Newsnews archives
Do You appreciate this service? HELP US to keep it going: transfer a financial contribution to:
Stichting Magenta Projects
IBAN NUMBER: NL09INGB0000189687
BIC: INGBNL2A
Name and address of bank:
ING BANK N.V. - P.O. BOX 1800, 1000 BV AMSTERDAM - THE NETHERLANDS

This page is updated almost every day with items from regular news sources.

If you have an item for the news page please send it to us at news@icare.to .
Your news has to be in English. If you have any relevant URL's (webaddresses) where more info about the news you send us can be found, please send those too. Don't forget to add the country where the newsitem originates. For news about Hate Crime, please visit our ICARE HATE CRIME NEWS.

Headlines 6 March, 2015

Headlines 27 February, 2015

UK,France,Denmark,Germany & Italy News Week 9

Headlines 20 February, 2015

GERMANY & UK News Week 8

COPENHAGEN TERRORISM

Headlines 6 March, 2015

Slovenia approves same-sex marriage

The Slovenian Parliament has voted with a large majority to approve same-sex marriage and adoption.

4/3/2015- Deputies in the parliament voted 51 to 28 to approve the law which allows gay and lesbian couples to marry. Five members abstained. The parliament also approved adoption by same-sex couples. Despite a small protest outside the parliament while the vote took place, recent polling has showed that a majority of Slovenian citizens approve of same-sex marriage. Those protesting have said they will attempt to block the bill by introducing a petition calling for a referendum on the issue. Now that it has been passed, the bill will go to the desk of the country’s president to be signed. Slovenia was hailed by the ILGA Europe LGBT network for a debate around same-sex marriage which took place last month. The vote on same-sex marriage this week was hailed by human rights groups around the world.
© Pink News

up  

Croatian Judge Accused of ‘Holocaust Denial’

Historians and rights activists criticised a judge who questioned the number of victims killed at the Jasenovac concentration camp run by the Croatian Ustasa regime in World War II.

4/3/2015- Robert Strniscak, a judge in the central Croatian city of Kutina, has been strongly criticised for questioning whether 83,000 people really died at the Jaseno-vac concentration camp run by the Nazi-allied Ustasa regime between 1941 and 1945. Natasa Matausic, a Croatian historian and member of the governing board respon-sible for the memorial centre at the former camp, told BIRN that the judge’s comments were “nothing short of genocide and holocaust denial”. Strniscak made his comments while handing down a verdict at the Kutina municipal court on Friday which acquitted the president of the far-right Croatian Pure Party of Rights, Josip Miljak, of threatening the director of the Jasenovac memorial centre, Natasa Jovicic. Jovicic made the accusation after Miljak sent her an email accusing her of “anti-Croat propaganda” and saying that it “will not continue for long”, which she interpreted as a threat.

But the judge said that Miljak was just expressing his dissatisfaction that a comprehensive study by the Jasenovac memorial centre said that 83,000 people died at the camp. “The court concludes that Josip Miljak sent the aforementioned mail because he did not agree with the data relating to the number of victims of Jasenovac camp, which, obviously, differ very much, which Miljak had proved with excerpts from several publications by various authors,” the judge said. He cited four experts who claim that the death toll was much lower than 83,000, although their credibility was strongly questioned by historians. The head of the Zagreb-based NGO Docu-menta, Vesna Terselic, said that calling into question the list of 83,000 victims’ names compiled by the memorial centre was an example of “revisionism”. “All this is happening within a context where for more than 20 years the anti-fascist partisan movement has been demonised and the facts of fascist crimes have been altered,” Terselic said.

Zoran Pusic, the head of the Civic Committee for Human Rights NGO said that the four experts quoted by the judge were trying to prove that “the Ustasa did not commit crimes and that Jasenovac was a labour camp”. But he said that the fact that they were quoted by the judge was a more serious matter: “This is something completely different, since a state official [the judge] said rather dubious things,” he said. Another historian and member of the Jasenovac governing board, Goran Hutinec, also criticised the judge for “giving equal value to the results of serious historical research on one side and tendentious interpretation on the other side”. Ac-cording to the list of victims compiled by the Jasenovac historians, among those who died at the camp were more than 20,000 women and more than 20,000 children under 14 years old. The victims were mostly Serbs, but also Jews, Roma and anti-fascists.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Netherlands: Rijswijk imams visas cancelled on 'public order fears'

3/3/2015- The visas for imams invited to speak at a charity fund-raising event in Rijswijk were cancelled because of ‘public order concerns’, the cabinet told parliament on Tuesday in a written briefing. The meeting was due to be held in Rijswijk on March 8, but the Telegraaf reported that several imams accused of preaching hatred and encouraging jihad would be at the event. The visas for a number of preachers were subsequently cancelled on the recommendation of the counter terrorism unit NCTV. ‘The visas for three preachers were withdrawn with an eye to the risk of public disorder, against a background of the unrest engendered by the meeting in Rijswijk,’ the cabinet says in its briefing.

Five visas
There were seven preachers invited to the meeting, of whom five needed a visa. All five were granted a visa, but three of these visas were cancelled, the cabinet says. ‘It is not always immediately apparent if there is a risk to public order. Therefore it is essential that the option for cancellation remains available, even at the last minu-te, if the context changes or new information becomes available which makes allowing a preacher into the country undesirable,’ the cabinet says. The Rijswijk event has since been cancelled althogether.
© The Dutch News

up  

USA: Violence Caused by Far-Right Extremists Has Surpassed That Caused by Domestic Jihadists, Study Says

3/3/2015- Since the September 11 attacks, the notion of terrorism has looked somewhat one-dimensional in United States public discourse, with the majority of Ameri-cans coming to think of political violence as the acts of organized, foreign groups — from al Qaeda in the early 2000s to Islamic State (IS) today. This frequently one-dimensional understanding of terrorism in the US has led both the public and law enforcement to overlook a very different kind of homegrown threat — one posed by antigovernment radicals, white supremacists, and other domestic and far-right ideologues. In both cases — radical Islamism and far right extremism — a majority of terrorist attacks on US soil have been at the hands of individual "lone wolves" acting outside established groups. But violence caused by far right extremism has surpassed that caused by domestic "jihadis," according to a study published last month by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Still, much of the public's attention — and law enforcement's efforts — focus on the latter, the civil rights group said ahead of last month's White House summit on countering violent extremism. "We felt that the report demonstrated pretty clearly that some attention should be paid to the domestic radical right," Ryan Lenz, a writer at the SPLC's Intelligence Project, told VICE News. "The domestic radical right has killed more people than radical Islam since 9/11 in the United States, without a doubt." The report — titled "The Age of the Wolf," in reference to the lone nature of most attacks — surveyed violence carried out between April 1, 2009, and February 1, 2015, for a total of 63 victims of terrorism — ranging from migrants, to abortion providers, to FBI agents, to the victims of the Fort Hood shooting.

Almost half of the attacks during that time were apparently motivated by antigovernment sentiment, mostly carried out by people subscribing to the so-called "patriot" movement, while the other half came from ideologies of hate — ranging from white supremacy, to misogyny and anti-abortion ideologies, to radical Islamism. That diversity of motives and ideology is hardly reflected in current conversations about homegrown violent extremism, the study suggests. "It probably has a lot to do with national myopia: because of the severity of 9/11 there are blinders on regarding everything else," Lenz said. "Some people think that it's easier to focus on Muslims than it is on white Christians… I think it has a lot to do with the fact that in an effort to address the threat of radical Islam, people have forgotten that there are terrorists here at home too."

Still, defining and addressing "terrorism" remains an inexact science, the study claims. For instance, researchers had to determine whether in some cases ideology overrode mental illness, or the other way around. "There are people that argue that antigovernment ideologies or other ideologies are in essence mental illnesses," Lenz noted. While a majority of violent crimes are committed by young offenders — disproportionately within the 15 to 24 age group — ideological violence tends to be the work of a slighter older group, suggesting that "that perpetrators spend many years on the radical right, absorbing extremist ideology, before finally acting out violently," according to the study.

Researchers also found that the assailants — overwhelmingly male — used firearms in 59 percent of the cases, and explosives, arson, and other weapons in the remaining cases. That marks a shift from previous years, likely because procuring the material necessary to build explosives has become increasingly difficult, Lenz notes, while procuring guns is not. Unifying attackers across the political spectrum was the propensity to act alone, after having cultivated one's radical ideology mostly online, rather than in physical meetings. Seventy-four percent of the attacks surveyed were carried out by individuals acting alone — and 90 percent of them were carried out by two or less individuals — a growing challenge for law enforcement attempting to monitor and predict such attacks.

Instead, traditional hate group like the Ku Klux Klan, for instance, have struggled to stay relevant. "The Klan is still a shadow of what it was, it's very much trying to reassert itself as a legitimate hate group and a legitimate presence in a field that is ever expanding," Lenz said. "What we are seeing is that the Klan will come into a situation that's already racially tense and they'll paper the community with fliers. But that's all their doing, they're just trying to enhance their national image by capita-lizing on these situations." But if the nature of lone wolf attacks has been a challenge for authorities, officials have also neglected domestic terrorism, the report alleges. According to the report, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) team devoted to non-Islamic domestic terrorism all but fell apart in the aftermath of a 2009 report in which it highlighted the resurgence of the radical right in the aftermath of Obama's 2008 election.

That report was ferociously attacked by conservatives, forcing Janet Napolitano — DHS secretary at the time — to apologize for it, and resulting in the "virtual disband-ment" of the department's work on non-Islamic domestic terrorism. The DHS did not immediately respond to VICE News' request for comment. The report also noted that in recent years the FBI has published a number of reports on domestic terrorism, and that the Department of Justice has pledged to resurface its Domestic Ter-rorism Executive Committee, which has been dormant for the last decade. But so far, little has moved. "On a federal level there is no agency that is working speci-fically on [non-Islamic] domestic terrorist threats, almost all of them are looking at foreign-oriented threat," Lenz said. "There is a need for that to come back." 
© Vice News

up  

Czech Rep: Publishers of Hitler speeches want compensation for trial

2/3/2015- The authors and publishers of a book of Adolf Hitler's Speeches, from Brno's guidemedia publishing house, seek more than 7.4 million crowns in compensation for court proceedings in this case and damages, the firm's defence lawyer Tomas Pecina told CTK Monday. He said his clients had turned to the Justice Ministry with the compensation claim. The publishing house's owners, Pavel Kamas and Lukas Novak, and the book'a author Lukas Beer were suspected of approving of genocide, but courts acquitted them of charges. Now they demand that the state cover their defence costs of 430,000 crowns and pay further seven million in compensation for other than proprietary damage. Pecina said the financial damage incurred would not have been so high if state attorney Jan Petrasek had not blocked the clients' bank accounts.

Petrasek must have known that he would not succeed with his charges, gPecina said, referring to the case of Michal Zitko, publisher of Hitler's Mein Kampf. He was also brought to court over it and acquitted eventually. Robert Cholensky, defence counsel of the book authors, told CTK that the case of Hitler's speeches should make state attorneys be more cautious in the future. They should bring charges only in the cases in which they are absolutely sure that their legal opinion is right. The book contai-ning Hitler's 18 speeches was published in 10,000 copies in 2012. It was sold out in 2014 and guidemedia reprinted it.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Fan chants put Spain to shame

2/3/2015- Ambiguous reactions in Spain to Real Betis fan chants, which caused dismay outside the country, have again shown how the idea of collective responsibility is missing at most La Liga clubs. The chants in question relate to a legal case involving Ruben Castro, of Segunda Division club Betis, who will soon appear in court charged with assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend on numerous occasions. Prosecutors want a 25-month custodial sentence given the seriousness of the alleged behaviour. Not everyone is so appalled however. Chants of “Ruben Castro yay, Ruben Castro yay, it wasn’t your fault, she was a whore, you did the right thing” have been regularly heard at Betis games through recent months as the 34-year-old has scored 16 goals to fuel his team’s promotion push. Last week, La Liga’s authorities referred the chants to Spain’s ‘anti-violence’ commission, which ordered Betis to identify and ban those responsible. The government body has also taken an unprece-dented step in recommending the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) mandate a partial closure of a section of Betis’ Estadio Benito Villamarin.

The Seville club’s official reaction was to deplore the chants and say it would expel those responsible. But it also claimed that punishing the club itself, or its fans collectively, would be unfair. “The punishment proposed against Betis is unjust, discriminatory and opportunist,” club president Juan Carlos Ollero said. “You can see behaviour in the newspapers and internet which is much more serious, without any punishment at all. I don’t want to point to the behaviour of anyone else, but I believe this is not necessary.” Many Betis fans appeared to take offence and the hashtag #ElBetisSeRespeta [#Betismustberespected] trended on twitter. Verdiblanco defender Bruno also played the issue down, claiming the chants came “from just three or four people, not all our fans”.

Reporters and officials at Betis home games had also, until now, turned a deaf ear to the regular chanting. But this week’s move came amid a crackdown on ‘radical’ fans groups lead by La Liga president Javier Tebas, following a death during a pre-game brawl between ultras from Deportivo La Coruna and Atletico Madrid on Novem-ber 30 last year. Followers of Real Madrid, Sevilla, Deportivo, Espanyol, Elche, Athletic Bilbao, Rayo Vallecano and Granada have also been cited by the authorities for “anti-social behaviour” through recent months, with the highest-profile complaint made against members of Barcelona’s ‘Almogavers’ group for singing “Cristiano [Ronaldo] is a drunk” during a game at the Camp Nou. In that case, Barca first vowed to identify and ban those involved [as Madrid did last year after anti-Lionel Messi chants at the Bernabeu]. However just last Friday, Blaugrana institutional vice-president Jordi Cardoner played down the problem.

“We absolutely support the Penya Almogavers,” Cardoner said. “This group were not responsible for the chants heard. It was very few people involved. I wish that all fans groups in Spain were like the Almogavers.” It is of course the case that the chants about Ronaldo’s birthday party are nowhere near as serious as those directed at Castro’s former partner. However the official perspective again is similar: only a few misguided individuals were involved, and generally speaking there is nothing to worry about. The same response is also heard when racist chanting is heard in Spanish stadiums, with Betis supporters having a poor reputation in this field too. Partial closures of grounds, whether at Betis or Barcelona, would now be a positive move. Especially if it forced club officials — and the supposed silent majority of well-behaved supporters — to demand better behaviour all round.

Sections of the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu were shut by Uefa earlier this season after Madrid’s ultras had unveiled neo-nazi banners at previous European games. The Spanish FA should now ignore the self-interested pleas of club officials, at Betis and other clubs, and follow this example.
© The Irish Examiner

up  

Greek Prosecutors Propose Terms for Release of Golden Dawn Leaders

Party officials facing trial on charges of taking part in a criminal organization 

3/3/2015- Greek prosecutors have recommended the terms under which the leader of the far-right Golden Dawn party will be released from prison later this month pending trial on charges of participating in and directing a criminal organization, a court official said Tuesday. The party’s leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, and five other lawmakers have been in custody since late 2013, after members of the party, the country’s third largest, were implicated in the death of a popular rap artist. But Mr. Michaloliakos, his deputy Nikos Pappas and party lawmaker Yiannis Lagos are due to be released by March 29, after their 18-month pretrial detention period expires. Prosecutors proposed to a council of judges that Mr. Michaloliakos should pay 125,000 euros in bail and be placed under house arrest until his trial ends, according to a court official.

They also suggested that, among other conditions, Mr. Pappas should not be allowed to leave the broader Athens region once released and not be allowed to leave his home at night. The recommendations aren't binding, but are largely expected to be accepted by the council of judges, which is expected to take the final decision later this month. Greek law sets a strict 18-month limit on pretrial detention. The other three lawmakers from Golden Dawn, known for its anti-immigrant stance, remain in prison and will have to be released by the end of April. A date for the trial hasn’t been set but, according to a court official, is expected to start by mid-April. Apart from Mr. Michaloliakos and the other five jailed Golden Dawn deputies, another 12 lawmakers and 54 party members also will face criminal charges, Greece’s Council of Appeals ruled in February. Most of the lawmakers who will face trial were re-elected to Parliament in January’s election.

Police say the party is connected to a series of violent incidents, including the killing of 34-year-old left-wing rap artist Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013 in a working-class neighborhood near the port of Athens. Golden Dawn has denied any role in the killing and says it doesn’t condone violence. Golden Dawn, which first entered the Greek Parliament in 2012, emerged as the third-most popular party in Greek general elections in late January, winning 6.3% of the vote and securing 17 seats in the country’s 300-seat Parliament. Many Greeks consider the party to be neo-Nazi because of its extremist positions and tactics and the fact that its emblem resembles a swastika. Golden Dawn denies any links to Nazism.
© The Wall Street Journal..

up  

Greece: Suspended sentence for racist remarks made to physician from Nigeria

28/2/2015- A Greek court has handed down a suspended sentence of six months in prison, postponed for three years, against a patient who made a racist statement to a doctor of Nigerian origin. The Associated Press reports that the male patient verbally assaulted the female physician during his intake at a hospital to which he had been transported because of breathing difficulties The 57-year-old man from the northern town of Kozani behaved violently the moment he saw the 29-year-old doctor. He told her that she needed to be treated "by Hitler with soap", a reference to the production of detergents from the fat of those who were murdered in the Nazi concentration camps. In court the man apologized for his remarks and claimed he had not been in his right mind when he made them. He was arrested by police after release from the hospital. Greece has been undergoing economic collapse and racism is a significant social problem there, as the recent years have also seen large waves of immigration to the country. Several hundred thousand immigrants live in the country of 10 million. The third-strongest party in the Greek Parliament is the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. Dozens of members of its top management, including many MPs, now face charges of criminal conspiracy and are awaiting trial in custody.
© Romea.

up  

Madonna likens France to Nazi Germany, but misses a few important points

2/3/2015- Madonna was born in 1958 in Michigan, USA. But that hasn’t prevented her from likening the feeling in France right now to that of Nazi Germany, of which the German Reich presided with Adolf Hitler as the helm between 1933 and 1945. Speaking to a Parisian radio station last week, she claimed anti-Semitism was at a record high in the country she doesn't live in but occasionally passes through. During the Second World War, more than 90,000 Jews were rounded up and deported to concen-tration camps. “We're living in crazy times,” she said. “It feels like Nazi Germany. “France was once a country that accepted people of colour, a place artists escaped to, whether it was [entertainer] Josephine Baker or [saxophonist] Charlie Parker. “It was a country that embraced everyone and encouraged freedom in every way, shape or form of artistic expression of freedom. Now that's completely gone.”

She went on to lambaste the “fascist” National Front party for stoking the embers of racism in the country. Although she got the name of the far right party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, incorrect, when she alleged that she had received “a lot of criticism and threats from Marie [sic] Le Pen” Madonna famously performed in front of a video featuring Le Pen with a swastika superimposed on her forehead during her 2012 world tour. Le Pen had threatened to sue the singer over the imagery, and Madonna later removed the symbol. “What I said two years ago is valid today,” she added. “It's not just in France, it's all over Europe. But particularly in France. The level of intole-rance... is scary.” Madonna was last seen falling on stage at the Brit Awards after a backing dancer accidentally yanked her cape. She suffered whiplash and a spate of ageist remarks – a subject of jest she later likened to racism.
© The Independent

up  

France's Front National expected to make sweeping gains in local elections

However, revelations about the bizarre candidates being fielded mean it may not do quite as well as its 30 per cent support nationwide may suggest

1/3/2015- The rise of the French far right continues apace. And, despite a wave of revelations that it has fielded racist, bizarre and geriatric candidates, the Front Natio-nal could make sweeping gains in important elections this month. An opinion poll published today gave Marine Le Pen’s Front National (FN) 29 per cent of support in the local elections on 22 and 29 March – joint top with the centre-right. Other polls in recent days have placed the FN ahead with 30 per cent of support nationwide. The surveys also point to a polarisation of political opinion in France since the jihadist attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish grocery in Paris in Janu-ary, with many urban and young voters still clinging to the “Republican spirit” of the epic marches “against hatred” in Paris and other cities on 11 January. But there has also been a strengthening of support in rural areas and in blue-collar or middle-class suburbs for Ms Le Pen’s authoritarian, nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-European rhetoric.

Political commentators say, however, that the poor quality of FN candidates may limit the party’s breakthrough. There has been a drumbeat of revelations in recent days about various candidates running under Ms Le Pen’s supposedly “moderate” and “professional” banner. Several have been suspended from Ms Le Pen’s “de-demonised” party after it was revealed that they had posted violent, anti-Semitic or Islamophobic comments on social media. And more than a score of NF candidates are over 90 years old. Local elections in France are usually shaped by local issues and personalities. Many candidates run as independents, so despite the polls showing Ms Le Pen with 29-30 per cent of the “nationwide” vote, she may not capture outright control of any council this month. All the same, the FN seems assured of getting by far its best ever result in a county council election. At present, the far-right party holds only two “departmental council” seats in the whole country.

It seems certain to have scores of members in the new councils, which will be elected on 29 March under new rules allowing local politicians to stay in office for six years. The two-round election will be closely watched as a guide to potentially explosive French presidential and parliamentary elections in two years’ time. Today’s poll put the governing Socialist Party in third place – suggesting President François Hollande or any other centre-left candidate – might struggle to reach the two-candi-date run-off in 2017. Officially, the FN has made greater efforts than ever before to vet its candidates to protect Ms Le Pen from embarrassment. However, the party, despite claims to the contrary, has evidently had great difficulty in finding active and respectable candidates to fulfil its pledge to contest 95 per cent of county council seats.

One FN candidate on Aveyron in south-central France had called on his Facebook page for the “destruction of the Jews once and for all”. Another candidate in Ardèche in the Rhône valley had posted a swastika and the message: “Marine, you are the reincarnation of Hitler. You are going to clean up France.” Another FN candidate in Puy-de-Dôme in the centre of France was dropped after it emerged that he had had been convicted last year of trying to run over a pedestrian while shouting racist insults. The party’s task has been complicated by complex new rules that mean county councillors must seek election in two-person, man and woman teams. Despite the popularity of its female president, the FN remains a heavily male party. Among those elderly candidates is Henriette Frantz, 100, who is running without leaving her sheltered home in the Rhône department around Lyon. She says that she has “always been right wing” and is campaigning for the right to a “quiet life”.

There are other telling signs that the FN remains rooted in shallow soil. One far-right candidate in Orne, in Normandy, was imprisoned last month for driving without a licence. He is permitted, under the rules, to remain on the ballot paper. Six members of the same family in Haute-Loire in central France are running in constituencies in different parts of the county – some of them many miles from their homes. Local party officials insist that all six are “the best possible candidates”. The party’s vice-president, Florian Philippot, the architect of Ms Le Pen’s “reformed” version of far-right politics, rejected suggestions that the unmasking of racist candidates has ex-posed the true nature of the FN. “The media finds what it is looks for,” he said. “Overall, 99.92 per cent of our candidates have nothing to hide.”
© The Independent

up  

Paris racism suspect says train carriage was too full

2/3/2015- A former RUC and PSNI officer has said he pushed a black man away from a train carriage on the Paris under-ground because "it was too full". Richard Barklie from Carrickfergus was one of three men identified on CCTV by police investigating an alleged racist incident involving a group of Chelsea supporters last month. Video footage which went viral around the world showed Frenchman Souleymane Sylla (33) being prevented from boarding a train before Chelsea's Champions League game against Paris Saint Germain. Supporters could also be heard chanting on the train as it halted at Richelieu-Drouat Metro station: "We're racist, we're racist and that's the way we like it." When contacted by The Irish News at the Wave Trauma Centre where he works in Derry after the footage emerged, Mr Barklie denied being involved.
However, the 50-year-old Chelsea season ticket holder later confirmed he was there and said he had gone to police to explain his actions. Mr Barklie, in an interview with the Sunday World accompanied by his solicitor Kevin Winters, again denied yesterday he was racist. "He was shoved off because the carriage was full - it was nothing to do with the colour of his skin," he said. "The train was packed, people were pressed hard against each other. It was hot and stuffy and everyone was very uncomfortable. Yes, there was a lot of racist signing going on, but I never took part in it. "When the train pulled into that station, the carriage I was in was full. There was absolutely no room for anyone else. "That man [Soulemayne Sylla] tried to get on, but there was just no room for him. "People behind me were pushing and he was pushed back off. "He never at any time attempted to see if there was more room in any of the other carriages. "I'm not a racist or a religious bigot."

Presently suspended from his part-time job with Wave Trauma Centre, Mr Barklie is also a director with the World Human Rights Forum. He said: "I don't hold any racist views and as I've already put out in the media, I do a lot of human rights work in Kenya and India and various other parts of the world." Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was among those who offered apologies to Mr Sylla, vowing to ban those involved for life if found to be racists. Five fans have already been suspended. Mr Barklie said he would be happy to sit down with him. "I would tell him I was very sorry for any trauma or stress he received as a result of what happened, but I would also say it wasn't because he is black - it was just because the train was full."
© The Irish News

up  

UK: BBC suggests Ukip ‘shambles’ as Farage drops migrant cap

‘No more obsessing over caps,’ says Farage, as he ditches party’s call for a 50,000-a-year limit

4/3/2015- Nigel Farage this morning ditched Ukip’s plan to cap UK immigration at no more than 50,000 migrants a year in a move described by the BBC as a shift from “muddle” to “shambles”. At the weekend, Ukip migration spokesman Steve Woolf said the party was proposing a 50,000 cap. But Farage told Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: “I don’t want us to have arbitrary caps. We are getting rid of caps. We have watched for the last ten days a debate with the government over caps, every-body obsessing about caps.” Chancellor George Osborne, appearing on the same programme a little later, responded: “Nigel Farage seems to be making it up as he goes along, as much as you can follow his policy. One moment he is talking about a cap, and the next he is ditching it live on air.”

What Ukip would advocate if it were ever to govern Britain – or, a little more likely, share power in a coalition – was laid out in a Daily Telegraph article by Farage published overnight. Pre-supposing Britain’s exit from the EU, there would be a five-year moratorium on taking in any unskilled workers. Instead, Britain would con-sider applications for work visas from doctors and other skilled people the country needs, mainly from Commonwealth countries. They would have to pass an Australian-style points test, overseen by a new Migration Control Commission. They would have to have private health insurance and would have no access to welfare benefits.

Such rigid control would bring net immigration way down from the near-300,000 point it has reached, much to the embrassment of David Cameron who in 2011 promised a reduction by now to "tens of thousands". “I think it’s very unlikely we would need 50,000 people… the figure will be substantially lower,” said Farage. “Last year there were 27,000 people who came to this country and who qualified under the Australian-style points system, so I don’t think we are going to get anywhere near 50,000.” In short, immigration would be “returned to normality”.

