Paris on Charlie Hebdo bring to a fore fault lines in Europe. It has fuelled a European right that is calling for bans on Muslim immigrants. A major French TV anchor called for deportation of their existing Muslim population. For a while the hashtag #KillAllMuslims trended on Twitter. Germany saw anti-Muslim protests with thousands of people taking to the streets. In the US “Judge” Jeanine on Fox News said “We need to kill them. We need to kill them, the radical Muslim terrorists.” There is a danger of this fuelling a real phobia, a Muslim phobia. This is different from suppressing critique of Islam using the term Islamophobia. Here is why.

Compared to India, the European countries have miniscule Muslim populations both in absolute and relative terms. Yet, though there have been religious riots, usually based on local factors, it would be harder to find such sweeping protests regarding “Muslims” as a whole in India. Neither would enforced uniformity, such as the French ban on the burqa and the niqab get much traction in India where the plurality of ways is deeply ingrained in the culture. Here is a picture from UK I retweeted:
View image on Twitter

Let us be clear. Targeting Muslims as an imagined monolith is bigotry. It must be countered. Human beings are diverse. Just because someone has a Muslim name, or “looks Muslim” or comes from a Muslim country or observes Muslim rituals does not make them a radical. With over a billion people, there is a wide diversity of Muslim experiences. Even within Indian Muslims, customs vary by region, caste and affiliation. The instance I cite above such as the call in UK by right wing groups that “Muslims get out” is an example of what I call Muslim phobia. This kind of phobia is starting to happen in India as well. Just as Muslims youngsters are being radicalised often via dis-contextualised textual messages, we find instances of young “Hindutva warriors” exhibiting increasing prejudice. Millions of Muslims serve in the government, in the armed forces, in the security services of this country not as Muslims but as Indians. To view them simply on the basis of religious identity is another form of Muslim phobia. In Europe we find Muslim phobia increasingly acting as the outlet for racism, xenophobia, and presumed Christian or Western cultural superiority. Orientalist caricatures of Muslims underlie their stereotyping.

On the flip side, there is a term used most often by apologists, “Islamophobia.” This term has a history. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) specifically promoted the idea of Islamophobia. OIC funds and supports, conferences, reports, politicians, diplomats, academics, journalists and activists to combat this “Islamophobia.” When that term is bandied about, it is right to be suspicious about the funding and agenda of its proponents. As Asra Nomani writes in the Washington Post:

“In 2007, as part of this playbook, the OIC launched the Islamophobia Observatory, a watchdog group based in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, with the goal of documenting slights against the faith. Its first report, released the following year, complained that the artists and publishers of controversial Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad were defi-ling “sacred symbols of Islam . . . in an insulting, offensive and contemptuous manner.” The honor brigade began calling out academics, writers and others, including former New York police commissioner Ray Kelly and administrators at a Catholic school in Britain that turned away a mother who wouldn’t remove her face veil.”

Unlike Muslim Phobia, which is about real people, Islamophobia is a term used to protect an ideology from criticism. Islam is not a person, it is an idea much like capitalism or communism. Ideas must not be immune from criticism. When people in the UK say “Muslims get out” it can be, and often is, an expression of latent racism. We most oppose that. But ideas need to be up for criticism, just as people as a whole must not be stereotyped.

This played out in a famous American talk show confrontation in the Bill Mahler show, where Sam Harris guest called Islam a “motherload of bad ideas.” Now what Sam Harris says is, and should be, contestable. But to shut off the points he makes as Islamophobia is to shut off the debate altogether. There is a problem of religious radicalism, and Islam may be linked to the problem, at the very least since a number of people that are blowing themselves and others up explicitly self-proclaim that they are doing it for Islam. But to discover Islam is or isn’t the problem we cannot forestall the debate. To label criticism of Islam into a “phobia” does exactly that, by labelling criticism as an irrational psycholo-gical disorder. This is exactly the tack used in Islamic states where people criticising Islam have been branded mentally ill and terrorists. The term Islamophobia, funded by the deep pockets of the OIC, is used to subject the world to the same Islamic theological restrictions.

A final two points. First, Muslims rightly point out that, despite the highly publicised terror killings, the Christian West has killed far more people, even in recent times. The invasion of Iraq is a case in point, where the death toll has surpassed half a million. There is also evidence that Bush’s irrational foray into this war was guided by his Christian belief in end times and that the war was fulfilment of Biblical prophecy, and that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s briefings for the war were framed by Biblical quotes. Just because the Iraq body count came from a formal army, covered by “embedded journalists” of a “sophisticated” West doesn’t make it any less brutal. Perhaps a thousand times more children died in Iraq as a result of the war, than in the recent Peshawar school attack. While Islam and Christianity both have a bloody history, there is little doubt that, in sheer body count, Christianity has no parallel.

Yet, despite the flaws, the Christian West has launched a serious critique of Christianity. Our accounts of the genocides and killings by Christians come from Western sources. The challenge to Christian theological presumptions has also emerged from there. This kind of challenge and critique is equally necessary for Islam and it should not be forestalled either by the financial clout of the OIC, and its own paid coterie yelling “Islamophobia” or by misguided moral relativism. The current climate in Islamic societies, particularly laws related to blasphemy and apostasy, make this critique difficult from within.

The values of free speech in the West have offered protection to dissident Muslim voices to begin this critique of Islam, though it only has marginal influence yet on Muslim societies. Charlie Hebdo may not be the best example of such a critique, but it bludgeons open the space for one. The challenge for the West will be to not let that space be filled by mindless xenophobia that leads to Muslim phobia. Europe has been there before. Those that call themselves liberals and intellectuals must take up that challenge of confronting Islam intellectually without the straightjacket of political correctness.
Sankrant Sanu is an entrepreneur, writer and researcher based in Seattle and Gurgaon. His essays were published in the book "Invading the Sacred" that contested Western
academic writing on Hinduism and is a popular writer and blogs at sankrant.org. He is a graduate of IIT Kanpur and the University of Texas and holds six technology patents.

© Niti Central

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Condemn terrorism without praising offensiveness (USA, Opinion)

From Jibril Hough, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte:

20/1/2015- Freedom of expression through writing, speaking, dressing, music, art, religion and other forms and beliefs is one of the most cherished rights we have in a free society. Yet it’s one of the most abused and is often laced with hypocrisy and double standards. The truth is there is no such thing as free speech. The words and the seeds we plant have an effect on ourselves and the universe around us. Speech isn’t free. It comes at a cost and we should spend it wisely. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper have spurred a new Je Suis Charlie movement. Millions of people around the world have started chanting and hashtagging Je Suis Charlie. I joined with the millions condemning those terrorist attacks and also supporting freedom of expression, but I can’t join in with Je Suis Charlie. There must be room in our society to condemn acts of terror, support free speech and still condemn (or at least not praise) one’s use of free speech.

For those who are proudly joining in with Je Suis Charlie, I must ask, would you be praising someone who made a living using the n-word in a racially inflammatory manner? Would you be praising someone and claiming ownership in someone who practiced blatant anti-Semitism? I think the answer for most people would be no. Muslims are not seeking to limit free speech or impose our beliefs on others. We only seek the same treatment and rights that are granted to others in our society. The best limits on ourselves and speech are those we put on ourselves, not by the government or someone’s interpretation of what Sharia law is. Our Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) practiced mercy and patience with those who mocked him. I don’t know of any case of him ordering someone killed because of an insult.

As we look at France, other European countries and America, we see a ton of double standards when it comes to free speech and religion. In many places in Europe, simply ques-tioning the Holocaust and forms of anti-Semitism will get you arrested. In France, 54 people were arrested a day after their mass free speech rally, and a comic is facing seven years in prison for jokingly identifying with Je Suis Charlie and the terrorists. France just outlawed pro-Palestinian rallies. There have been several attacks on Masjids throughout France, yet most of the focus has been on synagogues. Not too long ago, France even outlawed the veil. So as we stand together in condemning acts of terror and supporting free speech, don’t think that France is a bastion of freedom of expression and religion.

As much as I detest those who seek to mock and incite religious people and our great prophets, I still support a society that gives them that right as long there are no double standards. The double standards are just as offensive as (if not more than) the use of the expression. Looking back, my first remembrance of anyone mentioning Muslims was in a Richard Pryor joke about “double Muslims.” It planted a seed that helped bring me here. For that I’m thankful and that’s no joke or mockery. Je Suis Muslim!

Read more here: 2015/01/20/5452571/condemn-terrorism-without-praising.html#storylink=cpy
© The Charlotte Observer

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Headlines 16 January, 2015

Spike in Illegal Migration 'Damaging Kosovo’s EU Hopes'

Kosovo's European Integration Council warns that rise in illegal migration to EU in 2014 threatens bid to attain visa liberalization, and the European integration process generally.

14/1/2015- Kosovo's National Council for European Integration has warned that illegal migration of Kosovars to the EU rose steeply last year. Around 20,000 Kosovars are thought to have left Kosovo in 2014 with the aim of illegally crossing the Serbian-Hungarian border to reach the EU. Most travel by organized buses from to Subotica, a town in Serbia close to the border of EU member Hungary, and then attempt to cross the border by foot or through illegal channels. “Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in the number of illegal migrants from Kosovo in 2014 compared to previous years,” EU Integration Minister Bekim Collaku said. “Other than the damage this phenomenon has done to Kosovo’s image within the EU, it could have a direct impact on the visa liberalization process,” Collaku added. President Atifete Jahjaga, who spoke of meeting with the family of a Kosovo migrant who froze to death last week while trying to cross the Serbian-Hungarian border, said joblessness and poverty were the root cause of this problem. Hungarian border police found the body of the 54-year-old on January 6th about a dozen meters within their border.

Kosovars illegally enter the EU because of “the lack of significant economic development in Kosovo, which is tied to the unemployment rate and poverty levels, while criminal networks use this dissatisfaction to profit from our citizens,” Jahjaga observed. The EU Special Representative to Kosovo, Samuel Zbogar, stressed that attempts by Kosovars to claim asylum in EU countries would remain futile. “The asylum requests will not be accepted by any EU country. The majority will be refused and the migrants will return to Kosovo poorer, because they’ll get have to pay a fine,” he warned. Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, who also took part in the debate, blamed slow progress in securing visa liberalization with the EU. Kosovao nationals may currently only travel to the neighbouring countries of Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia without visas.

The daily newspaper Koha Ditore has reported that Kosovo will have to pay for the return of at least some of the failed asylum seekers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. All three states are planning to return the migrants to Kosovo, and the Kosovo Embassy in Germany is trying to sort out flights back to Prishtina for around a thousand Kosovars. The tickets will be paid for out of the Kosovo budget, it claimed. The National Council for European Integration, KKIE, was set up by President Jahjaga in 2012, with the goal of over-seeing Kosovo’s European integration process. It sets the strategy for the integration process and give recommendations for the work of the various institutions involved in the process.
© Balkan Insight

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UK: ‘Anti-feminist’ party wants to unseat Labour’s shadow equalities minister

Labour MP Gloria De Piero will face a new challenge in May’s election – facing off against an ‘anti-feminist’ party.

14/1/2015- The MP for Ashfield and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities – who would take the equalities brief if Labour wins the next election – will be challenged by Mike Buchanan. A former Tory consultant, Mr Buchanan is the leader of the ‘Justice for Men and Boys (And the Women Who Love Them)’ party – who says he aims to “make feminism a dirty word”. The party’s manifesto also cites a debunked Daily Mail story that claimed the NHS is funding a sperm bank “for lesbians”. The manifesto claims: “Fatherhood is deemed unnecessary by the state, so taxpayers are subsidizing sperm banks for single women and lesbians.” It also states: “Children’s social values are now being shaped by poli-tically correct broader society rather than by their biological parents.” Mr Buchanan also pledges to scrap part of the Equality Act that affects women and LGBT people in recruitment- writing: “The terms in the Equality Act 2010 advantaging people with ‘protected characteristics’ should be scrapped. “The terms amount in practice to positive discrimination in favour of women.”

The prospective parliamentary candidate – who has written a number of anti-feminist books and raised funds through a crowdfunding campaign – told Buzzfeed: “Feminism is a hatred, and it should be a badge of shame. “To call yourself a feminist should be no more acceptable than calling yourself a bigot or a sexist or a fascist. “It is a deeply vile, cor-rupting ideology and the idea it’s a benign movement about gender equality is dangerous nonsense.” He added: “Rather than engage with me on the issues, people call me sexist… I’d suggest those people simply need to educate themselves about gender politics.” The party says it is also “keen” to field a candidate in Loughborough – the seat of the current Conservative Minister for Women and Equalities, Nicky Morgan.
© Pink News

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Britain has rejected the hatred purveyed by the far-right - but subtler forms of prejudice remain

14/1/2015- Both in its timing, and the message delivered, the annual report on the state of Britain’s far right could not be more welcome. It paints a picture of a movement that has run into the gutter. The “tinpot führers and sawdust Caesars” that lead such groups, to quote the historian Richard Thurlow, have failed to rally the support of all but a tiny sliver of the UK population. The British National Party (BNP) is down and out; the English Defence League (EDL) is petering out into irrelevance. Far-right groups, says Hope Not Hate, which compiles the report, are at their weakest for 20 years. Amid the turmoil and anxiety unleashed by the Paris attacks, it is no little solace to be reminded that Britain remains, in many ways, an island of calm.

That is not to be complacent. But set against an economic background of stagnant wages and falling living standards, the opposite – the growth of hate – might have taken hold. The example of Europe makes that clear: in Italy, France and even Germany, where Pegida anti-Islam demonstrations have attracted up to 25,000, anti-immigrant sentiment has morphed into a visible and virulent strain of nationalism. When in 2009 the BNP held a seat on the London Assembly and took two seats in the European Parliament, the far right looked likely to form a permanent feature of Britain’s political life. Evidently, it has not. We owe some of the thanks for this to the personal failings of the movement’s great hopes: Nick Griffin has gone bankrupt and been dismissed from the party he once led; Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the EDL, was imprisoned last year for mortgage fraud.

Yet a broader explanation can be found in the aversion to hatred that has long formed part of the British character. When native-born Brits live among migrants, they tend to believe that migration “enriches” the cultural life of the nation. Even the leaders of far-right parties seem perturbed by the nature of the groups for which they end up as figureheads: Jim Dowson, the leader of Britain First, an anti-Muslim group that flourished online, departed the organisation in disgust at mosque invasions carried out by some members; Mr Robinson himself quit the EDL in 2013, apparently worried by the “dangers of far-right extremism”. The rise of Ukip has drawn the sting – and the support – from groups that fall towards the extreme of the political spectrum. Yet the public face of the party abjures racism, aware of how toxically it plays among the electorate. Even if Nigel Farage peddles a base form of Islamophobia – as with his recent, despicable attack on a “fifth column” among Muslim citizens – the party’s success owes in part to its censorship of the “loonies and racists” who periodically rise to prominence through its ranks.

The picture is not an entirely rosy one, however. Across Europe, the rise of anti-Semitism has led to an exodus of Jewish citizens. Double the number of French Jews left for Israel in 2014 than in the year before, and the massacre in the kosher grocery store last week will convince more that France no longer offers a safe home. Britain typically ranks among the nations which display the least anti-Semitism, with 8 per cent of the population holding anti-Semitic views, according to the Anti-Defamation League, compared with 37 per cent in France. But a Campaign Against Anti-Semitism survey released today makes for worrying reading nonetheless: 2014 saw the most anti-Semitic incidents since records began, and nearly two-thirds of British Jews feel that there is no long-term future for Jews in Europe. It would be too much to say Britain’s spirit of openness and tolerance is under threat, yet this serves as a reminder that both old and new forms of prejudice must be actively kept at bay.
© The Independent

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Far right in UK 'weakest for 20 years'

British far-right groups are at their weakest for 20 years, according to a report by anti-racism campaigners.

14/1/2015- Hope Not Hate says the two main groups - the BNP and EDL - are splintered and directionless amid a loss of leadership. The results mirror academic analysis which has found the far right split in the UK despite its growth elsewhere. The report says online far-right activity appears to remain strong - but new groups have failed to translate this into action on British streets. The annual survey by the anti-racism monitoring group says that 2014 saw a string of events that would have been previously used by far-right groups to seek recruits - including the Rotherham sexual grooming scandal, new terrorism threats and a rise in immigration. But Hope Not Hate said that no far-right group had shown itself capable of building significant new numbers of active supporters as the two main organisations have faltered. The British National Party was electorally all but wiped out at the May 2014 elections, including party leader Nick Griffin losing his European Parliament seat. In October the party threw him out after 15 years in charge.

Meanwhile, the English Defence League, which once attracted thousands to its largest and most confrontational marches, has fragmented after its former leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, quit in October 2013. Although a string of new groups have emerged in the wake of BNP and EDL in-fighting, Hope Not Hate said none had built significant momentum offline. "One of the problems facing the British far right is over its own identity," says the report. "The British far right enters 2015 as a divided and weak movement but, while this is likely to remain the case over the next year, the conditions exist for this to change very quickly." Germany has seen the rise of the "anti-Islamisation" Pegida movement, capable of mobilising thousands onto the streets, but there has been a fragmentation of far-right movements in the UK. Some former BNP voters have drifted to UKIP - although Nigel Farage's party has banned former members of extremist organisations from joining it.

Matthew Goodwin, associate professor of politics at the University of Nottingham and an expert on political extremism, said events in the UK have been moving differently to those in Europe. "The rise of UKIP has created a dilemma for activists in the far-right," he said. "Do these far-right activists give up and go into political apathy, or do they go back to their confrontational roots?" Hope Not Hate warned that individuals obsessed with right-wing ideology could still pose terror threats as "lone wolves". Last year Ryan McGee, a serving soldier, was jailed for two years for making a nail bomb at his family home.
© BBC News

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Immigrant Council of Ireland appoints new chief executive

Brian Killoran to succeed Denise Charlton as head of organisation in March

12/1/2015- The Immigrant Council of Ireland has appointed Brian Killoran as its chief executive. Mr Killoran, who has worked with the organisation for more than 10 years, is to succeed Denise Charlton in the role in March. He said his key challenges would be working towards the delivery of a Sexual Offences Bill, which is expected to in-clude laws to end demand for prostitution and trafficking; completing a review of Irish hate crime legislation; and campaigning for immigration reform. “I look forward to working with our team, the board and our many supporters to progress towards these goals in 2015 and into the future,” said Mr Killoran, a native of Roscrea, Co Tippera-ry. Founded by Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, the Immigrant Council of Ireland campaigns for rights and protections which benefit Irish citizens, migrants and their families. Ms Charlton, who has been the council’s chief executive for 13 years, is leaving to start a new business but will continue to work with the council on policy.
© The Irish Times.

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'Spain's new migrant law sets very bad precedent'

A top European rights official warned Spain on Friday that it risked destroying its asylum system if it passed a law authorizing police to immediately deport migrants from its north African territories.

16/1/2015- Spain says the measure is needed to help its border guards secure the border of Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish cities fenced off from Morocco. Its police have been accused of breaking international rights conventions by beating African migrants who climb the fences into the territories and deporting them on the spot without asylum procedu-res -- so-called "pushbacks". The human rights commissioner of the 47-nation Council of Europe, Nils Muiznieks, said after meeting officials in Melilla and Madrid that the plan to legalize such deportations was "in clear breach of human rights law". "In many countries I have seen pushbacks, but nowhere are they legal or legalized," he told a news conference in Madrid. "It would be a very bad precedent if such practices were enshrined in law because I think that would mean the beginning of the end for the asylum system."

Spain is setting up new offices to process asylum claims at Ceuta and Melilla's borders. Muiznieks urged it to invest more in such facilities and in its crowded immigrant reception centres. He said that currently only migrants arriving via the regular border crossings, most of them Syrians fleeing the war in their country, were applying for asylum. Hardly any of the sub-Saharan Africans who enter by climbing the fence were doing so, he said, in some cases because they were deported on the spot. In the wake of last week's deadly attacks in Paris, Muiznieks insisted there was "no intrinsic or direct link between migration and terrorism". "We saw in Paris that the terrorists were French citizens," he said, adding that repressive security measures in response to attacks can do more harm than good. "It is important to remember and to keep reminding Spain and others about their human rights obligations in the context of counterterrorism," he said.
© The Local - Spain

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Czech Rep: Anti-Islam group organizes protest event in Prague

16/1/2015- About 600 people attended a demonstration against Islam in the Czech Republic, staged by the We Do Not Islam in the Czech Republic group, outside Prague Castle, the seat of the Czech heads of state, in the late afternoon, the police have told CTK. On the other hand, about 20 people were demonstrating for the rights of Muslims and other reli-gious groups. There were no incidents, only verbal exchanges during the rally that lasted about an hour. The opponents of Islam carried Czech flags and posters saying "Europe, Wake Up!" "There Is No Moderate Islam" and "Islam Is Evil." The organisers were also distributing posters and stickers with the group's logo in the form of a crossed-out mosque.
From the politicians, the rally was attended by Marek Cernoch, deputy chairman of the populist Dawn of Direct Democracy, and Jana Cernochova, deputy chairwoman of the deputy group of the right-wing opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS). Dawn head Tomio Okamura also appeared in the crowd.

"We want to preserve the Czech tradition, irrespective of what religion may challenge it," Cernoch said. An amendment to the church law, drafted by the We Do Not Islam in the Czech Republic group, is the first step towards this, he added. The legislation is to prevent the dissemination of radical ideas. A church or religious community demanding special rights should not come under the suspicion that it will threaten the Czech Republic' foreign political interests, national security and public order, the draft amendment says. The secret services and the police should express binding opinions on their applications [for the special rights enjoyed by churches in the Czech Republic], according to the draft amendment. Cernochova said the people protesting against Islam were no extremists. "I wish representatives of the Muslim community in the Czech Republic were here with us and clearly distanced themselves from what is going on in Europe and in the world," she added.

Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier (Social Democrats, CSSD) has expressed disagreement with the demonstration. "It is rather useless to provoke fear and hatred because we have not recorded any Islamist threat in the Czech Republic," Dienstbier told CTK. "Pigeonholing people, the principle of collective guilt and intolerance that is being applied here, though so far by a relatively small group of people, is a very dangerous concept that contradicts the principles of freedom and democratic society," he added. The opponents of the rally carried posters saying "[First Czechoslovak President Tomas Garrigue] Masaryk Would Not Be Afraid" and "We Do Not Want Hatred in the Czech Republic." Before the rally, its organisers said they also wanted to honour the memory of the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. "We will inform the public about our view of Islam and its expan-sion in Europe. We will name the risks for the Czech Republic and raise legislative and security demands whose acceptance will prevent Islamisation of our country," organisers said in their press release.