Farage’s dramatic shift on the numbers cap is not the first time Ukip have “got into a tangle over immigration policy”, as Norman Smith, the BBC’s assistant political editor, put it this morning. “They got into a kerfuffle at the Rochester by-election when Mark Reckless [the winning Ukip candidate] suggested EU migrants would have to leave to reapply to come here, only to be countermanded by Nigel Farage. “The danger for them is this moves from a policy muddle story into a shambles story. In other words it becomes an issue about Ukip credibility and how serious they are as a party. That does have the potential to damage them.” Smith suggested that both Ukip and the Greens are beginning to “sweat a bit” with so much media attention focused on their policies. A general election campaign appeared to be “stretching” parties miore used to the relatively easier matter of fighting by-elections.
© The Week

up  

UK: Home Office claims asylum seeker can’t be a lesbian because she has children

The Home Office has been accused of ‘highly offensive’ views

3/3/2015- The Home Office was accused of relying on “highly offensive” and “outdated” views of sexuality to reject an asylum claim made by a Nigerian lesbian. Ade-ronke Apata, who fears imprisonment and death because of her sexuality, appeared in London’s High Court to challenge the Home Office’s refusal to grant her asylum in Britain. Ms Apata, who came to Britain in 2004 and has won awards for her gay-rights campaigning, is so desperate to convince the Government of her sexuality that she has submitted a DVD and photographs of her sex life as evidence. But the Home Office argues that Ms Apata could not be considered a lesbian because she has chil-dren and has previously been in heterosexual relationships. Ms Apata’s barrister, Abid Mahmood, said these were “highly offensive… stereotypical views of the past”.

He told the hearing: “Some members of the public may have those views but it doesn’t mean a government department should be putting these views forward in evi-dence.” The Home Secretary’s barrister, Andrew Bird, argued that Ms Apata was “not part of the social group known as lesbians” but had “indulged in same-sex activi-ty”. He continued: “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race.” Holding hands with her wife-to-be Happiness Agboro in court yesterday, Ms Apata, 47, was surrounded by dozens of gay-rights activists. Homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison in Nigeria under laws passed in January 2014 and there has been a spike in violence against gay people.

Mr Mahmood said the Home Secretary recently referred in court papers to Ms Apata’s case being “a publicity stunt” and had a closed mind. He said: “There is evidence of the genuineness of her case, that she will be picked out as a lesbian if she is returned.” Ms Apata was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress in 2005 and attempted suicide when she was in prison facing deportation. Her fragile mental health forms part of the case that she would suffer if returned to Nigeria. Deputy High Court judge John Bowers QC is expected to hand down a ruling by the end of the month. Speaking after the hearing, Ms Apata said: “The Home Office has treated me badly from day one. Staying in Britain means staying safe, staying with my partner and continuing my campaigning.”
© The Independent

up  

UK: Nazi-affiliated website appeals for personal information about people 'Newcastle Unites'

3/3/2015- A Nazi-affiliated hate website has appealed for the personal information of members of the public, after publishing photos of people who took part in Satur-day's ‘Newcastle Unites’ march. Redwatch carries the slogan “Remember places, traitors’ faces, they’ll all pay for their crimes” – a quote from Ian Stuart Donaldson, the frontman of white power rock band Skrewdriver before his death in 1993. Now the faces of dozens of people from Saturday’s counter demonstration against the anti-islamist group Pegida UK have been posted online under the ‘North East Reds’ section of the site. Anyone can access the website as long as they agree to do so in the knowledge that it contains 'potentially controversial' material intended for reference purposes and not unlawful activity.

In the North East Reds section, the site says that any information on 'the freaks' photographed at the Newcastle march would be gratefully received, along with a statement detailing a desire to increase activity in the region. Redwatch gained nationwide notoriety in 2006, when Alec McFadden, a long-term union activist from Merseyside, was repeatedly stabbed in the face in his doorway – his picture and home address had been published on the site. The website, which displays affiliations with neo-Nazi organisations Combat 18 and Aryan Unity on its homepage, claims that it is simply reacting to left wing organisations who have published the personal details of white nationalists online, and that it does not encourage violence against political opponents.

However, Newcastle Councillor Dipu Ahad, who helped organise the Newcastle Unites march, disagrees. He received numerous threats over social media before the march, including one threatening him with beheading. He said: “It’s all about intimidation, whether it’s through threats of beheading on twitter or being named on this site. “They’re trying to keep mouths shut and the police need to deal with this. “Anybody who spots themselves or anyone they know on that site should report it to the police immediately.”
© The Northern Echo

up  

UK: Attacks on Muslims overlooked (opinion)

By Mohammed Samaana

2/3/2015- For once, I have to agree with Britain's far Right: their jobs are at risk of being taken by foreigners. The German group Pegida held its first UK demonstration in Newcastle at the weekend. Like others on the far Right, Pegida's founder, Lutz Bachmann, has a criminal record, which includes burglaries, cocaine-dealing and assault. Ironically, he founded his anti-Islamic organisation in Dresden after witnessing a rally by supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which initially adopted a Marxist ideology before switching to libertarian socialism. He stepped down as Pegida leader after Dresden state prosecutors opened investigations for incitement caused by Lutz's statements and a self-portrait of him posing as Hitler.

Before making its appearance in Britain, Pegida's anti-Islamic demonstrations in Germany inspired Ireland's Islamophobes to organise a protest in Dublin on February 1. Fewer than a dozen people turned up at their event. Islamophobia, however, is not only manifested in demonstrations; it is also becoming increasingly violent. Attacks on mosques and women wearing the veil in different Western countries are increasing. The recent killing of three Muslim students in North Carolina is not the first fatal attack on Muslims. Their families said that the killer repeatedly threatened them. Like many other attacks on Muslims, the North Carolina shootings didn't get much media coverage.

The media also largely ignored research based on Europol and FBI figures, which showed that religious terrorism accounted for less than 2% and 6% of terror attacks in the EU and the US respectively. Additionally, all Muslims are expected to apologise for any attack by a Muslim, but Westerners don't have to apologise when Muslims get killed by Western supremacists, or in wars. Politicians are no better. While British politicians remain silent about Pigeda, President Barack Obama condemned the North Carolina killings after being criticised by Turkey's PM over his silence. The media and politicians should take a stronger stance against Islamophobia.
Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast
© The Belfast Telegraph

up  

Britain's Muslims Still Feel The Need To Explain Themselves

2/3/2015- Jihadi John, runaway schoolgirls, no-go zones: the headlines are everywhere in Great Britain. If you are Muslim in Britain, you can't get away from them. If you're Salman Farsi, you're often at the center of it. "It feels like we're constantly having to explain ourselves," says Farsi, the spokesman for the East London Mosque. It's a huge complex in a booming and diverse neighborhood, serving 7,000 worshippers at Friday prayers; some 1,000 kids pass through its halls each week. Farsi is the mosque's social media guru, posting sermons on YouTube and tweeting responses to the day's news. The 29-year-old was born and raised nearby in a Bangla-deshi family. "Most Muslims — and there's 2.7 million Muslims living here in Britain — most Muslims feel they're very much part of the community, part of society, part of Britain, and so when our sentiments and feelings are not those that are perceived by the rest of society, it's quite challenging," he says.

And the recent climate of Islamophobia, and misconceptions, he says, has made his job difficult. For example, Farsi has to deal with the hate mail the mosque recei-ves. "It's having to fend off the far right, who see the actions of extremists and they blame the whole community," he says. "And we pay the price for it." And the risk is that this need to constantly "explain themselves" will lead to disillusionment, or worse, among young Muslims, Farsi says. "If mainstream society ... can't see things from the young people's perspective, then we're just going to lose them," Farsi says. "They're going to become disillusioned, and then, these are the ones that unfortu-nately will go off and join groups that are deemed terrorists."

What It Means To Be British
Arfah Farooq, 23, is another tech-savvy East Londoner of South Asian descent. She's British-Pakistani. One of the latest Muslim-focused headlines, a BBC poll touting that 95 percent of Muslims "feel loyalty to Britain," annoys her. "You see in the paper all the time, your identity challenged," she says. "But all my friends ... we're practicing Muslims, but we're still going to support Britain in the Olympics, or England in the football." She questions, too, what it means "to be British" or "to have British values." "Is a British value meaning that I have to go to the pub?" she says. "I don't drink, I'm Muslim, I don't do that, that's not going to be a part of me, that's never going to be a part of me, and it's about respecting all of that." She says she does feel that in general her identity and her religion are respected.

She says one of the hardest things she has had to do recently was to bring her prayer mat with her on the first day at a new job. "I did it on purpose on my first day there, because ... they don't know me, so they just think it's a part of me," she says. She contrasts that with something a friend told her: that if he "busted out a prayer mat" in his workplace all of a sudden, his colleagues would think "My God, he's being recruited by ISIS." "You do kind of question yourself in terms of what do people think about me," Farooq says. "My colleagues really respect me; the CEO of the company actually turned around and asked me if I wanted a private space [to pray], so I'm very lucky." But this is London — every other block is a riotous mix of languages and cultures — and just as New York City doesn't reflect the rest of the U.S., London doesn't exactly reflect the rest of Britain.

A Patchwork, Not A Melting Pot
Take Birmingham, for instance. It has been in the news recently: Muslim teachers there have been accused of radicalizing their students. And in January, a Fox News analyst falsely described it as a no-go zone for non-Muslims; Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana later used the same phrase. It's one of Britain's most diverse cities, where the percentage of people who don't speak English is twice the national average and more than 1 in 5 identify as Muslim. There are Pakistani, Somali, Indian areas. But it's less a melting pot than a patchwork. Abdul Rashid, secretary of the Birmingham Central Mosque, says this isn't inherently a bad thing. "Isn't that what we find in all societies, that people tend to get together with friends and people of the same background?" he says.

Rashid says the danger is that if people don't mix, they don't understand each other. That may lead to Islamophobia and radicalization, he says. "Because the stigmati-zation and demonization of a community creates hatred in the hearts of some of the people in that community," he says. The tensions in Birmingham are real; some white people NPR spoke with expressed strong views against Muslims. But they refused to speak on the record. Mohammad Afzal, the first Muslim elected to Birming-ham's city council in 1982, takes the long view. "I remember back in the '70s and early '80s, white people would close their windows and say, 'Oh we've got this hor-rible smell of curry,' " Afzal says. "But now, everybody loves it." That's partly a matter of exposure: You're comfortable with ideas and people that you're familiar with. And the Queensbridge School in Birmingham is trying to do something about that, by exposing kids of different backgrounds to each other.

A Matter Of Comfort?
Principal Tim Boyes is white, but he used to live in Pakistan, he speaks Urdu and he teaches the Islamic Studies course. And that has led to some illuminating conversa-tions. Boyes gives a recent example of a student who repeated something he'd heard at his mosque — that just like Sept. 11, the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris were a CIA conspiracy to justify aggression on the Muslim world. Boyes says he took it as a chance to start a conversation about how to figure out what's true. And he also took it as a good sign: that the student trusts him enough to approach him with such questions. In the school cafeteria, the food is halal. A 14-year-old named Phoebe Baker says everyone takes that in stride. Phoebe is white, and she has experiences at school that just don't happen at home — for example, during Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the day.

Although you can see kids mixing happily at this school, the kids at Phoebe's lunch table are all white. Kids at the next table are Pakistani. Another table over, and they're all Somali. It's not because of ethnicity, the students say. It's just that everyone hangs out with the people they're most comfortable with. And for all the tensions, Londoner Arfah Farooq says she considers herself lucky. "Comparing myself to other countries in Europe I am 100 percent lucky that I am in Britain," she says. "Just with the far right growing in Germany, with the forced secular stuff in France, I am so grateful that I live in Britain."
© NPR

up  

UK: Reported incidents of racism are on the rise: it means we are winning the battle

People are more willing and confident to come forward and it seems that supporters are starting to make a stand against discriminatory behaviour

2/3/2015- The 35% increase in incidents of discrimination reported to us since the start of the season, coupled with the recent high-profile cases of racist and antisemitic behaviour involving Chelsea and West Ham United fans, have shown the true extent of the issues that persist across all levels of English football. The bad days of the 70s and 80s have been largely left behind us, where black footballers experienced the worst excesses of racism directed at them by large sections of matchday crowds, and it is always important to acknowledge the progress made. Players such as Cyrille Regis, Paul Canoville, Luther Blissett and Garth Crooks will reiterate that. Yet as we’ve seen football evolve in so many different ways over the past two decades, the same can be said for the game’s ongoing challenges with discrimination. There is a stub-born element that continues to exist within the game, maintaining abusive, biased and prejudiced attitudes, and even the most overt forms of discriminatory behaviour still remain visible.

The footage we have seen taken on public transport in Paris and north London in the past couple of weeks confirms that. But what would have happened had it not been caught on camera? It most likely would have gone unchallenged, and that makes you think about how many of these incidents occur each and every week that go unreported, unseen. The reality is the level of complaints submitted to us this season, despite showing a leap from 136 to 184 when compared to the midway point of the 2013-14 campaign, barely scratch the surface of a widespread problem. To some, the 35% increase may be viewed negatively, but we take encouragement from receiving a greater level of reports, because it suggests people are more willing and confident to come forward. It is encouraging to see reports of incidents in the professional game increase by 65%, especially as the vast majority of these have been due to supporters self-policing and taking a stand against discriminatory behavi-our inside stadiums.

However, we are concerned that cases at grassroots level remain low, although this may be because such incidents are being reported directly to the Football Associa-tion. Instilling confidence in the reporting processes, and raising awareness of the relevant mechanisms in place with which to make a confidential complaint, has al-ways been the key. We are hopeful that the 35% increase demonstrates greater knowledge and faith of our work in this area, the systems in place, and the likelihood of cases of discrimination reaching a positive outcome. Anna Jonsson, who was appointed as our first full-time reporting officer in October 2013, handles all incidents of discrimination on our behalf, offering support and advice to victims and complainants, and liaising closely with the FA, County FAs, the Premier League, the Football League, the Police, professional clubs and amateur teams.

Anna has used her expertise to enhance our reporting procedures, and also strengthened communication channels with the FA, which has installed its own disciplinary administrator and investigation manager, when dealing with complaints. She receives regular updates on cases and a more efficient process has now been established between both parties. The FA has improved its own structures around handling cases of discrimination, ensuring complaints are investigated thoroughly, and there is more independence and transparency in the process. This is certainly a work in progress and there is ongoing dialogue about how further advances can be made to build further trust in the processes. Empowering supporters, players, managers, coaches and those involved in a variety of capacities at all levels of football is an effective way of tackling this issue head-on, and a major development came for us when we released the Kick It Out app, which possesses a unique facility allowing on-the-spot reporting, in July 2013.

The app has had a massive impact so far this season, especially within the professional game, where it has been the most used reporting method, responsible for 27% of complaints. We are now considering how we can look at updating the app to allow more conclusive evidence to be submitted, and to make it easier for use at grass-roots level. Traditionally, Kick It Out has been seen as an organisation dealing with racism, and this stems from its origins as the “Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football” campaign. Most of our complaints continue to relate to racism, but we have received far more reports of sexism, LGBT discrimination, disability abuse and antisemitism than before. It is a promising sign that there is a better understanding that our remit extends beyond racism, and that people are not willing to tolerate any abuse, but again we believe the level of reports to be relatively low compared to the actual situation which exists within football, and we want to see a substantial rise between now and the end of the season.

One key issue we are wrestling with is the serious levels of football-related hate crime posted on social media websites. We have established links with True Vision, which is the police’s online reporting facility, and Twitter, the platform where we see the vast majority of abuse posted, to help support our work in this area, but it really is a massive task. Our remit is extremely wide as it is, and the modern revolution of social media, while being positive in many different ways, has also dramati-cally increased the ways in which racism and discrimination can be expressed. Certain fixtures can lead to a surge in reports, and we are reliant on other social media users to bring abusive posts to our attention. We understand how common incidents of racism and discrimination are within the game, whether it is in the stands or on the pitch, and will always work hard to ensure action is taken when a complainant lodges a report through us.

Ultimately, if we are to see a game which is fully inclusive, equal and fair, collective responsibility must be taken by those with the power and influence at the top. Of course, major strides have been made over the past two decades, but there is still a long way to go before we see a serious zero-tolerance stance adopted towards discrimination, and a game more reflective of modern-day society.
© The Guardian

up  

UK: Crazy Scenes As Protest Groups Clash Outside Ukip Spring Conference

Around 200 anti-Ukip protesters marched on the venue of the eurosceptic party's spring conference in Margate on Saturday afternoon.

28/2/2015- The rally sang a variety of songs with lyrics including "Nigel is a banker" and "immigrants are here to stay" and "we're black, white, asian and we're gay". Signs included messages such as "stop this bigot" and "say no to hate". A lot of the people in the march were from the Socialist Worker Party or from trade union branches who had travelled to the Kent coast from outside the county. A more direct banner featured pictures of Farage, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg and read simply: "All fucking wankers" Political opinions aside, the demonstrators had a pretty good beat to sing along to. A counter-protest made up of around 20 people holding Union Flags and St George's flags chanting EDL slogans such as "we want our country back" had turned up outside the sea-side Ukip conference venue. Some had arrived in a military-style camouflaged van. As the two marches met they hurled slogans at each other - separated by police.

Most actual Ukip members were blissfully unaware of the two demonstrations taking place outside their conference, which ended this afternoon. Kent Police said around 250 people took part in the protest and rally, which saw people from different parts of the country gather outside Margate railway station and march through the town in objection to Ukip's spring conference being held in the Winter Gardens. Senior officers policing the protest said that all groups had co-operated with the police. A force spokeswoman said: "There have been some very minor verbal exchanges and a woman has been arrested on suspicion of common assault following an isolated incident involving a camera being poin-ted at her. No one has been injured. "However, apart from this one incident there have not been any physical confrontations and the protest has generally been conducted peace-fully. "It is estimated that about 250 people took part in the march."

The protest and rally was organised by Thanet Stand Up To Ukip, which is campaigning to stop Ukip leader Nigel Farage being elected to the South Thanet seat. On its website, the group claims: "We believe Farage has nothing to offer the ordinary people of Thanet. "Our campaign will challenge Ukip's racism, bigotry, misogyny and homophobia as well as their hard-right cuts agenda on welfare, work and the NHS." Pictures of protesters carrying banners and placards were also posted on Twitter under the hashtag #ukipspring. The police spokeswoman said: "As with all such events, the primary role of Kent Police is to work with partners to facilitate peaceful protest whilst ensuring public safety. "Officers remain in the local area to prevent and detect crime and antisocial behaviour, to reassure the public and to respond to any incidents if required."
© The Huffington Post - UK

up  

UK: Galloway demands £5,000 from Twitter users over 'anti-Semitism' libel

28/2/2015- George Galloway has ordered lawyers to issue Twitter users who alleged he was an anti-Semite with letters demanding £5,000 and threatening legal action. The Bradford West MP has reportedly singled out up to a dozen people, including some who had only re-tweeted other posts and a charity worker with just 75 followers. The letters, seen by The Times, were issued by Bradford-based Chambers Solicitors. They said the recipient was “required” to pay legal costs of £5,000 plus VAT into a HSBC bank account by 10 March. If Mr Galloway sues them for libel and they lose the case, they may then face being ordered to pay “significant damages”. It is unusual for MPs to take legal action over tweets, with the last prolific case being won by the late Lord McAlpine of West Green after a BBC Newsnight programme led to him being wrongly accused of child abuse. He recouped a total of £310,000 from the BBC and ITV for their part in the mass libel, while individual Twitter users were asked to make a small donation to charity. 

Ron McKay, a spokesperson for Mr Galloway, confirmed his legal action to The Independent, claiming it was “normal practice” for lawyers to demand costs from a defendant before a the start of a libel case. “If they don’t pay the money it will go to court,” he added. “George has been grossly libelled as an anti-Semite and he will pursue anyone who does that, however big or small.” Among those receiving a warning was Hadley Freeman, a Guardian columnist, who wrote a since deleted tweet about the Respect MP on 10 February. Later that day, Mr Galloway wrote on Twitter: “I have begun legal proceedings against Hadley Freeman of the Guardian on her defamatory comments about me. No one should repeat them.” The furore inspired the hashtag #libelGalloway to trend as people concocted joke statements to poke fun at his legal action. A charity worker who re-tweeted a post supporting Ms Freeman, which repeated an anti-Semitism accusation, was among those receiving letters.

“I don’t have £50 let alone £5,000,” the person told The Times. “I just got out of hospital, I had taken some heavy painkillers…I forgot about it until I got an email from Chambers Solicitors threatening to take me to court and ordering me to pay £5,000 for Mr Galloway’s legal fees. “It was a re-tweet and I only have 75 followers anyway.” Another recipient told the newspaper they were “frightened” by the demands sparked by two re-tweets that were not meant as endorsements. Mr Galloway has also personally threatened critics with legal action on Twitter, writing to one last week: “Most unwise of you to be writing these things. My lawyers will find you.” It comes after he was heckled while appearing on a heated Question Time in Finchley where he was questioned on the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK. Mr Galloway accused the BBC of a “set-up” for allowing an audience member to suggest he “bears some responsibility” for the phenomenon through his pro-Palestinian activism.

He was heckled by audience members shouting “you’re not welcome here” and calling the MP “scum”, before his car was surrounded by Israeli flag-waving protesters as he left. “To accuse a parliamentarian of 27 years of being responsible for a spike in anti-Semitism is totally ludicrous,” Mr Galloway said, adding that Zionism and Israel were different from Judaism and Jewishness. Last week, a disastrous Twitter question and answer session saw him call critics “unhinged”, “madmen” and “Tory scum” after he was bombarded with joke questions and insults. “I must say there is nothing like Twitter to remind you of the sea of ignorance filth racism hatred and utter banality that's out there,” he wrote after-wards. Mr Galloway has consistently denied allegations of anti-Semitism and was attacked by a man in August who was shouting about his allegedly "shameful" attitude towards Jews.

Last year, he was interviewed by police on suspicion of inciting religious hatred after he declared his Bradford constituency was an “Israel-free” zone. He previously refused to debate with a student at Oxford University because he was Israeli. In the wake of the latest “cash for access” scandal, Mr Galloway was named as the MP with the third-highest earnings outside of his Parliamentary office, making an extra £303,350 last year. It was mostly from his regular £1,650-an-hour appearances on Iran's Press TV , as well as other media shows for Russia Today and a station in Beirut. Mr Galloway co-founded the anti-war Respect Party in 2004 after being expelled by Labour because of comments he made as part of his opposition to the Iraq war and won his Bradford West seat in 2012.
© The Independent

up  

UK: A search for identity draws jihadis to the horrors of Isis (opinion)

They are as estranged from Muslim communities as they are from western societies
By Kenan Malik


1/3/2015- First it was Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, three schoolgirls from Tower Hamlets who smuggled themselves to Syria during their half-term holiday. Then it was Jihadi John, the Islamic State executioner who was unmasked by the Washington Post last week as the Kuwaiti-born Londoner Mohammed Emwazi. The stories of the three schoolgirls and of Emwazi are very different. But the same questions are being asked of them. How did they get radicalised? And how can we stop it from happening again? These are questions being increasingly asked across Europe. A recent report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation suggests that there are now 4,000 European fighters with Isis, a figure that has doubled over the past year. What is it that draws thousands of young Europeans to a brutal, sadistic organisation such as Isis? “Radicalisation” is usually seen as a process through which extremist groups or “hate preachers” groom vulnerable Muslims for jihadism by indoctrinating them with extremist ideas. Some commentators blame western authorities for pushing young Muslims into the arms of the groomers.

The advocacy group Cage UK claimed last week that Mohammed Emwazi had been driven to Syria by MI5 “harassment”. Others stress the “pull” factor in radicalisation. The pro-blem, they claim, lies with Islam itself, a faith that, in their eyes, legitimises violence, terror and inhumanity. Neither claim is credible. Whatever the facts of his relationship with MI5, Emwazi himself was responsible for joining Isis. No amount of “harassment” provides an explanation for chopping off people’s heads. Nor is Islam an adequate explana-tion. Muslims have been in Europe in large numbers since the 1950s. It is only in the last 20 years that radical Islam has gained a foothold. Blaming it all on Islam does nothing to explain the changing character of Muslim communities and their beliefs. The problem with both approaches is in the idea of “radicalisation”. Marc Sageman, a former CIA opera-tions officer who worked with the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, is now a distinguished academic and a counter-terrorism consultant to the US and other governments.

He said: “The notion that there is any serious process called ‘radicalisation’ is a mistake. What you have is some young people acquiring some extreme ideas – but it’s a similar process to acquiring any type of ideas. It often begins with discussions with a friend.” European recruits to Isis are certainly hostile to western foreign policy and devoted to their vision of Islam. Religion and politics form indispensable threads to their stories. And yet the “radicalisation” argument looks at the jihadis’ journey back to front. It begins with the jihadis as they are at the end of their journey – enraged about the west, and with a black-and-white view of Islam – and assumes that these are the reasons they have come to be as they are. But for most jihadis, the first steps on their journeys to Syria were rarely taken for political or religious reasons. What is striking about the stories of wannabe jihadis is their diversity. There is no “typical” recruit, no single path to jihadism.

Sahra Ali Mehenni is a schoolgirl from a middle-class family in the south of France. Her father, an industrial chemist, is a non-practising Muslim, her mother an atheist. “I never heard her talk about Syria, jihad,” said her mother. One day last March, to the shock of her family, she took not her usual train to school but a flight from Marseilles to Istanbul to join Isis. When she finally phoned home it was to say: “I’ve married Farid, a fighter from Tunisia.” Kreshnik Berisha, a German born of Kosovan parents, played as a teenager for Makkabi Frankfurt, a Jewish football club and one of Germany’s top amateur teams. He went on to study engineering and in July 2013, boarded a bus to Istanbul and then to Syria. “I didn’t believe it,” said Alon Meyer, Makkabi Frankfurt’s coach. “This was a guy who used to play with Jewish players every week. He was comfortable there and he seemed happy.” Berisha later returned home to become the first German homegrown jihadi to face trial.

There are hundreds of stories such as these, from all over Europe. What they tell us is that, shocking though it may seem, there is nothing unusual in the story of the runaway Tower Hamlets schoolgirls. And that what Emwazi has in common with other European recruits is not so much his harassment as his college education. The usual clichés about jiha-dis – that they are poor, uneducated, badly integrated – are rarely true. A survey of British jihadis by researchers at London’s Queen Mary College found no link to “social inequali-ties or poor education”; most were highly educated young people from comfortable families who spoke English at home. According to Le Monde, a quarter of French jihadis in Syria are from non-Muslim backgrounds. What draws most wannabe jihadis to Syria is, to begin with, neither politics nor religion. It is a search for something a lot less definable: for identity, for meaning, for “belongingness”, for respect. Insofar as they are alienated, it is not because wannabe jihadis are poorly integrated, in the conventional way we think of integration. Theirs is a much more existential form of alienation.