The Muslim Community Centre (UMO) in the Czech Republic has said the behaviour of the Paris attackers on the Charlie Hebdo paper had nothing in common with Islam. UMO chairman Muneeb Hassan Alrawi told CTK after the attack that Muslims in the Czech Republic were facing death threats, mainly online, targeting them indiscriminately. Both uni-formed and plainclothes police were watching the rally.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Dutch expats hit by marriage of convenience rules

14/1/2014- Rules aimed at stopping marriages of convenience are hitting Dutch expats returning to the Netherlands with a foreign partner, BNR radio says on Wednesday. This is making it unattractive for Dutch nationals to work abroad, Gerard Schouw, an MP for the Liberal democratic party D66, told the broadcaster. The rules governing income, for example, are being applied too rigidly, Schouw said. He referred to one women who was refused entry because her monthly income was €6.08 too low to meet the required level. Some 200 people have been prevented from living in the Netherlands with their partner because of the rules, BNR says. Parliament is discussing various issues around family reunion regulations on Wednesday.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Justice minister will appeal against refugee bed, bath and bread ruling

13/1/2015- Junior justice minister Fred Teeven is to appeal against a court decision forcing him to offer refugees who have lost their claim to asylum ‘bed, bath and bread’. Teeven made the comments in answer to questions from political party D66 about two people who in late December won the right to accommodation in court. Prior to that appeal being heard, the ‘foreigners in question’ can report to a refugee centre in Ter Apel, he said. The Netherlands is coming under increasing pressure to give shelter to failed asylum seekers who are currently evicted from refugee centres if they refuse to cooperate and go home. Refugee organisation Vluchtelingenwerk estimates some 5,000 would-be refugees are turned out onto the street every year. Many of them remain in the country and live illegally.

Council of Europe
In November, the Council of Europe said the Netherlands must ensure everyone living in the country has food, clothes and shelter, including failed asylum seekers who are not co-operating with efforts to deport them. The Council of Europe’s decision is not binding and Teeven said earlier he will set it aside until the 47 foreign affairs ministers attached to the council vote on the ruling at their next meeting in January.
© The Dutch News

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Germany: Neo-Nazi trial focuses on Cologne bombing

The neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground is accused of committing 10 murders around Germany. But that's not all. At the NSU trial in Munich, the proceedings are now focusing on the 2004 Cologne bombing.

12/1/2015- On June 9, 2004, a nail bomb was detonated in Cologne, injuring 22 people, several of them critically. Given the power of the explosion, it was almost a miracle that nobody was killed where the bomb went off: Keupstrasse, a busy street in the neighborhood of Mülheim where many Turkish immigrants live. It appears all but certain that the bomb was the work of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a trio of rightwing extremists that is currently on trial for 10 murders, primarily of immigrants, allegedly commit-ted between 2000 and 2007. But the public only found that out when the NSU was caught in November 2011. During those years, when the public hadn't even heard of the NSU,  many of the victims of the attack found themselves under suspicion of having played a role in it. Police investigations focused almost exclusively on drug crime, mafia and familial disputes in the area. Politicians upheld those suspicions, with the former interior ministers of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia and the German federal government, Fritz Behren and Otto Schily, respectively, publicly dismissing any racist motivation behind the nail-bomb attack.

Incriminating video?
The failure of agencies and politicians to uncover the NSU network earlier has been documented in a number of parliamentary inquiries. The current trial is looking solely into the question of who was responsible for the murders and the Cologne bombing. Two of the accused, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, can no longer be held responsible. They were found dead in their burned-out recreational vehicle a few days after authorities launched a hunt for the two men following a bank robbery in 2011. The third NSU member, Beate Zschäpe, is standing trial at a Munich state court, though at this point she has refused to address the allegations brought against her. Prosecutors believe they can prove that Mund-los and Böhnhardt placed the nail bomb, fastened to a bicycle, outside a Turkish hairdresser's in Cologne's Keupstrasse.

They have cited footage recorded just before the explosion by a surveillance camera at a shop adjacent to the hairdresser's that allegedly shows the two. The extent of the ex-plosion was presented in court on Monday, the first session since a break over the Christmas holiday. A state explosives expert testified that some 700 nails were found at the sce-ne of the crime, mostly deformed and stuck in surrounding walls and cars parked outside the hairdresser. A number of victims from the attack are scheduled to give testimony over the coming weeks, with physicians also due to take the stand. Over the coming weeks, an initiative called "Keupstrasse ist überall" (Keupstrasse Is Everywhere), is planning to stage a demonstration in downtown Munich.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany asks Turkey to do more to seal its border

While Prime Minister Ahmet Davutođlu started his official visit to Germany on Monday, head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency Hans-Georg Maassen urged Turkey to do more to prevent foreign fighters crossing into Syria to join the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

12/1/2015- Speaking on a program on Germany's ARD television on Monday, Maassen said Turkey is a key country to prevent foreign fighters traveling back and forth between Syria and Europe, because about 90 percent of the extremists traveled to the region via Turkey. Maassen said preventing extremists crossing into Syria has been partly successful, but the number of extremists managing to get into Syria is still too high and Turkey needs to take further measures to prevent these crossings. On Monday, Prime Minister Davutođlu arrived in Berlin and met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The two leaders held a press conference after their meeting. During the conference, Davutođlu was asked whether he believes that the Turkish government needs to take more measures against ISIL. Davutođlu said accusing Turkey of not doing much with regards to sealing the border is not fair, since Turkey has suffered more than others. He pointed out that there are about 2 million refugees finding safe haven in Turkey, saying, “We opened our borders to the children whose mothers and fathers have been killed in the hands of Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, not for terrorist crossings.”

Davutođlu also stressed that the border is 910 kilometers long and therefore difficult to protect, but Turkey is doing its best to prevent terrorist crossings. He also said that Turkey is in close intelligence cooperation with European countries and prevented about 7,000 people entering Turkey, as a result of this intelligence cooperation. Pointing out that only one day before the Paris terrorist attack there was one in Ýstanbul in which a Turkish policeman was killed, Davutođlu said the European people have not showed their solidarity with Turkish people, but he had attended the march against terrorism in Paris on Sunday. The prime minister also expressed his displeasure about the European people easily asso-ciating Islam with terrorism and said he is against associating any religion or ethnicity with terrorism. Davutođlu was also asked about a woman named Hayat Boumeddiene, who is believed to be the partner of a man who killed a policewoman and four people at a Jewish grocery store last week in Paris.

Boumeddiene had entered Syria via Turkey on Jan. 8, one day after the Paris attack. Davutođlu said despite the fact that there was no intelligence given to Turkey from Europe about Boumeddiene, Turkish intelligence found out about this woman and provided information to France. He said Boumeddiene came to Turkey from Madrid and said that it's not reasonable to put the blame on Spain or Turkey about the incident. The prime minister also warned against xenophobic and Islamophobic attitudes in Europe and said that every-one should stand up against such things. German Chancellor Merkel told journalists that she discussed freedom of expression, press freedoms, counter-terrorism issues and develop-ments in Syria and Iraq with Davutođlu. She praised Turkey for providing a safe haven for Syrian refugees. Merkel was asked if Germans of Turkish origin and Muslims in general have any reason to worry about their place in German society. She firmly said that she is the chancellor of everyone in Germany who shows respect to law. She also said that it's important to hear from these people that they condemn terrorism as a tool. She added that Germany supports interfaith dialogue.

When asked about whether the future of the Schengen Agreement, which enables visa free travel among EU countries, is in danger or not after the Paris attacks, Merkel said there is no plan to abolish the Schengen Agreement. In the meantime, early on Sunday morning neo-Nazi groups in Germany attacked a mosque in Dormagen in the state of Northern Rhine-Westphalia and drew swastikas and wrote abusive words on its walls. This is the second attack on the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs' Süleymaniye mosque in three weeks. Along with swastika signs and Islamophobic graffiti on the wall, it was written, “Germany belongs to Germans.” Turkey's Consul-General to Dusseldorf Alatting Temur visited the mosque and condemned the attack on Sunday. The mosque was first attacked on Dec. 20 last year and local German authorities were asked to take necessary measures to pro-vide protection for the mosque. Despite asking for protection from the authorities, the second attack came on Sunday. The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs made a state-ment on Monday and said that such attacks created fear among Muslims in Germany. The German police launched an investigation about the attacks.
© Today's Zaman

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Who goes to German Pegida 'anti-Islamisation' rallies?

Every Monday since October big "anti-Islamisation" rallies have been staged in Dresden, eastern Germany, by a new grassroots organisation Pegida.

13/1/2015- The numbers attending have grown, but so have counter-demonstrations by Germans alarmed by what they see as Islamophobia and who want to defend tolerance and diversity. The terror attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris may boost support for Pegida, amid fear and anger over Islamist violence.
line

What is Pegida?
It stands for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West" (in German: Patriotische Europaer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes). Pegida supporters say people need to "wake up" to the threat from Islamist extremists. They want Germany to curb immigration, accusing the authorities of failing to enforce existing laws. A record 25,000 attended the Pegida march in Dresden on 12 January. Yet Dresden has far fewer immigrants than many other German cities. Among the slogans at the rallies is "wir sind das Volk" (we are the people) - a deliberate echo of the anti-communist citizens' marches in former East Germany in 1989. Pegida says it is defending "Judeo-Christian" values and its 19-point manifesto avoids racist language. It is against "preachers of hate, regardless of what religion" and against "radicalism, whether religiously or politically motivated". It is against "anti-women political ideology that emphasises violence" but "not against integrated Muslims living here". It challenges what it sees as liberal political correctness and multiculturalism in Germany - the values that dominated West German politics after World War Two.

How did it begin?
It was launched as a Facebook group by Lutz Bachmann, 41, a chef-turned-graphic designer who insists that he is not racist. He has admitted to past criminal convictions, including for drug-dealing, and has spent time in jail. The numbers swelled through social media, and soon the group attracted right-wing followers from some established political parties.

Who supports Pegida?
It has attracted a variety of right-wing and far-right groups, as well as ordinary citizens who worry about conservative Islam and its impact on German society. Supporters are generally fed up with establishment politicians. Some neo-Nazi groups have praised Pegida. At the rallies some demonstrators have shouted "press liars!" at journalists - a phrase harking back to the Nazis. Members of Alternative for Germany (AfD) - a new right-wing anti-euro party which also wants tougher immigration controls - support Pegida too. An AfD leader, Alexander Gauland, called Pegida supporters natural political allies. AfD has members in some regional parliaments in Germany and may woo voters away from Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling centre-right Christian Democrats. Some Germans have made long journeys to attend the Dresden rallies, and Pegida has also staged smaller rallies in other cities. Football hooligans linked to the far-right scene have also joined Pegida marches. A Pegida march was due to be held in Oslo, Norway, on 12 January. And Pegida followers plan marches in Denmark in a week's time. 

Who is against Pegida?
German mainstream politicians have criticised Pegida and thousands of Germans have joined counter-demonstrations to show support for tolerance and multiculturalism. About 35,000 people rallied against Pegida in Dresden on 10 January, anxious to show that the city was open and tolerant. In her New Year address Chancellor Merkel urged citizens to shun Pegida: "Do not follow people who organise these rallies, for their hearts are cold and often full of prejudice, and even hate." Politicians and celebrities signed a petition in Bild, Germany's biggest-selling daily, to protest against Pegida. They included ex-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and retired footballer Oliver Bierhoff. The petition said "no" to xeno-phobia and "yes" to diversity and tolerance. On 5 January the anti-Pegida demonstrations were massive - crowds thronged the streets of Cologne, Stuttgart and Berlin. There were dramatic gestures of support for the marchers: the lights of Cologne Cathedral were switched off, as were the lights at the Volkswagen plant in Dresden.

Why is Islam an issue in Germany now?
German politicians have long been among the most vocal in Europe in support of tolerance and diversity. That spirit of openness was partly a reaction against the evils of Nazism. But in the 21st Century jihadist violence and urban deprivation have provided fertile ground for anti-immigration groups. Even before Pegida's emergence, the wearing of Muslim headscarves in schools had already become a political issue. Many German states have banned teachers from wearing headscarves. A recent Bertelsmann Foundation survey sugges-ted that 57% of non-Muslim Germans consider Islam a threat. Last year Germany received more than 180,000 asylum claims - compared with 127,000 in 2013. Germany accommo-dates more asylum seekers than any other European country. In areas with large immigrant communities there is often more pressure on housing and social services.

Germany's ethnic Turkish community is the largest immigrant group, numbering about three million, and most are Muslims. Many have lived in Germany for decades and many are well integrated. But among the new asylum seekers are many Muslim refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq. Muslim Chechens and Afghans have also sought refuge in Germany. Pegi-da supporters believe that immigration and national identity are issues too long neglected by politicians - so they are trying to raise public awareness. But there is anxiety now that, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, such marches may stir up Islamophobia.
© BBC News

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Germany: Leipzig lifts ban on cartoons depicting prophet Muhammad at rally

German city braced for Pegida demonstration as record 25,000 attend latest march organised by far-right group in Dresden, the first since Paris attacks

12/1/2015- The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and most of her cabinet will join a rally for an “open and tolerant Germany” called by Muslim leaders at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Tuesday after another night of anti-Muslim rallies across the country. The vigil was called by Muslim organisations to remember the victims of the Islamist militant attacks on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher shop in Paris. The attacks in France have inflamed the row in Germany over demonstrations by supporters of the far-right Pegida group, who have gathered in Dresden and a growing number of cities since October. On Monday night, a record 25,000 anti-Islamist protesters marched through Dres-den, many holding banners with anti-immigrant slogans, and held a minute’s silence for the victims of the Paris attacks. The Pegida leader, Lutz Bachmann, set out the group’s demands for the German government, including a new law forcing immigrants to integrate, and ensuring that Islamists who leave Germany to fight are not allowed to return.

Leading politicians stepped up their criticism after Pegida organisers announced that this week’s demonstrations would be held in mourning for those killed in Paris. Horst Seeho-fer, head of the conservative Christian Social Union, called for Monday’s Pegida marches to be called off, while the interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, accused Pegida of exploiting the attacks. On Monday, Merkel triggered a fierce debate when she pointed to comments made by the former German president Christian Wulff, who said in 2010 that Islam was part of Germany. “Former president Wulff said Islam belongs to Germany. That is true. I also hold this opinion,” she said alongside the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutođlu, who also took part in the Paris march on Sunday.

Up to 10,000 people were expected to attend a Pegida anti-Islam rally in Leipzig on Monday night after the city lifted a ban on cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, as Germany braced itself for the first such protests since the attacks in Paris. In the event, Leipzig police estimated that 15,000 counter-protesters had rallied against a far smaller number of anti-Islam demonstrators. The ban was added to the city’s list of conditions on the demonstration permit in the wake of the attacks, but met with several complaints. The city’s mayor, Burkhard Jung, told state broadcaster MDR he had decided to lift the ban, saying that a demonstration permit was not the place to curtail freedom of speech. An anti-Pegida demonstration on Saturday in Dresden in favour of tolerance, organised by the government of Saxony, attracted 35,000 people. “That was very encouraging, of cour-se,” said Marcel Nowicki, a Leipziger helping to coordinate counter-demonstrations. “But there were other things that have also been very encouraging for us. There were support events [in Leipzig] in the weeks before.”

Legida, the name of the Pegida group in Leipzig, posted the official set of rules for ’s protest on its Facebook page at the weekend, including the ban on Muhammad caricatures, along with a notice saying: “These are to be strictly obeyed.” Nowicki said the organisers had used the ban for their own ends. “It wasn’t forced top-down,” he said. “It was a nice publicity stunt. What the Legida protesters did was to proclaim that they have been forced not to show any of those caricatures. In reality it wasn’t quite like that.” A spokesman for the city said the ban had been imposed by mutual agreement between organisers and the local public order office. Criticism of the ban came from city councillor René Hobusch, among others. He said the ban was censorship and an “unacceptable restriction on the freedoms of assembly and speech”.
© The Guardian

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Attack on German newspaper raises tension before anti-Islam rally

* Two suspects held over arson attack on Hamburg daily * Islamists could also strike in Germany - interior minister * 18,000 show up at solidarity rally in Berlin (Adds mass rally in Berlin)

11/1/2015- A Hamburg daily that reprinted satirical cartoons from French newspaper Charlie Hebdo was hit by arsonists at the weekend, raising security concerns in Germany on the eve of a planned mass rally against Islam in the city of Dresden. Islamist militant attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher deli in Paris this week that killed 17 people have fuelled fears of similar assaults in other European countries and prompted a warning from German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere. "I am very concerned about well-prepared perpetrators like those in Paris, Brussels, Australia or Canada," he told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag. There were about 260 people in Germany regarded as dangerous Islamists, he said. Bild am Sonntag said U.S. intelligence agencies had tapped conversations of senior Islamic State (IS) members in which they said the Paris attacks were the start of a series in Europe.

In Hamburg, two people were arrested after an incendiary device was thrown into a building of the Hamburger Morgenpost daily, setting some documents on fire, police said. The Morgenpost had reprinted cartoons from Charlie Hebdo in a show of solidarity with the French weekly known for its mocking broadsides against Islam and other religions, and with the principle of freedom of expression overall. The Hamburg newspaper said there were no people in the building at the time of the attack, and investigators were checking for any connection with the cartoons. While Chancellor Angela Merkel took part in the silent march in Paris, around 18,000 people attended a rally in front of the French embassy in Berlin, police said, with people holding up slogans like "JE SUIS CHARLIE" and "NO TO RACISM, NO TO PEGIDA".

The Paris attacks have also raised fears of a boost to anti-immigration movements such as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA). It holds weekly rallies in Dresden with around 18,000 people attending last Monday. However, that was dwarfed on Saturday by an anti-racism demonstration in the same east German city which attracted 35,000 people. Elsewhere, German police arrested a suspected supporter of the Islamic State (IS) insurgent group and raided his home in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The 24-year-old German is suspected of having joined IS during a stay in civil war-torn Syria from October 2013 until November 2014, a federal prosecutor's spokeswoman said. There were no indications that the man had concrete plans for an attack and there was also no connection to the Paris bloodshed, she added.

As with other west European countries, Germany is struggling to stop the radicalisation of disaffected young Muslims, some of whom want to become jihadist insurgents in Syria or Iraq.
© Reuters

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Germany: PEGIDA expects record rally on terror fears

Germany's new anti-Islamic PEGIDA movement plans to rally again on Monday, with analysts expecting its ranks to swell by thousands following this week's bloody jihadist violence in France.

10/1/2015- The leaders of the so-called "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident" have asked marchers to wear black armbands and observe a minute's silence for "the victims of terrorism in Paris". Many observers of the rise of the far-right populist movement in the eastern city of Dresden now expect it to seek to make political capital from the massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and its bloody aftermath. Fears over the events probably "will buoy currents of the vague xenophobia that exist in this country", Everhard Holtmann of Halle-Wittenberg University told the Handelsblatt business daily. "The Islamophobia syndrome, on the crest of which PEGIDA rides, could in fact gain strength." PEGIDA has voiced a wide range of grievances and railed against diverse enemies, not just Islam and asylum-seekers, but also the media and a political elite whom they accuse of diluting Germany's Christian-based culture with multi-culturalism. Launched in October with a march of just 500 people, it has since swelled rapidly, stirring anguished debate in a country whose dark history makes expressions of xenophobia especially worrisome. Chancellor Angela Merkel deplored the rise of PEGIDA in a New Year's address, saying its leaders have "prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts".

'Nightmarish vision'
Nonetheless, next Monday "it is likely that there will be even more people" than the record 18,000 who joined the latest rally, said Frank Richter, head of Dresden's civic education centre. Victor Vincze, a senior city official on immigrants affairs, agreed that more people may be mobilised by the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in France that claimed 12 lives and the subsequent deadly hostage sieges. He told AFP that "there will be people who have stayed home so far and who will say: 'Look at what happened right in the heart of Europe, in Paris. This is not Baghdad or Sanaa. This will be emulated by others'". Activists have announced plans for PEGIDA spin-offs in Austria and Scandinavia, while other European far-right groups have voiced support for the German movement. Political scientist Werner Patzelt of Dresden Technical University predicted that "it is likely that the 20,000-mark for demonstrators will be reached Monday".

"The Paris attacks will without doubt affect Dresden and give the PEGIDA movement even more influence. PEGIDA simply says to everyone who claimed that their nightmarish vision had nothing to do with reality that they must now realise that this fear is not unjustified." PEGIDA said on its Facebook page that the killings at Charlie Hebdo in Paris confir-med its views. "The Islamists, which PEGIDA has been warning about for 12 weeks, showed France that they are not capable of democracy but rather look to violence and death as an answer," it said. "Our politicians want us to believe the opposite. Must such a tragedy happen here in Germany first???" The movement has so far failed to strongly take root outside Dresden, in the former communist East Germany. Copycat gatherings of several hundred people each in western states have been vastly outnumbered by counter demon-strations.

Nonetheless their rhetoric seems to strike a chord with many voters, according to a poll published by Zeit weekly. In a survey conducted several weeks ago, 57 percent said they felt threatened by Islam, four points higher than in 2012. And 61 percent of non-Muslim Germans said Islam had no place in the West, according to the study released by the Bertels-mann Foundation think tank. Germany, Europe's most populous country with 80 million people, is home to about four million Muslims, mostly of Turkish origin. Several German Mus-lim groups have called for a silent march in Berlin on Monday to denounce violence and the risk of division of society. President Joachim Gauck said this week the Paris attacks "have shaken us, but not our beliefs", stressing that his message was aimed at the perpetrators and their sympathisers, but also at "those who want to capitalise" on such tragedies.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Around 35,000 Germans rally in Dresden against racism and xenophobia

10/1/2015- A rally against racism and xenophobia on Saturday drew tens of thousands of people in the eastern German city of Dresden, which has become the center of anti-immigration protests organized by a new grassroots movement called PEGIDA. "We won't permit that hate will divide us", Dresden's mayor Helma Orosz said in front of the 18th-century Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). Around 35,000 people attended the rally that was jointly organized by the state government of Saxony and the city of Dresden, officials said. The movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) is holding weekly rallies in Dresden with a record number of 18,000 people attending last Monday. Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the anti-Muslim demonstrations, urging Germans to turn their backs on the movement and calling their organizers racists full of hatred.

A recent survey, conducted before Wednesday's deadly attack on a French satirical magazine, showed that an increasing majority of non-Muslim Germans feel threatened by Islam. The Paris attack has fueled fears that it could boost anti-immigration movements around Europe and inflame a culture war about the place of religion and ethnic identity in society. Speaking after a party meeting of her Christian Democrats (CDU) in Hamburg earlier on Saturday, Merkel stressed the need for intercultural dialogue and warned against prejudice. "We have made clear that the events in France, this barbaric terrorist act, are a challenge for all of us, for the values that we advocate, to fight for them," she said, adding that people must differentiate between Islam and religious fanatics. Merkel who will take part in a silent march in Paris on Sunday also welcomed a decision by leading Muslim groups in Germany to organize a vigil in Berlin next week.
© Reuters

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Germany's 'Islamisation' marches: how the pro- and anti-Pegida rallies measured up

A 25,000-strong protest in Dresden against the "Islamisation of Germany" was the largest yet for the movement - but was still vastly overshadowed by counter-protests

13/1/2015- More than 100,000 people took to the streets in Germany on Monday night as counter-protests against the anti-Islam protests that have the country in recent weeks gathered strength. Protests under the banner Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West, or Pegida, have grown dramatically since a few hundred people turned up to the first demonstration in October, reaching 25,000 at a “funeral march” for the victims of the Paris attacks on Monday night. But counter-protests against the movement have grown even more rapidly, and on Monday they outnumbered Pegida supporters by four to one across Germany. Pegida’s organisers had hoped to regalvanise their movement in the after-math of the Paris attacks, which they say vindicate their claims that Germany’s traditional culture is under threat from “Islamisation” by immigrants.

But though they secured a record turn-out of 25,000, up 7,000 from the previous week, it was dwarfed by counter-protests, with 35,000 people marching against Pegida in the city of Leipzing alone, and a further 20,000 in Munich. Every time Pegida have tried to replicate the success of their Dresden protests in other cities around Germany, they have been outnumbered by counter-protestors. In Leipzig on Monday night, counter-demonstrators drowned up Pegida supporters’ chants with whistling, while others turned out their lights and played the EU anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, through open windows as the Pegida marchers passed. Even in their heartland of Dresden, Pegida’s record showing of 25,000 could not match the 35,000 who marched against their movement in a demonstration on Saturday.

See the stats
© The Telegraph

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Would you unfriend someone for their politics?

Can you really click away a political movement?

11/1/2015- Protests against an anti-immigration movement are spilling from Germany's streets to social media with bloggers calling for people to unfriend Facebook contacts if they "like" the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) movement. Blogger Marc Ehrich has promoted a tool that allows you to check whether someone has liked a Facebook page. "In April I saw some guys sharing these individual links on their timeline so I thought I would write about it," he said. "I wanted to provoke a little and start some interesting discussions. At first it was just a list with some music bands that I thought would be funny or amusing for people to find out about, and then I added the anti-euro party AfD and the neo-Nazi NPD party. "Of course I wouldn't say to someone, 'hey unfriend this guy because he likes [the singer] Helene Fischer.' But when it comes to AfD and NPD I wanted people to really think about the likes of their friends."

In December he tweaked the tool to include a Pegida checker because he was annoyed with their supporters. The blog post immediately went viral. Despite the pro-minent "unfriend me" title at the top of the page, he says the tool wasn't only meant to be used to drop contacts. But he's unremorseful if that's what people choose to do. "I heard arguments like, 'Hey, I am following Pegida because I want to be informed.' My answer to that is Facebook 'likes' are a kind of currency. The more likes a site has, the more attention it gets, but you can follow without liking." The discreet nature of unfriending means it's hard to measure how widespread this trend actu-ally is, but the idea does seem to be taking off. "The unfriending campaign is pretty big here, I think everybody's aware of it," said Berlin-based social media writer Torsten Muller.

"I'm not sure it will achieve very much beyond stopping people with different views from talking, but maybe it has raised awareness that there are many people who feel strongly against Pegida." Munster-based politics teacher Marina Weisband saw the unfriending blog appear several times in her newsfeed and clicked the link. It turned out she only had one Pegida-liking friend. "He was an old school mate, who joined the police force straight from school I think," she said. "I didn't try to engage him in conversation because he's not a close friend. If he was I might have tried to talk to him, but he wasn't so ..." She's fully aware of the downsides of unfriending people with alternative viewpoints, namely narrowing the conversation and removing the chance for them to be influenced by more moderate views. But for her, the personal connection wasn't there to justify angsting over.

"Pegida is a sensitive topic, but I do think it's important for people to see they don't come from the centre and their views aren't widely accepted. They probably think, 'hey, we're just normal people with family and friends' but that's not actually the case, and maybe they will see that if they start to lose connections." Marina wasn't the only one to respond to the unfriending call. "I have [deleted friends] in self defence, because I caught myself in very unpleasant discussions with him or his 'friends'," one of her friends Ralph Pache said in response to her unfriending thread.

Not everyone is convinced by the strategy though. Christoph Schott is Germany's head of e-campaigns at Avaaz, a global civic organisation that promotes activism. He says the divisive nature of the unfriending campaign worries him. "I feel like it's not the right way to go about things. Pegida is making a big split in Germany and at hard times like this, with what is happening with Charlie Hebdo in France, we don't want to be divided here, we need to face these threats together. "We exist both online and offline, so we can protest on the street and on social media. Unfriending is just one social media campaign but there have been online petitions too. "At Avaaz we've just started Mit Dir to show how united and colourful we are." The idea is for Germans to upload pictures and memes and also post photos of themsel-ves in Germany with someone from another country, race or religion. "Amid this political storm, we're trying to create a love storm," Schott says. "The question of how you resolve this split appearing in our society is a big issue for us but we can only solve it together," he adds.

Blog by Sitala Peek
© BBC News

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Kyrgyzstan lawmaker calls for public execution of all gays

'In order to cleanse society'

12/1/2015- A leading Kyrgyz politician has called for the public execution of LGBTI people 'in order to cleanse society.' MP Narynbek Maldobaev made the comments in a 26-minute film about the central Asian country by Vocativ. One resident of the capital Bishek said local people did not want 'Western ideas about gays and lesbians' and the lawmaker went as far as to say they should all be exterminated. 'If it were up to me, I would round them up, the despicable criminals. I'd bring them to a public square and there I would publicly punish them,' he said. Asked if by 'punish' he meant execute, Madobaev said, 'Yes. That's about right.' Although gay sex is legal in Kygryzstan, lawmakers in October overwhelmingly voted in favor of a Russian-style law that will punish 'gay propaganda' with up to a year in jail.

lawmakers in October overwhelmingly voted in favor of a Russian-style law that will punish 'gay propaganda' with up to a year in jail. - See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/kyrgyzstan-lawmaker-calls-public-execution-all-gays120115#sthash.sTT3gnN8.dpuf

© Gay Star News
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Austria: Fraternity ball-goers attacked by leftists

Attendees at the right-wing student fraternities ball in Linz on Saturday night were protected from attacks by police, who prevented around 50 demonstrators from reaching the ball-goers.

11/1/2015- The Annual Linz Burschenbundball was targeted by left-wing demonstrators, protesting against the celebration of what author and keynote speaker Hans-Henning Scharsach called the "intellectual backbone of neo-Nazism" and as "a [set of ] unconstitutional organizations". The planned demonstration consisted of between 500 and 700 people, who marched noisily but peacefully from the starting point at the Linz railway station, to the Hessenplatz where the ball was scheduled to be held. Initially, police praised the discipline of the protesters, although a few did light flares. Police allowed this to happen for "reasons of proportionality", according to officials. Most protesters didn't wear hoods or masks, as those had been banned for security reasons, but a few hard-core protesters were seen protecting their iden-tities.

The ball was being held at the Commercial Palais Club, around which police had established a cordon to prevent protesters from clashing with the attendees. It was at the end of the demonstration that confrontations with police began, when a group of 50 people attempted to attack visitors to the ball. Another group of 150 people broke off and attempted to form a blockade at the building entrance, to prevent ball-goers reaching the ball venue. "If we had not intervened, people would have been injured," said police spokesman David Furtnerteich. A spokeman for the demonstration organizers 'Linz Against the Right', Dominik Samass, said that their group had no control over incidents occurring at the end of the rally. He described the Burschenbundball as a "big right-wing event".

Scharsach criticized Upper Austrian Governor Josef Pühringer of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) for his attendance at the ball, claiming that he was showing support to the far-right members of the student fraternities, which were dominated by members of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ.) A similar ball will be held in Vienna on January 30th, and is likely to attract massive protests, as it did in 2014.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Two Thousand-strong crowd for Vienna 'kiss demo'

As many as 2,000 people gathered opposite Vienna’s Cafe Prückel on a Friday evening, to peacefully protest against homophobia and intolerance after a young lesbian couple were thrown out of the traditional cafe last week for kissing each other in greeting.

16/1/2015- An upbeat and mainly young crowd, including students, families with young children, and couples gathered outside in the cold to show their support for Eva Prewein and Anastasia Lopez, who were barred from the cafe after greeting and kissing each other when they met for a tea there last week. They told the crowds at the protest that they were not doing anything provocative, like having a long snog, but just doing what many other, heterosexual couples would do when they greeted one another. But a waiter refused to serve the girls for more than two hours and then the manager barred them when they kicked up a fuss. Lopez recounted how Christl Sedlar, manager of the cafe on Vienna's famous Ringstrasse boulevard, informed the outraged pair that "diversity such as this belongs in a brothel, not in a traditional coffee house". On Friday evening the 112-year-old cafe was closed and police guarded the door - although someone had managed to spray the words “smash homophobia” on the wall earlier in the day.

On Thursday Sedlar had apologized for her actions - saying that she “overreacted” - but that didn’t stop thousands pledging their support and attendance for the gathering on Face-book. Dunkin' Donuts seized the opportunity for some free marketing by giving away heart shaped doughnuts to any of the assembled couples who kissed each other during the protest. An acapella choir sang Depeche Mode songs and Lopez and Prewein called on the cheering crowds to stand up for others when they see someone being discriminated against or treated badly. They said they felt deeply hurt that none of the customers at the cafe came to their defence, and that it was still unusual to see gay couples holding hands on the streets of Vienna. Representatives from political parties including the Greens, the Neos and the Social Democrats called for more tolerance and respect in Austria and stres-sed that gay couples should feel free to express love and affection openly, just as heterosexuals do.

Ulrike Lunacek, Austria’s Green MEP who is openly gay, told the crowd that heterosexual couples are not thrown out of Vienna’s cafes for kissing, and gay couples shouldn’t be either. She added that it is important that Europeans make a stand against homophobia, in a world where gay people can still be sentenced to death for their sexual orientation. Julia and her partner Matthias, there with their one-year-old son, told The Local that they wanted to show support for a more tolerant society, and give a sign that Vienna is a modern world city where people shouldn't fear discrimination.
© The Local - Austria

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Italy: Gay man forced to 'go to prostitute or lose job'

A gay man in central Italy was allegedly forced to go to a female prostitute to "prove" to his boss he was straight.

14/1/2015- A restaurateur in Rimini allegedly told the 40-year-old chef to pay for sex with a woman or lose his job, Italian media reported on Tuesday. The incident was condemned by rights group Arcigay, which likened it to practises used by the Nazis during the Second World War. “Even if someone denies there’s homophobia in Italy, it certainly exists,” said Marco Toni, founder of Arcigay’s Rimini branch. “It’s forcing him by taking advantage of the need [to work], with threats of dismissal, to act cruelly against a person that only wants to do their work to earn a living,” Toni said in an online statement. He went on to call on other restaurateurs to show their support for the chef by offering him work, warning the case could discredit the entire profession in the popular seaside city. David Sassoli, an Italian politician and vice-president of the European Parliament, described the news as a “horror report” on Twitter.
© The Local - Italy

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Greece: Turkish nationalist group refused entry to Athens over Genocide bill

13/1/2015- The Talaat Pasha Committee, a Turkish nationalist organization aiming to counter recognition of the Armenian Genocide, has been refused entry to Athens, where it was planning to issue a statement to protest a bill recently approved by the Greek parliament, Horizon Weekly reports. The committee wanted to the withdrawal of the bill approved by Greece’s parliament in September that stiffens penalties for racially motivated crime and criminalizes the denial of genocide and war crimes. The delegation of 13 people was inter-cepted by police at the airport and prevented from entering the city for “security reasons.” They were sent back to Turkey with the next flight.

The Greek lawmakers adopted on Sept 9, 2014 an anti-hate crime bill on Combating Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism, making it illegal to deny the Jewish Holocaust, and genocides recognized by international courts or by the Greek parliament, including the genocide of Pontus Greeks, the genocide of Asia Minor Greeks, and the Armenian Genocide. Those violating this new law would be fined. Violation of the law supposes a fine of 30,000 euros or imprisonment of up to three years. The Greek law stems from the European Union’s 2008 “Framework Decision against Racism and Xenophobia,” which urged all EU states to adopt laws that punish racism, xenophobia, denial of genocide, crimes against huma-nity, and war crimes.
© The Pan Armenian

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Greece: A crowded field

Syriza edges closer to victory, but with uncertainty over its coalition partner

10/1/2015- The far-left Syriza party continues to hold a small but steady lead in the polls ahead of Greece’s election on January 25th. After such a long period ahead of the ruling party, this lead seems unlikely to be overturned in just two-and-a-half weeks, say pollsters. Yet Alexis Tsipras, the firebrand Syriza leader, has been toning down his anti-European rhetoric. He now says no “unilateral” decisions will be taken on Greece’s obligations to its creditors, a signal that a Syriza government would not surprise markets with an immedi-ate default. Mr Tsipras’s message to voters is simple: a promise to end four bleak years of austerity with a splurge of social spending. The café debate has shifted, too. It is no longer about whether the centre-right New Democracy party led by Antonis Samaras, the prime minister, can pull off a last-minute victory (Mr Samaras still has a higher personal approval rating than Mr Tsipras), but over which small party would be Syriza’s most likely coalition partner. For Syriza officials concede they may well fall short of an outright majority, even with the 50-seat bonus that goes automatically to the party that finishes first.

The choice could be harder than it looks. At least four small parties are expected to beat the threshold of 3% to get into parliament. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party may finish third, even though its leaders are in jail awaiting trial on charges of running a criminal organisation. The perennially Stalinist Greek Communist Party has long rejected Mr Tsipras’s overtures favouring co-operation, despite Syriza’s own communist roots. That leaves To Potami (the River), a new moderate centre-left party founded only in 2014 by Stavros Theodorakis, a popular television journalist, and the PanHellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), which is tainted by its two-and-a-half-years spent as New Democracy’s junior coali-tion partner. Pasok is already shaping up as the most likely contender to back Syriza: its leader, Evangelos Venizelos, stresses populist measures that he backed while in govern-ment, despite opposition from the “troika” of Greece’s creditors from the European Union and the IMF, such as letting tax debtors stretch repayments out in as many as 100 instal-ments.

Support from disillusioned Pasok voters underpinned Syriza’s sudden rise from left-wing outlier into a serious contender for power during Greece’s two back-to-back elections in 2012. But that was before the intervention of George Papandreou, the prime minister who signed up to the international bail-out in 2010 and a former Pasok leader (and son of its founder). He has unexpectedly launched a new party, the Movement of Democratic Socialists. It could win about 4% of the vote, according to one poll, trading both on the Papan-dreou political brand and on his appealing vision of a centre-left consensus to rebuild a society exhausted by austerity and polarised politics. If Mr Papandreou splits the Pasok vote, Mr Venizelos’s chances of joining a Syriza-led government look slim.

Meanwhile the messages from Berlin are becoming louder: Greece should in principle stay in the euro, but Mr Tsipras’s demands for a debt write-off and spending binge are unac-ceptable. The spectre of a Grexit, laid to rest while the Samaras government got on with its reforms, has resurfaced. Yet polls show that voters still believe that Greece’s place in the euro is secure. “The current view is that Germany is bluffing and the euro zone would collapse if we were forced out,” says one pollster. “But that could change as polling day comes closer.” But that was before the intervention of George Papandreou, the prime minister who signed up to the international bail-out in 2010 and a former Pasok leader (and son of its founder). He has unexpectedly launched a new party, the Movement of Democratic Socialists. It could win about 4% of the vote, according to one poll, trading both on the Papandreou political brand and on his appealing vision of a centre-left consensus to rebuild a society exhausted by austerity and polarised politics. If Mr Papandreou splits the Pasok vote, Mr Venizelos’s chances of joining a Syriza-led government look slim.

Meanwhile the messages from Berlin are becoming louder: Greece should in principle stay in the euro, but Mr Tsipras’s demands for a debt write-off and spending binge are unacceptable. The spectre of a Grexit, laid to rest while the Samaras government got on with its reforms, has resurfaced. Yet polls show that voters still believe that Greece’s place in the euro is secure. “The current view is that Germany is bluffing and the euro zone would collapse if we were forced out,” says one pollster. “But that could change as polling day comes closer.”
© The Economist

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CHARLIE HEBDO FALL OUT

'Respect freedom or f*** off,' Dutch mayor tells Muslim immigrants

fter Charlie Hebdo massacre, Muslim mayor of Rotterdam says new arrivals must adapt or 'pack your bag and leave'.

13/1/2015- The mayor of the Netherlands' second-city, Ahmed Aboutaleb, sparked a public storm after telling Muslim immigrants who do not respect freedom to "f*** off." A Tuesday report in the British newspaper the Telegraph said the Rotterdam mayor – who was born in Morocco and immigrated to the Netherlands in 1976 – made the controversial statement after the terror attack at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo – in which ten journalists and two police officers were killed. Shortly after the massacre in Paris, Aboutaleb appea-red on television and told other Muslim immigrants, "if you do not like freedom, in Heaven’s name pack your bag and leave," the Telegraph reported. The 53-year-old "secular Muslim" mayor, born to an imam and raised in Morocco until the age of 15, has been outspoken in his defense of Western values before, according to reports.

Following the assassination of Dutch director Theo Van Gogh by a radical Islamist immigrant from Morocoo, Aboutaleb said Muslims must adapt to the Dutch lifestyle or pack up and leave the country. Aboutaleb was first elected mayor in 2008 and has served since 2009. After his public statements on Muslim immigrants who arrive in West and refuse to accept its lifestyle, the Rotterdam mayor received the backing of popular London mayor Boris Johnson who said he was a "hero" who talked "straight to the point." "It is incomprehensible that you can turn against freedom," Aboutaleb said on Nieuwsuur (Newshour). "But If you do not like it here because some humorists you don't like are making a newspaper, may I then say you can f*** off." In the Telegraph report, he added, "This is stupid, this so incomprehensible. Vanish from the Netherlands if you cannot find your place here."
© Ynet News

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Australia: Racial Discrimination Act would outlaw Charlie Hebdo cartoons, say critics

Thinktank and human rights commissioner Tim Wilson urge debate on rejected changes to the act but senator Richard Di Natale criticises ‘crass opportunism’

13/1/2015- The controversial cartoons depicted in Charlie Hebdo would not have been published in Australia due to restrictive discrimination laws, proponents of changes to the laws have said. The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which has links to the Liberal party, said clauses in the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) that make it unlawful to insult or offend people based on their race or ethnicity stifle freedom of speech. “A publication such as Charlie Hebdo would struggle to survive in Australia, due to laws that censor offensive, insulting, humiliating and intimidating speech,” Simon Breheny, the director of the legal rights project at the IPA, said. “Section 18C [of the RDA] could be used against the publishers of cartoons that satirise figures based on their race or ethnicity,” Breheny said. The RDA does not cover religion and makes exemptions for artistic expression and for free expression on matters of public interest.

The Greens senator Richard Di Natale said on Tuesday: “There are no national laws that would prevent people from publishing cartoons that may cause others offence on the basis of religion.” “It’s a red herring. I think we’re seeing crass opportunism from those people who support changes to the law.” The government in August backed down on plans to remove the clauses of the RDA which make it unlawful to offend, insult or humiliate people on the basis of race, following outcry from community groups. Di Natale said: “The Australian community expressed their view very loudly and very clearly that they do not want to see any change to 18C of the RDA.” The human rights commissioner, Tim Wilson, who was formerly with the IPA, called for a “calm and reasonable discussion” on reintroducing the proposed changes. “I think that was a battle, but the war to defend free speech and basic rights of our civilisation never ends and is ongoing and I think this issue was always going to come up,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

Wilson said he was committed to ensuring that public harassment based on race and ethnicity would continue to be unlawful. “Are we going to do the sensible and pragmatic thing where we stop public harassment on the basis of a number of things, which is very different from merely being offended or insulted,” Wilson said. Several community groups have rejected calls to revisit the proposed changes to section 18C.
© The Guardian

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Czech Rep: Religious leaders warn against radicalism

12/1/2015- The heads of the Czech Bishops' Conference, Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Federation of Jewish Communities, Dominik Duka, Daniel Fajfr and Petr Papousek, respectively, Saturday called on people not to succumb to radicalism despite anger at the Islamic terrorists in France. "It is always necessary to insist on the fundamental principles of open society, particularly on freedom of speech, on human rights as well as on mutual respect for religions and cultures and on the search for ways of coexistence," they wrote in a joint statement CTK has at its disposal. They expressed a deep sorrow at the terrorist attacks in France on the offices of the satiri-cal weekly Charlie Hebdo and other targets, in which 12 people were killed and expressed sympathy to the victims' families. "We realise that these acts are a desperate result of deeper tendencies and griefs of the current developments in the world," the church representatives wrote. They wrote that many people may have the feeling that "it is necessary to act just as radically, that the last limit, the last moral barrier have fallen." The Czech Bishops' Conference associates Czech Catholic bishops. Mem-bers of the ecumenical council are a number of Christian protestant churches as well as the Orthodox Church and the Old Catholic Church. The Federation of Jewish Communities associates ten Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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ENAR condemns anti-Semitic killing in Paris, France

12/1/2015- The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) strongly condemns the anti-Semitic attack resulting in the death of four people at a Kosher supermarket in Paris on 9 January. This act of hatred, which is linked to the killings at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, targeted individuals because they were Jewish. We call on politi-cal and public leaders to commit to curbing anti-Semitism and all forms of racism in European society. All communities must also show a united front in the face of vio-lence and hatred.