There is, of course, nothing new in the youthful search for identity and meaning. What is different today is the social context in which this search takes place. We live in a more atomised society than in the past; an age in which many people feel peculiarly disengaged from mainstream social institutions and in which moral lines often seem blurred and identities distorted. In the past, social disaffection may have led people to join movements for political change, from far-left groups to anti-racist campaigns. Today, such organi-sations often seem equally out of touch. What gives shape to contemporary disaffection is not progressive politics but the politics of identity. Identity politics has, over the last three decades, encouraged people to define themselves in increasingly narrow ethnic or cultural terms. A generation ago, “radicalised” Muslims would probably have been far more secular in their outlook and their radicalism would have expressed itself through political organisations. Today, they see themselves as Muslim in an almost tribal sense, and give vent to their disaffection through a stark vision of Islam.

These developments have shaped not just Muslim self-perception but that of most social groups. Many within white working-class communities are often as disengaged as their Muslim peers, and similarly see their problems not in political terms but through the lens of cultural and ethnic identity. Hence the growing hostility to immigration and diversity and, for some, the seeming attraction of far-right groups. Racist populism and radical Islamism are both, in their different ways, expressions of social disengagement in an era of identity politics. There is something distinctive about Islamist identity. Islam is a global religion, allowing Islamists to create an identity that is intensely parochial and seemingly universal, linking Muslims to struggles across the world, from Afghanistan to Palestine, and providing the illusion of being part of a global movement. In an age in which traditional anti-imperialist movements have faded and belief in alternatives to capitalism dissolved, radical Islam provides the illusion of a struggle against an immoral present and for a uto-pian future.

However, most homegrown wannabe jihadis possess a peculiar relationship with Islam. They are as estranged from Muslim communities as they are from western societies. Most detest the mores and traditions of their parents, have little time for mainstream forms of Islam and cut themselves off from traditional community institutions. It is not through mosques or religious institutions but through the internet that most jihadis discover their faith and their virtual community. Disembedded from social norms, finding their identity within a small group, shaped by black-and-white ideas and values, driven by a sense that they must act on behalf of all Muslims and in opposition to all enemies of Islam, it beco-mes easier for wannabe jihadis to commit acts of horror and to view such acts as part of an existential struggle between Islam and the west. Simplistic narratives about “radicalisa-tion” miss the complex roots of homegrown terrorism. Proposed solutions, such as banning organisations, pre-censoring online hate speech, increasing state surveillance and so on, betray our liberties without addressing the issues that has made Islamism attractive to some in the first place.

Jihadis are responsible for the choices they make. However much we may deplore western policies, at home or abroad, they provide no reason for the grotesque acts of Isis. And yet there is an uncomfortable question to be asked of society, too. Why is it that so many intelligent and resourceful young people find an ideology that espouses mass beheadings, slave labour and the denial of rights to women more appealing than anything else that is on offer?
Kenan Malik’s most recent book is The Quest for a Moral Compass. He is also the author of From Fatwa to Jihad
© Comment is free - Guardian

up  

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo

An estimated 375 people turned out for the Germany-based PEGIDA movement's first demonstration in Britain on Saturday, but were outnumbered by a 2,000-strong crowd of counter-protesters, police said.

1/3/2015- PEGIDA has drawn large crowds in Germany to protest against what it calls the "Islamisation" of Europe, and small demonstrations have also taken place in Austria and Sweden. Police in the city of Newcastle, northeast England, said five men were arrested "for isolated incidents" but insisted both the PEGIDA march and the Newcastle Unites protest passed off smoothly. The five men, aged between 17 and 54, were arrested for alleged offences including assault, breach of the peace and for being drunk and disorderly. Extra police had been deployed in the city, which was also hosting a Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa, and there were some angry con-frontations as officers kept the two protests apart. One steward said there was a brief scuffle involving members of far-right groups which temporarily damaged PEGIDA's PA system. Some people attending held up flags of the xenophobic National Front group.

Police Chief Superintendent Laura Young said: "Both demonstrations passed without any problems." PEGIDA's spokeswoman in Britain, Marion Rogers, earlier insisted that the group was not racist or against Muslims. "It's about integration. We are not anti-Islam. We are not here to split up any communities," she told the BBC. "We've invited Muslims to join us against extremism, extremism of any kind. I don't think it's wrong to stand up to terrorism. Is that hate?" PEGIDA -- which stands for the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West -- drew up to 25,000 people in German street rallies last month. Among those attending the counter-rally in Newcastle was left-wing firebrand lawmaker George Gallo-way. "It is absolutely extraordinary that a German organisation sets up in the UK -- it's not as if there is a lack of right-wing nutter organisations here," he said. "They have got to be opposed, wherever they are."

The English Defence League, a homegrown British group that protested against the perceived threat from Islamic extremism, held a number of protests throughout 2013, which often ended in clashes with anti-fascist demonstrators. But the group has lost momentum since its leader Tommy Robinson quit in October that year, saying he could no longer keep "extremist elements" in the group at bay.
© AFP

up  

UK: 'Anti-Islamisation' group Pegida UK holds Newcastle march

About 2,000 protesters have demonstrated against the first rally in Britain by a group opposed to what it calls the "Islamisation of Europe".

28/2/2015- They gathered to oppose the UK branch of German group Pegida which congregated at Newcastle's Bigg Market. Pegida UK denied claims it was anti-Muslim and had come to "promote expression of hatred". The counter-rally marched to Newgate Street, within sight of about 400 Pegida UK demonstrators. Northumbria Po-lice, which had a cordon separating the two camps, said five arrests had been made after isolated scuffles. Crowds had mostly dispersed by 13:00 GMT. Leader of the counter-protest organisers, Newcastle Unites, Dipu Ahad said Pegida UK's agenda was "to promote hatred". "Newcastle has not had an issue with extremism. Newcastle is not Islamified. So why come to Newcastle and break our communities?"

Mr Ahad said the choice of Newcastle for Pegida UK's first rally was "bizarre", although the group said it had received "a lot of interest" from the city when it was set up. Pegida UK spokeswoman Marion Rogers said: "We are not racist, we are not fascist, we are not far-right and we're certainly not anti-Islam - we've got Muslims here with us today. "Islamisation of the West in our books is extremist Islam, extremist Muslims, basically enforcing their beliefs on us and making us feel like second class citizens in our own country. "We want integration. We are not the hate campaign we are made out to be."

At the rally: BBC News reporter Fiona Trott
There were about 400 supporters of Pegida UK here, mainly from Tyneside and Wearside but also some from elsewhere in Europe. They included NHS workers, factory workers and self-employed people. The organisation says it is separate from Pegida in Germany, which has attracted tens of thousands of people at its marches there, although a German representative has come here to make a speech. It says that this is a public information exercise; that it wants to tell people that it is against extre-mism but is not anti-Islam, or far-right. About 30 to 40m away another police cordon was in place, behind which about 1,000 protesters against Pegida gathered. One of their spokespeople told us there was a "fine line" between free speech and hate.

Bradford West Respect MP George Galloway, who travelled to join the Newcastle Unites counter-demonstration, praised the "response from local people". "The Newcastle people have handled this themselves with great aplomb and I take my hat off to them," he said.

Who are Pegida?
Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West, campaigns against what it perceives as the growing influence of Islam in Europe and increasing immigration. Marches have been held in the Czech Republic, Denmark and Norway and sympathiser groups have formed in European countries such as Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The group, which was formed in Dresden, denies it is racist, but has attracted praise from far-right groups. Posts on the Pegida UK Facebook page - which currently uses an image of Newcastle's bridges on its profile - have expressed concern at "Islamification by stealth". 

Northumbria Police said the "vast majority" of demonstrators had been peaceful and both groups stuck to agreed plans. "As a force we respect the right to peaceful protest and take a neutral standpoint, not supporting or endorsing any groups or individuals," a spokesman said. "Our aim was to ensure public safety and to minimise disruption to the city centre during today's events." Five people from Newcastle, Halifax and South Yorkshire, aged between 17 and 54, were arrested for offences including breach of the peace, assault and being drunk and disorderly.
© BBC News

up  

Germany's far-right Pegida movement sets up in Scotland and plans anti-Islam march in Edinburgh

The first demonstration by the Scottish branch of Pegida, the far-right anti-Islam movement from Germany, is planned for Edinburgh this month.

1/3/2015- Organisers of Pegida Scotland say they are in talks with police about holding an evening rally in the capital's city centre on March 21. Pegida - a German acronym which translates as "patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the west" - has held weekly marches in Germany since October last year. The radical group, which protests against a perceived "Islamisation" of Europe and the West, attracted 25,000 people in one rally in January following the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Scottish organisers of Pegida told the Sunday Herald they were in regular talks with German members, who offered support and advice. Pegida UK - another branch of the movement - held its first UK rally in Newcastle yes-terday. Around 400 far right demonstrators turned out for the march, which was backed by the British National Party (BNP), through the north-east English city. At the same time about 1000 people, including politician George Galloway, counter-demonstrated against their extreme views, under the banner Newcastle Unites.

Russell Brand showed his support for the counter-protestors on Twitter saying: "I won't be in Newcastle today marching against racism but I'm against racism wherever I am." Pegida insists it is not far-right and it is not racist. A spokesman from Pegida Scotland, who asked not to be identified, said a group of organisers had been working with the German branch, and hoped to visit Berlin soon to attend a rally to "see how it's done there" and "get some ideas". Pegida Scotland is due to hold their event on March 21 - a week after a planned protest by the Scottish Defence League outside Holyrood on March 14. Opponents will hold counter-demonstrations at each event. The Pegida Scotland spokesman said their Facebook page, which also claims to represent north east England, was started four weeks ago. It has more than 3300 'likes'. A YouTube video featuring images from 9/11 and 7/7 as well as messages including "This is God's country, we are the people" was made to introduce the branch.

In a post on February 18 they said: "We have now put together a fantastic team, we hope you will be a little patient...Our mission is simple ... rid our island of Islam." The spo-kesman defended their beliefs. He said: "We're just a bunch of like minded people that's against the Islamification of Europe. "We won't tolerate any neo-Nazi elements creeping in, we're totally against that. We're in contact with the German organisers quite a lot. We spoke to them and asked how they would feel about it (setting Pegida Scotland up). "There isn't a group in Scotland like this. There are groups who try to highlight it but they go about it the wrong way. They have neo-Nazi elements creeping into the organisa-tion." The spokesman said the group would not gather in communities where they could be accused of causing tensions. He said: "We won't be going into any areas - for talking sake - Govanhill, Pollokshields - to cause racial tensions. "I think that was the thing with other groups - they wanted to have a demo in Govanhill. That is never going to happen (with Pegida)."

When asked to respond to accusations that Pegida is racist, the spokesman said: "I think it's very difficult when you're dealing with the left wing because no matter what you say you're just a racist, fascist, neo-Nazi knuckle dragger in their eyes...I always say it's a non-racist, non-violent organisation and that is the way it will stay." Luke Henderson, 46, coordinator of the Edinburgh branch of Unite Against Fascism (UAF), said: "The concern around Europe is that there's been a rise of far right and racist parties and they've used Islamophobia as a means of organising and recruiting and gaining political advantage. "We stand opposed to the racist message of far right groups and indeed groups like UKIP as well." Henderson claimed there was an overlap between Pegida, SDL and the BNP. He said: "They're the extremists - their Facebook pages and their members and their organisers claim to be against extremist Muslims but time and time again they make nasty and vicious statements towards all Muslims. "No one wants to admit to being racist these days - even the racists know it's bad press."

The UAF are worried about an increase in small far-right groups. Henderson said: "There is a toxic mix created by political parties like UKIP and mainstream parties relentlessly blaming or suggesting that immigrants are to blame for problems in this society - low wages, insecurity at work, shortage of housing, when the reality is it was the economic crash caused by the richest bankers and financiers in this country. "It will get worse unless people stand up. That's why we organise these protests. Don't be fooled by these hardcore racists, these hardcore Nazis." Zareen Taj, of the Muslim Women Association Edinburgh, compared the Pegida movement to Greek political party Golden Dawn, which was widely accused of being fascist. She said: "It is very sad the SDL and Pegida are dividing communities. They claim to be against extreme Muslims but they are against any Muslim activity. "Right wing people want to grow their members. With Golden Dawn we saw the same thing and now Pegida - they are jumping on the bandwagon."

A spokeswoman from Edinburgh City Council said they had not received notifications for SDL or Pegida marches, but some static demonstrations do not require a licence. A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: "There are numerous demonstrations in Edinburgh each year and events are policed appropriately and proportionately to allow for lawful protest and to minimise the impact on the public."
© The Herald Scotland

up  

Germany: 'Intolerable' Neo-Nazi protest at NSU trial

A small group of neo-Nazis gathered outside a Munich court on Tuesday to demand the release of Ralf Wohlleben, an NSU trial suspect accused of being an accessory to murder.

3/3/2015- The group of 10 mostly young men and one woman planned their demonstration for what was meant to be the first day of court proceedings following Wohlleben's 40th birthday last Friday, which the suspect celebrated in prison. In their eyes, the trial of right-wing extremist members of the National Socialist Under-ground is the "NSU Show." Other than the main accused, Beate Zschäpe, Wohlleben is the only suspect behind bars. When Wohlleben's supporters reached the court-house, they were met by police officers and a crowd of around 100 people who were part of a counter-demonstration shouting "Nazis raus!" (Nazis get out!). Neo-Nazis see Wohlleben as a political prisoner and a victim of the justice system. Philipp Hasselbach, the regional head of the neo-Nazi party, "Die Rechte," tried to say as much in his speech, but he was drowned out by the counter-demonstrators. They came equipped with whistles and drums, chanting slogans like "Nazi propaganda has no rights." "You're sympathizing with murderers," one older man on the scene shouted.

Prosecutors: 'Intolerable!'
Lawyers representing plaintiffs in the NSU trial also observed the events outside the courthouse. Sebastian Scharmer, who represents the daughter of Mehmet Kubasik, who was killed in 2006 in Dortmund, described the neo-Nazi demo as "intolerable." It's a provocation for the family members of the people killed by the NSU, the victims, and those injured in the attacks, he said. Scharmer said such demos reinforce the theory that the NSU is supported by an extensive network. But 22 months after the start of the trial, the public prosecutor's office remains convinced that Beate Zschäpe and her (now deceased) accomplices, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mund-los, are directly responsible for the 10 racist murders committed by the NSU. After the demonstrators dispersed, those attending the NSU trial waited for the procee-dings to be reconvened in the courtroom. Five identically dressed men and women took seats in the first two rows of the gallery. They were all wearing blue t-shirts printed with a big, white "40."

It was their way of wishing Ralf Wohlleben a belated happy birthday. But this neo-Nazi delegation also waited in vain for the man accused of procuring the weapon used in the murders. There was no sign of either Wohlleben or Zschäpe, even though their lawyers were already in the room. Of the accused, only André Eminger took his seat. His twin brother, Maik, was in the gallery, also wearing a blue t-shirt. More than an hour after the proceedings were due to start, a court official announced that they were canceled because Zschäpe was sick. It's the third time that's happened this year. Last week, proceedings were interrupted after only a few hours for the same reason. But those who came to Munich for their "hero" Ralf Wohlleben are likely most disappointed by the cancellation ­– the accused never got to see their tasteless birthday greetings.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Germany: Dresden asylum camp cleared after neo-Nazi attack

An asylum camp set up in front of Dresden's Semperoper opera house has been cleared. Refugees and supporters moved just a day after radical PEGIDA members and neo-Nazis attempted to storm the site.

3/3/2015- Local authorities had originally planned to clear the refugee camp, which had been set up on Saturday, by Monday evening. The administrative court of Dres-den successfully filed an appeal, however, which appeared to fuel an attack on Monday night by radical members of PEGIDA and neo-Nazis. Following the usual rally held by the right-wing PEGIDA movement on Monday evening, some 100 radicals flocked to Dresden's Theaterplatz demanding for the asylum seekers' camp to be cleared. Others could be heard shouting "Germany for Germans, foreigners out!" and were reportedly seen throwing bottles and fire crackers in the direction of the camp. In what appeared to be a coordinated attack, about two dozen radicals attempted to storm the anti-PEGIDA rally from two directions. The counter protest was held by local refuges and supporters of the groups "Asylum Movement," "Dresden for All," and "Dresden Nazi-free."

Dresden police managed to fend off the PEGIDA members and neo-Nazis as they formed a chain of officers between the two protest groups, before later setting up a fixed cordon around Theaterplatz. Around 500 supporters of the refugees also gathered around the asylum camp to protect the tents. PEGIDA, which roughly translates as "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West," has been holding demonstrations in Dresden and a host of other German cities since October. At its peak, the group saw a turnout of some 25,000 in Dresden. Figures have decreased in recent weeks, however, particularly after images of leader Lutz Bachmann posing as Adolf Hitler went viral.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

German ex-MP makes payment to end 'child porn' trial

2/3/2015- A German former lawmaker Monday agreed to pay 5,000 euros ($5,600) and admit guilt on child pornography charges in exchange for a court halting his high-profile trial. The case against Sebastian Edathy, formerly a high-flying MP known for fighting far-right extremists, had triggered a major political scandal that led to the resignation of a cabinet minister. Edathy, 45, admitted to the charges through a statement read out by his lawyer and expressed regret, paving the way for the court proceedings to be stopped. He will have no criminal record. The payment will go to a child protection association. Edathy went on trial in the northern town of Verden a week ago, accused of downloading images and video files featuring child pornography onto his work laptop in 2013.

He had also been suspected of possessing a book and a CD with pictures which prosecutors said contained illicit material featuring minors. "In the criminal case against Sebastian Edathy on possession of child pornography, the proceedings... are stopped," the judge, Juergen Seifert, said Monday, the second day of the trial. "The ac-cused in the end.... admitted his wrongdoing in front of the entire German public," he said. The judge also said that child pornography was a "grave crime" and that without a market for it, the images would not be produced. "However every human being, Mr Edathy too, deserves a second chance," he added. Edathy looked visibly relieved when the proceedings were halted.

"I've realised in the meantime that I made a mistake," he said in the statement read out by his lawyer, who later said the case should never have been allowed to end up in court. Edathy was an MP for the Social Democrats, partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's left-right coalition government. He resigned from his Bundestag seat citing health reasons in February 2014, just days before it emerged that his home and offices had been searched. The case sparked political turbulence at the start of Merkel's third term, with the subsequent resignation of conservative agriculture minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, under pressure over suspicions he leaked confidential information about the probe while serving previously as interior minister.

Edathy gained prominence for heading a parliamentary panel into the shock 2011 discovery of a neo-Nazi killer cell. His case also touched off a debate in Germany about child pornography laws, which saw the Bundestag approve reforms to sex crimes legislation, including the tightening of rules on pictures of naked children and minors.
© AFP

up  

Germany is ready for the republication of Mein Kampf (opinion)

Publish this Nazi diatribe and let Hitler be damned. If its lunacy had been taken on board in the first place, Hitler might never have grasped power
By Guy Walters

28/2/2015- Some of the biggest-selling books of all time are also the most unread. Who actually finished A Brief of History of Time? How many have read the Bible in its entirety? Or, for that matter, the Koran? Mein Kampf fits easily into this category of blockbusting tomes whose spines have never been cracked. Dictated by Adolf Hitler to Rudolf Hess while the two men were imprisoned in Landsberg, in the wake of the Nazis’ failed coup in Munich in November 1923, Mein Kampf – which translates as “My Struggle” – would, over the next two decades, be bought or given to over 12 million Germans. The book is indeed a struggle. It runs to some 700 pages, and is more a notoriously obnoxious and rambling mix-ture of Hitler’s obsessions, rather than some sort of definitive blueprint for the Third Reich. Instead, in the words of the historian Joachim Fest, it reveals the “anxieties and lusts of the former inmate of the home for men [Hitler’s refuge in Vienna]… haunted by the images of puberty: copulation, sodomy, perversion, rape, contamination of the blood”.

At many times, the book is just plain barmy. “The Judaization of our spiritual life and the mammonization of our mating impulse sooner or later befouls our entire new generation,” Hitler writes in his chapter on the causes of the German defeat in 1918, “for instead of vigorous children of natural feeling, only the miserable specimens of financial expedience come forth.” The book is stuffed with incoherent and nonsensical passages such as this, in which Hitler stirs together his bigoted opinions on themes such as race, reproduction, wealth, disease and nationalism. To see the world through his eyes is indeed a chilling experience. After the war, the Allied occupying authorities banned the publication of the book, and the rights to the work passed to the state of Bavaria, which has also refused to allow publication. However, at the end of December this year, the copyright expires, which means that new editions can be published in Germany.

One new edition is being produced by the respectable Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, and it is to be heavily annotated in what amounts to an academic demolition of Hitler’s words – death by footnote, as it were. But there are some voices that maintain that Germany is not ready for any form of republication. “I am absolutely against the publication of Mein Kampf, even with annotations. Can you annotate the Devil? Can you annotate a person like Hitler?” said Levi Salomon, spokesman for the Berlin-based Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism, to the Washington Post. “This book is outside of human logic.” Mr Salomon is both right and wrong. The former, because yes, Mein Kampf is a satanic and illogical rant. But it’s those very qualities that mean that the book should indeed be published, to show modern Germans quite how mad Hitler was.

The problem with banning things such as Mein Kampf and other symbols of Nazism, is that you create a fetishistic mystique for them, and therefore engender a legitimacy in the immature minds of those disposed to extremism. There must be something in it, so the thinking goes, if the authorities want to ban it. Only the naive would suppose there is not a black market for Nazi memorabilia in Germany. Last year I found myself in a militaria shop in Nuremberg and, although the owner was scrupulous in only displaying items that did not feature swastikas, I got the impression that had I enquired about anything “under the counter”, I might have got my mitts on a couple of SS daggers and a swastika armband. Such items are largely bought by an older generation. Younger Germans, thoroughly educated about the evils of Nazism, have little appetite to acquire symbols of Nazism, and seem more prone to revel in “Ostalgie” – a surely misplaced nostalgia towards life in the DDR.

But there is undoubtedly a worryingly strain of neo-Nazism in Germany, and to counter this, I say bring on Mein Kampf. Modern Germany should publish the book in hundreds of different editions on Jan 1 2016, and show the world that she is confident to pour scorn openly on a book that even its author came to find an embarrassment. When he came to power, itler said: “If I had suspected in 1924 that I was to become Reich Chancellor, I would not have written the book.” Those misgivings were shared by other Nazis, such as Hermann Rauschning, the president of the state of Danzig, who said: “No one took it seriously… or even understand this style at all.” Modern Germans should be allowed to read – in his own words – just how dangerously deranged Hitler truly was. Most are more than well-equipped to see the book for what it is. Yes, there will doubtless be some neo-Nazis who will revel in publishing editions to be consumed by like-minded fools, but let them wear their badges of shame openly. And above all, let them read this book and see for themselves the folly of their Führer. Publication will surely make some tempted by the swastika see that perhaps Hitler did not have a point.

Herein lies the ultimate irony. When the Allies banned the book, they banned a book that nobody had read. Had the Germans really read and taken on board the absurdity of Mein Kampf in the Twenties and early Thirties, then it is conceivable that they would never have allowed its author to grasp power. One of the best ways to help stop Nazism from spawning again is therefore to publish Mein Kampf, and to allow people to read it and mock. After all, modern Germans should no longer be in the business of banning books, which is little different from burning them. They’ve done that before. Read it and weep, Germany, and by all means, laugh at it.

But please, this time, do read it.
Guy Walters is the author of 'Hunting Evil’ (Bantam)
© The Telegraph

up  

Headlines 27 February, 2015

Kosovo Minister's Swipe at 'Privileged' Minorities Slated

NGOs representing minorities in Kosovo have called for the dismissal of a minister who compained that the 'privileged' position of minorities made it hard to change the constitution.

27/2/2015- NGOs representing ethnic minorities in Kosovo have called for the dismissal of the Minister of Diaspora, Valon Murati, after he told a lecture at one of the private uni-versities that minorities were "privileged". “Murati’s statement is very dangerous and represents the well established routine of blaming the Serbian community for the failures of Pristina’s political elite. Such statements can lead toward mobilization of people along the ethnic lines,” said the statement signed by Kosovo Policy Action Network – a network of 95 non-majority NGOs and individuals. They “demand an apology from the government and Murati’s immediate resignation.” The NGOs were referring to a statement made during a lecture at the Juridica university earlier this week, which was also attended by the Dutch Ambassador, Robert Bosch, at which Murati spoke about the spike in the illegal migration from Kosovo to EU countries in the past month. “There exists a very problematic relationship with the Serbian minority. Our constitution is also problematic because it gives minorities a privileged position,” Murati said.

He said that although minorities in Kosovo composed less than 10 per cent of the population, owing to their over-representation in parliament, “we can’t change the constitution without two-thirds of the votes of the minorities in parliament”. The group of NGOs maintained that such statements could lead to increased ethnic animosity in the country. Murati is a member of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Isa Mustafa’s Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, and the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, but comes from the ranks of a smaller party, the Movement for Unity (Levizja per Bashkim – LB), which advocates the unification of Kosovo with Albania. The NGOs' request is being compared to the earlier successful demands of Albanians for the removal of the ethnic Serbian former Minister for Returns and Communities, Aleksandar Jablanovic, who public outrage after calling a group of Kosovar protesters “savages.” After two large and violent protests in the capital, Pristina, Prime Minister Mustafa axed Jablanovic from the cabinet. His Srpska List, party, an umbrella list that includes Serbian ministers and MPs in the Kosovo parliament, has boycotted parliament since then, and is expected to announce whether it will continue to participate in the government.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Italy/Netherlands: Feyenoord: Inflatable banana thrown at Gervinho 'pure coincidence'

The Dutch club's general manager Eric Gudde has claimed the object thrown at the Ivorian in Thursday's Europa League clash was not an act of racism

27/2/2015- The inflatable banana which was thrown in the direction of Gervinho during Roma's 2-1 win over Feyenoord on Thursday was not an act of racism, according to the Eredivisie club's general manager. The first leg of the last-32 Europa League tie, which ended 1-1 last week, was overshadowed by Feyenoord hooligans who caused significant damage in the Italian capital before the game, and the behaviour of the club's supporters again made the headlines in Rotterdam. Adem Ljajic gave Rudi Garcia's men the lead before the hosts equalised in the 57th minute through Elvis Manu, but former Arsenal attacker Gervinho sealed the 3-2 aggregate win for Roma shortly afterwards. But the tie was marred by the home fans' volatile reaction to Mitchell Te Vrede's sending off in the second half, which caused the referee to stop the match and lead the players down the tunnel for 10 minutes for their own safety.

Prior to that, the official also momentarily paused the game when a giant inflatable banana was launched at matchwinner Gervinho, but Feyenoord chief Eric Gudde claimed that it was merely an unfortunate coincidence. "We told the Uefa delegation that this has happened for years with us," he told reporters. "I'm ruling out racism. Racism is not an issue here at all. "It was pure coincidence that the banana dropped near Gervinho. But the referee reacted very strongly on it. During half-time we explained the situation. I hope they take that into account." Regarding the missiles thrown on to the pitch, he added: "I understand the irritation of fans as I, too, was surprised about some of the refereeing decisions, but it never legitimises throwing things at the linesman. "We will be fined heavily - that money should be being invested in youth, not wasted on fines."

Feyenoord coach Fred Rutten backed Gudde's view that the club's supporters are not racist, but it remains to be seen what action Uefa will take over the chaos against Roma. "Lots of things happened on the field tonight, but there is not too much fuss that should be made about the banana incident,” Rutten said. “We have various nationalities here, so I do not see how that can be racism." Gervinho, meanwhile, is simply relieved that the Giallorossi can rest easy knowing they have reached the last 16 of the Europa League and defended the form of his fellow Ivorian, Seydou Doumbia, who has struggled since joining Roma in the winter transfer window. "Qualification was very important, the team needed a win like this - we won first for us and then for the fans," he told the club's official website. "The jubilant reaction was a spontaneous thing, it was just very important to us, we have to win every game, the result is important for the team. Today we played well.
© Goal

up  

Scale of racism in Cup host Russia a threat, report says

27/2/2015- Russian football is plagued by a racist and far-right extremist fan culture that threatens the safety of visitors to the 2018 World Cup, according to a report provided to The Associated Press. Researchers from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the Fare network, which helps to prosecute racism cases for European football's governing body UEFA, highlighted more than 200 cases of discriminatory behavior linked to Russian football over two seasons. "It shows a really quite gruesome picture of a domestic league which is full of aspects of racism, xenophobia: The far-right play a significant role in the fan culture," Fare executive director Piara Powar said in an interview with the Associated Press. The report collated dozens of cases where fans carried out campaigns and sold far-right merchandise to collect money for imprisoned neo-Nazis. It provides a detailed breakdown of discriminatory incidents around matches, pinpointing 72 displays of neo-Nazi symbols, 22 acts against people from the Caucasus region, which includes Dagestan and Chechnya, and five occasions of abuse against black people.

The report, which covers 2012-14, does not include an apparent rise in the targeting of black players being documented this season, Fare said. In the week when the football world was focused on the rescheduling of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, this report — entitled "Time for Action"— underlines that the next World Cup will be held in Russia in three years' time, not the Middle East. "Our hope in Russia in the lead up to 2018 is we get action taken to protect the safety of fans and of players," Powar added. "Players have already said they will walk off if they hear racism. That is a danger. We want that to be addressed in advance." The Russian Football Union and World Cup 2018 organizers both declined to comment when asked to by the AP. The report was sent on Friday to FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Without referencing the report's existence, a post on Blatter's Twitter account said on Friday: "In December, FIFA's (anti-discrimination) Task Force presented concrete action plan to tackle discrimination in build-up to 2018 World Cup."

The first systematic study of fan racism in Russian football shows the scope of the discriminatory behavior that thrives at football despite President Vladimir Putin pledging to address the issue. "We see it and we believe it is a problem and unfortunately we have quite a number of such problems," Putin said in December 2010 within hours of Russia winning the FIFA vote. Highlighting "xenophobia, racism and other national and religious intolerance," Putin added: "Russia is fighting it just like any other country in the world. We will do it persistently in future." But the report argues that not enough is being done by Russian state and football authorities. The intelligence and insights gathered will now be handed over to world football's governing body by Powar, who sits on FIFA's anti-discrimination task force. "FIFA need to push the LOC (local organizing committee) harder, we think the government needs to work with the (Russian) FA and the LOC to make sure that things are getting done," Powar said.

The report says "it will be difficult to ensure the safety of visitors" to the World Cup unless Russia implements a series of measures:
- apply sanctions for discriminatory conduct consistently
- create a plan to take on far-right groups,
- prioritize educating Russians about xenophobia and actively promote diversity in World Cup host cities.
"Russia needs to get a point where people can be assured if they go they won't be attacked," Powar said.

Some of the Russian groups have links with racist organizations, a factor in the prevalence of abuse against black players and fans from Russia's own ethnic minorities. While some fans shout racist abuse for political reasons, many others see it simply as another tactic to distract the opposition's star players, according to longtime Spartak Moscow fan Dmitry Dedkov. "A good player on the team of your main or chief opponent is an irritant, like a red rag to a bull," he told the AP. "They can insult an African or any other player." The report acknowledges rules were implemented in 2011 designed to combat discrimination at games, and welcomes the introduction of a "Spectator Law" in 2014, but that only regu-lates behavior inside venues.

The number of incidents of racism around stadiums has not decreased despite the threat of sanctions, including fines or stadium closures, the report says. "This is not surprising because the boundaries of what is accepted in the football fan scene are blurry," the report says. "Well-known coaches and players have photos taken with fans wearing swastika tattoos or T-shirts with Nazi symbols, and well-known singers sing songs with them in the stands." The report particularly highlights offensive conduct by fans of Moscow clubs CSKA, Dinamo, Lokomotiv and Spartak, and Zenit St. Petersburg. There is a prevalence of neo-Nazi and fascist symbols being adopted by far-right fan groups, including swastikas and Celtic crosses, and banners such as "White Pride World Wide." "This is not surprising given the fact that xenophobic attitudes inside the fan community correlate directly with high levels of ethnic xenophobia in Russian society in general which have been developing intensively since the early 2000s," the report says.

The report does highlight cases where UEFA has taken against Russian clubs involved in European competitions. Monkey chants aimed at Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure by CSKA Moscow fans during a Champions League game earned the Russian club the first of two UEFA racism sanctions in the 2013-14 season. That prompted the Ivory Coast player to warn: "If we aren't confident at the World Cup, coming to Russia, we don't come." Although only five cases of abuse against black people were recorded by Fare in 2012-14, Powar attributed that to the lack of stadium spotters to uncover the full scale of the problem. The report only covers until May 2014, and there have been high-profile incidents since then. "One of the things we are picking up from our preliminary monitoring this season is the abuse of black players — Africans and those from Latin America," Powar said. There have been cases where the Russian Football Union punishes the victims.

FC Rostov midfielder Guelor Kanga, from Gabon, was himself banned for three matches for an offensive gesture to Spartak Moscow fans who racially abused him in a Russian Premier League game in December. Spartak was only fined 70,000 rubles ($1,300) for "the chanting by fans of insulting expressions," a charge which usually refers to swearing, rather than the separate offense of racist chanting. That game took place at Moscow's Otkrytye Arena, a 2018 World Cup venue. Rostov coach Igor Gamula served a five-match sanction for discriminatory comments about black players in his own team. As the 2014 World Cup was drawing to a close in Brazil last July, Blatter spoke to Putin about making tackling racism a priority in 2018. Since then, world football's governing body has said it wants to use the Russia tournament to "showcase FIFA's zero-tolerance policy against any form of discrimination."

The report from Fare paints a bleak picture — just five months before the World Cup qualifying draw event in St. Petersburg. "Racist attitudes and ultra-rightist ideas are wide-spread among Russian football fans, and it is unlikely that this situation will fundamentally improve in the near future," the report concludes.
© The Associated Press

up  

5 facts about religious hostilities in Europe

27/2/2015- While Europe is not the region with the highest level of religious hostilities – that remains the Middle East-North Africa region – harassment and attacks against religious minorities continue in many European countries. Indeed, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center, hostilities against Jews in particular have been spreading. Here are five facts about social hostilities – i.e., hostilities perpetrated by individuals or social groups rather than by governments – that tend to target religious minorities in Europe:

1 In 2013, the most recent year covered by the study, harassment of Jews in Europe reached a seven-year high. Jews faced harassment in about three-quarters (34 of 45) of Europe’s countries. In France, for instance, three men attacked a teenager who was wearing a traditional skullcap, or kippa, in Vitry-Sur-Seine, reportedly threatening to “kill all of you Jews.” In Spain, vandals painted a large swastika on the side of a bull ring in the city of Pinto, along with the words “Hitler was right.” And in the town of Komarno in southern Slovakia, metal tiles in the pavement honoring a local Jewish family killed in the Holocaust were destroyed when vandals poured tar over them.

2 Muslims experienced harassment in nearly as many European countries (32 of 45) as Jews. By comparison, the Middle East and North Africa was the only region where Muslims faced more widespread harassment, dealing with hostility in 15 of that region’s 20 countries. In Germany, bloody pig heads were found at a site where the Ahmadiyya Muslim community was planning to build Leipzig’s first mosque. And in Ireland, several mosques and Muslim cultural centers received threatening letters, with one of the letters stating: “Muslims have no right to be in Ireland.”

3 In two-thirds of the countries in Europe, organized groups used force or coercion to try to impose their views on religion in 2013. Sometimes this activity is aimed at dominating a country’s public life with the group’s particular perspective on religion through means such as online intimidation of minority religious groups. Other times, it is focused on a particular religious group, such as anti-Semitic postings and anti-Muslim rhetoric on online forums. In Italy, for example, four men were sent to prison after they published lists of Jewish residents and businesses on neo-Nazi websites. This type of social hostility was more prevalent in Europe (30 of 45 countries, or 67%) than in any other region.

4 Women were harassed over religious dress in about four-in-ten European countries (19 of 45) – about the same share as in the Middle East-North Africa region (where it occurred in eight of 20 countries, or 40%). This includes cases in which women were harassed for either wearing religious dress or for perceived violations of religi-ous dress codes. In France, for example, two men attacked a pregnant Muslim woman, kicking her in the stomach and attempting to remove her headscarf and cut her hair; she suffered a miscarriage in the days following the attack. And in Italy, two Moroccan men attacked a young Moroccan woman, beating her for “offending Islam” when she refused to wear a headscarf.

5 Individuals were assaulted or displaced from their homes or places of worship in retaliation for religious activities in roughly four-in-ten European countries. In Po-land, for example, arsonists set fire to the door of a mosque in Gdansk. And in Greece, arsonists attacked Jehovah’s Witnesses’ houses of worship and several  informal mosques in multiple cities during the year.

For details on the sources and methodology of this analysis, and to read an expanded sidebar on social hostilities toward religious minorities in Europe, see our 
full report on religious restrictions.
© Pew Research Center

up  

Portugal: Demands for racism to be criminalised

While the Left Bloc is one of the smaller parties with a presence in Parliament, its proposal for the majority coalition government to criminalise racism could be one of the lasting legacies of its current legislative mandate. The proposal to declare racism a crime comes after a month of protests which followed claims of police brutality in the Cova da Moura neighbourhood whose inhabitants are mostly black. An independent organisation with consultancy powers at the UN has also since alleged that 40 youths died between 2000 and 2010 during police action.

26/2/2015- “We are seeking a revision of the Penal Code in order to make room for racism to be criminalised, a feature which the Code currently does not possess”, Left Bloc MP Cecília Honório said this week. The demand came after a public hearing in Parliament’s Senate Hall concerning allegations of a spike in police brutality and other forms of instituti-onalised racism. The public debate, staged on Tuesday evening, attracted around 60 interested parties, including community leaders from a number of Lisbon’s council estates, and focussed heavily on proposals aimed at police action in these neighbourhoods. “This was a debate centred on police violence, on racism and the need to continue to bring to light other forms of discrimination which these people in these fringe neighbourhoods experience. “We have heard witnesses with intense testimonies that this sort of violence forms part of the daily existence of these people”, the Left Bloc MP was quoted as telling Lusa News Agency after the meeting.

In a subsequent statement issued on Wednesday by the Left Bloc, the party said it was commonplace “to hear in these neighbourhoods that blacks are to be eliminated.” According to the Left Bloc, these reports are “absolutely deafening” and are calling for a “profound debate on the multiple forms of racism Portuguese society continues to endure.” The MP added that “studies, including a recent UN report, show that communities of African origin have limited access to education and public services” and that these “communities are also under-represented.” The Left Bloc also called for tighter evaluation of police forces who they said should be subjected to anti-racist training on the ground, a feature which the party says should form part of the anti-racism laws it is proposing. Jakilson Pereira, representing Plataforma Gueto, lamented the problems between communities and the police, and accused law enforcement of exhibiting what he termed “generalised violent behaviour.”

He argued that “while the community does not want to stand in the way of police work, it demands respect, and called on society to take note that the rule of law is often suspen-ded in these areas.” Mamdou Ba, leader of SOS Racismo, revealed that “police violence is a structural issue and most, if not all state institutions, are infected by racism. “There has to be a law change. Racism has to be criminalised and should be regarded as an urgent matter by Parliament. They [police] cannot come into neighbourhoods as if they were entering a war zone”, stressed Mamdou Ba. This debate came a fortnight after several hundred people demonstrated outside Portugal’s parliament in protest at the handling by local police of incidents at a police station in Amadora, near the Cova da Moura neighbourhood. The protestors brandished placards and banners bearing phrases such as ‘Punish-ment for crimes of police racism and brutality’ and ‘We want justice. End police violence’. These events unfolded after five youths, aged between 23 and 25 were detained after they - according to police – “tried to invade” Alfragide police station, after the arrest of another youth from Cova da Moura.

The five detainees were later taken to the local hospital in a condition that, according to Ba, showed that they had been “very ill treated.” A police spokesman later said that the youngsters had only slight injuries, resulting from their having “resisted arrest.” During the police operation, officers fired rubber bullets as they sought to disperse a group of local residents who were protesting at the way the first detainee had been treated. A woman, who was on the balcony of her apartment was hit by three of these bullets, according to Ba, with photos of her bruises later appearing on social media. Police Internal Affairs has in the meantime announced that it will investigate the police actions. In a statement sent to The Portugal News by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), an independent, non-profit, campaign, research and advocacy organisation based in London, which has con-sultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, it is claimed that 40 young people were killed during police action in Portugal between 2000 and 2010.

The organisation made these findings after using data supplied by political activists such as Mamdou Ba and members of Plataforma Gueto. The IHRC statement explains that these deaths occurred mainly in the Lisbon metropolitan area and the figure for black youth was over one third, which it says is a “largely disproportionate figure regarding the total population.” It adds that “no conviction of a police officer for any of the killings had been achieved so far, and only one case went on trial in a court of justice. Therefore, these recent events cannot be read as isolated cases in the European context.” The IHRC adds that what it has witnessed in Portugal is “revealing of the contemporary climate of crimi-nalisation and racial profiling of black youth in Europe.”
© The Portugal News

up  

Balkans Told to Curb Flow of Asylum Seekers

After the European Commission revealed that the number of false asylum seekers from the Balkans rose by 40 per cent last year, Brussels has called for more decisive action to curb the numbers heading westwards.

26/2/2015- The number of asylum seekers in the EU from five Balkan countries - Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – rose by a massive 40 per cent in the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. On February 25, the Commission wrote that the vast majority of applications had been rejected as unfounded. “The benefits of visa liberalisation have been very visible in terms of enhancing peopleto-people contacts and business opportunities," it noted. “However, misuse of the visa-free travel scheme for seeking asylum in the EU must be addressed systematically and through proper allocation of resources. "I strongly call for the full support and engagement of all participating countries,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said. Avramopoulos's statement came as the Commission published its fifth report on the functioning of the visa-free scheme with these five Balkan countries.

The report revealed that the number of asylum applications submitted in the EU had steadily risen since the visa regime was liberalised in 2009 and 2010. The EU has issued a list of recommendations calling on Balkan countries to take decisive moves to curb the numbers. “Each Western Balkan visa-free country must be able to show a sustained downward trend in the number of unfounded asylum applications submitted in EU Member States,” the Commission wrote. The recommendations include that Balkan countries should take action to address the "push" factors of irregular migration to the EU and increase assistance to minority populations, in particular those of Roma ethnicity. The EU has also urged Balkan countries to prosecute those behind the abuse of the visa-free scheme, to strengthen border controls and enhance awareness campaigns aimed at further clarifying to citizens the rights and obligations of visa-free travel.

Serbian citizens up made the largest group of Western Balkan asylum-seekers in the EU, with 42 per cent of applicants coming from this country alone. Among Balkans asylum seekers, Macedonians and Albanians each made up 21 per cent of applicants. Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina made up 14 per cent and Montenegrins, 2 per cent. The Commission also wrote that “in recent months, the EU faced a considerable increase in irregular migration from Kosovo via Serbia to several EU Member States”. Most Balkan asylum applications were submitted in Germany. Its share of the Western Balkan would-be asylum intake rose from 12 per cent in 2009 to 75 per cent in the first nine months of 2014. The Commission has also urged EU countries to speed up processing applications, be more selective in providing cash benefits, and boost cooperation with concerned countries.

According the European Commission data, about 3.7 per cent of asylum application for Montenegrin citizens were approved, 2.7 per cent for Serbian citizens, and 1 per cent for Macedonians.
Meanwhile, 8.1 per cent of Albanian applicants and 5.9 per cent of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina received international protection in the EU and Schengen-associated countries in 2013
.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Estonia: Members of Swedish Neo-Nazi Group Spotted at Estonian Torch-Lit March

A torch-lit march held by the youth wing of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia was attended by a Swedish white nationalist organization, despite organizers' claims that the event had 'no connection fascist radicalism'.

26/2/2015- Members of the Swedish neo-Nazi youth organization Nordisk Ungdom ('Nordic Youth') took part in a torch-lit march in Tallinn, Estonia Tuesday night commemorating the nation's independence, Estonian news agency Delfi has reported. Jaak Madison, head of the youth wing of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia, which organized the march, confirmed that members of the group "participated in the torch-lit march, along with guests from other parties in Latvia and Lithuania." Nordisk Ungdom, an extreme nationalist group which formed in Sweden in 2010, is considered by Swedish police and anti-fascist activists to be a "fascist and right-wing activist organization." Members of the group are known to have traveled to Ukraine in in March, 2014 to support the ultranationalist Svoboda party, ostensibly for the purpose of "saving the white race," Swedish newspaper Nyheter Idag had earlier reported.

Madison defended the group's participation in the march, which had gathered about 200 people Tuesday night for a march through the old city of Tallinn, including past the Russian embassy. He noted that the term "radical" is used in an "arbitrary and uncontrolled way." The CPPE had invited "all patriots seeking to express their respect toward Estonia" to the event. Slogans featured in the march included "For Estonia!" and "Estonia for Estonians!" Following the march, participants sang songs and gave speeches. Estonian and Russian me-dia reported that the event took place without any provocations. Organizers of the event denied any association between torch-lit marches and right-wing extremism. Madison noted that torchlight "is very beautiful," and symbolizes "a desire for freedom, to overcome the darkness." He noted that "participation in such a procession makes you stronger; you begin to love Estonia even more. There is no connection to Nazi Germany."

Another organizer, interviewed by LifeNews, noted that the "event is analogous to the processions taking place in Latvia on November 18 on their Independence Day," and that "any associations with Nazi Germany are out of place." On January 1, a torch-lit procession took place in Kiev and in regions across western Ukraine to commemorate the birthday of Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian fascist and militant who collaborated with Nazi Germany, and later convicted of terrorism by Poland. Human Rights Group Secretary Andrei Saren-kov of movement "Estonia Without Nazism" told LifeNews that "as cultured people, we understand where this sort of thing starts and what it could lead to. Today these guys hold a torch, but tomorrow they may take up weapons. And we know, most importantly, how all this ends, and it ends badly, in Germany and in Ukraine." Earlier on Tuesday, Estonian and NATO armed forces held a parade in the border city of Narva, just 300 meters from the Russian border.
© Sputnik

up  

Romania: Steaua Bucharest punished by Uefa for racist behaviour by fans

25/2/2015- Uefa has punished Steaua Bucharest for racist behaviour by the Romanian champions’ fans for the third time this season. Uefa announced that Steaua must play their next two home matches in the Champions League or Europa League in an empty stadium. Steaua lead the Romanian league by seven points and could enter next season’s Champions League in the second qualifying round. Uefa said Steaua fans showed a racist banner at a Europa League match against Dynamo Kiev at the National Stadium in Bucharest in Decem-ber. The club were fined €20,000 (£14,668), with other offences included. Steaua were previously fined €64,500 for racism and other offences in a Champions League playoff against Ludogorets Razgrad. The first racist incidents were at a qualifying round match against the Norwegian side Stromsgodset.
© The Guardian

up  

Bulgaria: Amnesty International Notes Mixed Record on Human Righs in 2014

Amnesty International released its annual report on Wednesday, which documents the state of the human rights during 2014 in 160 countries, including Bulgaria.

25/2/2015- The NGO notes that Bulgaria achieved partial improvements to reception conditions for asylum-seekers entering the country, but concerns remained over access and integration of refugees. Amnesty International also expressed concern over the inadequate prevention and investigation of hate crimes in Bulgaria. The report on Bulgaria starts by mentioning the influx of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, which the country experienced in August 2013. This represented a considerable surge in their numbers, as previous-ly they had amounted to only 1700 in 2012, but their number rose to 11 000 by the end of 2013. The Bulgarian authorities were initially unprepared to address the influx and pro-vide adequate response. As a result of this, hundreds of people in need of international protection were exposed to poor living conditions without access to asylum procedures.

In January 2014, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) concluded that refugees in Bulgaria were in risk of “inhuman and degrading treatment” due to deficiencies in the asylum and reception system. UNHCR called on EU member states to stop transfers of asylum-seekers to Bulgaria and largely with the help of EU and bilateral assistance the conditions impro-ved. UNHCR reviewed the situation in April 2014, noting the modest progress, but pointing to serious shortcomings, which were still remaining. It lifted the general suspension of transfers with the exception of certain groups, especially those with special needs. Amnesty International notes that Bulgaria experienced a dramatic drop in the number of refu-gees and migrants in 2014, who amounted to 3966 by October.

Several NGOs established that violations, such as unlawful expulsions of people back to Turkey without providing them an opportunity to seek asylum-seekers, were committed. Further problems were identified in the integration of recognised refugees, who experienced troubled access to education, healthcare and other public services. In August 2014, the government rejected a plan for the implementation of the National Integration Strategy, which had been prepared by the Labour Ministry and the State Agency for Refugees (DAB). According to DAB, only 98 out of 520 refugee children were enrolled in schools in September 2014. This low number of enrollments was mainly due to the School Act, which provides that any new pupil should pass an exam in the Bulgarian language and other subjects. The draft Law on Asylum and Refugees, which addressed some of these problems, was not adopted due to the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski.

A leading human rights NGO, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, which is vocal about the government's human rights record, faced tax inspection and harassment by far right groups. Amnesty International also expressed concerns over the effectiveness and independence of investigations into police ill-treatment. Investigations into the alleged use of excessive force during the anti-government protests in Sofia in the summer of 2013 were still ongoing by the end of 2014. The report noted the violent attacks against ethnic groups and religious minorities, including refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in the second half of 2013. Amnesty International pointed to shortcomings in the investigation and prevention of hate crimes, as well as some legislative gaps. Between July and September 2014, Amnesty International researched 16 cases of alleged hate crimes, noting that the hate motive was being investigated in only one of the cases. The report concludes by noting that a new Criminal Code had been proposed, but not adopted yet.
© Novinite

up  

EU Commission Concerned by Asylum Abuse by Western Balkans Citizens

Asylum abuse by citizens of the visa-free countries in the Western Balkans remains a considerable concern for the EU, the European Commission said in a report on Wednesday.
25/2/2015- The fifth post-visa liberalisation report on the Western Balkans shows that more measures are necessary to maintain the integrity of the visa-free scheme and to ad-dress potential abuses of the EU asylum system, the Commission said in its assessment of the functioning of the visa-free regime with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. According to the findings of the report, the number of asylum applications submitted in the EU and Schengen-associated countries by nationals of the five visa-free Western Balkan countries has been steadily rising since visa liberalisation was achieved, peaking in 2013 at 53,705. Figures for the first nine months of last year are 40 % higher than for the same period of 2013.

At the same time, the asylum recognition rate across the EU and Schengen-associated countries continued to fall for all Western Balkan visa-free citizens, indicating that the over-whelming majority of applications remained manifestly unfounded. The recognition rate was 3.7 % for Montenegrin citizens, 2.7 % for Serbian citizens, and 1 % for nationals of Macedonia. Meanwhile, 8.1 % of Albanian applicants and 5.9 % of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina received international protection in the EU and Schengen-associated countries in 2013. Serbian citizens remained the largest group of Western Balkan visa-free asylum-seekers in the EU and Schengen-associated countries (42 % in 2013), the Commission said.

Likewise, Germany remained the largest recipient of Western Balkan visa-free asylum applications, with a sharp rise in the share of the Western Balkan intake (from 12 % in 2009 to 75 % in the first nine months of 2014). To cut the number of unfounded asylum applications, the Commission recommended that each visa-free Western Balkan country take resolute action to address the push factors of irregular migration to the EU. The Commission also recommended that the most-affected EU Member States and Schengen-associated countries take steps to address the pull factors of irregular migration.
© Novinite

up  

EU Parliament must act urgently against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism (opinion)

As recent events have led to a rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Europe, new measures are required to address both of these forms of racism, writes Claire Fernandez.

25/2/2015- The deadly attacks against Jews in Paris and Copenhagen, as well as the numerous attacks against Muslims in France, Sweden and Germany have added to the fear experienced by many Jews and Muslims across Europe. While anti-Semitism and Islamophobia each have their specificities and different historical sources, they can sometimes be quite similar. The European parliament must take steps to specifically address both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and not fall into the trap of division. Research by the EU fundamental rights agency (FRA) shows worrying trends when it comes to Jews experiencing discrimination as well as a fear of verbal or physical attacks, particularly in France, Belgium and Hungary. The Paris and Copenhagen attacks have added to the ongoing fears of European Jews, and many Jewish institutions have been under increasing military or police protection.

Last week, hundreds of Jewish graves were desecrated in a cemetery near Strasbourg, France, followed by the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Oldenburg, Ger-many. The community security trust in the UK has reported the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2014 ever reported. Similarly, an FRA survey has provided evidence of discrimination and stigmatisation of Muslims. Since the Paris attacks, anti-Muslim sentiments and incidents are on the rise in Europe, and Muslim communi-ties fear retaliation. From 7 January 2015 to 7 February 2015, there were 153 Islamophobic incidents against individuals and places of worship in France - a 70 per cent increase compared to the previous year. Islamophobic incidents have also occurred recently in other EU countries, including Sweden and Germany.

Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia target people based on their real or perceived Jewish or Muslim background, rather than a rejection of 'religion' or their representati-ves. Parliament should maintain a fundamental rights perspective, focusing on racial and religious discrimination, as well as its intersections with gender, age and social origin, rather than on 'religious intolerance'. In a number of cases, restrictive policies towards Muslim communities have also affected Jewish communities, for example in the case of forbidding slaughtering and circumcision. Surveys have shown that an 'old' type of far-right anti-Semitism is still largely dominant, and goes hand in hand with other forms of prejudice, including Islamophobia.