Anti-Semitism is still a reality in Europe today. Over the 2014 summer, several attacks on Jewish shops and synagogues were reported and four people were killed in an attack against the Jewish museum in Brussels. Many European Jews experience growing fear for their life and well-being. Public authorities across Europe must take steps to prevent such acts of deeply-rooted hatred without stigmatising any community. We need policies and political will to combat discrimination, implement human rights and ensure social and economic inclusion for all European citizens and residents.

ENAR Chair Sarah Isal said: “This latest anti-Semitic killing shows the perverse effect of polarising communities and the lack of political will to address social exclusion and xenophobic discourses. Politicians across Europe have a responsibility to work on dialogue between communities and ensure everyone feels part of society. We expect them to move from lip service to concrete measures to fight hatred.”
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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PM: Turkey’s EU membership would ease today’s cultural clash in Europe

12/1/2015- The Turkish prime minister says Turkey’s EU membership would ease the inter-cultural tensions currently threatening Europe, adding he expects the same reaction shown for the Paris terrorist attacks to be shown against Islamophobic attacks. “If Turkey’s European Union integration had not been impeded and if it had been integrated to the union rapidly after the 2004 Cyprus referendum, these cultural tensions would surely not be at this level,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutođlu said in Paris on Jan. 11 after attending the rally in support of France following the massacre at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. “Unfortunately, these days it has become a trend to score political points over these contrasts. The core of the problem lies here; populist behaviors and reactions sparked by actions provoking countercultures show that we are facing a picture like this,” he told reporters at the Turkish embassy in Paris in televised comments. Davutođlu joined dozens of other world leaders at the march in Paris to mourn the victims of the three days of terror perpetrated by Islamists that began with the slaughter of 12 people at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

‘Turkish presence assurance to Muslims in Europe’
The Prime Minister said his presence in the march was aimed at sending a message to all Europeans against potential attacks that may target Muslims by “exploiting” the Paris attacks. “Europe has been a multi-cultural and multi-religious continent for decades. Islam has been the most fundamental fraction of Europe, from Andalucía to the Ottomans. The ones that want to incite tension over the Islam-Christianity clash are betraying European culture,” he said. Davutođlu also asserted his attendance in the rally served as a show of solidarity against terrorism, but also as “an assurance for the Muslims in Europe.” “By being here, we also want a determined, cooperative conscience to emerge in Europe. It is our right more than ever to expect the same sensitivity from Europe against Islamophobic attacks or assaults on mosques,” he said. Davutođlu also urged everyone to confront the threat of terror, which he dubbed as “big.”

“The assailants of these attacks weren’t raised in an Arab or Muslim country; these are youth born and raised in Paris. Therefore, it is important for all of us to prevent these ter-rorists from being dragged into this environment. This requires a comprehensive confrontation,” he said. Within this respect, he praised a comment by French President François Hollande that “these fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion” as being of the “utmost importance.” Dubbing Turkey’s foreign policy stance as “principled,” Davutođlu also vowed to raise a voice against all kinds of terror, including “state terror on Palestinian, Syrian or other countries’ people.”
© The Hurriyet Daily News

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Mixed Turkish reactions to Paris massacre

The attack against the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, and the ensuing massacre, reverberated in Turkey perhaps more than in any other Islamic country. This is not surprising since Turks are divided along the Islamist-secularist fault line, and are absorbed in their own debates about freedom of expression, and respect for different beliefs and lifestyles.

11/1/2015- This divide was also apparent in the positions of various commentators in the Turkish media after the Paris attacks. The stance of liberal and secular commentators can be summed up easily because they reflected the positions of many of their Western counterparts. Many of them also joined liberal and secular Turks rallying outside the French Consulate in Istanbul, carrying placards reading “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie). The situation on the Islamic side of the fence, however, showed variations with some providing well-known caveats, while others had conspiracy theories to explain what lay behind this attack. There were also influential Islamic voices who said Muslims had to unconditionally condemn and distance themselves from these attacks. Aware of the sensitivity of the matter, and the fact that eyes in Europe and the United States were on him, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who can be abrasive when it comes to the difficulties faced by Muslims in the West, remained politically correct on this occasion.

In his statement, Erdogan said that terrorism has no religion and nationality and could not be condoned under any circumstance. “It is very important that we stay united against all attempts to show the kind of terrorist attack seen in Paris as an excuse for enmity based on religious and cultural differences,” Erdogan said, making no reference to Islamophobia in the West. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and most of his Cabinet members expressed similarly diplomatic views, condemning the attack without any qualifications or attempts at rationalizing it in anyway. The only statement to raise eyebrows among Western diplomats in Ankara came, surprisingly enough, from Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Pointing out that he condemned such acts of terrorism regardless of their aims, Cavusoglu nevertheless qualified his words. “Another factor that threatens Europeans and their values, which we have been underlining for years at every platform, is the increase in racism xenophobia, discrimination and Islamophobia in many parts of Europe,” he told journalists in Ankara. “These currents and terrorism have a direct influence on each other,” Cavusoglu added, saying “freedom of belief” also required respect.

Western diplomats were clearly bemused by these remarks. “This is not the time for sociological explanations about what caused the Paris attack. This is the time to stand united and firm against an act that offends all decent people around the world,” a senior diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of his sensitive position, told Al-Monitor. Prior to departing for the Jan. 11 rally in Paris, Davutoglu said he was traveling to the French capital to do precisely that. He said his aim was to demonstrate that “Turkey has taken the clearest stand against all forms of terrorism and to show active solidarity with others in this regard.” Western diplomats were less upset with Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies and Islamist commentators trying to rationalize the reasons behind the Paris attack, and who came up with wild theories about what actually lay behind it. The explanation given to Al-Monitor by these diplomats was that such views were highly predictable given their sources.

Ali Sahin, a deputy from the southeastern city of Gaziantep, and a deputy head of the AKP who is also a member of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, claimed, for example, that the attack against Charlie Hebdo “was staged like a scene from a movie.” Providing eight reasons on his Twitter account why he believed this attack was perpetra-ted by sinister forces seeking to discredit Muslims, Sahin pointedly asked how it was possible for terrorists known to the police to get away so easily in the well-monitored streets of Paris after attacking the protected offices of Charlie Hebdo. Yusuf Kaplan, a columnist for the Islamist and pro-government daily Yeni Safak, did not mince his words and spelled out clearly what Sahin was getting at. “After this attack, racism, Islamophobia and enmity toward Muslims is going to peak. A hunt against Muslims will begin,” he wrote in his column. “This is an attack planned by the deep state in France to increase Islamophobia. It is a cunning postmodern crusade against Islam,” Kaplan alleged.

The harshest reaction to such claims came from Islamic quarters. Abdullah Bozkurt, a prominent columnist for Today’s Zaman — which promotes a liberal Islamic outlook — pointed to “the provocative headlines” in what he called “the government-subsidized media” and said these were effectively justifying this attack. He also criticized what he referred to as “the restrained reaction of the ruling Islamist establishment” to the attack. These, he said, had “exposed once again the chilling totalitarian mind-set of believing twisted con-spiracy theories that exist among Islamists who are biased and unable to reject cold-blooded murders unconditionally without any proviso.” Soli Ozel, a well-known Turkish com-mentator on international relations and political affairs, also believes the government could have been much more forthright and unrestrained in its condemnation of the Paris at-tack. “If this had happened seven years ago, Turkey’s condemnation would have been much stronger and more genuine, rather than trying to merely be politically correct,” Ozel told Al-Monitor.

There were nevertheless influential Islamic voices calling for the correct response to be shown by Muslims to this attack. “This is first and foremost a terror attack that has to be condemned severely. If we consider that it was immediately attributed to Muslims, our reaction to it must be much more intense,” former President Abdullah Gul, who is also a founding member of the AKP, said in his statement. “We have to show that these people have nothing to do with Islam and that there is no sympathy for them whatsoever,” Gul added. Mehmet Gormez, who heads the Directorate for Religious Affairs, which appoints imams and monitors their activities in Turkey, also called on Muslims to condemn such acts regardless of the reasons behind them. “No Muslim can respond to the disrespect shown to the Prophet Muhammad with ugly methods that he would never have approved of,” Gormez said. “This attack was carried out against all humanity that values peace, whether one is religious or not, or whatever one’s religion may be,” he added.

Fehmi Koru, a veteran Islamic columnist who writes for daily Haberturk, for his part, tried to strike an honest view with regard to Islam and violence. “Islamic history, since its first century onward, is unfortunately a bloody one. Koru wrote after the attack in Paris. “None of us are innocent. … How much have we developed? How clever have we be-come? Our development and cleverness have served only one purpose: We are capable of more bloodshed with developed weapons,” Koru added. His words point to the need for some soul-searching in the Islamic world. Ozel believes this could be one of the few positive outcomes for Turkey from the dreadful massacre in Paris perpetrated in the name of Islam. “This attack came in the middle of a debate in Turkey about Islam, which will most likely grow even more intense now,” Ozel predicted.
© Al-Monitor

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Far-Right Blame Game Distracts From France's Underlying Divisions (opinion)

The streets of France rang with cries for unity this weekend, as more than 4 million people marched in a defiant response to three days of terror that left 17 people dead. French officials said Sunday's march in Paris was the largest in the nation's recent history.
By Charlotte Alfred

13/1/2014- "National unity is vital at such a time, because the plans of the terrorists go beyond violence and seek to sow fear," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said last week, amid the deadly attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and subsequent twin hostage crisis. Yet for all the emphasis on unity, the attacks have also brought renew-ed attention to the widening social and political divides in France. As the violence was perpetrated by three French men with immigrant parents and a violent interpretation of Islam, far-right parties across Europe have argued that they've been proven right about the threats posed by Islamic extremism and immigration. "I have been warning of the danger of Muslim fundamentalism in our country for years," said Marine Le Pen, leader of France's National Front party, in the wake of the attacks. Le Pen's deputy, Florian Philip-pot, told French radio: "Anyone who says Islamist radicalism has nothing to do with immigration is living on another planet." Meanwhile, the political opponents of far-right parties across Europe have accused those parties of exploiting the attack to sow fear between communities.

Though French society does, indeed, have deepening schisms, many analysts say this has little to do with the dire warnings of the far right. The hard-liners' focus on religious differences can obscure the country's underlying socio-economic divisions, Anand Menon, a professor of West European Politics at King's College London, told The WorldPost. Fran-ce's economic decline after the 2008 financial crisis has reinforced the gulf between the employed, who have relatively generous social benefits, and the growing numbers of unemployed, especially among youth and minorities. "There is a growing division between the economic insiders and outsiders," Menon told The WorldPost. "The outsiders include a disproportionate number of North Africans living in the horrendous suburbs of Paris -- which are almost like another country."

The banlieues, or suburbs, of Paris are home to many impoverished immigrant communities, and have high levels of unemployment and crime. The banlieues erupted into major riots in the 1980s and again in 2005. "We have a terrible problem in France of disenfranchised young people, with no opportunities," Olivier Roy, an expert in political Islam, told The New York Times last week. "Many of them start off in petty delinquency, but for some of them radical Islam is a way to find a second life." Meanwhile, the National Front has tapped into discontent over those same economic disparities, but blames immigration for making the problem worse (an argument of which many economists are skeptical). A significant economic divide exists between rural and urban France, and last year, Le Pen made a point of touring impoverished rural areas, which she labelled "forgotten France," according to the BBC. The party's popularity has surged.

In France, as in other European countries, politicians and the media frequently treat Muslims and immigrants as one and the same. Yet most immigrants to France are not from Muslim-majority countries. Nearly half of new immigrants to France in 2012 were Europeans, according to the French national statistics agency INSEE. The agency notes that the number of new immigrants to France was stable between 2004 to 2009 and rose between 2009 and 2012, mainly due to an influx of Europeans after the financial crisis. While France does not keep official statistics on religious affiliation, statistics indicate that a growing number of French Muslims are also French citizens. The French Muslim population is esti-mated to be the largest in Western Europe -- approximately 7.5 percent of the population, compared to an estimated 5 percent in Germany and the United Kingdom. French Mus-lims are predominantly North African, the descendants of migrants from former French colonial territories. By contrast, Britain's Muslim population is historically from South Asia, reflecting the country's own colonial past, and Germany has a greater proportion of guest workers from Turkey.

Such nuances get lost, though, when political leaders do things like comparing Muslim immigration to the Nazi occupation of France, or saying that the onus is on Muslims to prove that "you can be French and Muslim and still respect secular rules." Muslim communities across Europe are grappling with a number of serious problems, including radicalization by extremist groups and populist backlash against Islam. France is reported to have the greatest number of Muslims going to fight alongside extremist groups in Syria, although the percentage of French Muslims who have gone off for that reason is about the same as the percentages in the U.K. and the Netherlands, according to one estimate by CNN.

At the same time, far-right groups are growing in visibility and popularity across Europe, and attacks against French Muslims are on the rise. The uptick in racist violence has not only targeted Muslims. France also has Europe's largest Jewish population, and many French Jews fear that a surge of anti-Semitic attacks is in the offing. Violence against Roma communities has also escalated in recent years. Nicholas Dungan, a senior fellow and France expert at the Atlantic Council, argues that the root cause of rising racism is a general malaise about the country's prospects. "If you look don't think things will get better, you look to blame someone else," he told The WorldPost. "France has been in a state of drift for some time now, and that drift has led to divisions."

Perhaps surprisingly, the people of France have a relatively high opinion of the Muslims in their country, according to a Pew survey in March 2014. Pew found that 72 percent of the French regard French Muslims favorably -- a higher percentage than found in Italy, Greece, Spain, Poland, Germany or the U.K. At the same time, a similar percentage of French respondents -- 74 percent -- believe that Islam is incompatible with French values, according to an IPSOS survey in 2013. Dungan argues that there is no contradiction between these statistics. "French people are politically sophisticated enough to make a distinction between Muslims and fundamentalists," he said. "There is a lot of consistency in saying, 'We believe that Muslims are perfectly capable of being good members of society, but we don't think the values of Islam' -- and they're likely thinking of extreme examples -- 'fit with our values,'" he said.

This is reflective of wider political debates in France about the role of religion. Historically, France has drawn a strict separation between private religious practice and the secu-lar public sphere. This has caused tensions with religious communities -- for example, many Muslims are displeased about recent bans on in schools and face veils in public. French national identity is particularly rooted in the founding values of the Republic: liberty, equality and fraternity. Dungan argues that France is beset by an identity crisis after struggling to articulate these values in the modern era, noting a failure of political leadership, economic problems and a sense that France has faded on the world stage. "If France does not excel, France does not exist," he remarked, characterizing French national pride.

Many commentators have warned of the risk of further polarization following last week's killings. "The main impact may be to use the attacks as an excuse to blame Islam and immigration for broad anxieties about where things are going in Europe today," warned John R. Bowen, sociocultural anthropologist at Washington University St. Louis, in a school publication. Others, though, are more optimistic. Several Parisians told the Financial Times that they hope the attack will provide an opportunity to heal the country's divisions. And Dungan believes that is already happening. Values are again at the center of national debate and the crowds on the streets show how deeply they are shared. "Until now, the National Front was able to occupy an empty political space," he said. "But now people have realized that you don't need to vote for the far right in order to be patriotic."
© The Huffington Post

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Soldiers to protect Jewish schools in France

12/1/2015- France will deploy soldiers at Jewish schools to increase security, the country’s interior minister said. Nearly 5,000 security forces and police will help protect the country’s 700 Jewish schools, Bernard Cazeneuves said Monday during a meeting with parents at a Jewish school south of Paris near the site of last week’s deadly attack on a kosher supermarket, the French news agency AFP reported. The promise of more protection came a day after French President Francois Hollande said in a meeting with French Jewish leaders in the wake of the attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket that the country would move to protect synagogues and Jewish schools, including using the military. Also Monday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that the supermarket gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, likely had an accomplice and asserted that “the hunt will go on.”
© JTA News

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Jewish, Muslim heads join millions at Paris rally against racism, terror

Observers say it was the largest gathering in French history.

12/1/2015- More than 3.7 million people, including numerous world leaders, marched in central Paris and other cities throughout France Sunday in a rally for national unity, following the terror attacks in the French capital last week that killed 17 people. All flags in Paris were lowered to half-mast, and special forces and snipers were positioned on the roofs of buildings along the routes. Observers say it was the largest gathering in French history. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marched arm in arm with Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, and at the side of French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Palestinian Authority Pre-sident Mahmoud Abbas. Other national leaders who participated included British Prime Minister David Cameron, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and King Abdullah of Jordan.

Among those leading the march were heads of the Jewish and Muslim communities in France – Roger Cukierman, head of the CRIF, the roof organization of French Jewry, and Dalil Boubakeur, the imam of the Grand Mosque of Paris. Also at the head of the throngs were employees of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, who lost 10 of their colleagues in a terrorist shooting in their editorial offices last Wednesday. The participants marched along two routes several kilometers long, from the Place de la Republique to the Place de la Nation. French security forces were on high alert, with at least 4,300 policemen, 1,350 soldiers and 150 plainclothes security men securing the event.

Hollande spoke during the march with the families of the four Jews murdered Friday in the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket. Also marching was Samuel Sandler, father of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, who was murdered in an attack on a Jewish school Toulouse in 2012. At the end of the procession Netanyahu said, “I marched in one line with world leaders to unite against terror. I told them that we must fight terror – all terror – to the death.” After the rally, hundreds of people, among them heads of religious communities in Paris, gathered at a memorial event for the victims in Paris’ main synagogue. On every chair in the hall a sign had been placed reading, “I am a Jew,” “I am the police,” “I am Charlie Hebdo” or “I am Hyper Cacher.” Hollande attended the event, as did French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and former Presi-dent Nicolas Sarkozy. Economy and Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett was also there, as was MK Eli Yishai and Netanyahu, who elicited chants of “Bibi, Bibi” and “Israel” from the participants.

Netanyahu told the crowd at the synagogue that Israel and Jews around the world stand by France and the French people. He thanked France’s president and prime minister for their stance against anti-Semitism, and conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims of the attacks. Earlier in the day, Netanyahu said that the four men murdered in the supermarket would be buried in Israel, in what he said was the families’ request. Netanyahu also thanked the French security services, and expressed special appreciation for Lassana Bathily, a Muslim from Mali who helped save several customers during the attack on the kosher supermarket. Netanyahu said radical Islam, not Islam, is the enemy of the world, naming ISIS, Hamas, Boko Haram, Al-Qaida, the Nusra Front, Al Shabab and Hezbollah.

Israel and Europe must support one another in the struggle against radical Islam, Netanyahu said, adding that Israel already stood by Europe and France in the fight against terror – and it was now up to Europe to do the same. Both sides are fighting the same terror, Netanyahu said. The imam of Drancy, Hassen Chalghoumi, also attended the memorial, and when he entered, the crowd stood up in respect. Chalghoumi held a prayer service in front of the Hyper Cacher store after the attack there, a gesture that was widely appreciated by the Jewish community. Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in other French cities, including Lyon, Grenoble, and Rennes. There were also rallies in Berlin, London, Valencia, Barcelona, Moscow, Tokyo, Sydney, Beirut and Ramallah.

In Tel Aviv around 100 people assembled outside the French Embassy on Rothschild Boulevard.
© Haaretz

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Not a provocation, it is the Islamic Middle Ages (opinion)

By Taha Akyol

13/1/2015- Muslims do not have any issues with bigotry, violence and gender inequality. Massacre machines such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Taliban and Boko Haram do not belong to Muslims. They are all “provocations” of the West, the U.S., and Zionism… “Some people” are using Muslims for a “perception operation” to create hostility against Islam. Do you want proof? Well look, Islamophobia is spreading! No, the reason for the abundance of bloodshed in the Islamic world, and the reason for brutal attacks such as Sept. 11 and the Paris massacre is that a significant portion of Muslims are still living the “Middle Ages.” There, they find a “fatwa” for any act in Islamic Law (fiqh) books written in the Middle Ages and think that this is religion.

Condemnation not enough
Barbaric acts should absolutely be condemned with a loud voice. I applaud Prime Minister Ahmet Davutođlu’s joining of the Jan. 11 march in Paris. However, condemnation is not enough. A diagnosis must also be made. This falls to Professor Davutođlu more than anybody else. Not because of his position, but because of his academic capacity. Eleventh Pre-sident Abdullah Gül had issued diagnoses and warnings on several occasions. Twelve years ago, at the Islamic Conference in Tehran, then-Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül had said, “It is now time for the Islamic world to adopt contemporary norms … While we take strength from our spiritual values, it should be rationalism that guides us.” (May 29, 2003) Gül later also made the correct diagnosis and warned on Aug. 16, 2012 in Mecca at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as on Aug. 4, 2013 at Istanbul Forum, that “What Europe went through in the Middle Ages, Islam is going through now.” Last Friday, after Friday prayers, he pointed to the gravity of the situation by saying, “Afghanistan has come to the coasts of the Mediterranean.”

As chaos and clashes increase, whatever was in the Middle Ages in history has risen from the grave with rage: Bloody sectarian wars, beheadings and concubines! Meanwhile, Par-liament Speaker Cemil Çiçek recently asked the following: “The attackers are gathered from all over the world; they depart from country X and opt for death. Can this structure be formed overnight? Can such an organization be made in one month? What is behind this business? Everybody should be asking this.” No “external force” can do this. The reason is that the “medieval” culture has penetrated to the marrow. The history of colonization, Israeli cruelty in Palestine, occupations, humiliations… Unfortunately, the justified reac-tions caused by these things bring to the surface the medieval layers lying deep down, resulting in bloodshed. Colonization and exploitation were also suffered in the Far East, but they responded by doing wonders in science, economy and even in technology. In the Islamic world, however, the response has been an abundance of Talibans, al-Qaedas, ISILs and Boko Harams.

Religious scholar Ýskender Pala recently said, “If I were in my 20s now, I would not have leaned toward Islam.” Another, Hidayet Ţefkati Tuksal, said that many Muslims are currently reflecting that “If the attackers are Muslims, then we are not.” There is nothing surprising in the spread of Islamophobia in the West. The real enemy of Islam is illiteracy and bigo-try; it is the medieval mentality. To name an atrocity “provocation” only fuels insanity. If you consider the problem to be “the middle ages in the contemporary era,” then you would both diagnose correctly and look for the solution in stepping out of the “Middle Ages.” As Gül has said, while we take strength from our spiritual values, it should be rationa-lism that guides us.
© The Hurriyet Daily News

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Paris Attacks Boost Support for Dutch Anti-Islam Populist Wilders

Support for the anti-Islamic Freedom Party of Dutch populist Geert Wilders has jumped to its highest level in more than a year after the Islamist militant attacks in Paris.