Many far-right and populist right movements and parties which are openly Islamophobic are built around an anti-Semitic basis. Common strategies for action to counter these forces are needed, in a collective and constructive way. In this respect, existing EU laws, including equality and hate crime legislation, must be better enforced in order to combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The proposed equal treatment directive - blocked in the council since 2008 - should also be adopted, so as to fill gaps in protection against discrimination, in particular on grounds of religion and belief outside of employment. In addition, these should be reinforced by specific policy strategies to address anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

In a context of growing mistrust, ongoing accusations, sometimes hatred and violence, fuelled by international developments, it is crucial to bring Jewish and Muslim communities together and build solidarity. Measures to prevent acts of hatred towards Jews and Muslims should not stigmatise or polarise any community, and must include support to cross-community and community-led initiatives. Symbolic initiatives such as the common peace vigil in Oslo, showing cross-community support, should be encouraged.
Claire Fernandez is deputy director of the European network against racism (ENAR)
© The Parliament Magazine

up  

In Lithuania, Yiddish teacher becomes unlikely bulwark against far right

Dovid Katz isn’t typically a hard man to miss. With his bushy charcoal beard, heavy physique and trademark all-black outfits, Katz, a New York-born scholar of Yiddish, resembles a character from a Harry Potter film.

24/2/2015- But at one of Europe’s more unusual neo-Nazi marches, complete with ultranationalists clad in medieval armor and smoke blowing in the colors of the Lithuanian flag, even he could blend in temporarily with the crowd. But halfway through the Feb. 16 procession traversing Lithuania’s second largest city, Katz was spotted. One marcher walked up to him and blew a horn in his direction as others began chanting “Out with Katz.” Undeterred, he continued to flank the procession. For Katz, 58, who moved to Lithuania in 1999 to take a professorship at Vilnius University, the incident was just the latest expression of hate he has endured since 2008, when he began to speak out against the country’s creeping legitimization of fascism. “I came here in the euphoric post-independence years, when world peace was around the corner,” Katz said. “My own euphoria diminished with every neo-Nazi march after 2008 and attempt to justify and explain away the Holocaust, events that are becoming even more common and acceptable responses to Russian aggression.”

Lithuania has a long history of conflict with its Russian neighbor. The Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius, which until 2011 did not even mention the more than 200,000 Lit-huanian Jews who died in the Nazi Holocaust, was established in 1992 to memorialize Lithuanians killed by the Nazi, but mostly Soviet, occupiers. Lithuania is also one of the few countries where neo-Nazis are free to brandish swastikas on the street. Its northern neighbor, Latvia, is the only European country where veterans of the Waffen SS are allowed each year to march on main streets and commemorate their comrades, who are venerated as freedom fighters against Russia. Since 2008, Latvia and Lithuania have played host to three neo-Nazi marches annually. A fourth event began last year in the third Baltic nation, Estonia. The Baltic nations, which have clashed frequently with Slavic peoples, share bitter memories from Soviet domination that have made them natural allies of Germany, according to Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office. The historic conflict led thousands of Lithuanians and Latvians to volunteer for armed Nazi groups.

“Now, Russian expansionism under Vladimir Putin is serving as the perfect pretext to push forward a false historical account that accuses the Russians of genocide, and at the same time conveniently portrays the local Baltic populations as victims instead of perpetrators,” said Zuroff, who shadowed the Kaunas march with Katz. Those tendencies were in plain sight at the Kaunas march, where dozens carried banners of Ukrainian nationalists alongside Nazi symbols. Tomas Skorupskis, a march organizer from the Lithuanian Nationalist Youth Union, said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year has helped swell the ranks of Lithuanian nationalists. “Many Lithuanians find it hard to forgive Jews who, during communism, killed nationalist freedom fighters,” Skorupsis said. “But I think we should leave it in the past and look ahead.”

Since he began denouncing these phenomena, Katz, the author of numerous books in the field of Yiddish, lost his position at the Yiddish institute he founded at Vilnius University. He says it was political retribution, but his former bosses deny the claim. Far-right activists often denounce Katz as a Russian agent. Some have published insulting caricatures of him and posted photographs of Katz at a cafe with a woman to the Facebook page of a far-right activist. Katz understands the latter move to be a reminder that he is being watched. “I found out that anyone who will speak out against the legitimization of Nazism will be marginalized or threatened, or both,” said Katz, who now makes a living by lec-turing internationally and from seminars in Vilnius for visiting groups from around the world. “Especially if they are single, a bit eccentric and of a certain weight and appearance.”

Katz is not the only anti-fascist activist complaining about persecution in the Baltics. In Latvia, authorities last year refused to renew the residency permit of Valery Engel, a Rus-sian Jew with dual Israeli citizenship who lives in Riga with his Latvian wife and child. Earlier this month, Latvian officials considering his appeal to remain in the country deman-ded Engel prove that he informed Russian authorities of his Israeli citizenship. “Since when does Latvia enforce Russia’s laws on nationality?” asked Joseph Koren, a Latvia-born Jew who with Engel runs the Latvian branch of the World Without Nazism group. “It’s an attempt to harass and to silence our opposition to the far right and the government’s support of it.” Both Koren and Engel are mentioned several times in a 2013 report by the Latvia Security Police as having “played a great role in the discrediting campaign against Latvia” through actions “carried out in accordance with Russian foreign policy.”

To Koren, a businessmen who says he is routinely detained at Riga’s airport and lives under constant surveillance, this shows that Baltic nations “may have ended Soviet rule, but the Soviet techniques and mindset remain.” Katz’s case, Koren says, “is classic silencing in academia, just like in Soviet times.” The Latvian Foreign Ministry did not respond to questions about Engel and Koren. For his first nine years in Lithuania, Katz largely avoided speaking out about politics. That changed in 2008, when Lithuanian prosecutors began probing three Jews who were declared suspects of war crimes allegedly committed during World War II. The investigation was abandoned amid an international outcry that Katz helped generate by lobbying Western embassies and founding his website DefendingHistory.com. But it came at a price. “I was thrust into the spotlight of political activism at the expense of my reputation as a scholar,” Katz said in an interview in his Vilnius apartment, which he shares with thousands of 19th-century Yiddish books that he rescued from across Eastern Europe. “I could no longer remain silent.”

Katz says he was warned by his bosses at the Yiddish institute to cease lobbying in defense of the three Jews — Yitzhak Arad, Fania Brantsovsky and Rachel Margolis — who had fought as partisans against the Nazis. But the institute’s director, Sarunas Liekis, a member of the state’s commission on Nazi and Soviet crimes, denies Katz’s politics factored into the decision not to renew his contract. “Mr. Katz is prone to conspiracy theories,” Liekis said. “The truth is he hardly showed up for work from 2007 to 2010.” Katz says he never missed a class during his time at the institute.

© JTA News

up  

Greece: Neo-Nazis Vandalized Pavlos Fyssas Memorial in Keratsini

The memorial of anti-fascist activist and rapper Pavlos Fyssas, who has been assassinated by extreme right, xenophobic Golden Dawn member Giorgos Roupakias in September 2013, has been defaced by unknown individuals on Wednesday night.

27/2/2015-The local memorial, erected on the spot where Fyssas was killed in the Keratsini district of Athens, has been vandalized with a large red spray-painted swastika and the acronym C18, referring to “Combat 18,” a neo-nazi organization associated with the British “Blood and Honor” network. Thirty-four-year-old Fyssas was stabbed to death in the early hours of September 18, 2013, by a Golden Dawn supporter, while according to later evidence, the murder has been perpetrated on orders from higher-ups in the chain of command, triggered a crack-down on the party. This lead to the arrest of top Golden Dawn officials, who are currently under custody, awaiting their trial on charges of operating a criminal organization. In his 700-page argument, prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos proposed that a total of 70 party members, among them Golden Dawn’s imprisoned leader Nikos Michaloliakos and imprisoned MPs Ilias Kasidiaris, Christos Papas, Ioannis Lagos, Giorgos Germenis, Nikos Kouzoulos, Panagiotis Iliopoulos as well as ex member Stathis Mpoukouras, should appear before the judge.

On the one-year anniversary of the murder that shocked Greece, causing numerous anti-fascist demonstrations, a memorial to Fyssas was unveiled at the site where he was killed, featuring his own lyrics “In the early hours of Tuesday, February 24, unknown individuals vandalized the memorial of Pavlos Fyssas at the site where, in September 2013, he was murdered by members of the Golden Dawn fascist gang. A swastika and fascist slogans covered the bust of the anti-fascist musician. The new, brazen provocation and the reappea-rance of fascists in our city’s streets proves that this front remains open. Our municipality condemns this cowardly fascist attack at the murder site, a place with particular symbolic importance to us, a memorial site that reminds our city’s residents that the fight against the threat of fascism must be constant in schools, workplaces and our neighborhoods.”
© The Greek Reporter

up  

Greek Authorities Start Evacuating Amygdaleza Migrant Detention Center

24/2/2015- Greek authorities have started evacuating the Amygdaleza migrant detention center last Friday, saying they have released 100 migrants by Tuesday, while 980 remain in the premises. Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Giannis Panousis had pledged to close down the Amygdaleza facility within 100 days, citing inhumane living conditions, following the suicide of a Pakistani national. A police official said the plan is to release asylum seekers first, once their files have been studied, and continue with underage migrants and other vulnerable groups, as well as those who have already been detained for six months. The main problem for Greek authorities is to find a suitable open hospitality center to accommo-date children and they have been in contact with other bodies to find a solution. Police also said that those migrants held for criminal offenses or are awaiting deportation will not be released.
© The Greek Reporter

up  

Greece: despite new antidiscrimination law, xenophobia and violence against migrants at worrying levels

24/2/2015- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fifth report on Greece analysing new developments and outstanding issues, and providing recommendations to the authorities. “Despite steps forward, such as the enactment of a new anti-racism law, problems persist, including worrying levels of xenophobia and violence against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and the ongoing segregation of Roma children in some schools, in spite of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgements confirming the need to end this practice” said ECRI’s Chair, Christian Ahlund. The report welcomes the introduction in late 2012 of new special police units tasked to tackle racist violence; the appointment of public prosecutors for the prosecution of acts of racist violence in October 2013; and the enactment, in 2014, of a new anti-racism law, which amended existing provisions in the criminal legislation.

However, public and political discourse is widely permeated by hate speech against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, who often become targets of racist violence. The report also finds that the activities of the Golden Dawn party increased xenophobia and racism, creating a climate of racial hatred and fear that went unchecked for too long. ECRI has made a number of recommendations to the authorities. The following two require prompt implementation and will be reviewed in two years’ time:



  • create a task force composed of the authorities, including the Ombudsman and the National Human Rights Commission, as well as NGOs, that will develop a comprehensive national strategy to combat racism and intolerance;


  • consider the question of racist and/or homo-/transphobic motivations from the outset in the investigation and judicial proceeding of cases of violent incidents, and offer training to the judiciary on the application of the new Article 81A of the Criminal Code, which renders more severe the lowest sentences for hate motivated offences and stipulates that they cannot be suspended.




The report, including Government observations, is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s visit to Greece in March 2014; except where expressly indicated, it takes account of developments up to 18 June 2014.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI.
up  

Council of Europe censures Norway on racism

Scandinavian country fails to combat internet-based racism or help migrants sufficiently, COE body says.

24/2/2015- European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) experts make their statement in connection with their fifth report on Norway. They compiled it following their visit to Norway in March 2014. Information was gathered on legislation, hate speech, violence, integration policies, LGBT issues and other topics, the report analyses new developments, outstanding issues, it is stated. The delegation held meetings in Oslo with representatives of the government, independent bodies and NGO. The Norwegian Constitution including the right to equality is seen as one positive development. However, “concerns remain, among others the dissemination of racism on the Internet and insuf-ficient assistance to migrants in education and employment,” says ECRI’s Chair, Christian Ahlund in a statement. The Commission describes itself as a human rights body made up of independent experts who monitor issues of racism, discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, citizenship, colour, religion, and language (racial discrimination).

It is also a watchdog when it comes to problems of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and intolerance. A British academic has stated that Norway is particularly bad when it comes to issues of racism and xenophobia. “Neither the public denial of genocide nor participation in groups that promote racism is punishable by law. Statistics do not provide a clear picture of the extent of hate crime, racism on the internet is not systematically monitored and victims of discrimination do not receive sufficient assistance to secure their rights before courts,” ECRI experts state. “The report says that the commission charged with drawing lessons from Breivik’s attacks did not address the possible influence of public hate speech on his motivation.” Norway signed Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights in 2003, which provides for a general prohibition of discrimination, but has not ratified it. This is also raised in the ECRI report.

“Studies show that many migrants have experienced discrimination in areas such as recruitment, housing and health care. Parents with migration backgrounds have limited under-standing of Norwegian pedagogy and have difficulties in assisting their children at school. Adult migrants have limited access to free education.” Along with recommendations, which include adopting Protocol 12, some positive aspects are mentioned. These are that internet hate speech is now a crime under Norwegian legislation, and Oslo police have set up a special hate crime unit, for example. The full report can be read here (external link).
© The Foreigner

up  

Norway: despite positive developments, concerns remain, such as racism on the Internet

24/2/2015- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fifth report on Norway analysing new developments and outstanding issues, and providing recommendations to the authorities. “There are positive developments, such as the inclusion of the right to equality into the Norwegian consti-tution, but concerns remain, among others the dissemination of racism on the Internet and insufficient assistance to migrants in education and employment,” said ECRI’s Chair, Christian Ahlund. On the positive side, the report notes that just after Anders Breivik’s hate motivated attacks on 22 July 2011, politicians and journalists in Norway stopped using inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric. In the Criminal Code, it has been made clear that hate speech on the Internet is punishable, and the Oslo police have set up a special hate-crime unit.

Furthermore, access to kindergarten and education has been improved for children with migration background, and the first ever action plan for improving the quality of life among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons has brought positive results. On the other hand, neither the public denial of genocide nor participation in groups that promote racism is punishable by law. Statistics do not provide a clear picture of the extent of hate crime, racism on the internet is not systematically monitored and victims of discrimination do not receive sufficient assistance to secure their rights before courts. The report says that the commission charged with drawing lessons from Breivik’s attacks did not address the possible influence of public hate speech on his motivation. The report also finds that by the summer of 2012, xenophobic elements had reappeared in public debate. Assistance to migrants in education and employment also needs to be improved, as well as the legal framework and awareness concerning transgender persons.

ECRI has made several recommendations to the authorities. The following two require prompt implementation and will be reviewed by ECRI in two years’ time:
# Set up an IT-based system for recording and monitoring racist and homo-/transphobic incidents and their processing through the judicial system;
# Give the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud and the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal the power to recommend cases to court free of charge, so that victims do not have to pay court fees and get their legal representation for free.

The report, including Government observations, is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s visit to Norway in March 2014 and takes account of developments up to 19 June 2014.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI.

up  

Eight Spaniards arrested after returning from combat in Ukraine

27/2/2015- The National Police on Friday detained eight Spaniards suspected of fighting alongside pro-Russian forces in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The arrests took place in Asturias, Catalonia, Extremadura, Murcia, Navarre and Madrid. Three of the suspects are former members of the Spanish armed forces, and one is confirmed to have been on the frontline, according to anti-terrorist sources. The men are all aged between 20 and 30 years old. The eight Spaniards belong to several different communist organizations, and had received support from an unofficial pro-Russian European network. The operation was completed after three of the men returned to Spain during February – the last of the men arrived last week.

Police sources have not yet stated whether Rafael Muñoz Pérez, 27, and Ángel Davilla-Rivas, 22, were among the detainees. The pair were last year confirmed to have joined the Vostok Batallion, under the orders of Igor Strelkov, the head of the Armed Forces of the People’s Republic of Donetsk. The eight detainees are suspected to have participated in armed conflict in the Donbass region, and will be facing charges of compromising the peace and interests of Spain, homicide, and possession of arms and explosives. The identification of the detainees was facilitated by the suspects’ habit of taking photographs of themselves with military equip-ment and posting the images on social networking sites. Police sources have indicated that another group of young Spaniards, also pro-Russian and linked to communist movements, were preparing to travel to Ukraine.

The operation is similar to those taking place in other European countries to prevent combatants traveling to war zones, and dissuade those who might be considering such an action. Sources have confirmed that the international network with which the Spanish detainees were working has connections in Germany, Italy and France, among other countries. Combatants have traveled from all of these countries from Ukraine, some of them via the so-called Ukraine Anti-Fascist Support Committee. A group of Spaniards who define themselves as “anti-capitalists” told news agency Europa Press last September that they had traveled to eastern Ukraine to fight along-side pro-Russian separatists to combat the “resurgence of the Fourth Reich in Europe.” Those youngsters established the Carlos Palomino International Brigade, in honor of the young anti-fascist from Spain who was stabbed to death by a neo-Nazi former soldier on the Madrid Metro.
© El País in English

up  

Spanish politician wears SS uniform to carnival

The ruling Popular Party (PP) in the Basque Country has apologized after one of its councillors wore a Nazi costume to Tenerife’s carnival.

24/2/2015- But one Basque Country councillor has landed himself in hot water after attending Tenerife’s famous carnival in full Nazi uniform. A photograph showing Juanjo Gastaña-zatorre, councillor in the Basque town of Durango, saluting at the camera has been published on the website eldia.es. The black uniform bore a striking resemblance to that worn by the SS, the brutal Nazi unit responsible for many of the worst atrocities of the Third Reich. The image has caused secretary general of the PP in the Basque Country, Nerea Llano, to apologize for Gastañazatorre: “We cannot allow a career so dedicated to the defence of freedom, human rights and democracy like that of Juanjo Gastañazatorre to be tainted by a mistake.” Gastañazatorre did not originally seem too concerned by the controversy; he is reported in Spanish newspaper El Correo, as originally saying: "If it bothered or offended anyone, they just don’t get the Tenerife Carnival."

But he has since apologized for wearing the Nazi costume: "In no way did I act in bad faith. My intention was not to offend anyone, least of all the victims of Nazism," he was quoted as saying in El Correo. The PP councillor also expressed "the most resounding rejection of any regime that is authoritarian or against human rights, as was Nazism." Gastañazatorre, 67, founded the Basque party Alianza Popular de Vizcaya in 1976. He has been the spokesman for the PP in Durango for 32 years. It is not the first Nazi-related faux pas to befall the PP: at the beginning of February, two youth leaders in the party resigned after a photograph of them making Nazi salutes and holding a fascist flag leaked online. Britain’s Prince Harry famously hit the headlines after attending a fancy dress party dressed as a Nazi, as did the leader of Germany’s anti-Islam group, Pegida, who stepped down in January after a photograph surfaced of him posing as Adolf Hitler. (edit ICARE: Lutz Bachmann has been reinstated as leader of Pegida yesterday Feb 23)
© The Local - Spain

up  

Spain: Madrid Metro fires head of security for gay gaffe

Madrid Metro has sacked its head of security over a memo warning staff to be suspicious of gays, as lobby groups called on the public transport company to launch an LGBT inclusion campaign.

23/2/2015- Madrid Metro has dismissed the head of its security service, it was announced on Monday, after a homophobic internal memo was leaked warning metro staff to be extra suspicious of gay people. Two other employees have also been fired, coordinators of security and operations, according to Spanish daily, El País. The memo, which was circulated among Madrid Metro staff, called for "gays, musicians and beggars" to be more routinely checked for tickets than other passengers. Madrid Metro announced the dismissals in a statement, in which it detailed how a member of staff had sent the "regrettable" email to the Metro’s security company. In the statement, Madrid Metro also described how its fired head of security "should have supervised the sending of the document." In a show of remorse, representatives from Madrid Metro met with LGBT groups on Monday morning to explain to them in person that the Metro does not share the views expressed in the memo.

"We have asked Madrid Metro, in a meeting we had this morning with management, to launch an information campaign to show that LGBT people are included and accepted by Madrid Metro", Gerardo López, spokesman for Madrid-based LGBT group, COGAM, told The Local. "We also told them the LGBT community should have a say in the campaign so that we can avoid such an unfortunate incident happening again," he added. Protestors assembled in central Madrid at the weekend to demonstrate against Madrid Metro in a "kissing for tolerance" protest, with the aim of reclaiming respect and tolerance of gay people. "We believe these kind of actions are effective because it is a peaceful way to draw attention towards homophobia, as well as to the violence it generates," López, spokesman for COGAM, who helped organize the kiss-in, told The Local.
© The Local - Spain

up  

Czech Rep: Experiment shows Islamophobia in hiring

Muslim women with hijab disadvantaged on Czech job market

26/2/2015- A Muslim woman with a hijab has a much smaller chance of gaining a job than the rest, as shown by an experiment in which some firms were sent a CV with a photo of a female job seeker with or without the headscarf, activist Klára Popovová said at the seminar Muslim Bogeys. The woman without any veil was invited to the interview by one-fifth of prospective employers, but none of them answered the application sent by the veiled woman, Popovová, from the Muslimove.cz research and education project, said. "I chanced to be told that the photo of a job applicant with a hijab was circulating in one of the addressed companies. The staff were sending it for amusement to one another, considering it a joke," Popovová said, adding that she then had made photos of her with and without the hijab that was enclosed with the CV for the experiment. The activists sent the CVs to 66 companies that were advertising the job of an assistant.

One half of them received a photo with the hijab, one half without it. One-fifth of the prospective employers invited the unveiled young woman for interview, Popovová said, adding that the success rate was quite common. The Muslim job seeker did not obtain any reply. "We thought the companies could employ a Muslim woman with a scarf at least in the positions where she will not be seen, such as sorting and processing the mail," Popovová said. "However, she did not succeed even there," she added. Popovová said some companies abroad had modified the staff uniforms for Muslim women. However, the employers in the Czech Republic are not so obliging, she added. Popovova said one of the employees of a bakery was forced by her boss to work without the hijab. Another young woman was afraid to go to work wearing the hijab, Popovová said. She mentioned the problem before her boss who reacted very positively, not having the slightest problem with the scarf, she added.

A discussion on wearing the hijab was started roughly 18 months ago when two foreign-born students left a nursing school in Prague over the ban to wear the hijab. Ombudsman Anna Šabatová demanded that the school rules be changed saying the school indirectly discriminated against the girls. The hijab is a manifestation of their religious belief, she argued. The 2011 population census recorded roughly 3,300 Muslims in the Czech Republic, but estimates put their real number at 10,000-20,000. The population of the Czech Republic is 10.5 million.
© The Prague Post

up  

Czech Government plans secret asylum homes in all regions

23/2/2015- Asylum houses under cover and facilities for children who become targets or witnesses of attacks should start working in all Czech regions in a few years, according to an action plan of domestic violence prevention until 2020 that the government approved Monday. All regions should also offer therapy to aggressors. The document was prepared by a team of the human rights minister along with the government committee for domestic violence prevention and experts. It follows up the first plan that was valid until 2011, but it has been extended by problems of gender-based violence. The plan contains 70 measures concerning aid to threatened adults and children, the treatment of violence perpetrators as well as changes to the respective laws. Domestic violence is qualified as long-term, repeated and escalating physical attacks or other abuse by one person against another within household, such as in marriage or cohabitation. Women are its victims in most cases.

Sexual violence comprises rape, harassment, abuse, forced marriages and sexual exploitation.
Domestic violence has been classified as crime in the Czech Republic since 2004. The Czech law enabling the police to expel domestic violence perpetrators from home for ten days took effect in January 2007. According to an international survey from 2013, 32 percent of women experienced physical or sexual violence in the Czech Republic, 12 percent faced stalking and 5 percent were raped. The domestic violence consequences annually cost 1.3 billion crowns, including the costs of the police, the judiciary, social services, health care treatment and sick and unemployment benefits. The government's document says the offer of services in this area is not sufficient. This is why secret asylum homes will be established in all regions of the Czech Republic by the end of 2018. In addition, services for children who were abused or witnessed violence in their families should be available in all regions.

The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry is to draft the rules of "assisted contacts" of violent parents with their children. They might meet in special facilities under the supervision of social workers, for instance. All regions should also offer therapy to violence perpetrators as of 2017. After they are expelled from home, the police should have to offer them a therapy. Social workers could order it, according to the government plan. The organisations helping threatened persons should receive subsidies from the labour and social affairs and the interior ministries. Endangered persons should be entitled to a single benefit of exceptional immediate help as of 2018. Children should learn about the fight against domestic violence at school. Social workers and police would also undergo a regular training in these issues. By the end of the year, the government is to prepare a campaign with TV spots and information on the Internet. The law on free legal aid to low-income people (who face domestic violence) should be worked out by the end of 2015.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Czech Roma integration strategy until 2020 approved

23/2/2015- The Czech government approved the Romany Integration Strategy until 2020 with measures in the spheres of education, housing, jobs and security Monday, Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier (Social Democrats, CSSD) has said. The measures are to reverse the current unfavourable development, the Romanies' situation should no longer be worsening and their conditions should be the same as those of the rest, Dienstbier said. The Czech Republic has had strategies dealing with the Romanies' situation since the late 1990s. The latest one covered the years 2010-2013. The current strategy is to follow it up and to reverse the unfavourable trend. The number of ghettoes, including individual houses, largely inhabited by Romanies has been growing. Roughly one-third of Romanies or about 80,000 of them live in the localities. In 2007, there were about 300 such places, but experts say the number may be 100 bigger now.

The document was rejected by Lenka Kohoutova, an expert of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS). She said no minority should be given preferential treat-ment. The current government has adopted an uneven approach to minorities. It does not pay such an attention to any other minority but Romanies, Kohoutova said. "If Romanies behave according to common rules, accepted by society, the majority society will not reject them either," Kohoutova said. Meals for Romany schoolchildren are to be ensured, according to the government plan. The sum for scholarship for Romany secondary and higher education students is to be increased. Romany organisa-tions and Romany activists are to join drug prevention. Court fees for anti-discrimination lawsuits are to fall to 1,000 crowns. Campaigns against hatred and in support of tolerance are to be launched.

Dienstbier will also regularly watch the representation of Romanies in legislative and consultancy positions. "Eliminating the basic, primarily social, but also cultural problem with the integration is the main objective of the strategy," Dienstbier said. "Roughly one-third of the Romany minority is afflicted by social exclusion. The remaining two-thirds, that are integrated, are also seriously affected by the situation," he added. Dienstbier said the integration was a "two-sided affair" as both the Romany minority and majority society should contribute to it. The Czech Republic wants to use EU money for the integration measures. In the years to come, it may gain billions of crowns from three programmes. These are the employment, research and development, and integrated operational programmes administered by the Regional Development Ministry, Dienstbier said. The money from them to be spent on the integration was already set aside, Dienstbier said earlier.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

Austria passes controversial reforms to 1912 Islam law

The Austrian parliament has passed controversial reforms to the country's century-old law on Islam.