11/1/2015- Wilders, known for his inflammatory rhetoric, said after the Paris bloodshed that the West was "at war" with Islam, drawing a rebuke from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Sunday. If elections were held now, his party would be the single largest in the Netherlands, with 31 seats in the 150-member parliament, more than twice as many as it won in the last elections, according to a Sunday poll. The governing Liberal and Labour parties, damaged by persistent sluggish growth, would have just 28 seats between them, compared to the 79 they held after the 2012 elections. The Freedom Party was polling 30 seats just prior to the Jan. 7-9 Paris attacks, in which 17 people including journalists and policemen were killed by three Islamist gunmen who were later shot dead by French special forces. Wilders this week called in an interview for measures against Islam: "If we don't do anything, it will happen here," he was quoted by the newspaper Het Parool as saying.

But speaking to Dutch public television shortly before leaving to attend a peace rally in Paris, the Dutch prime minister distanced himself from Wilders's comments. "I would never use the word 'war,'" he said. "We are in a struggle with extremists who are using a belief as an excuse for attacks." More than 80 percent of respondents to the De Hond poll said people who left the Netherlands to wage jihad (holy war) in Syria should lose their Dutch citizenship and those returning from fighting in Syria or Iraq should face lengthy jail terms. The attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo had particular resonance in the Netherlands. In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, known for making anti-Islam remarks that were designed to offend, was stabbed to death by an Islamic radical as he cycled down an Amsterdam street.

Wilders, who has described Islam as a "lie" and the prophet Muhammad as a "criminal", has lived in hiding and under 24-hour armed guard since van Gogh's murder. He is currently facing prosecution over remarks he made at an election rally last year, when he appeared to call for "fewer Moroccans" in the city of The Hague, and later referred in a television interview to "Moroccan scum".
© Reuters

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Muslims in Holland start campaign after Paris attack

10/1/2015- A group of Muslims in Holland stars an online campaign titled “Not my Islam” (Niet mijn Islam) which recieves 11 thousands people's suppert at the very first day. Group members who identify themselves as “the silent majority who respects Holland's democratic system” thinks murder and barbarism cannot be linked to Islam. The group also suppert many protest take place in different parts of Holland censuring the Paris attack. Abdurrahman Akbulut, one of the leading figure of the campaign, says they cannot accept the using of Allah's name for an act of murder, referring the killers shouts during the shooting. According to Akbulut, attributing terrorist attacks to Islam raises the islamophobia especially in Euro-pe and all around the world.

Attacks raises prejudice against Islam
Akbulut adds that Muslims in Europe face discrimintaion because of islamophobia. Many women with headscarves undergo verbal attacks and have problems of employement. “Real Muslims never murder or terrorize. Islam should be protected from barbarians. We aim by this campaign to avoid islamophobia rise,” he states and believes that this campaign will help people break their prejudice about Islam. As an European Muslim he thinks this is a necessary step to live together pecaefully.
© World Bulletin

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This map shows every attack on French Muslims since Charlie Hebdo

10/1/2015- Since the terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the country's Muslim community, despite universally and repeatedly condemning the attack, has come under a wave of misguided "reprisal" attacks. The attacks are being mapped by a respected British anti-Islamophobia group, Tell MAMA UK (MAMA stands for measuring anti-Muslim attacks). This map details the incidents since they began, mere hours after the Charlie Hebdo attack:

Attacks on French Muslims from January 6 to January 10 (Tell MAMA UK)

According to reports by AFP and others, the attacks have included:
# Three training grenades thrown at a mosque in Le Man; a bullet hole was also found in one of the mosque windows
# A bomb blast at a restaurant adjacent to and associated with a mosque in Villefranche-sur-Saone
# Gunshots fired at a mosque in Port-la-Nouvelle
# A boar's head and entrails were left outside an Islamic prayer center in Corsica with a note: "Next time it will be one of your heads."

The attacks have been relatively small-scale, especially compared to the Charlie Hebdo massacre and subsequent violence committed by its apparent culprits. The only serious harm so far came from a gang assaulting a 17-year-old of North African descent. But these incidents point to a long-worsening trend of hostility in France toward the country's Muslim minority, which makes up an estimated eight to 10 percent of the population, and a sense among French Muslims that they are not welcome. The apparent logic of the mosque attacks badly misunderstands the initial Charlie Hebdo attack: if it was carried out by al-Qaeda-linked extremists, as early reports suggest, then this is a group that has made fellow Muslims its primary victims.

Further, such attacks play directly into al-Qaeda's own logic and agenda, treating the act of few fringe extremists as representative of the non-extremist whole, and fomenting the idea of existential conflict between non-Muslims and Muslims where none actually exists. It's important to understand, though, that these attacks and the sentiment behind them did not come from nowhere. French attitudes toward Islam are, to say the least, complex — something evidenced at every stage of this story. The growth of France's Muslim popula-tion has led to deep concern about what that means for France's secular traditions. The government banned head scarves and other religious symbols from public schools in 2004. In 2014, they banned concealing one's face in public — a ban widely seen as targeting burqas and niqabs and suggesting that devout Muslim women were unwelcome in public life.

Of course, a ban on Muslim head coverings is nowhere near the same things as this spate of anti-Muslim violence, but both are rooted in a similar hostility toward Islam and Muslim immigrants in France, and contribute to the sense of siege among French Muslims.
© Vox

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Muslims and Jews can defeat French xenophobia by looking out for each other

First the terrorists came for the cartoonists, then they singled out the Jews
by Emma-Kate Symons


10/1/2015- Last night, when they were needed most, the synagogues of Paris were closed on the Sabbath for the first time since World War II. Jewish neighborhoods in the Marais and on the edge of the city had been in police-ordered shutdown after a comrade of the Kouachi brothers – the Charlie Hebdo magazine killers – took hostages in a Kosher supermar-ket near Port de Vincennes, killing four. But after Wednesday’s satirical magazine massacre by Islamist terrorists resulted in the death of 12, France and the world turned to the like-lihood that Muslims would become scapegoats. Media and political debate focused squarely on the risk that the terrorists’ aim of sowing hate and discord and thus isolating France’s Muslim minority – Europe’s largest with estimates of between 6 and 8 million – would come to fruition. A backlash has begun and it is to be condemned as mosques and prayer halls are attacked and Muslims singled out in an alarming escalation of anti-Islam feeling and action.

It turns out that for all the well-founded anxiety about rising Islamophobia, France’s Jews, already under siege in their synagogues and shops and homes, were first in the frontline. They had much to fear – they had to fear for their lives, at the hands of French-born, French-educated, and French-raised men. Muslims, they had adopted the anti-Semitic preju-dices flourishing today in France’s cities and suburbs, fell into crime, and were lured by the appeal of jihadist ideology, nourished by a hatred of Jews and Israel. Now four people who happened to be in a supermarket that sold Kosher products lie dead. Because they were Jews. And they were the next targets of the terrorists, after the killing of Charlie Hebdo’s irreverent, often offensive cartoonists and staff, and three police officers.

The Kosher market shoppers are the innocent victims of an Islamofascist ideology that when imported to countries with a long history of anti-Semitism like France, places Jews and Israel at the apex of a hate scale. This includes Westerners or ‘kaffir’ of all types: writers, caricaturists, artists, all who fight for freedom of speech, democracy and sexual equality and those who simply live in liberty. France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community, estimated to be about 600,000, a fact that never escapes the propaganda spin-ners of Islamic State and Al-Qaida,who have specifically urged their followers to kill Jews. Jacques Chirac transformed history in 1997 when he became the first president to recognize and apologize for France’s collaboration in sending 80,000 Jews to the gas chambers. Today, however Jews in France must fear being beaten up, tortured and yes murdered.

According to official figures anti-Semitic attacks have surged 91% over the past year. Jews make up less than 1% of France’s population yet almost half of all acts of racist violence are visited upon them. The death toll for French Jews over the past decade reveals that those acts are more frequently of a murderous nature. In 2006 Ilan Halimi was kidnapped in Paris, then tortured for weeks in a suburban apartment block before being murdered by the ‘gang of barbarians’ who specifically hunted him down because he was Jewish. Mohammed Merah in 2012 killed three children and an adult at an orthodox Jewish school in Toulouse (He also killed a Muslim French soldier along with two others). Last year Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche shot two people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Over the summer during the anti-Gaza marches, Jewish shops and synagogues were attacked. Pro-Palestinian marchers called out ‘death to the Jews’, while some protestors knelt down and prayed to Allah in demonstrations that shocked for their blatant anti-Semitism. Amid the threats and violence, France’s Jews are perhaps unsurprisingly emigrating to Israel in record numbers.

The disturbing reality as revealed in a series of surveys notably Fondapol’s study of anti-Semitism published late last year, is that the ‘‘new anti-Semitism’’ in a nation that has a long history of it, is growing in Muslim communities. ‘‘Muslims are two to three times more likely than the average to hold prejudices against Jews,’’ Fondapol’s director, the political scientist Dominique Reynié said. Prejudice towards Jews remains very high as it has historically been among supporters of Marine Le Pen’s National Front, and also among the smaller numbers of backers of the extreme left. The survey results do not incriminate French Muslims en masse for anti-Semitic violence, but they do show that a normalization of anti-Jewishness is taking place. The Kouachi brothers and their ally Amédy Coulibaly appeard to carry a form of anti-Semitism in their hearts that was both of the foreign jiha-dist variety and at the same time very French, melding anti-Israel hatred with classic tropes about Jews being too rich and powerful.

There is no hierarchy of pain or oppression here. Intolerance, racism and hatred must be acknowledged and combated. France’s Muslims, who understand so well how it feels to be targets of suspicion and intolerance, therefore need to join hands with Jews, their fellow people of the Abrahamic faith, and say that there is nothing right about killing people because they are Jewish. Will the hashtag #JeSuisJuif also take hold of Twitter as #JeSuisCharlie did ? At the same time French citizens, politicians and Europeans need to be vigilant in fighting all forms of anti-Muslim sentiment and action, be it the defacement of mosques or harassment women wearing veils and children of Muslim confession. Yes Mus-lims who have nothing to do with the Paris terrorist atrocities are suffering the blowback as some of their bigoted, fearful compatriots and extreme right demagogues try to finger them for the violence.

A Muslim French police officer, Ahmed Merabet was killed in the Charlie Hebdo carnage, prompting the popular Twitter hashtag #JeSuisAhmed. One of the murdered magazine writers killed, Mustapha Ourrad, was a Frenchman of Algerian background, and he also got his hashtag #JeSuisMustapha. France’s Muslims braced themselves for reprisals after Wed-nesday’s assassinations. And they came, no doubt to the pleasure of the Kouachi brothers, their allied killer Amédy Coulibaly at the Porte de Vincennes Kosher market, and their Al Quaida and ISIS puppet masters who want to divide Muslims and others living in secular nations like France. French Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun rightly described the Charlie Hebdo attackers as also attacking Islam and Muslims because they were declaring war on secular democracy. ‘‘This is not just about a few vengeful thugs, but a ferocious and radi-cal willingness to stop Muslims being able to live their religion in a secular land, in respect of the laws of the Republic, and to isolate them and turn them into France’s enemies. This is why we must all resist because we are all concerned.’’

Ben Jelloun was perfectly right. Still, he along with countless other intellectuals, political leaders and Muslim activists could have had a word for their Jewish brothers and sisters, who in the end lost their lives at the hands of these same killers before police shot them. Jews are special targets in these terrorist horrors, and we all need to step up to protect them. That includes tackling the cancer of anti-Semitism that finds fertile ground along some of France’s intellectual elite, particularly in anti-Zionist rhetoric. It is rife in France’s cities and immigrant suburbs, where it is fueled by Jew haters and conspiracy theorists like the comedian Dieudonné, whose anti-Semitic shows have been banned. While the Vincennes hostage siege was taking place and Paris resembled a war zone, some were comparing the panic to Kristallnacht. This was the night of broken glass in 1938 when the Nazis ordered attacks on Jewish properties and establishments across Germany and Austria.

Let’s hope, as European leaders like Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Matteo Renzi come to Paris for tomorrow’s republican march for unity and peace, that Muslims and Jews can unite as French citizens mindful of the continent’s terrible twentieth century history. And determined to never let it happen again.
© QUARTZ

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French caricaturists target German Pegida marchers

French cartoonists distributed a flyer in Dresden on Sunday criticizing anti-Islam demonstrators' use of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris to try and boost their support.

12/1/2015- "We refuse to let Pegida profit from the memory of our colleagues", a spokesman for the cartoonists told DPA. Organizers of the Pegida marches – an acronym for "Patri-otic Europeans against the Islamization of the West" - have leapt onto the Paris attacks as a chance to boost their numbers. They called on participants in their planned demonstra-tion on Monday evening to wear black armbands in mourning for the murdered journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo. But the French illustrators – including one Charlie Hebdo employee, Dutch cartoonist Willem, who survived the attacks because he was out of the office – say that Pegida stands for everything their colleagues hated. "We, the French and francophone illustrators, are appalled by the murder of our friends. "And we're disgusted that far-right forces are trying to instrumentalize their deaths for their own purposes," they wrote. One caricature shows a hyena, a jackal and a vulture sniffing at blood seeping out from the door of the Charlie Hebdo office.



The cartoonists say that "in this struggle, Dresden is a symbolic city just like Paris" - and call on Dresdeners to reconsider their views about Muslims. While an estimated 35,000 people demonstrated in Dresden against Pegida on Saturday, the anti-Islam group is hoping to beat its record attendance at the euphemistically-named "evening strolls" of 18,000 last Monday. And an attack on the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper on Saturday, which had reprinted some Charlie Hebdo cartoons following the Paris massacre, is likely to ensu-re that feelings are running high at the march - and possibly draw more participants. is a symbolic city just like Paris" - and call on Dresdeners to reconsider their views about Muslims.

While an estimated 35,000 people demonstrated in Dresden against Pegida on Saturday, the anti-Islam group is hoping to beat its record attendance at the euphemistically-named "evening strolls" of 18,000 last Monday. And an attack on the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper on Saturday, which had reprinted some Charlie Hebdo cartoons following the Paris massacre, is likely to ensure that feelings are running high at the march - and possibly draw more participants. Political leaders from left and right called on Pegida to cancel its Monday night demonstration. "If the organizers had a shred of decency they would simply cancel these demonstra-tions", Justice Minister Heiko Maas of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) told Bild. Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer agreed, telling ARD television that "when the whole world is mourning and in shock over the events in Paris", Pegida leaders should "for the time being" cancel their rallies.
© The Local - France

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Paris Demonstration, A first-person account

by Dr. Shimon Samuels, SWC Paris-based International Relations Director

11/1/2015- 11 January 2015 — Participating in the Paris march reminded me of another. In 1990, a recently buried cadaver in the Carpentras Jewish cemetery was exhumed by hate-infested vandals and propped on an umbrella. Then-President François Mitterrand led a protest march of 250,000 along the same route in Paris as today. He was accompanied by the movement “SOS Racisme”, bearing posters with the message “Black, White, Arab, Jew – Do Not Touch My Friends!” (“Touche pas à mon pote!”). The years passed as anti-Semitism returned to Paris and Jews asked, “Where are our friends? Where are the politicians, the churches, the teachers, the unions, the media?” Large numbers of these had changed direction and are today, in solidarity with 'Palestine', i.e. ‘anti-Zionist’ and by association, no friend of the Jews.” French Jewry felt growingly abandoned as the primary target of Jihadist Islam. Nevertheless, as our late mentor, Simon Wiesenthal, would say: “What begins with the Jews never ends with them, it becomes the scourge of general society!”

The murderous assault on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly along with the kosher supermarket, resulting in 17 dead over three days, highlighted Simon's maxim. Herein hangs a question: If there had only been the kosher supermarket attack, would millions have marched and over fifty world leaders convened in Paris? Surely not, it would remain one more in the litany of Toulouse, Brussels, etc. But they marched and they came and we joined them under a Simon Wiesenthal Center balloon inscribed,"We are all Charlie, Police, Jews", in tribute to all the victims, hoping that 11 January would mean a sea-change in such bottom-line policies as:
— Stop the culture of excuse: Not all alienated, frustrated, or unemployed young people commit atrocities. There is no social welfare reason for slaughtering journalists. Charlie Hebdo cartoons are often anti-Semitic. Jews counter-attack through the law courts, not with Kalashnikovs
—Stop the disconnect: Al-Qaeda, Isis, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. are branches of the same tree. Western countries that reject this commonality with Israel will never expunge terrorism on their own soil.
© The Simon Wiesenthal Center

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Headlines 9 January, 2015

Austria: Demo plans announced for right-wing ball

The campaign group Offensive gegen Rechts (Offensive Against the Right) has announced its plans for a protest rally against the right-wing Akademikerball which will take place on January 30th at Vienna’s imperial Hofburg palace.

8/1/2015- Last year around 6,000 people took part in marches in Vienna against the annual ball. Several people were arrested and later received prison sentences after outbreaks of violence. The ball is organised by Austria's opposition Freedom Party (FPÖ) and student fraternities. In the past it has attracted far-right figures such as French National Front leader Marine le Pen. On Thursday (January 8th) Offensive gegen Rechts is setting up various information points around Vienna about the planned demonstration. On the day of the ball it is organising a rally from the University of Vienna to Stephansplatz, which will start at 5pm. From 7pm it plans to set up three “blockade points” throughout the city - at Burgtheater, Freyung and Kohlmarkt. A spokesperson told the Heute newspaper that between 5,000 and 6,000 protesters are expected. Demonstrations are also planned in Linz, against a student fraternity ball (Linzer Burschenbundball) on January 10th, and in Graz on January 17th against a fraternity ball there.
© The Local - Austria

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Portugal: Lisbon mosque tagged with far-right graffitti

9/1/2015- Vandals tagged the main mosque in the Portuguese capital Lisbon with far-right graffiti the day after its imam condemned the Islamist terror attacks in Paris. The number "1143" was scrawled on the gate and the wall of the mosque overnight Thursday, which Portugese police said is generally used by neo-Nazi groups, according to media reports. The numbers "1143" reference the year a treaty was signed that gave Portugal independence. "It's a provocation," after the attack against the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo which killed 12, "but we don't feel threatened," imam David Munir told Portuguese paper Publico. Police confirmed to AFP there was graffiti on the mosque, but declined to speculate on any far-right connection. The imam had just the day before called the Charlie Hebdo attack that left 12 dead, including some of the magazine's top cartoonists, an "act of barbarity" that "has nothing to do with Islam." Muslim places of worship in several French towns have been targeted since Wednesday's killings at Charlie Hebdo. The attacks, which have included shots being fired, have not harmed anyone.
© Expatica - Portugal

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Paris Attack Stirs Tension in Divided Bosnia

The terrorist attack in Paris has triggered tensions and heated debate in Bosnia, which is struggling to cope with its own radical Islamists.

9/1/2015- Security levels around French embassy and other diplomatic premises in Sarajevo have been raised to a higher level following the recent attack in Paris, Bosnian officials said on Thursday, declining to elaborate on the details of ongoing operations. While the brutality of the Paris attack raised fears of further terrorist activities across the globe, it has fuelled additional tensions in Bosnia, which is struggling to control its own radical Islamic elements, as well as religious, ethnic and political divisions. “This was hugely impor-tant event, one which will certainly have consequences like those of the 9-11 or the attacks in London and Madrid,” Mladen Ivanic, the Serbian chairman of Bosnia's tripartite Pre-sidency told Radio Free Europe on Thursday. “This incident inflicted the biggest damage on the very religion in whose name it was committed and I think that it opens up many questions here in Bosnia,” he added.

With some 50 per cent of its population following the Islamic faith, and with small but active community of radical Islamists, the Paris attack has raised questions and opened public debates in Bosnia. “I am deeply convinced that this represents a serious challenge to [Bosnia’s] Islamic Community which, within itself, has to clearly state what kind of Islam is to be practiced in Bosnia,” Ivanic said. The President of Bosnia's mainly Serbian entity, Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, said that he feared the possible activation of radi-cal Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that he would work on strengthening the intelligence and security structures in the entity. “We dread something eventually happening to us here because the records about people in Bosnia and Herzegovina who promote radical Islam show that there are more and more of them,” he said. He claimed that the security structures in Bosnia were too weak, and suggested that around 3,000 potential Islamist warriors were present in this country.

The Islamic community has meanwhile condemned the killings in Paris in the strongest terms. Its leader, Grand Mufti Husein Kavazovic spoke out strongly against the violence in a telegram sent to the French ambassador in Bosnia, Claire Bodonyi, on Thursday. “I express my full solidarity with France and its people in the fight against terrorist violence and the suffering of innocent people, and I condemn in the strongest terms those who plot and carry out terror and spread fear,” Kavazovic wrote in his telegram. “Although some individuals are misusing freedom to impose non-freedom, and use faith to justify their acts of faithlessness, these selfish manipulators cannot destroy the value of freedom and the dignity of a true faith,” he added. Kavazovic's predecessor, Mustafa Ceric, who was Bosnia’s Grand Mufti for two decades until two years ago, joined citizens, journalists and intel-lectuals in front of the French embassy on Thursday to pay respect to the victims of the Paris attack.

Ceric’s presence was significant in light of the fact that in the past he was sometimes accused of ignoring, if not supporting, radical Islamists in Bosnia. Local security agencies believe that at the moment some 160 Islamic militants from Bosnia are fighting for the so-called Islamic State or Al-Qaeda in Syria or Iraq. Meanwhile, deep ethnic and religious tensions among all three ethnic and religious groups in Bosnia were visible on social networks, which simmer with heated, angry debates. “The media [in Bosnia] should refrain... from statements and comments which could transfer this situation to Bosnia and Herzegovina and lead to some radical actions in our country,” Borka Rudic, head of the association of Bosnian journalists, advised.
© Balkan Insight

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Spain: Neo-Nazi faces 3 years jail over Metro attack

Prosecutors are pushing for a three-year prison term for a man who was filmed attacking a young Spaniard born in Mongolia on Barcelona's underground railway system in June 2014.