25/2/2015- The bill, which is partly aimed at tackling Islamist radicalism, gives Muslims more legal security but bans foreign funding for mosques and imams. Austria's Integration Minister, Sebastian Kurz, defended the reforms but Muslim leaders say they fail to treat them equally. The 1912 law made Islam an official religion in Austria. It has been widely held up as a model for Europe in dealing with Islam. The new measures, first proposed three years ago, include the protection of religious holidays and training for imams. But Muslim groups say the ban on foreign funding is unfair as international support is still permitted for the Christian and Jewish faiths. They say the legalisation reflects a widespread mistrust of Muslims and some are planning to contest it in the constitutional court. Mr Kurz told the BBC the reforms were a "milestone" for Austria and aimed to stop certain Muslim countries using financial means to exert "political influence". "What we want is to reduce the political influence and control from abroad and we want to give Islam the chance to develop freely within our society and in line with our common European values," he said.

Mr Kurz also stressed the bill was not a reaction to recent attacks by Islamic extremists in France and Denmark. Meanwhile the legislation has drawn wide reaction from Muslims across the world, with Turkey's head of religious affairs, Mehmet Gormez, adding his condemnation on Tuesday. "Austria will go back 100 years in freedom with its Islam bill," Mr Gormez said, according to Turkey's state-funded Anadolu news agency. Roughly half a million Muslims live in Austria today, around 6% of the population. Many of them have Turkish or Bosnian roots. The parliamentary vote in Austria came as the French government announced plans to improve dialogue with France's Muslim community. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the government would increase consultations with Muslim leaders. It would also double the number of university courses for imams - making them obligatory for Islamic chaplains in prisons and the armed forces - to ensure they are "faithful to the values of the Republic", he said.
© BBC News

up  

Austria: Linz's second Pegida demo rings up €250,000

A second protest by Germany’s anti-Muslim movement Pegida in the Upper Austrian capital of Linz on Saturday afternoon required a massive police operation in order to prevent clashes breaking out between left-wing counter demonstrators.

23/2/2015- The cost of the police operation is estimated to come to more than €250,000, the Kronen Zeitung reports. 698 police officers, two helicopters, dog teams, surveillance officers and special forces from Vienna, Lower Austria, Styria, Salzburg and Tyrol descended on Linz. The Pegida rally of around 100 people was dwarfed by a counter-demonstration of some 1,800 people, marching under the slogan “no metre for Pegida” and with shouts of “Nazis out”. The Austrian Press Agency reports that a press photographer who was suspec-ted of having “Nazi” sympathies was attacked by several people. Pegida supporters marched under the slogan “Cowardice means there is no debate”. Ignaz Bearth, head of the Swiss Direct Democracy Party, which has links to France's Front National party, made a speech saying that “the barrel is overflowing" in regards to the spread of Islam in Europe. Left and right-wing demonstrators marched from the main square to the main train station - with police fearing the prospects of riots. Half the city was sealed off and many shops had to close. "This is bad for business - many people are complaining about it. When there’s a demonstration people make a wide berth around the city centre and avoid going shopping - they think it’s too dangerous,” the head of Linz’s city centre trade association Werner Prödl said. State police said they had no choice but to approve the protest - even if they would have preferred to ban it. "The right to demonstrate is protected by the constitution," a police statement said.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Montenegro Urged to Close Rundown Refugee Camp

European rights officials are to urge Montenegro to shut the largest refugee camp in the country, where Roma displaced from Kosovo by the late 1990s war are still living in desperate conditions.

23/2/2015- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, a Council of Europe human rights body, will publish a report this week recommending the closure of the Konik camp on the outskirts of Podgorica “as soon as possible”. The report, which BIRN has seen ahead of its publication on Tuesday, will urge the Montenegrin authorities to find new accommodation for about 1,500 Roma refugees who live in the rundown camp. The commission will say that it is alarmed at the appalling living conditions and deprivation suffered by the camp’s inhabitants, a great many of whom live in sub-standard accommodation. The camp was set up on the site of a gar-bage dump, away from other residential areas. Most of the housing consists of broken-down wooden barracks with corrugated iron or plastic roofing. Some of the barracks have no electricity, no cooking facilities, no running water, and no sanitation or other amenities of any kind.

In July last year, around 100 Roma families living in the camp were rehoused in containers until permanent homes can be found for them. Four months later, the govern-ment launched a rehousing project to built 50 apartments for Roma refugees. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance will praise the measures that the Montenegrin authorities have taken to ensure better living conditions, such as the rehousing in containers, but stress that this is only a temporary solution. The commis-sion will also express concern about the proposed government housing project which envisages the construction of apartments within the existing camp, because it is isolated from the majority population. “That is why the residents of Konik camp will still be in the same situation and live as if they were in a ghetto because they do not have the opportunity to integrate with other communities,” the report will say.

The commission will also say that a devastating fire in the camp in July 2012, followed by floods in September of the same year, seriously worsened living conditions for the refugees from Kosovo, causing extensive damage and leaving more than 800 people homeless.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Hungary's governing Fidesz party loses supermajority

22/2/2015- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party on Sunday lost the two-thirds supermajority it held in parliament since 2010, which allowed it to pass a new constitution and other legislation without input from the opposition. The National Election Office said that Zoltan Kesz, an independent supported by the left-wing opposition parties, defeated Fidesz candidate Lajos Nemedi in a district centered on the city of Veszprem. With 98 percent of the votes counted, Kesz led Nemedi by 42.6 percent to 33.6 percent. A candidate for the far-right Jobbik party was third with 14.1 percent. Kesz said the result was a warning from voters to the governing parties, "because they will no longer accept the plundering of the country ... and millions being driven into poverty." The election was needed because Fidesz's Tibor Navracsics, who won the seat in April, has since become a European Union commissioner.

Orban's Fidesz party and a much smaller ally have also used their supermajority in the 199-seat legislature to dominate institutions including the state media authority and the constitutional court by electing only government-backed nominees. While "this result is totally unexpected for Fidesz," the opposition victory was largely symbolic because the government parties will be only one vote short of the supermajority, said Tamas Boros, an analyst at Policy Solutions. Fidesz easily won three elections last year — parliamentary, local elections and for the European parliament — but unpopular proposals and laws since October have seen it drop substantially in opinion polls.

The government abandoned a plan to tax Internet use after huge national protests but since adopted unpopular measures including forcing most shops to close on Sundays and greatly expanding the toll system for most roads. The government also rejected investigating alleged corruption at the national tax office, though some of its officials have been banned from entering the United States because of the allegations. "Fidesz now seems like a fragmented party burdened by corruption scandals," Boros said. "Fidesz has started to meddle in the people's lifestyle and it was its own voters who became hesitant and stayed at home."
© The Associated Press

up  

Northern Ireland's anti-gay amendment branded as a 'licence to discriminate'

The Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland's anti-gay clause attacked by Sinn Fein and Equality Commission.

23/2/2015- The DUP is seeking to add an anti-gay clause to equality laws that would allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people. Feedback on the anti-gay amendment takes place on Friday 27 February. Paul Givan, DUP minister has tabled a bill in the Northern Ireland Assembly that would effectively exempt people with "strongly held'" religious convic-tions from equality laws – allowing them to discriminate against gay people. The clause states that businesses could refuse service where someone feels they are required to "endorse a same-sex sexual relationship in violation of his/her faith identity." Under the amendment, a gay couple could be refused the rental of a house or refused entry to a restaurant. First Minister Peter Robinson has backed the bill but pro-equality politicians from Sinn Fein and other parties have joined together to stop the so-called 'conscience clause', although it will still go to a vote. The bill was introduced by DUP minister Givan after the Equality Commission said it would take legal action against Ashers Bakery follo-wing its refusal to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage message iced on top.

The commission took the case on behalf of the gay man who requested the cake, claiming the family-run bakery had been in breach of legislation preventing discrimination, according to the Belfast Telegraph. Dr Michael Wardlow of the Equality Commission wrote: "The Commission does not support either of the proposed amendments to Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 ("Sexual Orientation Regulations") as set out in the draft Bill. "We believe that, if introduced, the proposed amendments would significantly weaken protection against discrimination in Northern Ireland for lesbian, gay and bisexual people when accessing goods, facilities and services or buying or ren-ting premises." John O'Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project said: "We believe this conscience clause will create a licence to discriminate for those who oppose the LGBT people here in Northern Ireland. "We don't believe we should be treated as second-class citizens. We want to ensure equality for our entire community and we're looking forward to many people across Belfast, Derry and Newry standing in solidarity with us today in opposition to this draconian legislation."
© The International Business Times - UK

up  

Ireland: Two young women savagely beaten in homophobic attack

Roisin Prendergast (20) and her girlfriend 17-year-old Ciara Murphy were left bleeding and unconscious following an unprovoked attack on Cruises Street in Limerick last Sunday week.

22/2/2015- The young women were walking in the direction of a food outlet at approximately 2am when two men began "firing homophobic slurs" at the couple. "We had literally left our apartment only minutes before when these two grown men started shouting abuse at us about being lesbians," Tipperary-born Roisin said. "Initially we shouted back as we are used to this kind of abuse - but then they walked back towards us and started shoving us roughly." The young women have described the men as being aged in their early to mid-20s and said they were "well-dressed, as if coming back from a night out". The verbal abuse quickly escalated to physical violence, according to Ms Murphy, who is originally from Newcastle West. "Suddenly, the men pushed us to the ground. They were stepping on our chests, they kneed and kicked us," the student said.

The men appeared to leave after approximately ten minutes - after taking the girls' hats - but one returned "which was the worst part" of the assault, according to Ms Prendergast. "We thought it was over. Then one guy came back, threw Ciara against a shop window and ripped up her hat in front of her," she said. When the unprovoked vicious attack was finally over, Ms Murphy lay unconscious on the street following a knock to her head, while Ms Prendergast had been beaten and was in shock beside her. Two passers-by came upon the young women some time later and immediately alerted the emergency services and the gardai, who responded to the scene. Gardai have launched an investigation into the incident - but they say that the CCTV footage on the street of the incident is of too poor quality to be used for identification purposes.

The two women said they are overwhelmed with the support they have received on social media following the attack. "So far we have no information as to who the two men are. But we have been inundated with messages of support," said Ms Prendergast.
© The Irish Independent

up  

Norway: Muslim offer to clean Nazi graffiti refused

The Norway head of anti-Islam movement Pegida has turned down a group of young Muslims who offered to clean his book shop's walls and windows after the words “Nazi Swine” were spray-painted all over them on Saturday night.

22/2/2015- “I do not want symbolic actions, I want a new asylum and integration policy,” Max Hermansen, who led the country’s first Pegida march in January, told Norway’s state broadcaster NRK. Thee Yezan, from "Islamophobia Awareness Norway" made the offer after news that Hermandsen's shop had been vandalised was published on Sunday morning. He said he was part of a group of four young Muslims. "We are offering to wash away the graffiti from Max Hermansen's shop, after which we are offering him a cup of Arabic tea and a massage," Yezan, who is not using his real name, wrote on Facebook, adding that others would have to forward the request to Hermansen, as he was blocked from the anti-Islamist's feed. When Hermansen was alerted to the offer, he rejected it in the strongest terms. "Muslims want to wash my shop," he Tweeted. "Do they also want to keep watch during opening hours so other Muslims don't throw in a Molotov cocktail?"

Yezan insisted his offer had been in good faith. "We believe that it is sad to see that the shop has been defaced in this way," he said. "We want to do this because Hermansen is so negative to Muslims, and we want to say that this has nothing to do with Muslims. " Yezan told VG the massage was intended to help Hermansen "relax and let his shoulders drop". Hermansen has complained of increasing victimisation since he launched Pegida in Norway in January, with the local training office he works for telling him they would no longer employ him as a teacher because of his views.
© The Local - Norway

up  

Norway: More than 1,000 Muslims form 'peace ring' around Oslo synagogue

Norway's Muslims offer symbolic protection for the city's Jewish community while condemning synagogue attack in neighboring Denmark last weekend.

21/2/2015- More than 1,000 Muslims formed a human shield around Oslo's synagogue on Saturday, offering symbolic protection for the city's Jewish community and condemning an attack on a synagogue in neighboring Denmark last weekend. Chanting "No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia," Norway's Muslims formed what they called a ring of peace a week after Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, a Danish-born son of Palestinian immigrants, killed two people at a synagogue and an event promoting free speech in Copenhagen last weekend. "Humanity is one and we are here to demonstrate that," Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the protest's organizers told a crowd of Muslim immigrants and ethnic Norwegians who filled the small street around Oslo's only functioning synagogue. "There are many more peace mongers than warmongers," Abdullah said as organizers and Jewish community leaders stood side by side. "There's still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds."

Norway's Jewish community is one of Europe's smallest, numbering around 1000, and the Muslim population, which has been growing steadily through immigration, is 150,000 to 200,000. Norway has a population of about 5.2 million. The debate over immigration in the country came to the forefront in 2011 when Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people and accused the government and the then-ruling Labour party of facilitating Muslim immigration and adulterating pure Norwegian blood. Support for immigration has been rising steadily since those attacks, however, and an opinion poll late last year found that 77 percent of people thought immigrants made an important contribution to Norwegian society.

Video clip from Aftenposten TV Norway
© Reuters

up  

Swedish hockey team rocks rainbow duds to honor gay pride

24/2/2015- Among Swedish hockey fans, Orebro goalie Julius Hudacek is well known for his sometimes outlandish post-win celebrations. He's mimed ice fishing, played leapfrog and fallen over riding his stick like a skateboard. His antics have even spawned the hashtag #HudaShow. Hudacek put all that energy toward a good cause this weekend. After a 4-2 victory over Frolunda, the goaltender led his team in a performance of "Y.M.C.A." on ice while wearing Village People costumes over multi-colored jerseys the team donned to support LGBT rights. Aside from the uniforms, the team and the organization's entire staff marched in the city's pride parade and held a lecture on LGBT topics. They also encou-raged fans to wear rainbow pins and buy limited-edition game merchandise. "Pride game is a way for us to show social responsibility and take a clear stand for the equal value. Pride game is more than just a game, more than just a stunt," an English translation of a statement on the team's website reads.

Pro sports leagues in the United States have made strides towards breaking the longstanding barriers that LGBT players face, but they have yet to show the same level of wide-spread support for the issue given to other causes such as cancer awareness or supporting the troops. Gay athletes in the four major sports leagues have only recently begun to make their sexuality public. In spring 2013, the NBA's Jason Collins become the first openly gay athlete in any of the four major professional sports leagues. The NFL's Michael Sam came out last year and MLS's Robbie Rogers has been an openly gay player for nearly two years. After Collins came out, NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted that sports "fell behind" when it came to supporting gay rights. The NFL, where players and coaches have often faced fire for homophobic gaffes, has also been under pressure to take a firmer stance on the issue.

But there are also signs of progress. The National Hockey League became the first North American sports league to have all of its teams pledge support of LGBT players and fans. MLB teams now regularly hold themed games to support the LGBT community, and the NFL Players Association has sold Pride-themed T-shirts.
© Mashable

up  

Swedish migrant aides ‘were Isis recruiters’

Sweden’s national job agency has sacked its whole network of immigrant resettlement assistants after suspicion that some of them may have tried to recruit newly arrived immigrants to jihadist-style militant groups, such as Isis.

21/2/2015- “We have received indication that there have been instances of recruitment attempts or contact-making situations related to various militant fighting groups,” the head of the agency, Mikael Sjöberg, said of the decision to immediately fire all of its resettlement assistants. The Swedish intelligence service, Säpo, is now investigating the case, he said. Although the agency would not name the suspected groups the agents recruited for, a source told Swedish tabloid Expressen that militant Islamist group Isis is thought to be among them. The role of the agency’s resettlement assistants was to help newly arrived migrants find work by assisting them with, for example, the language or helping them with paperwork. Some of the assistants are also suspected of having been involved in fraudulous activities and pressing people for bribes in order to help them. “It’s to do with loans or gifts, like tablets, mobile phones and sometimes cash, in order to get connected to a specific assistant,” he was quoted as saying to Expressen. Last month, the national intelligence service confirmed that at least 100 Swedes have fought alongside Islamist extremists in Iraq and Syria.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

European Commission Extendes Migrant Rescue Mission Operation Triton

21/2/2015- The European Commission has announced plans to extend its migrant monitoring and rescue mission in the Mediterranean — dubbed Operation Triton — until the end of the year. It also awarded an amount of 13.7 million euros ($15.5 million) in emergency funding from the Asylum, Migration, and Integration Fund (AMIF) to Italy to help authorities manage the ongoing influx of migrants. Speaking at a press conference Thursday, the EU's migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said that Italy, a favored gateway for migrants trying to reach Europe, was "not alone," adding that, "Europe stands with Italy." In 2014 alone, a record 170,000 migrants and asylum seekers landed in Italy's ports. Operation Triton, which is managed by European border control agency Frontex, was launched in November 2014 to replace Mare Nostrum, Italy's own mission to rescue migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Since its launch in 2013, Mare Nostrum has helped save 150,000 stricken migrants and led to the arrest of 351 human traffickers.

Earlier this week, Amnesty International's Italy campaigner Matteo De Bellis traveled to the island of Lampedusa to assess the situation and collect testimonies from migrants who had survived the perilous crossing. Speaking to VICE News today, De Bellis said that while Europe had correctly read the need for a continued operation, more resources would need to be mobilized. "The continuation of Operation Triton is not per se a bad thing, but it's not what is needed right now," he said. "We need to have a multilateral operation at sea in the central Med, with the clear purpose of saving lives at sea and with the resources needed to do this. It's Europe's problem, so it needs a European solution, as commissioner Avramopoulos said." The biggest issue is that Triton is not mandated or equipped to carry out missions on the scale of Mare Nostrum. While Mare Nostrum was primarily a rescue operation, Triton is mostly set up as a monitoring initiative. Triton's boats have to stay within a 35-mile radius of the Italian shoreline, and cannot cross over into international waters, where the majority of shipwrecks occur.

Further compromising the restricted scope of its mission, Triton has limited resources, with only three aircraft, nine ships, and 65 officers at a monthly operating budget between 1.5 and 3 million euros ($1.7 to $3 million). By comparison, Mare Nostrum deployed 900 officers, 32 ships, as well as several planes and helicopters, at a monthly budget of 9 million euros ($10 million). Its reach went as far as Libya — a major exit point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean. As recently as February 8, close to 300 migrants are thought to have drowned after three rubber dinghies sank off the coast of Lampedusa. The tragedy has highlighted the inadequacy of monito-ring missions without an operational rescue capacity. As the dinghies' warning signals were intercepted by the Italian coast guard, the Triton ships were stuck refueling in Malta and Sicily. Former prime minister Enrico Letta immediately took to Twitter to demand that Mare Nostrum be reinstated, whatever the cost.

Human rights NGOs have also criticized Europe for its poor record on helping migrants in the Mediterranean. "With Mare Nostrum, we could have given these people shelter and food," said Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration. His feelings were echoed by Amnesty International, who wrote in a statement that, "A great many refugees and migrants will continue to die if the gap that has been left by Italian rescue operation Mare Nostrum is not filled." The European Commission is due to discuss migration policy on March 4. Meanwhile, Italy has a new migration issue to contend with: in the last days, Italian media has reported that the Islamic Sate has threatened to send hundreds of thousands of migrants to the Italian shores, using them as a "psychological weapon" to dissuade Italy from intervening in Libya.

For now, IS has yet to confirm the threat, and terror experts caution that it may be little more than an provocation. However, some in Italy have expressed concern that terrorists could be hiding among migrants. For Matteo De Bellis, these statements are just speculations. "We have no evidence whatsoever that jihadists are taking advantage of this and even the European commission actually said they have no evidence to support this view," he stated, adding that "even in the extreme case — which is pure speculation for the moment — that this was happening, there is no reason whatsoever not to save lives at sea."
© Vice News

up  

UK,France,Denmark,Germany & Italy News Week 9

Muslim boy ‘assaulted’ by Swedish police found in Denmark

27/2/2015- A nine-year-old boy who went missing after a controversial altercation with guards at a train station in Sweden on February 9 has been found safe in Jutland, Denmark. Danish police found the child who has been at the centre of a week-long controversy in Sweden on February 13. A 12-year-old boy who was believed to have traveled with the 9-year-old had not yet been discovered, although police said they believed he was in the same area. The boy who believed to be Moroccan was ferociously manhandled by a security guard in Malmö train station. A video uploaded by one of the witnesses on Youtube shows the guard sitting on the boy’s chest while pressing his gloved hand violently over the boy’s mouth and nose. The guard then violently slammed the boy’s head against the stone floor. The boy appears to be gasping for breath and through tears and with a desperate voice he yells out the Shahada, an Islamic declaration uttered when someone believes they are near death.

Witnesses say the boys, who are accused of trying to get on the train without ticket, did not seem to understand Swedish, and therefore could not communicate with the security guards. The same source added that three police officers arrived later at the scene and handcuffed the boy. When the police officer released the boy, the latter spit in the guard’s face. When several witnesses came to explain what really happened, the police officers did not seem interested in hearing the testimonies. A second guard is shown in the same video clip restraining an older boy on a bench at the station. The boy then went missing, setting off a massive police search across southern Sweden. The news came as police were continuing to investigate the security guards’ conduct in the incident.

Malmö police spokesman Mats Karlsson said that the nationality of the boys remained “unclear” to the police, but said it was understood that they had been living at a home for child refugees who had travelled to Sweden unaccompanied. There has been speculation in the Swedish media that the pair have relatives in Sweden and may have been at the station searching for their parents or other family members. “We are trying to find out and gather as much information as possible…but as this is an investigation involving children we cannot reveal that much about our investigation,” said Karlsson. IMKANDER Association which assists refugees wrote to Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven calling for the prosecution of the officials. “No matter what their crime is, treating children at that age, is in breach of “human rights and human dignity and is unacceptable”.
© The Muslim News

up  

Denmark: Witnesses slam security at Copenhagen shooting

Police sat with their backs to the entrance drinking coffee and a cafe employee was the first to notice the gunman, witnesses to the first of two fatal shootings in Copenhagen have stepped forward to say.

24/2/2015- Two employees of the Krudttønden cultural centre where an armed assailant fired nearly 30 shots and killed a 55-year-old man have stepped forward to criticise the “enormously unserious" security at the event. Speaking anonymously to Politiken, the two witnesses claim that two Danish police officers were having coffee with their backs turned towards the door at the building entrance when the gunman started shooting. “Everything was very random and there was nothing to indicate that they viewed the event as high-risk,” one witness told Politiken. Neither police nor Danish security service PET wished to comment on the claims, reports Politiken. One of the witnesses also said that controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who is believed to have been the target of the attack, was at one point standing outside the cultural centre alone and unguarded despite the fact that he has lived under police protection since 2007. Vilks himself has also criticised the security at the event.

“Lars Vilks was the main reason that the event was characterized as high-risk. It is flabbergasting that I saw him alone outside the building,” the witness said. The same witness added that it was an employee, and not a police officer or an agent from the Danish or Swedish security services, who first noticed the gunman. “I know there were also PET [Danish intelligence, ed.] and Säpo [Swedish intelligence, ed.] in the cafe with the two police officers but when it is one of the cafe workers who is the first to yell ‘man with a gun’ before anyone reacts, it’s a sign that the threat was underestimated,” the witness said. Vilk's Swedish protection has previously been hailed for stalling an attack that could have turned into a mass murder. A source speaking to Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan said one of the officers guarding Vilks officers shot at the gunman and prevented him from entering the building. “I know that one of them emptied his entire gun,” he told the paper, adding that this had “interrupted the attack” and suggesting that this may have pre-vented further casualties. Neither Danish nor Swedish police have confirmed the claims.

The gunman, identified by police as 22-year-old Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, was shot to death by police following a second attack at a synagogue hours later. The victim of the Krudttønden shooting, filmmaker Finn Nørgaard, will be laid to rest on Tuesday.

© The Local - Denmark
up  

Danish Muslims plan peace vigil after attacks

After plans for a 'peace ring' were nixed by police over security concerns, a Muslim group has announced that it will hold a vigil outside Copenhagen City Hall on Friday.

24/2/2015- A Danish Muslim group Monday said it was planning a peace vigil in the heart of Copenhagen this week to protest against hate crimes after this month's twin attacks in the city. "We do not accept attacks on people whether your name is Finn, Dan or Aisha," said a statement from Tanwir Ahmad of The Network, which gathers Muslim academics. "We want to send a signal that we all share responsibility for well-being and security in Copenhagen," he added. The vigil to be held in central City Hall square on Friday was inspired by a similar event on Saturday in Oslo where a group led by young Muslims formed a symbolic ring outside a synagogue, the organizers said. The Network's announcement was made after Copenhagen police said they had denied a request by Danish Muslim businessman and activist Niddal El-Jabri to form a symbolic ring outside the city's main synagogue, citing security reasons.

"The security level in Copenhagen is very high, including around the synagogue where there are police who are heavily armed right now," police spokesman Mads Jensen told AFP.
El-Jabri said he had turned down suggestions to hold the event elsewhere since it risked moving the focus away from Denmark's Jewish community. "It's about focusing on the fact that the Jewish community shouldn't be used as pawns in the conflict between Israel and Palestine," he told public broadcaster DR. By contrast, the organizers of Friday's vigil said that they wanted their human chain to focus on all types of hate crimes, not just anti-Semitism. Danish Muslims have reported a rise in anti-Muslim violence and discrimination since the twin attacks in Copenhagen on a free-speech seminar and a synagogue that killed two people, a Jewish man and a filmmaker.

Denmark's Jewish community, meanwhile, was reporting an increase in anti-Semitism even before the fatal attacks, which police say were carried out by Omar El-Hussein, a Dane of Palestinian origin. The Danish attacks, which occurred just weeks after gunmen killed 17 people in Paris, raised fears in Nordic countries of heightened tension between religious communities. Swedish organizers are also planning a "peace ring" human shield outside Stockholm's synagogue on Friday.
© The Local - Denmark

up  

Denmark: Copenhagen police forbid ‘peace ring’ at attacked synagogue

23/2/2015- Copenhagen police denied a request by Danish Muslims to create a peace ring around a city synagogue that came under a deadly attack. Police cited security concerns for rejecting the request by organizers, according to Danish media reports. “We have chosen to say no because of a specific security assessment of the situation we have here right now,” Copenhagen police spokesman Mads Jensen told a Danish television station. The Copenhagen organizers were hoping to duplicate a similar initiative that took place on Satur-day night in Oslo, where reports said that more than 1,000 people, including many Muslims, formed a human chain around a synagogue in a show of support for Jews. Niddal El-Jabri told the public broadcaster Denmark Radio that he would continue to discuss with police the possibility of holding a peace vigil at a later time. “It is a really good initiative,” Dan Rosenberg Asmussen, the head of the Danish Jewish community, told DR, according to The Local.dk. “I think it is touching and beautiful.” On Feb. 14, outside the central Copenhagen synagogue, a volunteer security guard, Dan Uzan, was shot and killed by a lone Islamist gunman who hours earlier had killed one in a shooting at a free speech event at a cultural center in the Danish capital.
© JTA News

up  

Denmark: Free speech threatened, but not by Islamists

The Danish government introduced a new anti-terror package following the Copenhagen shootings, but internet privacy advocate Henrik Chulu argues that privacy restrictions will limit the free speech that politicians say they want to defend.