8/1/2015- The brutal attack received widespread media coverage after a video of the incident posted on YouTube went viral. That video shows a blond man standing over a young Asian man on a Barcelona metro train. The aggressor, whose face is pixellated, can be seen leaning towards his victim. He then throws several punches before shocked bystanders drag him away. The video, which has been seen over a million times was first posted on a Twitter account — now taken down — containing Nazi imagery and the slogan "Always a patriot, white Europe". The owner of that account tweeted he had not carried out the attack, but had merely filmed it with his mobile phone. "The Chinese guy insulted us and the Russian (attacker) made him shut up," the Twitter user wrote.

A social media campaign followed with people calling for the attacker to be identified and arrested. Police then went on to use the video on YouTube as an aid in their hunt for the man. Prosecutors in Catalonia have now accused the alleged attacker of hate crimes, and want him behind bars for three years. They are also pushing for a restraining order which would see the man not able to come within a kilometre of the victim for three years. Those prosecutors also want the attacker to pay his victim €9,000 ($10,700) for psychological damages caused, according to Spanish daily El País. The accused used Nazi symbols on social media networks and promoted violence against "Jews, gypsies, communists, homosexuals, immigrants and people of African descent" while promoting the superiority of the "Aryan race", prosecutors said. The trial is expected to take place in the coming months.
© The Local - Spain

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Hungary: MP’s Radical Rant Shows Jobbik’s Racist Tendencies Are Alive And Well (comment)

By Előd Novák

8/1/2015- Hungary’s Jobbik party reached international headlines in 2010 when it won 16.7 per cent of the vote at general elections, which saw the spectacular collapse of the ruling Socialists and a two-thirds victory for the Fidesz-KDNP alliance, which remains in power until this year. Jobbik, which describes itself as a value-based conservative party radical in its methods and committed to the Hungarian nation and Christianity, was quickly accused of stirring up anti-Roma and anti-Semitic prejudices and playing on the failures of the country’s transition to democracy, including widespread poverty, unemployment and botched integration policies by the international press. Its Magyar Gárda (Hungarian Guard) movement was disbanded by a court decision in 2009 because its activities were interpreted as being against the human rights of minorities guaranteed by the country’s constitution. A host of scandals followed, including an MP for the party referring to a 19th-century blood libel case in Parliament and another calling for the enumeration of parliamentarians of Jewish descent.

The party has been widely described as extremist, racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Roma and homophobic and even fascist or neo-Nazi by critics. However, the party adopted a far more moderate tone by the 2014 general elections, with most of its firebrand figures either leaving its parliamentary caucus or being expelled from the party. Jobbik aims to position itself more to the centre and to adopt a youthful, trendy image to appeal to younger voters disillusioned by long-standing parties and its election campaign saw chairman Gábor Vona sporting sleek suits and posing with puppies, while championing issues such as cruelty to animals. In a recent interview, he categorically denied Jobbik being a far-right party and swept off accusations of Holocaust denial and stigmatising the Roma. Despite its changing image, racism and extremist rhetoric are clearly alive and well in the party. One of Jobbik’s rabble-rousers who remains is Előd Novák, the party’s influential 35-year-old deputy chairman. Novák is no stranger to controversy, including anti-Roma, anti-Semitic and homophobic jibes, and has been linked to the infamous far-right website kuruc.info, which he denies. 

On 1 January, the father-of-three, who is married to fellow Jobbik MP Dóra Dúró, wrote to his 54 000 followers on Facebook: “Besides Rikárdó, the first baby born in 2015 as the third child of a 23-year-old mother, Hungarians also happen to be breeding here and there”, referring both to news that the new year’s first baby is of Roma descent and to his own family background. His post pro-voked a widespread backlash in the press and among both government and opposition politicians. Novák’s rant has also been strongly condem-ned by the government, with Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár pointing out in an interview that someone who discriminates against a child, in this case Rikárdó, deprives him from his only opportunity and “property”, namely the chance of becoming a decent person. “The responsibility of the state is to protect our children and all children from [these] outlaws”, he said in condemnation of the series of verbal attacks launched by “cowardly and brainless politicians” against a newborn.

Reacting to outraged critics, Novák said that he has no reason to apologise, adding that he expects an apology from the newborn’s father who, according to him, wrongly accused him of inciting hatred. Novák’s latest outburst is proof that in spite of the party leadership’s claims to the contrary, racism and hate speech against minorities continue to persist among party ranks. His outrageous and tasteless comments also highlight the clear divide between the moderate Fidesz-KDNP alliance and the far-right Jobbik.
© Hungary Today

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2015 off to charming start in Hungary as far-right disowns “first baby of the year”

By Erik D'Amato, publisher and editor-in-chief of the All Hungary Media Group.

6/1/2015- Well it seems that despite what I wrote yesterday, the low-point in Hungarian politics in 2015 may have been reached before the end of the first week of January. Unsur-prisingly, the unpleasantness comes courtesy of Jobbik, whose deputy leader decided to give a smack to the first baby born in the country this year, apparently because the name of the baby (Péter Rikárdó Rácz) struck him as suspiciously Gypsy-sounding. In response to young Péter’s birth, Előd Novák took to Facebook and posted a picture of his own family (above) – he has three children with his wife, fellow Jobbik pol Dóra Dúró – along with a short rant pointing out that Hungarians “also reproduce” and stressing the fact that “Rikárdó’s” mother is 23 and already has three kids, apparently a very bad thing when mother or babies may not be “clean” Magyar. Given the party’s recent attempts to make itself seem less hateful, Novák is probably wishing he could rewind the clock back to December 31st on this one. (Right now the pro-government online media is leading with a stern denunciation of Novák’s “rascally” attack by top Fidesz rascal János Lázár.) Meanwhile, I wouldn’t blame young Péter Rikárdó for literally cursing the day he was born. Ugh.
© Politics Hungary

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Russia: Racism and Xenophobia in December 2014 and Prelim Review of 2014

6/1/2015- In December 2014, at least two people were targeted in acts of racist and neo-Nazi attacks, in Moscow and the Moscow region.

All in all, based on preliminary numbers, 19 people were killed in 25 regions of Russia in such attacks, while another 103 were injured. Additionally, two people were subjected to serious threats on their lives. Moscow was the leader in terms of such incidents, with eight killed and 28 injured. In Saint Petersburg, two people were killed in such attacks while 29 were injured. In the Krasnodar Krai, one person was killed while nine were injured. There were also many victims in the Moscow region (one killed, eight injured), the Novosibirsk region (nine injured), the Sakhalin region (two killed and six injured), and the Perm Krai (one killed and six injured).

Central Asians continue to represent the main targets of racist violence, with ten people killed and 17 injured this year; along with people from the Caucasus, with three killed and 13 injured; and people simply identified as “non-Slavic in appearance,” with three killed and 17 injured. There were also several groups we classified by different characteristics, no member of which was killed in racist attack: people with dark skin (10 injured), members of various religious groups (15 injured), members of youth and informal political groups (12 injured), members of the LGBT community (seven injured), homeless (two injured), Roma (three injured) and Jews (one injured). The numbers also include people attacked incidentally as witnesses of attacks who tried to interfere or just passersby (five injured). Neo-Nazi vandals defaced five objects this month, in the Volgograd, Novosibirsk and Tyumen regions, and the Republic of Tatarstan.

For 2014 as a whole, we recorded 53 acts of ideologically motivated vandalism in 35 regions of the country. The main objects targeted were religious objects (17 incidents), Orthodox churches (10), Jehovah’s Witnesses buildings (8), mosques and Muslim graves (7), Jewish objects (5), and government agency buildings (5). In December, ultra-right wing groups planned and held events in several Russian cities commemorating, in their own way, the riots on Manezh Square in December 2010. In Saint Petersburg, the event March Against Ethno-crime and Corruption brought together between 100 and 120 people. The event was organized by Dmitry Bobrov’s National-Socialist Initiative (NSI).

Two such events were to be held in Moscow. On December 12, at the 1905 Metro stop, about 40 people came together for a rally “For Russian power, for the liqui-dation of the oligarchy.” The meeting was attended by Great Russia leaders Andrey Savelyev, Yury Ekishev (of NOMP), and Nadezhda Kvachkova. Additionally, an action was planned for December 11 on the Manezh. The organizer, Russian Revival leader Alexander Amelin, was unable to get city permission for the action, and so decided to hold a series of pickets instead, which also failed: Amelin and others were detained when they went out of the Pushkinskaya Metro stop. In Ryazan, a December 11 event was also planned, this time by local members of the “Russians” group. Police ended up blocking the entrances to Victory Square, where the event was to be held, and detained 10 nationalist activists.

Ultra-right wing Russian activists continue to participate on both sides of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. On December 5, President Petro Poroshenko presented a Ukrainian passport to prominent Russian neo-Nazi Sergey (“Malyuta”) Korotkikh, who has been fighting with the Azov Battalion. Several other well-known Russian neo-Nazis fight in the Azov Battalion, among them Roman (“Zuhel”) Zheleznov, and Alexander (“the Romanian”) Parinov, a member of the BORN (Militant Organization of Russian Nationalists).

There was only one conviction for racist violence that considered the hate motive in December 2014. This was in the city of Kasimov, in the Ryazan region: three young people were convicted for attacking a Roma person. As such, for all of 2014, no fewer than 19 convictions on charges relating to racist violence have considered the acts as motivated by hatred. Forty-two people (five of them receiving suspended sentences without further sanctions) in 17 regions of the country were convicted. In terms of xenophobic propaganda, December 2014 saw 13 rulings in 12 regions of the country, against 14 individuals. Of these, seven were sentenced to prison (usually in connection with conviction on another crime), one was released due to a lapsed statute of limitations, one was sentenced to compulsory treatment, one was given a suspended sentence, and the rest were given sentences not involving the deprivation of liberty.

For all of 2014, 145 guilty verdicts were issued, against 148 individuals, for propaganda – either under Article 282 of the Criminal Code (incitement to hatred) or Article 280 (public calls to extremist activity) – in 53 regions of Russia. Thirteen of those convicted received suspended sentences and 21 were deprived of their liberty, but almost all were sentenced to various prison terms in connection with other crimes. Six trials this year properly applied the law on organization of extremist activities, or participation therein (Article 282.1 of the Criminal Code), sentencing 13 individuals total in Moscow and the republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. Those con-victed were the creators of the cells of Caucasus Emirate and at-Takfir va al-Hijra international groups, as well as the creators and participants in the nationalist organizations Spiritual-Ancestral Empire Rus, the Northern Brotherhood, and the Slavic Union (also known as Slavic Force, both of which are abbreviated as SS in Russian).

There were four rulings in total this year related to hate-motivated vandalism (Article 214.2), against six individuals in the Ivanov, Tula, and Chelyabinsk regions and the Khanty-Mansi autonomous okrug. In December 2014 the Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated four times, on December 5, 12, 26 and 29. Entries 2522-2561 were added. In total, the List was updated 47 times this year, growing from 2180 to 2561 entries. As of December 28, 2014, there are 39 entries on the List that have been “nullified,” meaning the information has been excluded while the numbering remains. Five of those were removed as they were duplicates of other entries; meanwhile 34 were removed after the ruling deeming the material in question as extremist was canceled. Ninety-five entries reflect overlapping judgments (not including multiple entries regarding the same materials but with differing data), and two entries reflect rulings that had already been added to the list.

The Federal List of Extremist Organizations, which is published at the Ministry of Justice website, was updated with the additions of three organizations total in the year 2014. As of December 29, 2014, the List contains 36 organizations, whose operations are banned by court ruling, and the continuation of which are punishable under Article 282.2 (the organization of an extremist organization) of the Criminal Code.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis.

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40% of Dutch mosques have been attacked, daubed with racist graffiti

6/1/2015- Almost 40% of the Netherlands’ 475 mosques have had to deal with racist graffiti, smashed windows and other violent behaviour over the past 10 years, according to Amsterdam University researcher Ineke van der Valk. Many Dutch mosques have recently increased security following the spate of arson attacks in Sweden and a Dutch Facebook page calling for people to do the same here. Van der Valk says her research shows attacks on mosques have become structural and are influenced by national and international events. ‘There was an increase following the murder of television presenter Theo van Gogh and there is another peak now with the rise of terror group IS,’ she told the Volkskrant. A special organisation set up to facilitate contact between Dutch Muslims and the government has asked the justice ministry to draw up a formal risk assessment for the country’s mosques.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: PVV distances itself from call for Mosque arson

PVV has distanced itself from threats that have been expressed recently on the Facebook page ‘Steun de PVV‘ to burn down mosques. The political party insisted that the page is not an official PVV page.

5/1/2015- Several Muslim organizations in the Netherlands filed complaints at the authorities, out of concerns prompted by the aggressive reactions on the page in recent days. Friends of ‘Steun de PVV’ encouraged other followers of the page to follow recent examples from Sweden and light up mosques here. PVV Second Chamber member Machiel de Graaf said though that his party “is against violence and against calls that incite violence.” The aggressive post appeared on the Facebook page after news reports about the Sweden fires, and though it was quickly removed, that did not deter other PVV sympathizers to follow up with similar reactions: “Burn down all mosques”, “Why not here?”, “Nice job”, and “Great! Remove those things, they’re worth less than pig sties”. The threats prompted mosques to take extra safety measures, like appointing watchmen. The removal of the posts did little to take away the fear for aggression. Yassin Elforkani, spokesman for the Contact Organ for Muslims and Government said: “The threats have been published. No mosque is safe. There’s no predicting what will happen.” Administrators for the page have meanwhile also distanced themselves from the aggressive reactions. “We are not responsible for the statements from the followers,” the administrators said.
© The NL Times

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Ukraine: Failure to slam neo-Nazis in Kiev sure sign something wrong with EU - Czech president

5/1/2015- That the European Union has refrained from saying at least something critical about the recent torch-light street procession by neo-Nazis in Kiev is a sure sign some something is fundamentally wrong with the EU, Czech President Milos Zeman said on a local radio station. The procession and the way it had been prepared look-ed pretty much like Nazi parades in Hitler’s Germany before World War II, TASS reported. “Something is going wrong with Ukraine. On the Internet I saw a video of a crowd of several thousand demonstrating in Kiev’s Independence Square. They were carrying portraits of Stepan Bandera. I saw that portrait for the first time. He (Bandera) reminded me of Reinhard Heydrich (the chief of Nazi Germany’s main security office and acting Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia - TASS),” Zeman said.

“Something is going wrong with Ukraine and something is going wrong with the European Union, which has failed to protest that demonstration,” Zeman said. In the same radio broadcast Zeman criticized the Czech Republic’s participation in sanctions against Russia. “The Czech Republic demonstrates its readiness to cater to other countries’ likes,” he said. In his opinion the sanctions are “blind consent with the opinions of larger and stronger countries.” Zeman for the first time appeared on the air of a popular commercial radio station, F-1 (Frekvence1). He is going to participate in the Presidential Press-Club program created especially for him at least four times a year. Zeman had declined the invitation of being interviewed on a social and legal affairs radio station that was going to broadcast only pre-recorded versions of the program.

Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and rule of law, Konstantin Dolgov, said that torchlight parades in Ukraine were clear evidence of further movement along the Nazis’ path. During the march in Kiev nationalists attacked a correspondent and operator of Russia’s television channel Life News. “All that happened in the centre of civilized Europe!” Dolgov said. “Apparently, the marchers were aware of how defective their own views are. Is there any other explanation for their attacks against Russian journalists who were doing their professional duty? Or was it a manifestation of care for the freedom of expression and purity of speech in Ukraine?” “These are systemic crude violations of human rights running counter to Ukraine’s international obligations. Surely, there are certain lessons that the West might teach Ukraine!” Dolgov said.
© FOCUS News Agency

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Meet northern Sweden's frozen Roma beggars

Roma beggars became a common sight in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö in 2014. Now, growing numbers are making their way to the country's most northerly city Umeå, where temperatures regularly drop below -10C in winter. The Local's Editor Maddy Savage went to meet some of them.

5/1/2015- The ice is slippery on the petrol station forecourt where half a dozen caravans are lined up on a tiny patch of grass next to a forest. Inside one of them, Culai Ciurar, who is 23 and from Romania, is cooking lunch. "It's good here in Sweden, I like it," he says in broken English as potatoes bubble in his pan - the only ingredient in his midday meal. "The weather is like Romania, so it's not so cold for us," he insists. According to Umeå City Council, around 70 Roma beggars like Ciurar arrived in the region in 2014, which is home to around 118,000 people. As EU migrants from Romania, they can easily travel to Sweden as EU tourists under the right to Freedom of Movement, without the need for a visa or a work permit. Ciurar says he makes between 100 and 200 kronor a day (up to $25) from asking for money on the streets. "In Romania I don't have a job. It's the same here. I worked a bit in construction but I make more money here begging," he says. "I am looking for work here, though".

Dressed in a long pink skirt and cradling a toddler, another beggar living a few caravans down from Ciurar doesn't want to give her name, but explains that she moved to the country just two weeks ago to save up for a better life for her family. She says she plans to return to Romania once she has earned enough money to help her children through school there. "I don't beg every day because I have two children, so it is maybe one day me and then one day my husband [begging]. I do find it very cold," she admits. "They are very nice people here. They are good. They help". Just as she finishes her sentence, a man appears from the caravan next door and jogs back to a smart car parked across the forecourt. He's a 50-year-old from Argentina who's been living in Sweden for a decade and has passed by to drop off a food donation. "Why am I here? Well I am in a rush but I must say these people need food. They don't have anything. I think they need food, a little bit of help or money. These conditions are not perfect for them".

Thousands of beggars have arrived in Sweden over the past three years, with ninety percent of them travelling from Romania, according to figures released by Stock-holm's Social Administration in April 2014. Umeå has a repuation as one of the most tolerant cities in Sweden and many locals say it is no coincidence that growing numbers of beggars are choosing to migrate here rather than heading to Sweden's bigger urban centres. Long a champion of feminism and gay rights, Umeå is a hub for students and a socialist stronghold, with just 5.6 percent of the population voting for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrat party in the last general election in Sep-tember 2014, compared to 13 percent nationwide. "It's a very special and open place and in general immigrants have been integrated really well here," argues Christian Cederlind, a 24-year-old bartender who is half Columbian.

"But of course there are some people who are afraid of change or of a different skin colour...This is the last really civilised outpost in northern Sweden, and now there is rising immigration here and some of the same problems as in Stockholm, it is like a slap in the face for many of the older generation". He says hostilty towards beg-gars has risen after a video showing two man begging on crutches and later walking unaided in a store went viral earlier this year "But I think you have to remem-ber that we're probably talking about one or two per cent of beggars coming here being criminal, and we should still think about what kind of a life drove them to do that," argues Cederland.

All Swedish municipalities are advised to follow national guidelines to provide support to beggars, but it is up to each region to decide exactly what or how much help they should offer. Umeå City Council runs schemes that provide food and emergency shelter to vulnerable EU migrants alongside assistance with healthcare costs. There are also several charities in the city that offer further help to the Roma community and refugees. "We ensure that we comply with applicable laws and regulations and we also give support to the voluntary sector, coordinating the private aid efforts," says City Manager Jonas Jonsson. "This is the level that Umeå Municipality has today and it is valid until our politicians decide on another level of ambition". But there is concern among some sections of the community that Umeå has already gone too far and that resources should instead be put towards helping the beggars to return home.

It is a subject that Ritta Lindahl, a former social worker and her son Marcus are very vocal about, when The Local meets them at a book store-cum-coffee-shop on the outskirts of the city. "Romanian organizations and the EU must help them and there should be more of a focus on the long term. You can give them money now but how is that going to help them next week or the week after. They should not be here and I have seen some beggars being harassed physically by those who really strongly think they should get out of here," argues Ritta. Marcus adds: "We need to save the next generation. Most of the kids aren't even going to school. They come to rich Sweden and there are so many nice people and kind people here in Umeå giving them food and money, but it is not changing the possibilities they have in life".

The Swedish government and the EU have both urged the Romanian government to focus on improving living conditions in Romania, so that fewer people leave the country to beg elsewhere in Europe. Romania's Social Affairs and Labour Minister Rovana Plumb has accepted an invitation to Stockholm in January to discuss the issue. Sweden's Minister for Children and the Elderly and Gender Equality, Social Democrat Åsa Regnér, has said that Sweden is willing to help Romania fight for additional EU funding and suggested that Sweden might also provide technical assistance to help ensure any extra money is spent responsibly in future. Back in Umeå, most of the beggars are just concentrating on getting through the rest of the day. Rain has started beating down and is turning the ice and snow into a dark slush.

A twenty-year-old named Anna is huddled next to the revolving door of one of Sweden's most popular high street stores. She smiles as she holds out a battered coffee cup. It's unclear whether her hand is shaking to draw attention to herself, or involuntarily because of the cold. Asked if she has ever experienced hostility from locals, she provides a familiar answer, her smile appearing perhaps a little too forced: "I like it here. The people are nice. They help me".
© The Local - Sweden

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What Is Behind Europe's Rising Islamophobia? (opinion)

By Alexander Görlach, Founder and publisher of The European

5/1/2015- Recent arson attacks on mosques in Germany and Sweden, along with the emergence of a movement called the "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident," prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to deliver a "never again" New Year's message to her compatriots in anticipation of Monday's demonstra-tions in Dresden. Warning against supporting PEGIDA, she said "their hearts are cold, often full of prejudice and even hate." What is behind this most recent aggressive burst of anti-Islamic sentiment? How should we view it? The landmass of the Occident spans the territory of many countries; its meaning becomes apparent only in jux-taposition to its counterpart, the Orient. It has more frequently perished in countless texts, speeches and films than all actually existing empires throughout human his-tory combined. In short: The Occident is a fiction -- and that quality has always made it a powerful canvas for the projection of human fears and desires.

The Occident lies towards the Western sunset. Its lands are those of nightfall: heavy, full of melancholy, straining for the final rays of daylight, and hesitantly expecting the pale light of the rising moon. During the Middle Ages, stone-carved creatures of the imagination flanked the walls of Europe's cathedrals and conjured up images of nightly evils: When night falls, darkness envelops the souls of men and threatens them with extinction. The hour of sunset signals the advent of corporeal and spiritual danger. It takes tremendous power to hold demons at bay and to weather the temptations of the night. Two paradigms thus help to map the terrain of the Occident: the fear of darkness, and the belief in the divine light.