23/2/2015- In everyday language, free speech means that you have the ability to say whatever you what with the understanding that you can face legal punishment if what you say violates the rights of others: for example through libel, copyright infringement, etc. Different countries have different limits on the freedom of expression. I know of no place where it is absolute. Perjury, for example, is universally frowned upon. Free speech exists so that the state cannot silence its critics, who are free to scrutinize the powers that be and criticize them with the the goal of keeping those who exercise power on the straight and narrow, thus assuring the rights of the rest of us. Another right that is equally im-portant to the freedom of expression is the right to privacy. Like freedom of expression, the right to privacy exists to ensure a balance of power between the state and the indi-vidual. If there is a reasonable suspicion that you are engaging in something criminal, a court can give the police the authority to monitor your behaviour and communications.

In the old days, that meant that they could ransack your home, open your mail and tap your telephone. But today it means that they can set up nearly invisible microphones and cameras, listen in on all the phones you are likely to call, instal spyware on your computer or phone, read your emails and monitor your internet traffic. Today, the police don’t even have to go to much effort to get access to your private life, as you have most likely voluntarily subjected yourself to constant surveillance from the likes of Google, Facebook and others. You live surrounded by sensors and all of your electronic communication is automatically tapped and collected in huge databases that police can access with a court order. But for some politicians, who would hate to see a useful crisis go to waste, the already vast abilities of the police to do their jobs is not enough. The chorus is singing for more. After all, no one wants to appear “soft on terror”.

In the rush to defend free speech, politicians are further dismantling the right to privacy. The problem however is that free speech and privacy are not “values” that should be defended, but rather tools (or weapons, if you will) to ensure a balance of power between the individual and the state. And they are related. Without the strong protection of privacy, freedom of expression is nearly useless. Or to put it another way: a restriction on privacy is in itself a restriction on free speech. Privacy is the foundation, free speech is the structure. Statements don’t arise out of nowhere within an individual’s thoughts and then fly directly out into the public sphere to fascinate, infuriate or speak truth to power. They are absorbed and shaped in the peace of library halls and the corners of the internet, they are studied in private conversations, tested through back channels and often (although not always in politics) destroyed due to a lack of logic, evidence or relevance.

The freedom to speak and think in peace is what allows free expression to be used effectively as it is intended: to confront state power verbally so that it doesn’t trample upon those rights that we as citizens have fought so hard for over the past century and a half – e.g. women’s suffrage, the right to unemployment benefits, etc. The insistence of poli-ticians to sacrifice citizens’ privacy upon the flames of free speech is a far bigger threat than any militant Islamist who finds a cartoon offensive. It is a stab in the back of free speech. I do not doubt that their basic intentions are good: they want to protect the public. But the road to hell is, as we all know, paved by naive fools with good intentions.
Henrik Chulu is the co-founder of Bitbureauet, an independent internet think-tank. This column was originally published in Danish at frikultur.dk and has been translated and republished under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
© The Local - Denmark

up  

Germany: Muslim Council says Jewish fears 'justified'

After the president of the Central Council of Jews warned against anti-Semitism in Muslim areas of German cities, his Muslim opposite number agreed that 'these fears are justified”.

27/2/2015- Aiman Mayzek, president of the Central Council of Muslims, told the Berliner Zeitung on Friday that he and his organization were taking a stand against anti-Semitism among Muslims. “Attacks on Jews are an attack on our society,” he said. Josef Schuster of the Central Council of Jews had said on Thursday that Jews should avoid “neighbourhoods with a large proportion of Muslims in the population,” especially in Berlin. But while Mayzek agreed that there was a problem, he warned against the “islamization” of problems in German society. Combining the words “problem neighbourhood” and “Muslim” could be misunderstood, he said. “Properly understood, Islam sees anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism as a grave sin,” said Mazyek.
© The Local - Germany

up  

To fight homegrown jihadis, Germany takes lesson from battle with neo-Nazis

Germany has turned away hundreds of neo-Nazis from violence and reintegrated them into society. Could the same approach work for German would-be jihadis?

26/2/2015- This summer, Thomas Mücke managed a coup: he dissuaded a young German from joining the Islamic State. The teenager, a Kurd whose family is originally from Turkey but now living in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, had landed in prison after committing a petty crime. Angry, confined, and looking to lash out, he “had pretty much given up with life and was ready to pack his bag" for Syria, Mr. Mücke says. But Mücke, a street worker and head of the Berlin-based Violence Pre-vention Network (VPN) in Berlin, challenged the aspiring jihadi. Did he know that Islamic State fought against Kurds? No, the boy didn’t. In fact, he had no idea about his religion. It was a prison inmate that gave him the idea to go to Syria.

"In the end he said, 'If IS fights against the Kurds I can’t go with them,'" says Mücke. The youth is out of pri-son now, and while he will receive counseling for months to come, he is no longer seen as in imminent danger of radicalization. The success that Mücke and his organization, a nonprofit group that helps incarcerated young people with extremist biographies find a way out, has experienced in dissuading would-be jihadis is significant. But the VPN did not originally target radical Islamists. Rather, it had a much more familiar German radical in mind: violent neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists. But advocates like Mücke say that just like that fascist ideology, figh-ting Islamic extremism among the young has less to do with religion than with young people’s vulnerability to the ideology.

When dealing with extremists, be they neo-Nazis or jihadis, it is crucial to work with each person individually. And with at least 550 Germans in Syria, part of a swel-ling group of several thousand Europeans, Germany's lessons in fighting the spread of neo-Nazi ideology could prove key to stopping Islamic radicalization. “They are both fascist ideologies,” says Mücke, who has counseled hundreds of imprisoned young people, often from the violent right extremist scene. ”One is using a certain idea of the nation, the other is using religion as its instrument.”

A 'market leader' in fighting extremism
Germany has the largest problems when it comes to right-wing extremism. Far-right sentiments which festered in communist Germany burst out in the open after the Berlin Wall fell. Ongoing trouble with neo-Nazi violence remains a formidable challenge: This month, one of the heads of a Nazi cell called the National Socialist Under-ground, is standing trial in Munich, on charges related to the killing of 10 people, mostly of Turkish origin, from 2000 and 2006. But as a result, Germany has also become one of the 'market leaders' in the fight against such extremism. Through counseling carefully tailored to the individuals involved, programs like VPN and EXIT-Deutsch-land, one of Germany’s most successful anti-neo-Nazi organizations, hundreds of neo-Nazis have been turned away from violence and reintegrated into society.

The turn to confront radical Islam has been much more recent. Although Germany hosted the Al Qaeda cell that was at the heart of the 9/11 atrocities, its initial res-ponse was focused on taking steps to better integrate its Muslim population – at 5 million Europe’s third largest. But then came wake-up calls in 2011. First in March, a Frankfurt man of Kosovo-Albanian origin  killed two US airmen and wounded two others in an attack at the Frankfurt airport. And in July, right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in a pair of attacks in Oslo and on a Norwegian island about 24 miles away. Soon after the European Union launched a Radicalisation Awareness Network where anti-extremist advocates across ideologies, from neo-Nazi programs in Sweden and Germany to Islamic de-radicalization programs in Britain, could share tips.

“There was a welcome shift in thinking in terms of how you deal with intervention,”says Vidhya Ramalingam, who leads research and advocacy on far-right extremism, xenophobia and racial violence across Europe for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think tank. In particular, it helped Germans recognize that what draws people into an extremist group, be it neo-Nazi or jihadi, have “striking similarities,” she adds.

Extremist parallels
Now, experts like Mücke and Bernd Wagner, a former East German police detective who founded EXIT-Deutschland, are turning the techniques they pioneered to sway neo-Nazis from violence towards would-be jihadis. "Both [Islamic] and right-wing extremists are on a mission," says Wagner, who says he's helped five Germans stay out of jihadism since last year. “Words aren’t enough to fulfill their mission, so they use violence.” When the federal government in 2012 launched an anti-Islam radicaliza-tion hotline, it asked Mr. Wagner's group to head the effort in the Berlin region. And this summer when the government of Hessen, Germany’s most populous state, created a network where members of society from schools to mosques to police and prisons would work together to help youth lured by jihadism, it asked Mücke to head the project.

Groundbreaking in their own ways and their own times, Wagner’s and Mücke’s initiatives are again breaking new ground again, says Ms. Ramalingam. “There have been a lot of really strong innovation measures coming out of Germany civil society when it comes to dealing with extremism." “The methodology developed around working with neo-Nazis and right wing extremists are very much about individually-tailored intervention, and that’s exactly what they’ve also been piloting when it comes to Islam extremism. It’s about individually-tailored intervention," Ms. Ramalingam says. “It is also about understanding how the wider context around an individual can either push them to going into extremism, or can help them push them back.” Mücke says the Hesse government's financial commitment to deradicalization is unprece-dented. “Germany is just starting,” he says.

Sympathy and understanding
There are, of course, fundamental differences between Islamic extremists and neo-Nazis. “We know that from a different ideological context,” says Michael Kiefer, a professor of Islam theology at the University of Osnabrück. But “what’s fascinating is how act of self empowerment, the feeling of 'I can be a combatant and take part in historic mission, for a selected good cause'“ is similar between the two, he says. And the key similarity lies in the individual stories behind radicalization, anti-extremist advocates say. Like the young inmate that Mücke helped avoid jihadism, those lured by jihadi ideology are longing for a sense of identity, a father figure, a simplistic view of the world. Many of Germany’s would-be jihadis are “born-again Muslims” who know little about religion, says Dr. Kiefer.

To address that, this summer Mücke hired Hakan Çelik, a former supermarket worker with lots of volunteer experience with Muslim youth and a degree in Islamic theo-logy, to reach out to young Muslims in the Frankfurt region. "In the 1980s I worked with skinheads, so I know how extremely mistrustful young people can be," says Mücke. "My Muslim colleagues are my door-openers." Over the past six months Mr. Çelik has gone to schools, prisons, youth enters, and mosques to reach out to young people in trouble. He is dealing with 30 cases deemed dangerous and with two people who have returned from Syria. “Ultimately, what’s important is not methodo-logy," says Çelik. "It is relationships, how you build up relationships with those who are facing dangers.” Not one young person, he says, has refused to talk to him. "We pray, we know how the young people react. With us they're not thrown in cold water."
© The Christian Science Monitor

up  

German protester who wore 'University of Auschwitz, 1941' T-shirt faces prison

The unnamed woman wore the T-shirt during an anti-Islam rally in October in Cologne

25/2/2015- A woman in Germany could face up to five years in prison for inciting hatred after she was filmed at an anti-Islam rally wearing a T-shirt that compared the Auschwitz concentration camp to a university. The woman, who has not been named under German privacy laws, was filmed at a demonstration last October wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “University Auschwitz, est. 1941”. Under a silhouette of one of the infamous Nazi extermination camp’s most distinctive buildings, the T-shirt listed possible courses of study as “genetics, racial science, Final Solution”. More than 1.1 million Jews were systematically murdered at Auschwitz, along with tens of thousands of gypsies, Poles and Soviet prisoners-of-war. The woman was filmed wearing the T-shirt at a rally in Cologne last October, when she gave an interview to a camera crew from Germany’s Vice magazine. Asked by the interviewer what the T-shirt meant, she replied: “Good question. That was my husband...I have no idea.”

A man who appeared to be the woman’s husband was also filmed. They were taking part in a rally organised by a group calling itself Hooligans against Salafism, or HoGeSa, which claimed to be against the rise of hardline Salafist Islam in Germany. The group, which predated the much more successful Pegida movement, was more openly allied to the far-Right, and there were violent clashes with police at the Cologne demonstration. Under Germany’s Volksverhetzung law, inciting hatred against sections of the population or assaulting people’s human dignity is punishable by up to five years in prison. Although the incident took place several months ago, police only began searching for the couple on Tuesday, but said they were able to identify them within 24 hours, after receiving information from around 30 members of the public. A police spokesman said it was now up to prosecutors whether to charge the couple.
© The Telegraph

up  

German state premier denies cover-up in 2006 neo-Nazi murder

Accusations that authorities hindered a probe into what turned out to be a neo-Nazi murder have been denied by the premier of Germany's central state of Hesse. Volker Bouffier says he has "nothing to hide."

24/2/2015- Bouffier on Tuesday angrily denied that he covered up for Hesse state's own intelligence service in 2006 when he was the state's interior minister although authorities knew promptly that the murder could have had extreme right-wing links. Internet café proprietor Halit Yozgat was shot dead in April 2006 in the state's northern city of Kassel. An intelligence service employee, identified only as Andreas T., had been in the vicinity shortly beforehand or during the murder. The slaying of the businessman of Turkish origin was the last of nine anti-foreigner murders by the self-styled NSU group which now is the focus of a mammoth trial in Munich. Yozgat's family has applied to the court that Bouffier tes-tify. The 10th NSU victim was a policewoman shot dead in 2007.

'Nothing to hide'
"I have nothing to hide," Bouffier said, while reading a prepared statement to press representatives including Hesse HR public broadcasting on Tuesday in Wiesbaden, where the Hesse assembly is based. "These insinuations against me are a monstrosity, they are shameless, and I reject them in every way," Bouffier said, adding that he was ready to testify at the Munich NSU trial. Referring to his actions as interior minister in 2006, Bouffier said: "I decided in accordance with the law on the basis of best (available) information and con-science." Bouffier leads a regional coalition in Wiesbaden, comprising Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats and environment-focused Greens as the junior coalition partner.

Police transcript revealed
Last weekend, the German newspaper "Welt am Sonntag" published excerpts from a police surveillance transcript that suggested that Hesse' intelligence service must have known about the murder's anti-foreigner neo-Nazi connotations. Andreas T. maintained links with an informant within the Kassel neo-Nazi scene, who at Munich trial said he was not per-mitted to say much. Munich trial files contained only a wiretap summary, the newspaper said. Its report said police investigators had listened to and documented a telephone con-versation between the intelligence service employee and his supervisor.

'What really took place in Kassel'
On Monday, the general secretary of Hesse' opposition Social Democratic party (SPD), Nancy Faeser, said citizens had the right to know "what really took place in Kassel." "In this context the premier must allow himself to be asked why he used an exclusion declaration to hinder the questioning of the informant by Andreas T.," Faeser said, referring to police attempts to get details from the informant. Bouffie has argued that his advisors convinced him in 2006 that disclosing the informant's identity would have posed a greater danger in law enforcement terms.

Table documents, demand opposition
Faeser, who is a leading member of a state assembly committee of inquiry into the affair demanded on Tuesday that the relevant documents be tabled. She said it was astounding that Bouffier was of the view that he could not contribute more information on events in 2006. "He was at the time the interior minister responsible who apparently intervened massively twice in the investigation," Faeser added.

Bundestag inquiry also waiting
In Berlin, a Left party member of a parallel federal Bundestag parliament inquiry into the NSU murder series, Petra Pau, said it too had not received the surveillance transcripts related to Kassel in 2006. The Munich trial was adjourned unexpectedly on Tuesday afternoon, when the presiding judge said the main accused Beate Zschäpe was ill. The trial is to proceed on Wednesday with testimony from two more witnesses.
© Deutsche Welle

up  

Germany: Berlin rapper's stunt sets off homophobia row

Berlin rapper Bass Sultan Hengzt released an album cover calculated to smoke out homophobia among listeners, prompting what Germans love to call a “Sh*tstorm”.

24/2/2015- In a first for German rap, the 31-year old released his new album, “Musik Wegen Weibaz” (Music because of girls) with a cover photo showing two men leaning in to kiss one another. Fans on Facebook and Twitter left hundreds of angry comments about the perceived betrayal by their idol. “Please no, I can't bring this to the checkout,” one of the first responses read. Another wrote that "two gays are disgusting... I wouldn't want a child to see a gay couple as normal!" One connoisseur of the scene suggested that Hengzt had hoped to provoke such a reaction all along. “I think it comes from humour, because it's music 'against women'” rap.de editor Oliver Marquart told The Local on Tuesday. “I don't think it's a political statement, but it's a very self-aware one.” Knowing the typical – male, teenaged – audience of his music, the rapper picked a cover calculated to push buttons among a vocal minority, pushing objectionable fans away and gaining mainstream respect. The outrageous statements of fans propelled the album onto ARD TV's flagship morning show, Mor-genMagazin. As for the mainstream, politicians weighed in too, with Green party chairman Cem Özdemir calling the comment conflagration “absurd. Bass Sultan Hengzt's name, the last word of which means “stallion”, is a clue to his usual aggressively heterosexual attitude.
© The Local - Germany

up  

Germany: Pegida decides Hitler selfie is no problem

Just four weeks after announcing his resignation in the wake of a Hitler selfie scandal, the founder of the anti-Islam movement Pegida has been voted back into leadership.

23/2/2015- A secret vote held in recent days named Lutz Bachmann back to the helm of the organising team of Pegida, which stands for the Patriots against the Islamisa-tion of the West."Lutz [Bachmann] will continue to function as one of the three leaders," the organisation wrote on its Facebook page.In January, Bachmann stepped down following the exposure of racist comments that he had made on Facebook, as well as a photo of himself styled as Hitler, complete with toothbrush moustache. The fallout from the photos was devastating. Not only did Bachmann step down, but it became the motive for former spokeswoman Kathrin Oertel as well as other founding members to leave and found their own protest movement called Direct Democracy for Europe (DDfE). Only six of the so-called "orga team" remain part of the group.

Pegida has also seen its numbers dwindle drastically from their peak, when 25,000 people marched on January 12 following the Parisian terrorist attacks that left 17 dead, most of whom worked for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The news comes a week after the movement announced it will be making a bid for mayorship of Dresden, though Bachmann himself cannot run due to his criminal record for burglary, theft and drug offences. In 1998 he tried to avoid a three and a half year jail term by fleeing to South Africa, but he was deported back to Germany. Pegida also announced there would be another march on Monday starting in Dresden's Neumarkt, regis-tering an expected 5,000 participants. Counter demonstrations have also been registered. In other cities, Pegida as well as counter demonstrations have been registered for Monday night.
© The Local - Germany

up  

Migrants Face ‘Extreme Danger’ in Italy

25/2/2015- Several leading human rights groups have warned that alarming levels of hostility directed towards migrants in Italy could soon turn to violence, and that anti-migrant rhetoric from both politicians and the Italian media is exacerbating the problem. According to the most recent data from the Italian Ministry of Interior and Save the Children, 3,528 migrants reached the Italian coast in January of this year, including 195 women and 374 children, a rise of 60% compared to the number of migrants arriving in January 2014. The crossing is highly dangerous: earlier this month it was reported that 300 migrants had drowned in a single week in treacherous weather conditions. However, despite their plight the migrants have been poorly received in some parts of the country. According to the Times, a recent survey suggests that a third of Italians believe that migrants should be abandoned at sea and there have been reports of angry scenes at locations across the country as migrants are distributed at various refugee centres.

In Venice last week, a furious chain of people barricaded a group of Syrians inside a bus, according to the Times, and a local councillor, Giorgio Vianello, upon hearing that 37 Syrians were to be put up in a centre on the Lido in Venice, argued that residents should be given licences to carry guns on request. According to Matteo de Bellis, a campaigner at Amnesty International, there are increasing discussions in the media about how much migrants are costing Italy. Several prominent political figures have publicly declared that mi-grants should stay in their home countries, and that search and rescue operations should not be implemented. De Bellis gave the example of Matteo Salvini, head of the anti-immi-grant Northern League party, calling for migrant vessels to be ignored, rather than rescued.

“Anti-migrant rhetoric has been a problem clearly in Italy for several years and it is very strong at the moment, perhaps stronger than ever,” says de Bellis. “Several reasons explain this. Certain political leaders are clearly using anti-immigrant rhetoric to attract attention, which is extremely dangerous. Local authorities are having to respond to their citizens because of the economic downturn, and we have also seen an increase in arrivals by ship.” But de Bellis, who returned last week from the island of Lampedusa, just 100 miles off the coast of Libya, says that the fear held by some that the country will be swamped by migrants is unfounded, as the increase in those seeking asylum in Italy in the past year has not made the situation unmanageable for a country of Italy’s size and wealth. “Nothing justifies the use of anti-migrant rhetoric by political authorities,” says de Bellis.“But we cannot exclude the possibility that violent attacks may take place in the near future particularly because of this anti-migrant rhetoric. The government has a responsibility to avoid hate speech, and the government could be doing more to this end.”

Valentina Itri, of the Italian NGO ARCI Nazionale, an Italian association which helps migrants, is similarly concerned. “Increasing numbers of Italians are hostile to the migrants due to a racist cultural background in Italy and because many right-wing parties are using this issue for their electoral interests. I am very worried that the hostility against migrants will turn into violence, because the media speaks in an irresponsible way and politicians use anti-immigrant propaganda.” Yet the vitriol on display in the mainland reportedly stands in stark contrast to the attitude of those on the island of Lampedusa. According to Gemma Parkin of the charity Save the Children who is currently on the island, the attitude of the island locals is far more warm and welcoming. "There is a kind of culture within the Lampedusa population where they refer to themselves as 'the almost last', as they are located halfway between Europe and Africa,” explains Parkin. “They feel very isolated and cut off from Italy and empathise with the migrants.” Parkin says there have been cases of locals inviting migrants to their homes for meals.

Parkin is particularly concerned about the wellbeing of children who are turning up on the island. She says there are currently 80 children at the refugee centre on the island, mostly from Eritrea, who have travelled in extremely dangerous circumstances entirely unaccompanied, some of them as young as nine. “The kids here been there in reception centre for 11 days, which is far too long. They should only be in here a night or two, as the centre is not geared up to cater for children’s needs. They need children's home or foster families, with carers who know how to treat children. Their medical needs are being seen to but not their emotional needs.” Parkin says that Save the Children are cur-rently lobbying the authorities about the issue, but says the issue is compounded by the fact there is not enough space in children's homes across Italy, due to the mass influx of migrants that has put a strain on Italian services.

This increase in the numbers of those fleeing to Italy has been blamed on the deteriorating situation in Libya, which has led to a surge in the number of migrants departing for Europe in recent months. In recent years Libya has become the point of departure for thousands of people fleeing poverty and conflict in western and sub-Saharan Africa and the ongoing conflict in Syria. The dire humanitarian situation has been compounded by the fact that Italy’s search and rescue mission, known as Mare Nostrum, was abandoned last year, partly over public concern about the £85m (€114m) cost of the mission in its first year. The EU now runs a border control operation called Triton, but it has far fewer ships and covers a much smaller area. Human rights groups have repeatedly warned that many more lives are in danger as a result of the closing of Mare Nostrum.
© Newsweek Magazine

up  

Le Pen backs Italy far-right against Renzi

France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen has thrown her support behind an upcoming rally against the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, the leader of Italy's Northern League has said.

24/2/2015- National Front leader Le Pen will send a video message to be aired at Saturday’s protest in Rome against Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Matteo Salvini said on Monday. “Marine Le Pen will also wear a “Renzi go home’ t-shirt,” the Northern League (Lega Nord) leader said on his political party’s radio station. The rally seeks to criticize a wide range of government policies, covering everything from unemployment to immigration and tax. The right-wing National Front and Northern League parties are united by euroscep-ticism and their fierce anti-immigration stance. Le Pen's party has been gaining ground in France recently, winning over 1,200 municipal seats in elections last year. Salvini has sought Le Pen’s backing in recent months as he seeks to gain broader support beyond his stronghold in northern Italy. He has placed huge importance on the Rome rally, stating that it will be more significant than a Milan march where the Northern League already boasts substantial support.

Salvini will be joined in the Italian capital by Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia) party. The Northern League leader will return the favour by appearance at Meloni’s rally in Venice on March 8th, Rai News said. Despite Salvini becoming increasingly popular in Italy, he has struggled to win favour in the south of the coun-try. After years of criticism steeped upon southern Italy by the Northern League, with the party seeking to break away from the poorer part of the country, Salvini’s change of tack was met with anger in Sicily earlier this month. Sicilians pelted eggs and vegetables at a hotel hosting Salvini in Palermo, telling him to “get lost!” and warning the politician his former insults would not be forgotten.
© The Local - Italy

up  

Politician for French National Front says Jews blocking his musical career

27/2/2015- A French amateur singer affiliated with the far-right National Front party said his musical career is being blocked by Jews because he is not part of their clique. Xavier Sainty, a candidate for National Front from the central Allier region in the upcoming regional elections, made the statement on social media earlier this month, the Liberation daily reported on Wednesday. “Even in show business I am blocked in all directions, and a Jewish producer, ‘Patrick Jaoul’ told me to my face: ‘as you’re not Jewish you’ll never be on television or the radio and you’ll be barred because we have money and it all belongs to us, you’ll never make it.’” Using the Hebrew word for non-Jews, Sainty added: “This is how we are treated by these governments for decades, we the ‘goyim.’ For a real French revolution, for Marine Le Pen and fast!”

Under its current president Marine Le Pen, National Front has distanced itself from the anti-Semitic statements and views of her father and predecessor, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has multiple convictions for inciting hatred against Jews and denying the Holocaust. But CRIF and other prominent Jewish groups advocate treating her and her party as pariahs citing the fact that Jean-Marie Le Pen is still National Front’s honorary president and that numerous party officials have expressed anti-Semitic views. Le Pen, who had in the past fired party members for anti-Semitic statements, has not yet commented publicly on Sainty’s post. According to CRIF and the National Bureau for Vigilance against anti-Semitism, the far right in France remains a major propagator of intellectual anti-Semitism, but most physical attacks on Jews are perpetrated by radical Muslims.

On Jan. 9, Muslim terrorist Amedy Coulibaly killed four people at a kosher supermarket outside Paris – one of three deadly attacks by French Muslims on Jews since 2012. New footage from the shooting, which Coulibaly filmed, showed he asked a shopper about his ethnicity and executed him after the shopper said he was Jewish, Le Nouvel Observateur reported Thursday. Coulibaly, who took more than 20 people hostage before police killed him, told a journalist during the siege that he had come to kill Jews.
© JTA News

up  

France: Can’t say ‘lesbian’ with Nutella!

A French Nutella marketing campaign has banned the word “lesbian”.