Christian churches are built with East-facing chancel windows; on Easter Sunday, the first daylight enters through the colored glass and bathes the barren nave in celebratory light. The organ intones, and the church bells ring out: He Has Risen. Indeed, the liturgy of Easter Sunday presents us with the most condensed enactment of the Occidental yearning for light, for another day, and for triumph over the demons of darkness. Ex oriente lux -- the sun rises in the East. That's why Europeans have always looked longingly beyond their horizon: Towards the East, towards Jerusalem.

The Occident became conscious of itself as a unified entity when Jerusalem fell to Islamic conquest. The longing for Jerusalem was thus also a longing for order and unity at home: One emperor, one pope, one center and one horizon that provided order to the world. At that time, the Occident was still being formed from the rubble of the Roman Empire, and forged during the tumultuous centuries of the migration of the peoples. "Alemannic" -- which is the etymological ancestor of the term "German" in romance languages -- simply means "all men." The longing for Jerusalem unified the Occident's diverse cultures for the first time. Once again, we can look towards medieval cathedrals for architectural indicators of shared cultural sentiments: The domes of Europe's great cathedrals were shaped to resemble the imagined cityscape of worldly Jerusalem; their spires pointed towards heavenly Jerusalem. Christianity became the unifying identity of the Occident.

The Occident Needs the Orient
But unity remained fragile. New dangers lurked nearby, especially at the borders. From the South, Muslim armies threatened the continent. From the North, Normans invaded. Later came the Huns, then the Turks (whose conquest was only stopped at the gates of Vienna). Southern Spain remained in Muslim hands for centuries. Rome, the caput mundi, continued to be an attractive target for invaders from the Orient. The Occidental fears became manifest -- sometimes obsessively so -- in fears of Islam. For centuries, the religious competitor to the East robbed European emperors and popes of their sleep. Over time, Islamophobia became part of the collective consciousness of the Occident. What is feared today is not the loss of any particular country to foreign conquest, but the loss of an imagined entity that binds us toget-her. The Occident is a central piece of our mental maps and our cultural inventory. That's one reason why seemingly everyone from "the Old World" has at least an instinctual opinion about it. People harbor within themselves a sense of shared meaning -- the semantic sediments of the Occident.

When those opinions are voiced, they often fall short by the standards of reason and academic science. They are instead informed, in a very visceral sense, by fears of decline and by memories of cultural blossoming. Those fears culminate in the belief that our cathedrals will eventually turn into mosques, that their bells will fall silent and will be replaced by the cries of the muezzin. But fears lead to hyperbole. Let us remember that foreign conquests have failed for many centuries (and not for lack of trying!), and thus proclaim with conviction that danger can be averted again. Fear of decline, and the celebration of an imagined unity: Those are the parameters that govern contemporary discourses about the Occident -- not as arguments but as discursive foundations. Indeed, the Occident is as much a fiction as the Orient. Both terms reflect the wishes, dreams and aspirations of our forefathers. They were shaped in earlier epochs over the course of generations and centuries.

The history of the Occident is not unlike the history of a cathedral: Every generation has tinkered with the structure and amended it. The foundations were set down during the time of Charlemagne, the aisles were added during Romanticism, a new spire was built during the Gothic period, ornate chapels appeared during the Baro-que era. When fire struck, it was rebuilt. It had to be: How could a city exist without its central reference point? The time of dusk: Fever, madness, gloriole, hyperbo-le. Death appears imminent until the rise of dawn. In old hymns, sleep is recast as the antechamber of death. No wonder, then, that religious pathologies and political and religious ideologies have repeatedly swept across the continent. Their danger remains acute. But to the arsonists I say: The Occident has never been able to sustain itself. It always required the light of the Orient as inspiration and external reference point.

During the Middle Ages, a veritable cult developed around the "three wise men" who came from the Orient and whose earthly remains are said to be contained in relics at the cathedral in Cologne. Ex oriente lux -- or, as the gospel of Matthew puts it: "We have His star when it rose, and have come to worship Him." In old paintings, the three wise men resemble representatives from late antiquity's three known continents: One European, one African, one Asian. Thinkers like Erasmus of Rotterdam turned Christian traditions into undogmatic humanism, bent on eradicating the denominational borders within Christianity. Their effort proved to be a quick flicker: The fanaticism of the Reformation and fights over the correct interpretation of Christian dogma put an end to it. The Occident descended into centuries of spiritual and intellectual darkness. At the end of the 20th century, and after two World Wars, it is in the process of reinventing itself.

As Christianity teaches us, the dead have a way of rising again. Today's discussions remind us that the Occident is not finished yet. But we must not fool ourselves: The legacy of the term is a double-edged sword that can mean nothing and everything at the same time. It was born of emotion and shaped by the highs and lows of history. It is useless as an analytical reference point and cannot supply answers to concrete political questions. Both the community of Christendom and the unity of the Occident were political ideas. The cost of their realization was paid in blood. But what is the Occident today? It is the community of peoples who have sustained the term in their collective consciousness and have continually amended its meaning.

The Occident extends beyond Christendom and beyond Europe. The term only works if avoids self-enclosure and remains perpetually open towards the outside -- towards the Orient, Africa and Asia -- as indeed it used to be. Its contemporary potential lies in continuing the work of Erasmus of Rotterdam: The formulation of global, humanistic and inclusive ethics.
© The Huffington Post

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Northern Ireland: Black man driven out of Belfast home after racist attack

A 65-year-old African man, whose home in Belfast was pelted with paint in a racist attack, says he no longer feels safe in his own house.

6/1/2015- Adu Kyeremateng, from Ghana, said he feels “threatened” and wants “to get out” following what the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are calling a hate crime. He said he no longer feels safe in his home, at Townsend Terrace in the loyalist Shankill area. The former security guard, who lives alone, woke on Sunday morning to the strong smell of paint. He found thick white paint coating his front door, both front windows and his driveway. He told the Belfast Telegraph, “I felt very bad, very frightened, and very scared. "I have to go to the Housing Executive to tell them I can't live in an environment of fear. "I feel that my life has been threatened here, and I want to get out." It could take the authorities weeks to find Kyeremateng somewhere new to live, but he said he has nowhere else to go. "I am on my own. Where can I go? There's nowhere to move to," he said. "I can't go to a hotel because that costs money. It's scary, but what can I do?”, said Kyeremateng.

"Maybe this night they are coming with guns? I don't know.” Speaking the Guardian, Kyeremateng said: “I can’t go on like that. I haven’t done anything to anybody and I don’t have conflict with anybody. I have a right to live in peace without being threatened by anybody so I’m going to see houses I could live in tomorrow. I just don’t want to risk it.” He told the newspaper that he had done nothing to single himself out for this attack. He said “I live here peacefully. “I don’t see why people would do such a thing in the 21st century. People must have the right to live anywhere they want, and people have the right to live in peace without resistance from others.” Brian Kingston, from the Democratic Unionist Party, said Kyeremateng should stay in his house. He said, “If he left, those responsible would feel they got what they no doubt wanted. Adu should be able to live there where he is.

“We are not living in a lawless anarchy where people could do this and not be brought to justice. The message must go out strongly that this sort of action will be punished." Kyeremateng, who has lived in Belfast for eight years, said this was not the first time he was made a target due to his race. He told the Belfast Telegraph, “In October, a guy confronted me in the street and asked what I was doing here. He told me he hoped I wouldn't be here for long. "That time was very bad, but this is worse. It's horrifying. "I don't know why a pensioner would be subjected to this treatment." According to the police the number racist attacks in Northern Ireland is on the rise. They also noted that most of these attacks are taking place in loyalist areas. In June 2014 the annual benchmark report on human rights and racial equality, carried out by the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, revealed that there were 982 racist incidents during the period 2013 to 2014, compared with 750 incidents during the previous period.
© Irish Central

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Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today. The Danish daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offen-sive to readers and were not funny.

6/1/2015- In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten. Zieler received an email back from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will pro-voke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them." The illustrator said: "I see the cartoons as an innocent joke, of the type that my Christian grandfather would enjoy." "I showed them to a few pastors and they thought they were funny." But the Jyllands-Posten editor in question, Mr Kaiser, said that the case was "ridiculous to bring forward now. It has nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons. "In the Muhammad drawings case, we asked the illustrators to do it. I did not ask for these cartoons. That's the difference," he said.

"The illustrator thought his cartoons were funny. I did not think so. It would offend some readers, not much but some." The decision smacks of "double-standards", said Ahmed Akkari, spokesman for the Danish-based European Committee for Prophet Honouring, the umbrella group that represents 27 Muslim organisations that are campaigning for a full apology from Jyllands-Posten. "How can Jyllands-Posten distinguish the two cases? Surely they must understand," Mr Akkari added. Meanwhile, the editor of a Malaysian newspaper resigned over the weekend after printing one of the Muhammad cartoons that have unleashed a storm of protest across the Islamic world. Malaysia's Sunday Tribune, based in the remote state of Sarawak, on Borneo island, ran one of the Danish cartoons on Saturday. It is unclear which one of the 12 drawings was reprinted.

Printed on page 12 of the paper, the cartoon illustrated an article about the lack of impact of the controversy in Malaysia, a country with a majority Muslim population. The news-paper apologised and expressed "profound regret over the unauthorised publication", in a front page statement on Sunday. "Our internal inquiry revealed that the editor on duty, who was responsible for the same publication, had done it all alone by himself without authority in compliance with the prescribed procedures as required for such news," the statement said. The editor, who has not been named, regretted his mistake, apologised and tendered his resignation, according to the statement.
© The Guardian

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Anti-Islam demo heads to France but 'it won't take off'

French anti-Islamists, inspired by the huge turn-outs at the xenophobic “Pegida” demos in Germany, have organised a protest for Paris later this month. While the organiser tells The Local “it’s just a first step”, experts say it could never take off in France.

6/1/2015- The call has been sent out for those who oppose the “Islamisation of France” to make their feelings known in front of the Paris stock exchange on January 18th. While the organisers accept they are unlikely to see the kind of numbers that have turned out for similar demos in the German city of Dresden in recent weeks, they say it's just the first step. “The movement in Germany has been around for months, for us in France this is just the start. We are only beginning here,” Pierre Cassen, from the group Riposte Laique told The Local. His organisation whose name roughly translates as “Secular Riposte” has organised the protest under the slogan “Islamists get out of France”. The Pegida movement (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) began in Dresden in October when only a few hunded protesters turned up. But by January those numbers have swelled to 18,000.

Cassen thinks the same is possible in France, “We admire what they have done and we want to help create the possibility that the same kind of movement can happen in France,” he said. Riposte Laïque is however hoping the leaders from the German movement will be in Paris to help join the protesters as well as similarly minded thinkers from other Euro-pean countries. “We have contact groups in three countries which have led by example in protest against the Islamisation of Europe, - Italy, Switzerland and Germany,” Cesson told The Local. “We hope they will come.”The protest comes at a time when the ever sensitive question of Islam and France is bubbling away once again, thanks in part to the release of two controversial new books.

On Wednesday France’s most famous literary rogue Michel Houllebecq’s new novel “Submission” will be published. His book projects an image of France in the year 2022, where under a Muslim president, all teachers have to convert to Islam. The book, written by an author who once described Islam as “cretinous”, appears to have struck a chord and is expected to be a bestseller. That's perhaps not surprising in a country where, according to an annual poll, in 2013 74 percent of the public believe the religion of Islam “is incompa-tible with the values of French society”. One of those who thinks that way is Cesson himself. he believes its simply not possible to be both French and truly Muslim. “The two cul-tures are not compatible. We have Republican values, like equality between men and women, freedom of thought and respect for different opinions, that just don’t fit with the Quran,” he said.

With the far-right anti-immigration National Front party, led by Marine Le Pen, having dramatically increased its influence in recent months and years, the time and the place appears right for the Pegida to take off in France. However experts say it is unlikely to happen in a country that is home to an estimated six million Muslims - Europe’s biggest population. Researcher and far-right specialist Jean-Yves Camus from the think-tank Iris (Institute of international relations and strategy) says the political climate is far different in France to Germany. “In Germany Pegida benefits from a political vacuum because there is no National Front party,” Camus told France's L’Express news site. “The German who is worried by Islam, but on the other hand isn’t racist, will not vote for the NPD, which is a neo-Nazi party. “So they could end up among the followers of Pegida. In France, protes-ting with Pegida is the same as voting for the National Front,” Camus added.

However even the organisers of the protest in Paris accept their throngs are unlikely to be joined by the likes of Marine Le Pen and her allies. The risks are simply too high, says Camus. “The danger of joining this extremist movement is too great,” he said. “The National Front simply doesn’t need to do it. It’s already guaranteed the electoral support of these voters.” France’s far right weekly magazine “Minute” also sees “little chance that a similar movement will emerge in France”. “It appears that these “street” movements develop more easily in a places where’s there’s no organised political opposition to Islamisation,” the magazine wrote. "That's not the case in France with the National Front and the "identitaire" activist movement.

Leaders of France's Muslim community are deeply concerned by the prospect of mass anti-Islam demos in Paris, like those seen in Dresden. Samy Debah, president of the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) told The Local that the French authorities "must act to protect social cohesion." "We are not calling for them to ban the demo but they must take the necessary measures. This kind of protest is highly dangerous for French society and the state needs to take positive measures to protect social cohesion. "The people who organise this protest are not just attacking Islam they are attacking the fundamental principles of the French republic, such as tolerance and living together." Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a veteran of French and European politics, puts the popularity of such anti-Islam movements down to fear down to a wider identity crisis as traditional cultures face rapid change. "It's PEGIDA in Germany, it's also gay marriage in France," he told AFP. "It's the fear of losing that which no longer exists: of losing a pure Germany ... of losing a vision of the family that no longer exists."
© The Local - France

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France’s far-right National Front seeks voters from the left

4/1/2015- When France’s National Front last year notched up its biggest local-election victory in almost a generation, it raised a clear and urgent question: how far can the far-right party go? The first clue is likely to come this March as voters elect regional governments throughout the country’s 27 administrative regions. Florian Phi-lippot has high hopes. The FN’s vice-president and chief strategist believes his party’s potential rests on the fact that it has been gaining adherents not just from the right but also from the traditional left. “We have a very social project,” he told the FT in a recent interview. “The people who always voted for the left, who believed in the left and who thought that it represented an improvement in salaries and pensions, social and economic progress, industrial policies . . . these people have realised that they were misled.”

To some observers of French politics, the FN’s economic policies, which include exiting the euro and throwing up trade barriers to protect industry, read like some-thing copied from a 1930s political manifesto. Christian Saint-Étienne, an economist, recently described the vision as “Peronist Marxism”. Yet they chime with many voters working in traditional industries that have been hit by Europe’s economic stagnation — and by the French state’s increasing difficulty in safeguarding jobs. It is no accident, for example, that the FN is expected to do well in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, located in the country’s northern rust belt. A win there would mark the first time the party won a regional election since its founding in 1972.

Mr Philippot, a fresh-faced 33-year-old who graduated from one of France’s elite grandes écoles, is a close confidant of Marine Le Pen, the FN’s president and likely presidential candidate in 2017. He has been at the forefront of her campaign to “detoxify” a party long associated with racism and anti-Semitism and broaden its appeal with a simple message of so-called economic patriotism. “The left — just like the right — has succumbed to the neoliberal policies of the European Union,” he says. “They have destroyed public services and have implemented austerity.” Mr Philippot insists the FN would return the state to the centre of industrial and economic policy — “protectionism makes the state stronger”, he says — after years of being undermined at the hands of the country’s Socialist party and centre-right UMP party.

“The French nation is united and strong when the state is present,” he argues. “Today, the state is big but that does not mean that it is strong. We want to create a muscular state.” The FN is not the only supposedly rightwing European populist party seeking to draw support from disaffected voters on the left. Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence party, is taking a similar approach. He will soon introduce plans to ringfence the National Health Service budget and lower taxes for low earners among a host of measures geared to economically vulnerable voters who would typically support Labour.

In France, the disarray of president François Hollande’s Socialist government has made for a particularly inviting target for the FN. Mr Hollande has stumbled repeatedly as he tries to walk the line between stimulating economic growth and reducing France’s budget deficit to within eurozone-established limits. But what about the centre-right UMP and the recent return to politics of Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president whose shift to the right in 2007 so skilfully whittled support away from the FN in the run-up to the election? Mr Philippot appears unfazed. He insists that Mr Sarkozy’s return will unleash a war among UMP leaders as they fight over the party’s primary elections in 2016 to pick a presidential candidate for the following year.

He also argues that, after a term in office, Mr Sarkozy no longer inspires the confidence among voters that he once did. “He beat us in 2007 but since then, the French have had a chance to see him in power and they see that there is an enormous difference between what he says and what he does.” The FN has a few problems of its own. It recently caught the headlines after the party admitted having taken a loan from a Russian bank, sparking fears of links with Moscow at a time of deteriorating relations between the EU and Russia. Ms Le Pen also has the challenge of reconciling the less radical voices within her party, such as that of Mr Philippot, with the extremist discourse from the likes of Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father, who intends to run as a candidate in the south east this year.

Still, opinion polls suggest that Ms Le Pen would comfortably win the first round of the 2017 presidential election were it held today. Even Manuel Valls, Mr Hollande’s prime minister, warned last September that “the extreme right of Marine Le Pen is at the gates of power”. Mr Philippot refuses to be drawn on traditional labels. “I don’t like the left or the right, I am neither,” he says. “It is about pragmatism. It is about having good policies.” ...

Academic high-achiever but ‘no technocrat’
Ever since 2011, when he was named chief strategist in Marine Le Pen’s presidential campaign, Florian Philippot has been working to “detoxify” the party that so many French voters continue to associate with racism. The mission has defined him as an obvious counterweight to the extremist views of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party’s first leader and the man who once described the Nazi gas chambers as “a detail of history”. Young, clean cut and disarmingly down to earth, Mr Philippot even publici-ses the fact that he never voted for Le Pen senior. In 2002, when Mr Le Pen ran for president, Mr Philippot supported Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a leftwing nationalist. Mr Philippot was born in Croix, a suburb of Lille just a few miles from the Belgian border. Both of his parents are school teachers. His brother works as a political scien-tist at a polling company.

He is a graduate of both the HEC business school and ENA, part of France’s grandes écoles system and a virtual rite of passage for anyone hoping to occupy the highest posts within France’s civil service. Commenting on his egghead credentials, Ms Le Pen once told France’s Le Parisien newspaper, “Florian is no technocrat. He is an énarque [ENA graduate] who has rid himself of ENA thinking. He has all the advantages of its education without suffering from its ideological sickness”. As if that were not sufficient to set him apart from the party’s traditional rank and file, the gossip magazine Closer last month suggested that he was gay. Mr Philippot called the artic-le an invasion of his privacy and said he would file a complaint.
© The Financial Times.

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Gypsy infant refused burial in France gets grave

An infant Gypsy girl who died suddenly will now have a resting place after one mayor refused to allow her to be buried in his town south of Paris, where the parents live in a camp.

3/1/2015- The girl's funeral will be held on Monday in a nearby town — 10 days after her death "I didn't hesitate a shadow of a second," Wissous Mayor Richard Trinquier told BFM-TV on Saturday. He said that not to provide a grave for the child who died in a hospital, reportedly of sudden infant death syndrome, is "humanly unthink-able." News that the child was refused burial in Champlan was met with outrage from humanitarian associations, particularly those who help France's approximately 20,000 Gypsies, as Roma also are called. Champlan Mayor Christian Leclerc told the daily Le Parisien earlier this week that priority for the few available grave sites goes to those paying taxes. He wasn't available on Saturday for comment.

The young infant, whose exact age wasn't immediately clear, was rushed to Corbeil-Essonne Hospital early Dec. 26, according to Marie-Helene Brelaud, of the Solidarity With Roma Families association. "The parents told us this is racism. They were incredulous," Brelaud said on BFM. The infant's parents live in a camp lacking basic ame-nities like running water in the Champlan district, a situation typical for Roma, who travel west from eastern Europe and whose presence in France has become a poli-tical issue. Roma camps are periodically razed. In 2013, the number of people evicted equaled the number still here, according to government figures.

Offering a burial site is the "minimum of humanity one can expect," ecologist lawmaker Francois de Rugy told BFM. "In the face of death, everyone should be equal."
© The Associated Press

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Roma baby refused burial in France

A Roma baby girl has been denied a burial space by a French mayor, sparking outrage among activists.

4/1/2015- The girl, who died on Christmas Day, reportedly of sudden infant death syndrome, was refused burial in Champlan, south of Paris. The mayor said priority had to be given to taxpayers. The mayor of nearby Wissous, Richard Trinquier, described that decision as "incomprehensible" and said that he would offer a grave. The girl's family lived in a camp in Champlan. The mayor of Champlan, Christian Leclerc, was quoted by Le Parisien newspaper as justifying the decision by saying that his town was running out of burial space and that "priority is given to those who pay local taxes". Local activists expressed outrage, with a spokesman for the regional association for solidarity with Roma and Romanians describing the decision as a case of "racism, xenophobia and stigmatisation".

Mr Trinquier, who is a doctor and had previously treated the baby's mother, said he had accepted the girl as he would have accepted anyone else, since "everyone has a right to a decent burial". The girl is due to be buried on Monday. The presence of Roma people from Eastern Europe has been a hot political issue in France. It has one of the harshest policies in Europe towards Roma immigrants, regularly demolishing the camps that many of them live in, and deporting thousands every year. The majority of France's 20,000 Roma live in makeshift settlements.
© BBC News

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The 10 Most Racist Incidents of 2014: Canadian Edition

As the year winds down, news readers are treated with a feast of annual compilations. From fashion to finances it is a time to look back at the hits and misses.

3/1/2015- In quintessential Canadian style, subject of race relations is missing from the roster. Every year. Until now. Here is a compilation of low-lights in racial discrimination the country that coined multiculturalism.

1. Subban's Sochi Snub.
When the top defenceman of the NHL gets just a few minutes of play at the Winter Olympics, you've got to wonder... but when a Canadian fan flies half way across the world to "support" the sole Afro-Canadian player on Team Canada in blackface, it boggles the mind. With 400 years of African presence, 200 years of slavery and another hundred years of legalized racial discrimination under our collective Canadian belts, you would think these PK Subban "fans" would know enough not to resort to a disgraceful practice to cheer him on. Finally, the Habs let their star player twist in the wind for far too long before ceding to public pressure and singing him for a long-term commitment. Since then, French-speaking TV commentators have scorched the lad repeatedly, despite his performance. Let's hope the obsession with Subban's salary subsides in 2015.

2. Brampton Bêtise.
The organization Immigration Watch Canada distributed a flyer entitled "The Changing Face of Brampton," featuring two images -- the top photo shows a group of "mainstream Canadians" (commonly known as white people), while the bottom photo shows the diversity that the Greater Toronto Area has incarnated. In such a rich part of Ontario, it seems the hate-filled group spent time and money denigrating their "non-mainstream" neighbours in Brampton and at York University.

3. Odious Offences Towards Olivia Chow.
She soldiered on stoically in the wake of her husband Jack Layton's passing. She aimed for the mayoral seat in Toronto, Canada's "most multicultural city." Despite the Hog Town's slogan, Olivia Chow faced xenophobic remarks, racist cartoons, and an aide deriding her for "not speaking English at home." Torontonians are waking up to the fact that multiculturalism alone is no antidote to racism.

4. Shame After Ottawa Shooting.
In the hysteria and confusion of the "Ottawa shooting" that paralyzed Parliament Hill, the nearby University of Ottawa went on lock down. The campus coffee shop gave refuge to scared students -- except the one who was tall and Black. In a blog, the ostracized student recounted his experience "Maybe to [the Second Cup café staff], my life doesn't matter as much as that of the others, or worse, he thought I was the shooter." When push comes to shove, one's true character is revealed.

5. Saguenay Saga.
Following vandalism at a mosque in Chicoutimi, rural Quebec's overt xenophobia did not settle in 2014. The Fédération des Québécois de souche's anti-Semitic and homophobic stickers littered mailboxes and public signage in the Saguenay. No word on when the "investigation" will yield tangible results for fearful residents of colour and Jewish citizens.

6. Wrongful Writing from Winnipeg.
Winnipeg mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette exposed the racism he faced during his campaign. The 18-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces was reduced to his racial heritage via abusive comments were posted online. He also received hateful emails about his aboriginal heritage. "Go back to drinking. That's where Indi-ans belong," said one. It is amazing how citizens of a nation which borrowed an Aboriginal word to name itself, founded on Aboriginal land, send so much vitriol to an upstanding Canadian because of his Aboriginal heritage.

7. Blackface Blunders.
Québec school plans an xmas play where kids appear in blackface. Not to be outdone, Montreal's Rideau Vert theatre's year end revue show includes a sketch in which a white comedian appears in blackface. Worse, the franco-Quebec pundits and TV producers defend it vehemently. Is there nothing more insulting than members of the dominant culture instructing minorities how to feel about their own depiction?

8. Kids Can be Cruel.
An 11-year-old boy in Westport, Newfoundland had to transfer schools because of the extreme and racist bullying he has endured in his community. Torrence Collier is the only black child in the community. The bullying at his school was so bad that he was under constant supervision and had to use a separate washroom to avoid harassment  from his classmates. One parent claimed that the real bully was Torrence: "He's not the victim. He is instigating a lot of this to other children." Is being black now a form of provocation in Newfoundland? Unfortunately, the same attitude prevailed in Georgina, Ontario, where students hurled racial slurs as they beat a black school mate. In both cases, there seemed to be no repercussions for this bad behaviour.

9. Prejudice Made Public by Montreal Police Union Head.
Montreal's diversity is an asset, not a threat, says Mayor Denis Coderre. But the head of Montreal's police brotherhood union doesn't agree. Yves Francoeur was quoted as saying that Montreal police officers' safety might be at risk because of the city's "multi-ethnic character." Asked why he thought Montreal police could be targeted in an attack like the Brooklyn shooting, Francoeur replied: "We worry in Montreal on account of its multi-ethnic character, on account of the (attacks) in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu." Both the cited tragedies were perpetrated by heritage Canadians, born and raised in Canada. So were the RCMP killings in Moncton. But that didn't stop the perception that "multi-ethnics" are threatening. In an era of racial profiling, these statements smack of xenophobia.

10. Multiculturalism Minister's Misadventure.
Canada's Minister of State for Multiculturalism, Tim Uppal, had a difficult experience at an Edmonton tennis club. The Minister and his family overheard a woman ex-press disgust that the Sikh-Canadian family was allowed membership, using a racial slur. She went on to suggest that Uppal was probably unemployed. For Craig and Marc Kielburger, it was an ugly reminder that Canada may be the land of multiculturalism, but we are not immune to racism.

As we turn the page on 2014, one hopes Canadians can look forward to less chatter about racist incidents and more action to curb the assailants' un-Canadian behaviour.
© The Huffington Post - Canada

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Czechs Reach For Kebabs After Firebrand Politician Slams 'Radical' Muslims

Thousands of Czechs have pledged to eat a kebab on January 9 as part of a mass action launched on Facebook aimed at supporting the country's Muslim residents.

8/1/2015- The "A Kebab Against Idiocy" campaign in support of the country's tiny Muslim population -- one of several similar initiatives on social media -- comes in response to contro-versial remarks by a populist politician attacking Islamic practices. On January 3, Tomio Okamura, whose populist Dawn of Direct Democracy holds 14 mandates in the 200-seat Czech parliament, posted a 14-point treatise on his Facebook page about how to protect Czechs’ "democratic way of life" from the threat posed by radical Islam. Okamura's post -- which he said was drafted by a party colleague -- suggested reminding Muslims that the country's "hospitality has its limits." He called on Czechs to walk dogs and pigs -- both of which are regarded as unclean in Islam -- past mosques. For good measure, he also also suggested pub owners whose premises were near such facilities should give their businesses new names like The Good Dog or The Happy Pig. Okamura even launched a scathing attack on what he called Islam’s "cruel" animal-slaughtering practices and called for a ban on halal meat.

"Every kebab we buy is another step toward burqas," he wrote. "How will they taste to your wife when she has to eat them with a veil on her face?" Okamura also told RFE/RL he has seen report by Czech security services that said radical Islamists were active in the country and may be using certain businesses to finance their activities. The organizers of one of the Facebook campaigns, called A Kebab for Tomio, say Okamura's claims are "ridiculous," adding that it was impossible to "respond seriously" to the idea that "the sale of kebabs financed terrorism and eating them thus became an ideological issue." Although the lighthearted tone of the social media assault on Okamura may now seem insensitive to many in the wake of the deadly January 7 attack on the Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, organizers warned against politicians like the Dawn of Direct Democracy leader using the tragedy for political gain.

"Even though both sides of this debate are united in condemning this terrorist act, it will be necessary to constantly remind ourselves of one of the reasons why our [Facebook] page actually came into being," the group said. "The overwhelming majority of Muslims really aren’t terrorists and they also don’t support them. Therefore, there is no reason to accuse them of actions that horrify them as much as us."
© RFE/RL

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Czech Rep: Muslim community weighs charges against Okamura

The leader of the populist Dawn Party Tomio Okamura has found himself at the centre of a scandal, endorsing a highly questionable text by his deputy on his Facebook page. In it, he suggested Czechs should shun Muslim-owned businesses or should provoke Muslims by walking pigs in the vicinity of mosques. At first, part of the community shrugged off the rhetoric; now though, representatives are considering filing charges for hate speech.

6/1/2015- In the past, politician Tomio Okamura, of Czech-Japanese descent, used to describe in interviews how he suffered discrimination in both former Czechoslovakia and Japan. If he suffered, by appearances it didn’t make him particularly sensitive to difficulties faced by other minorities. Since moving into politics from the field of tourism, he has taken aim at the Roma and now at the country’s tiny Muslim population. Regarding Muslims in the Czech Republic, just days ago Mr Okamura endorsed a text calling on ordinary Czechs to boycott Muslim-owned businesses - including kebab stands - as a means of blocking the so-called spread of the burqa. He went to pains to say he would have opted for different language than his deputy, but made clear he otherwise wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment expressed. Here’s what he told Czech TV:
In principal, the text is in line with Dawn’s programme. If it was written by me, I would have left out the bits about pigs and kebabs.”

It didn’t take long for the text to cause a stir, inviting agreement from some, ridicule from others not least on the social networks, and disagreement from within his party: Dawn MP Milan Šarapatka, a former ambassador who lived for 15 years in Muslim countries, criticised the statements as a gross oversimplification.
“For me it is unacceptable and it invites hatred a priori and with my experience in Muslim countries I can’t accept it. I told Mr Okamura my view and I think he is making light of the situation… He said the ideas weren’t his, which is true, but he fully endorsed them as the head of a parliamentary party.”


Mr Šarapatka denied the rhetoric was in line with the party programme, although Dawn has always promised a tough stance on foreigners who fail to assimilate. The Muslim community, meanwhile, initially made light of some of the rhetoric:
Mohammed Abbas, the head of one Muslim association, told Czech website iDnes anyone was welcome to walk their pigs and dogs even outside of mosques and that should Mr Okamura himself show up, he would be warmly welcomed too for tea and a kebab. Since, other representatives, from the Association of Czech Muslim Communities, are consi-dering a different approach: potentially filing charges against Mr Okamura for hate speech.
© Radio Prague

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Czech Rep: Okamura says he would not now publish anti-Muslim text

6/1/2015- Tomio Okamura, MP and head of the Czech opposition Dawn of Direct Democracy who recently called on Czechs to bother local Muslims, yesterday said he would not release such a call on Facebook now because it plays down the real danger of radical Islamism. He reacted to the Dawn leadership that condemned Okamura's step as unnecessary belittling the radical Islamism threat earlier yesterday. "Such an article including pigs and kebabs unnecessarily belittles the issue and plays down the real weight of the danger. That is why I would definitely formulate it differently," Okamura said. Nevertheless, he said he is glad that a debate on Islamism has started, though not in the best possible way.

On Monday, the "instructions" for the protection against Islam, signed by Dawn member Jiri Kobza and released by Okamura, were criticised by Dawn lawmaker and former diplo-mat Zdenek Sarapatka. He announced that he would no longer assist in preparing Dawn's foreign political concept. In the controversial article, the Dawn advises people to keep dogs and pigs and to go to walk them in the vicinity of mosques and other sites visited by Muslims. It says people should not buy kebab, a meal often offered by Muslim vendors.
The article is also aimed against immigrants in general. It calls on people not to vote in support of politicians who promise advantages to immigrants.

Okamura said he talked to Sarapatka on Monday and they "resumed their cooperation" after agreeing to discuss Dawn's foreign political statements with each other beforehand.
The Dawn movement's leadership emphasised that Okamura is not the controversial text's author. It said radical Islamism is a problem since it goes counter to democratic constitu-tional principles. Okamura has called for drafting a bill to enable the Czech Republic to deny residence permit to extremists or strip them from a previously granted residence permit. Dawn lawmaker Marek Cernoch said he will draft an amendment to the law on churches under which privileges would go only to the churches that recognise democratic principles.

The controversial article on Muslims, released by Okamura, a 42-year-old businessman, has attracted attention of foreign media. In Germany, the case was presented by the maga-zine Der Spiegel and daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). They wrote that Okamura, a Czech-Japanese by ethnicity, calls for Czechs to harass Muslims and boycott their business. Okamura's Dawn movement acquires more and more xenophobic features, the German media wrote, adding that only some 20,000 Muslims live in the 10.5-million Czech Republic. Okamura's activity has also been noticed by The Washington Post daily, which described the face of xenophobic demagoguery in the Czech Republic as rather curious compared with the rest of Europe. The Israeli daily The Times of Israel presents Okamura as a Czech politician of Moravian, Japanese and Korean origin and head of an ultra-right opposition party.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep: Dawn party MP distances himself from party leader's anti-Muslim views

6/1/2015- Milan Sarapatka, a deputy of the populist Dawn movement, will not take part in the drafting of its foreign policy, Sarapatka said yesterday in reaction to its leader Tomio Okamura's having attacked Muslims on Saturday. Okamura called on people on Facebook to bother Muslims in the Czech Republic by "walking pigs" in the vicinity of mosques. The text is the Dawn's "instruction for the protection against Islam." It is signed by Dawn member Jiri Kobza. The Dawn advises people to keep dogs and pigs and to go to walk them in the vicinity of mosques and other sites visited by Muslims. It says people should not buy kebab, a meal often offered by Muslim vendors.

The article is also aimed against immigrants in general. It calls on people not to vote in support of politicians who promise advantages to immigrants. Former diplomat Sarapatka said in a press release he would not leave the Dawn and that he would stay in the Chamber of Deputies foreign affairs committee. "In the course of our collaboration, I was trying to cultivate Okamura's radical foreign political views," Sarapatka said. "Okamura's latest statements that in an absolutely unacceptable way disparage the basic issue of the attitude to the Muslim religion and compare the U.S. policy to that of Nazi Germany have forced me to take the steps that will clearly express my disagreement with such statements," Sarapatka said. He said he had informed Okamura on his decision.

Sarapatka said he believed space to outline a sensible foreign policy would be created in the Dawn after a time. Okamura said earlier the wartime concentration camp in Lety, south Bohemia, where hundreds of Romanies died, had been a labour camp for workshy people. He has also visited a man convicted of a racially-motivated murder in prison.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech politician: Walk your pigs near mosques

MP urges Czechs to bother Muslims, says it is not xenophobia 

3/1/2015- Tomio Okamura, who heads the Czech opposition Dawn of Direct Democracy movement, has called on people on Facebook to bother Muslims in the Czech Republic by "walking pigs" in the vicinity of mosques, for example, which, he emphasised, is no incitement to intolerance. The Dawn discussed the text of the appeal with lawyers before releasing it, he told the iDnes.cz server. In the past, Okamura repeatedly asserted that he is not a xenophobe, in spite of his controversial state-ments about Romanies and foreigners in the Czech Republic. For example, Okamura once visited a man convicted of a racially motivated murder in prison. The text that Okamura released on Facebook is the Dawn's "instruction for the protection against Islam." It is signed by Dawn member Jiří Kobza. The Dawn advises people to keep dogs and pigs and to go to walk them in the vicinity of mosques and other sites visited by Muslims.

People should also lead [seedy-looking] homeless people to such places, Dawn recommends. It says people should not buy kebab, a meal often offered by Muslim ven-dors. The article is also aimed against immigrants in general. It calls on people not to vote in support of politicians who promise advantages to immigrants. Okamura told iDnes.cz that the article is no incitement to provocations and intolerance. "We've discussed the text with our defense lawyers. I don't want to step on thin ice," he said. However, experts addressed by the Czech News Agecny said the Dawn's appeal for intolerance towards minorities has crossed a bearable limit. Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Social Democrats, ČSSD) said he would not comment "on Mr Okamura's hateful utterances." Previously, Okamura said the foreigners who lose their job in the Czech Republic should return to their Okamura is also infamous for his anti-Romany statements. He said the wartime concentration camp in Lety, south Bohemia, where hundreds of Romanies died, had been a labor camp for workshy people.

The Dawn of Direct Democracy entered the Czech Chamber of Deputies for the first time in the October 2013 elections, gaining 6.88 percent of the vote. With 14 seats in the 200-seat Chamber, it is one of the two smallest parties in it. In the past year, the Dawn's popularity has stood below the 5-percent parliament threshold, according to public opinion polls.
© The Prague Post

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New dangerous tactics of migrant smugglers

Migrants journeying by sea to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa are facing alarming new dangers.

2/1/2015- Ships packed with refugees are abandoned and left to drift to their fate off the coast of Europe. Migrants making the journey by sea to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa are facing alarming new dangers. Suspected traffickers are being accused of abandoning ships in rough seas. The European Union's border control agency, Frontex, has reported six such incidents since the beginning of December. The agency took the lead in search and rescue missions from Italy in Novem-ber. In one of the latest incident, the Blue Sky M cargo ship, under a Moldovan flag, was abandoned by its crew with almost 1,000 people on board. The rudder was reportedly jammed, with the packed vessel set on a collision-course with the Italian shore.

In another development, the Icelandic coastguard, operating as part of Frontex's Operation Triton, rescued a one-time livestock freighter carrying 450 migrants. The Ezadeen had lost power off the southeast of Italy, with no sign of the crew. There has been a surge in migrants heading for Europe in the past year, escaping wars in Iraq and Syria, chaos in Libya and poverty and unrest in the Horn of Africa and West Africa. Increasingly larger ships are being used and what was a seasonal migration has become a year-round pursuit. So are criminal gangs placing migrants in ever greater danger? And are authorities simply reacting to a problem which has its routes far from their shores?
© Al Jazeera

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Muslims in Europe (editorial)

3/1/2015- Europe is bracing for a growing hate movement against Muslims. Lately, a third arson attack against a mosque in eastern Sweden was reported amid growing tensions over the rise of anti-immigration sentiment specially targeting Muslims. According to the anti-racism magazine Expo, there have been at least a dozen confir-med attacks on mosques in Sweden in the last year and a far larger number are believed to have gone unreported. A sense of fear and insecurity prevails among the Muslims in Europe. On the other hand, anti-immigrant sentiments are rising in Germany. A growing number of Germans are supporting the anti-Muslim movement. The phenomenon has certain background reasons. Firstly, after World War II, Europe faced a labour shortage that was catered for through immigration of workers from third world countries.

Secondly, Europeans do not like low paid menial jobs. So immigrants were inducted for such work. Among them the number of Muslims was high and it is still on the rise. Thirdly, refugees and asylum seekers from conflict-ridden countries like Syria and Iraq have sought safety in Europe. Among European countries, Sweden and Germany are the most favoured destinations for immigrants due to their liberal policies, social democratic norms and soft immigration rules. However, this mass exodus from third world countries to Europe is now creating new conflicts between the locals and the newcomers. The locals believe that these outsiders have deprived them of jobs, while the hidden emotions of racism also play a role in this anti-Muslim agenda as a European superiority complex still prevails. Islamophobia is a reaction to jihadi terrorism.

All this is leading to a mess in Europe, which is an eye-opener for those sitting at the helm of affairs. It is becoming a new challenge and a matter of grave concern for the governments of European countries like Germany, Sweden, France and Britain, where a considerable portion of the population consists of Muslims. Wise policies and practical steps are needed to tackle the backlash of the anti-Muslim movement in Europe. The growing incidents of attempted arson, vandalism and incitement to hatred must be curbed at this initial stage rather than leaving them to grow into a bigger problem. Mainstream political parties need to take a bold stand against this kind of racism and Islamophobia. Across Europe, right-wing organisations are using anti-Islam rhetoric to further their agendas. The time has come for the promulgation of new hate-crime legislation in Europe.
© The Daily Times Pakistan

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Amnesia, not immigration, is Europe's problem (opinion)

Anti-Muslim protesters should heed the past century’s grim history – and its lesson that Europe’s future must be multicultural
By Natalie Nougayrède

6/1/2015- It has been a grim start for 2015 as far as European tolerance is concerned. Mosques have been attacked in Sweden. Demonstrations continue in Germany against the “Islamisation of the west”. And antisemitism is on the rise. We knew something nasty had been unleashed when the European elections last year produced a surge of populist xenophobic parties. Many explanations have been given: the economic crisis, unemployment, the disenfranchisement of the middle classes, anxieties fed by globalisation. Pointing fingers at strangers or supposed intruders has become almost an automatic reflex. Anti-immigration parties are having a field day. All our problems come from the outside, from some kind of invasion: that’s how the narrative goes. In France the novelist Michel Houellebecq is making headlines with a new book imagining the election in 2022 of a Muslim president.There are, it is true, signs of a democratic revival against racism. In solidarity with Muslims, some citizens have been demonstrating in European cities. It is perhaps only when the worst happens – arson attacks on mosques, or neo-Nazi groups in the streets – that people start mobilising for common decency.

But the trend is worrisome indeed. Europeans seem to be grappling with this one question: how do I live alongside people of a different cultural background, the Other? In times like this, literature and history can help us see things more clearly. I turned to the Polish writer Ryszard Kapuściński, who spent most of his life travelling across the developing world and reflecting on how Europeans relate to that huge part of the global population that is non-European, and much poorer than Europeans. In his book The Other, Kapuściński – who had flaws as a journalist, but certainly didn’t lack curiosity for different cultures – points out how difficult it is for inhabitants of the old continent to accept that “the map of the world has changed” since decolonisation in the 1960s. After dominating the globe for hundreds of years, Europeans still have trouble dealing with the fact that they have become less central, less overpowering. And yet it is a paradox, because Europe produced arguably the first world citizen open to discovering and appreciating foreign cultures: the Greek historian Herodotus, 2,500 years ago.

I can hear the cringing: how delusional and idealistic it is to bring Herodotus into a 21st-century debate on immigration. But if roots matter, then Europeans must look at themsel-ves more closely. Things were never stable, nor populations fixed in stone. Europe is after all the appendix of a great and contrasted landmass – it was always meant to be a cross-roads. We may be baffled by changes, but there were times when we lived with much more diversity in our midst. Tony Judt is great to read on this. In his book Postwar, he recalls how “the European continent was once a complex tapestry of languages, religions, communities, and nations that overlapped. Many of its cities – including some of the smallest, at the intersection of old and new imperial borders, such as Trieste, Sarajevo, Salonica, Czernowitz, Odessa, Vilnius – were truly multicultural, with Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims, Jews and others mingling.” Judt goes on: “Between 1914 and 1945, however, this Europe was reduced to ashes.” As a result of war, occupation, border changes, expulsi-ons and genocide, most people ended up living among people like them, in different states.

During the cold war, the two halves of Europe lived in “hermetic national enclaves” – a world of homogeneity, notes Judt. In the 1960s immigrants arrived in western Europe to provide a workforce, most from former colonies. Judt calls this a “new presence of ‘others’ living in Europe”, including the millions of Muslims in today’s EU. He says this presence “has outlined not only Europe’s discomfort as it is faced with a renewed and growing diversity, but also the ease with which the ‘other’ dead of Europe’s past had crept out of people’s minds”. So there it is: today’s intolerance has its roots not just in economic frustration, but in amnesia. Since 1989 many of Europe’s centres have become “cosmopolitan global cities, whether they like it or not”, writes Judt. Note the “whether they like it or not”. This book was published 10 years ago, as if in anticipation of what we see today. The historian’s message is that Europe’s future is multicultural. Its core values are about being open to the Other. The only time Europeans experienced relative demographic homogeneity – that era of supposed tranquillity – was in the wake of Hitler’s and Stalin’s devastations. Such thoughts might not be enough to calm the anti-Muslim crowds. But they could help.
© Comment is free - Guardian

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