“Say It With Nutella” allows users to create a custom jar of the famous chocolate spread with their own phrase, to share on social media. The site says: “Here you can create your custom messages and share them with those you love.” However, users have discovered a long list of words the site will not allow you to use. Along with swear words, drugs, and violent terms, the site does does not allow “lesbian”, “Muslim” or “Jewish”. The full list of banned words was found by viewing the site’s source code, RTL reports. Health-related words such as “obesity, “cancer” and “diabetes” as well as “palm oil”, the controversial ingredient in Nutella, are banned. Clearly anticipating that people would use the site to highlight the controversy surrounding the use of palm oil, which reportedly threatens orangutan habitats, words such as “boycott” and “orangutan” are not permitted. While “gay” is fine, “lesbian” is not, and “Christian” is allowed despite the ban on “Jewish” and “Muslim”. Ferrero, the company who make Nutella, said in a statement: “The negative or insulting messages were directly removed from the field of possibilities, the idea being to use the jar of Nutella as a communication medium to share enthusiasm. Similarly , words of com-munities that are often subject to attacks by malicious people were removed from the proposals.“
© Pink News

up  

France's National Front seen leading local elections: poll

22/2/2015- France's far-right National Front party is still expected to lead first-round voting in departmental elections next month, despite a recent recovery in Socialist President Francois Hollande's ratings, an Ifop poll for Le Figaro newspaper showed. Marine Le Pen's National Front would win 30 percent of the vote, ahead of a com-bined 28 percent for the conservative UMP and centrist UDI parties, with the ruling Socialist party in third place with 20 percent, according to current voting intenti-ons. No other party would win more than 10 percent if the vote in France's 101 departments were held now, the poll published on Sunday showed.

The Ifop survey also indicated that 53 percent of National Front supporters planned to turn out to vote in the March elections, more than the 45 percent of UMP and 44 percent of Socialist party supporters. Earlier this month, the Socialists won a hotly contested parliamentary by-election in the Doubs, in eastern France, clinging on ahead of a National Front rival after the UMP candidate was eliminated in a first round. Frustration with parties on the mainstream right and left combined with rising Euroscep-ticism have bolstered support for the anti-immigrant, anti-EU National Front, which came first in last year's European Parliament elections in France.

A survey by pollster Odoxa in December found the National Front would win 28 percent of the vote, ahead of the UMP on 25 percent and the Socialist party on 17 per-cent. An Ifop poll in Sunday's Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper gave Hollande a 24 percent approval rating. While this was down from 29 percent in January, when he was praised for his handling of the Islamist militant attacks in Paris, polls late last year showed his popularity dropping as low as 12 percent.
© Reuters

up  

Majority of French are for measures against online hate speech

France’s Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) held a conference Sunday on how to tackle online hate speech, while a poll published the same day revealed that an over-whelming majority of French people back measures to curb racist and anti-Semitic material easily found on social media networks and websites.

22/2/2015- “Nowadays when you type on YouTube search bar Shoah – Holocaust – the first videos you come across are Holocaust denial videos,” said Nicolas Woloszko, the treasurer for the Union of Jewish Students, which organised Sunday’s conference in Paris. This can pose particular problems, he continued, when young students turn to online resources to find out about the Holocaust and what they find is contrary to what they’re learning in school. “The most fundamental values of the French republic are challenged by alternative ideas, such as holocaust denial, anti-Semitism or racism and this is a very big problem for us,” he said. France has strong laws against hate speech, anti-Semitism and statements that glorify terrorism. However, when it comes to the realm of the online world, Woloszko says these laws, which in his opinion do not infringe on freedom of expression, are easily forgotten when they are not applied online.

In fact, most French people are in favour of blocking users and cracking down on the Internet’s inherent culture of anonymity, according to a survey commissioned by Opinionway for the conference and published Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche. The poll, which was conducted in February with a sample of over 1,000 people aged 18 and up, revealed that 92% of French people agree with blocking or removing links to websites that host material that advocates for terrorism. Additionally, 89% were in favour of seeing Internet firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter have broader control over content. Likewise, a large majority would like to see a system of fines for those who spread hate messages (83%) and the same amount of people also espouse that the ability to post content anonymously online promotes hateful comments.

“We are students. We use Twitter, Facebook everyday of our lives so we are very keen on preserving freedom of expression,” Woloszko said. “But freedom of expression is not the right to say everything. That’s not how it works.” Nevertheless, half of French people have faced racism online (51%), including anti-Muslim (49%), homophobic and xenophobic (45%) and anti-Semitic (43%) remarks. The UJEF also believes that by cracking down on what can be said online would have a strong effect offline. “I think that our best way to fight against racism and anti-Semitism is to constantly repeat that it is forbidden,” Woloszko said, “anti-Semitism and racism are not opinions, they are misdemeanours and they must also be forbidden from the Internet.”
© RFI

up  

France - France prepares for war against online hate speech

France’s government is looking to adopt a tough new stance on online racism, anti-Semitism and other hate speech that would allow authorities to shut down offending websites amid a recent rise in hate crimes in the country.

25/2/2015- Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has said she will push for legal reforms that would help French authorities crack down on racism and anti-Semitism online in much the same way they do with paedophilia. The proposals include empowering French authorities to shut down websites hosting content that is deemed illicit without prior court approval. “Crimes recognised in public spaces must also be recognised as such on the Internet,” Taubira told a French Jewish student group on Sunday, echoing other recent state-ments on combating terrorism. “Our challenge is to find the most appropriate responses, but we are determined to wage an unmerciful battle against racism and anti-Semitism on the Internet.”

The declaration of war against online hate speech has raised questions about possible violations of civil liberties and the curtailing of due process as France struggles to find a way forward after a wave of deadly violence and anti-Semitic hate crimes in the country. An Islamist gunman in January targeted a kosher supermarket – killing four people and taking hostages – as part of a string of attacks that terrorised the French capital for three days and started with a bloodbath at the office of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead. France saw a sharp escalation in anti-Muslim acts immediately after the Paris killing spree, which was carried out by assailants claiming allegiance to al Qaeda in Yemen and the Islamic State jihadist group.

A French group that monitors Islamophobia said it recor-ded 199 anti-Muslim acts in January alone, more than those reported in all of 2014. Last week more than 250 tombs were vandalised by a group of teens at a Jewish cemetery in eastern France, sparking what appeared to be copycat acts in other non-Jewish cemeteries in Normandy and the Pyrenees in the following days. Amid the compounding tensions, and real fears over the radicalisation of young people via the Internet, Taubira and other authorities want the legal means to counter racism, anti-Semitism and Islamist extremism on the web. But blocking ubiquitous online hate speech could be a thorny task for officials.

‘Protecting’ civil liberties
Some people are applauding France’s aggressive approach. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international rights group researching the Holocaust and hate crimes, says it has ob-served a steady rise in racist and anti-Semitic speech online since it began studying the phenomenon 20 years ago. The increase has been exponential since the advent of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. “France’s efforts must be congratulated,” Shimon Samuels, who heads the center’s Europe office, told FRANCE 24. “If child porno-graphy and paedophilia have no place on the Internet, if advertising for things like alcohol and tobacco are controlled because they are considered noxious to children, then what about hate?”

Samuels downplayed the dangers of curtailing free speech or privacy as a result of Taubira's proposed reforms. He pointed out that nowhere are free speech laws an unlimited privilege, and that we constantly forfeit our right to privacy to online advertisers without batting an eye. “I see this as a way of ultimately protecting civil liberties,” Samuels said. “Of course the measures need to work within the framework of the law, of course there has to be oversight so that they are not abused. A healthy debate is arising about freedoms, but that is part of democracy.”

Borderless cyberspace
But other experts are not as convinced about the wisdom of France’s more aggressive approach, nor about whether it will ultimately pay off. “Other countries have already adop-ted very restrictive measures, some really go to the limits of what is acceptable in terms of freedom of expression,” noted Bridget O’Loughlin, the coordinator of the Strasbourg-based No Hate Speech Movement, a campaign funded by the Council of Europe. O’Loughlin said what her campaign and others are finding is that, while pushing governments toward uncharted legal terrain, repressive measures are extremely difficult to implement because of the anonymity of web users and the borderless nature of cyberspace. “There are real limits on what legislation can do,” she said.

French officials are aware of their own limits. While championing tougher online hate speech legislation at home, they have also embarked on a campaign abroad to bring other governments into the fight. Harlem Désir, France’s state secretary for European affairs, urged world leaders gathered at the UN in late January to support the international regula-tion of social networks in order to crack down on racist and anti-Semitic propaganda. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve last week took a rare trip outside the country to Silicon Valley, where he reportedly urged the heads of Facebook, Apple, Twitter and Google to help his government identify and block online content defending acts of terrorism and hate speech.

Wake-up call
It is unclear whether France will get what it wants from other countries and the Internet giants, with whom it has clashed in the past. In the meantime, it has launched an Internet site where citizens can report worrying content to police, and launched a multimedia campaign to expose the recruiting methods and myths used by jihadists. Samuels and O’Loughlin agree that more also needs to be done on the education front. Parents in both Jewish and Muslim communities need to be better informed about the kind of content children are encountering on the Internet, and be encouraged to have frank – even uncomfortable – discussions with them about what they see, said Samuels. O’Laughlin said people who have become blasé about the vitriol they encounter regularly on the web need to be woken from that stupor and given the tools to identify and report online hate speech. “Our methods of education and research focus on young people, between the ages of 13 and 30,” she said. “But what we keep hearing is that we need to be talking to kids who are even younger than that.”
© France 24.

up  

UK: Homophobic Leaflets handed out at UKIP conference

Leaflets claiming LGBT people are recruiting “fresh blood” have been handed out at the UKIP conference.

27/2/2015- The leaflets, on a stall at UKIPs spring conference in Margate, claim “the State is allowing the sexual grooming of our Primary School children for same sex attraction”. It says: “What the LGBT are achieving, of course, is a recruitment drive. As such people cannot reproduce their own kind, they must recruit fresh blood and this is best done among children in schools, the younger the better. The Government, through Gove and Morgan, has given them carte blanche.” “The facilitated by go-vernment, CHIPS (Challenging Homophobia in Primary School), is being rolled out this year. “Using the bizarre excuser that young primary school children are constantly taunting each other about ‘homosexuality’, CHIPS is indoctrinating children to confuse their gender identity and encouraging them to read stories about, to think about and to sing songs about same-sex attraction and then to act them out in class.” It also includes a Bible verse which says “”But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea.” CHIPS refers to the PRIDE in Primary Education resources created by Educate & Celebrate, the organisation that aims to make all schools LGBT friendly.
© Pink News

up  

UK: Neo-Nazi group target Elgin as they look to create UK's first fascist town

The New British Union of Fascists issued posters calling for "total Aryanism to end the threat of terrorism and anarchy" but their plans have sparked a fierce backlash from local politicians and community leaders.

27/2/2015- A neo-nazi group hopes to create Britain’s first fascist town in Scotland – and is coming to explain exactly what British Fascism is. However, the New British Union of Fascists (NBU) failed to say how many members they have in the town or where they hold their meetings. The far-right group - which claims that Oswald Mos-ley was the best Prime Minister Britain never had - was planning to turn Elgin into the UK's first fascist town. Naming Elgin 'Citadel 1', the NBU claimed it was infiltrating community groups at a grass-roots level. And the Moray capital is being used by the group's leader, Gary Raikes, as a template for how to build a small fascist cell of core supporters, who will roll out a propaganda campaign so that they can begin what they term the 'Quiet Revolution' across the UK.

The group has issued posters stating "It's time to implement total Aryanism to end the threat of terrorism and anarchy". Some NBU members advocate arming children and the sterilisation of non-Aryans, and Mr Raikes has used Ku Klux Klan images on his social networking page. The group, which uses Nazi iconography on its website, wants to unite all the far-right parties into one organisation. The news has prompted Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie to write to the head of Police Scotland, Sir Stephen House, urging vigilance in relation to the group's operations in the area, and to establish whether there were any members of the group working with the for-ce locally. Moray councillor Sean Morton is also organising a march in Elgin next month to coincide with others marking an international day against fascism. More news from Moray

An attempt to contact a member of the NBU connected with the Moray branch last week proved unsuccessful. On Tuesday an e-mail request was made to its press office to speak with John Ryan, who is believed to be leading the fascist group's activities in Elgin. The reply stated: "All our officers are instructed not to talk to the press. "You will lie and print just what you want, as we saw last week. "We have no interest or need to talk to you." However, Mr Raikes, requesting in "forlorn hope" a right of reply, stated that the NBU were fascists and not National Socialists. He attacked the Labour Party for the war in Iraq, the SNP for an alleged plan to collaborate with Nazis during World War II, and biased left-wing journalists for spouting the "usual rubbish".

In a filmed presentation for the NBU faithful, Mr Raikes, who is dressed in a uniform echoing the Blackshirts of the 1930s, says Elgin was chosen as Citadel 1 because of its size, with the vast majority of the population being "white Christians". He goes on to say that "unfortunately", every town and village in the country had a diverse ethnic demographic. A low turnout in the 2012 Scottish local government elections - 30.6 per cent in Elgin North and just over 34 per cent in Elgin South - is another reason why the NBU is said to be targeting Elgin. The first step in the campaign is for members to become involved in community groups to "make friends and start putting over your views", so that others could see NBU members were, according to Mr Raikes, "decent law-abiding citizens who want our country back".

Mr Raikes was asked to clarify comments made in his presentation video to the party faithful, including what he meant by describing the diverse ethnic diversity of towns and communities across the country as "unfortunate". The NBU leader was also asked, in the wake of his statement that party members were decent, law-abiding citizens who "want our country back", who they wanted it back from. Mr Raikes said: "My past experience with the press has shown me that you will simply print what-ever you want; truth won't come into it. "I have no intention of saying where we meet or how many members we have, nor will I explain myself to the press. "Since we have been attacked by elected councillors, we will be applying to hold a meeting in the town hall to explain our position and answer questions on British Fascism in the near future."

Since posting details of the anti-fascism march on Facebook, Councillor Morton has been inundated with messages from those both for and against it, some of which have been passed on to the police. He said: "One asked if I wanted to be neutered or spayed." Councillor Morton added: "I've been up against bigger bullies than these guys. "I'll make sure we will still be here long after these bullies have been dispatched." James MacKessack-Leitch, the Scottish Green Party's candidate for the General Election in May, is one of around 60 people who will be taking part in the event on March 21. He said: "Initially I thought that with these kinds of groups, it would be best to ignore them and treat them with the contempt they deserve. "But Sean makes a good point that other groups and community groups can come together against this.

"We live in a democracy and a society where everyone is equal, and that is key in opposing the racism and bigotry of these fascists, and the vulgar and disgusting pro-paganda they put out. "Both of my grandfathers went into battle against fascism, and I'm not going to sit back. "If I have to take a stand in Elgin, that's what I'll do." Independent MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Mr Finnie, who is also a member of the parliament's equal opportunities and justice committees, praised Councillor Mor-ton for organising the march. He said: "I simply cannot imagine that Elgin, or indeed anywhere in the Highlands, would be fertile ground for these repugnant views. "I would strongly urge members of the public not to engage with any organisation which relies on neo-Nazi symbolism and terms to peddle their hate."

Mr Finnie added that it was clear from the comments from the NBU newsletter that the group had no regard for the 1936 Public Order Act and was seeking to be a "quasi-military" organisation, which prompted him to pen his letter to Sir Stephen House. "I am extremely intolerant of intolerance," he said. "I have confidence that the overwhelming majority of people will be incensed by what groups like these are trying to do, and I hope there is no sense of complacency in dealing with these far-right groups spreading their message of hate."
© The Daily Record

up  

UK Pegida leader resigns ahead of Newcastle march, claim opponents

Matthew Pope, the official spokesman for Pegida UK, has stepped down from his role in the far-right group, opponents of the group claim. A spokesman for the group says Pope is merely taking a step back from media coverage.

25/2/2015- Pegida, which translates from German as Patriotic Europeans Against The Islamization Of The West, has staged rallies thoughout Germany and drawn thousands to the streets, both in support of its aims and to oppose it. It is due to hold its first UK rally on Saturday, which will be opposed by community groups, trade unionists, anti-fascists and poli-tical parties organized around Newcastle Unites. Speaking to RT, Dipu Ahad, a Labour Party councillor and organizer of the anti-Pegida march for Newcastle Unites Against Pegdia, said:“We’ve heard that Matthew Pope has stepped down. People in Pegida have confirmed this.” “For us, we welcome the fact he’s stepped down, but we would like the whole of Pegida to disappear.” “What’s happened here, is that Pegida claims that I forced Matthew Pope out. They said I had got to him. I think what they mean is that our campaign got him.”

“There’s no chance for them in Newcastle. The city is united [and] we’ve got national support. There was a clear message Pegida are not welcome. Our campaign has done a really good job showing unity, we’ve exposed them for who they are.” “Matthew Pope has left with his tail between his legs. It’s the end of Pegida after Saturday, when they realize the level of opposition we have here.” Ahad also said: “Apparently two women have taken [Pope's] place.” The Labour councillor did not know their names. Pegida UK responded defiantly to news of Pope’s resignation. Replying to a public tweet by Newcastle Unites, they said: “Sorry we are more alive than ever.” When RT approached the official email account of Pegida UK for comment they denied reports of his resignation. An unnamed spokesperson said: “He hasn't resigned. He is taking a break from the media.” Last month Pope was found to have social media links with far-right organizations, despite saying that Pediga “would not want to associate ourselves with them.”
© RT (Russian state medium)

up  

UK: The truth about Britain First – the one-man band with a knack for Facebook (opinion)

Beneath the publicity stunts and the hoodwinking of innocent Facebookers, is a far-right minnow desperately hitching its wagon to Ukip
By Matthew Collins

25/2/2015- Last year, my organisation Hope Not Hate, produced a report into the activities of the new far-right kids on the block: Britain First. Britain First began hitting the headlines after a series of well-publicised stunts, invading (in its own words) mosques or driving military armoured cars up and down Brick Lane to no apparent purpose. Its thugs then swayed outside the East London Mosque in Whitechapel, swigging cans of lager under the auspicious mantle of countering Anjem Choudary’s “Muslim patrols”, with their own “Christian patrols”. So it’s no surprise to see them popping up in the news for complaining about the Channel 4 drama Ukip: The First 100 Days. From the beginning, Britain First has been active about creating a presence on social media. On Facebook the group had around 500,000 likes, making it the most liked political party in the United Kingdom on that site.

Its colourful memes had a habit of popping up all over the place - against dog fighting, against child molestation, loving British soldiers, enthralling people to click “like” if they were wearing a poppy this year, and so on. The main problem was, few people actually knew what this group was or who was behind it. Its rapid growth on social media gave the impression that there was some kind of massive street movement afoot in the United Kingdom and that every man and his dog had blindly climbed aboard. Or, as happened late last year,  people had simply clicked “like” on a picture of recently departed Bisto mum Lynda Bellingham. Our report, however, showed that Britain First is not just some group of simple-minded patriots with too much time on their hands. Instead it was founded by a Belfast-based businessman with a rather canny knack for building up protest groups and movements on the basis that it was your Christian duty to follow his work.

That man is Jim Dowson, a firebrand Protestant preacher and anti-abortionist who is a former member of the British National Party. Dowson formed Britain First in 2011, as the English Defence League (EDL) and BNP went into a nosedive. He began billing it as some kind of sober and moral alternative to both groups. In reality, it was a hybrid of both, and Dowson had his troops turning out smartly in paramilitary uniforms and preparing for an imminent religious meltdown whereby his highly trained cadres would protect good Chris-tians (of any colour) from the marauding interests of militant Muslims. The best way to do this, thought Dowson, was by flooding Facebook in pretty much the same way the EDL had previously done. Dowson’s main problem, though, was that his “Christian” vanguard actually knew very little about his biblical protestations. As Dowson was mostly out of Bri-tain (stuck in courts in Northern Ireland because he was central to that country’s violent “flag” protests) he was quite unaware of the rather heathen-like behaviour of his supposed adherents. The leader of Dowson’s gang was, and is, Paul Golding: a former BNP high flyer.

It wasn’t long before Dowson realised he may have made a mistake in his choice of who to lead God’s green-jacketed army. As well as accusations that supporters of Britain First were falsely portraying themselves as collectors for forces charity Help for Heroes, some –  including the mother of murdered soldier Lee Rigby, whose name was used on its publicity and election materials – were upset by the party’s actions, particularly with regard to its campaign against radical Islam. Dowson quit the group in July of last year, claiming that he was shocked to discover that Britain First was full of “racists and extremists”. Since Dowson quit, it has been going downhill for the group. Golding seems to have decided that Britain First is to be the self-appointed defence force of Ukip. There’s not really a lot that Ukip can do about that, as it seems Britain First has just the sort of people that Ukip’s politics attract. Dowson himself even previously offered to send Britain First’s armoured vehicles to protect Nigel Farage’s party.

Meanwhile, the world – well, those on the internet at least – seems convinced that Britain First is some kind of massive organisation. In November last year, the Sun newspaper printed Golding’s assertion that the group had 6,000 members, despite that fact Britain First only managed to muster 60 people on a march through Rochester in Kent in support of its candidate a week previously (the candidate herself got 56 votes). So Britain First has now attached itself to Ukip. Admittedly, it runs a much slicker Facebook operation than Ukip (and most other parties). It now has a potential reach of some 20 million social media users, but yet only manages to get around 1,300 of those people to fill in an email complaint to Channel 4 (that was already written for them). That, as much as anything, tells you all the “truth” you need to know about British far-right bad boys.
© Comment is free - Guardian

up  

UK: Bouncer tells student 'gay people should be fed to the dogs'

23/2/2015- A doorman has been suspended from Corporation club as a result of his homophobic slurs following an incident with a group of clubbers. Rory Barker claims he was hit by a member of staff and then booted out of the club in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. After being kicked out, Rory protested at his treatment. He said: ‘I was then asked by one of them if I was a gay boy, and when I replied ‘no, not that it matters’, they replied “are you sure? You look like a slimy little gay”.’ In the video the bouncer is heard telling another person: ‘If you want to take a gay man home, you can feed him to your dogs.’ Jess Keane added: ‘Rory stepped in to get me away from the bouncer where he then took a punch to the face.’ Corporation nightclub said they had suspended a member of their door team. Writing on their Facebook page, a spokesman said: ‘Regarding the comments made by a member of security on Fri 20th Feb, the person concerned has been immediately suspended following initial investigations. ‘This type of behaviour is totally unacceptable by all here at Cor-poration. ‘We pride ourselves as a venue that does not discriminate against any group, regardless of creed, colour or orientation.’ South Yorkshire Police confirmed an investigation was taking place.
© Metro UK

up  

UK: Ex-policeman caught up in Chelsea fans' Paris metro incident denies he is racist

Richard Barklie, a former RUC officer, says he did not sing racist songs during incident when black man was stopped from boarding train

22/2/2015- A former police officer from Northern Ireland denied on Sunday night that he was racist after being identified as one of the Chelsea fans wanted over the alleged racist abuse of a black man on the Paris Métro. Richard Barklie, who works in the field of human rights, insisted he did not sing racist songs during the notorious incident before Chelsea’s Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain last week. His lawyer said Barklie, 50, had won the support of the head of the World Human Rights Forum to back up his client’s assertion that he was not a racist. In a statement on behalf of Barklie, solicitor Kevin Winters said Barklie wanted to put on record his “sincerest apologies for the trauma and stress suffered” by the commuter, named as Souleymane S.

The statement added: “We contacted London Metropolitan police today to advise that our client is happy to assist with inquiries. “Pending formal engagement with police, our client is anxious to put on record his total abhorrence for racism and any activity associated with it. “As someone who has spent years working with dis-advantaged communities in Africa and India, he can point to a CV in human rights work which undermines any suggestion he is racist. “Mr Barklie is a Chelsea season ticket holder and has travelled to matches for over 20 years now without incident. He travelled alone to the Paris Saint-Germain match and has no knowledge what-soever of the identities of the other people depicted in recent YouTube video releases. He wants to stress that he was not and never has been part of any group or faction of Chelsea supporters.

“He did not participate in racist chanting and singing and condemns any behaviour supporting that. He accepts he was involved in an incident when a person now known to him as Souleymane S was unable to enter a part of the train. “He has an account to give to police which will explain the context and circumstances as they prevailed at that particular time.” Barklie offered an apology to the Parisian salesman whom it appeared Chelsea fans kept off the Métro train. “He wants to put on record his sincerest apologies for the trauma and stress suffered by Mr Souleymane. He readily acknowledges that any judgment on the integrity of his apology will be kept in abeyance pending the outworkings of the investigation. “Given the extremely sensitive nature of the issues, we urge upon all media outlets to exercise as much re-straint as possible when commenting on the case. “We accept on behalf of our client that public interest demands nothing but total indignation and condemnation from all media reporting but such reporting ought not to persist at the expense of undermining Mr Barklie’s right to a fair trial.”

His lawyers said the Metropolitan police had confirmed ”that arrangements were in hand to take the investigation to the next stage”. Earlier on Sunday, a counselling centre for victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles confirmed it had suspended Barklie, a part-time staff member, in connection with the incident involving Chelsea fans in Paris following the allegations in the Irish media. The Wave Trauma centre based in Belfast, which helps victims of violence from all sides of the community, said it would not be making any further comment. The Guardian spoke to a number of RUC veterans on Sunday who confirmed Barklie as one of the men on the Métro train. The Chelsea season ticket holder is one of the three men whose images were released by Scotland Yard as part of an investigation into a group of supporters accused of pushing a black man off the train and chanting a racist song.

A Metropolitan police spokesman said the force had spoken to the men and was liaising with the French authorities. None of the men sought by Scotland Yard has been arrested, as the force cannot detain people over alleged offences outside the UK. If brought to trial in France, the suspects could face a three-year prison sentence and €45,000 (£33,300) fine. Footage showed Souleymane S attempting to board the train but being pushed back on to the platform amid chants of “we’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it”. During his RUC career, Barklie served in west Belfast, where he was involved in saving Special Branch informer Sandy Lynch who was being held captive by the IRA. Barklie, from Carrickfergus, has also worked as an RUC officer in north Belfast and for a while in Derry. In his new role as a director for the World Human Rights Forum, Barklie took part in a conference in India two years ago where he quoted Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King as part of the ongoing battle against racial intolerance.
© The Guardian

up  

UK: Police Probe Another Racist Incident Involving Chelsea Fans

21/2/2015- British police launched an investigation into further suspected racism involving Chelsea fans as the London club used Saturday's Premier League game to celebrate diversity in football. Stickers emblazoned with "Support Chelsea Support Equality" were handed out at Stamford Bridge after a week when public acts of racism by some Chelsea fans brought a renewed focus on football's fight against discrimination. Before Tuesday's Champions League game at Paris Saint-Germain, a black man was filmed being blocked from boarding a metro train by Chelsea fans, who then chanted: "We're racist and that's the way we like it." Now British Transport Police has launched an appeal for witnesses, saying men "believed to be Chelsea supporters returning from Paris by train, shouted racist chants" at London's St. Pancras station on Wednesday night.

"It's clear that unfortunately there is still a minority who think it is acceptable to behave in such an abhorrent manner," police superintendent Gill Murray said after the incident was reported by a member of the public. "There is more that needs to be done to address the issue once and for all." By coincidence, Chelsea had already designated Saturday's fixture against Burnley as its annual "Game for Equality" — when five people started provisional club bans from the west London stadium following the Paris incident, which drew widespread condemnation including from FIFA President Sepp Blatter and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Chelsea's matchday program denounced the abuse over several pages, including a column by captain John Terry, who served a four-match Football Association ban in 2012 after being found guilty of racially abusing then-Queens Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand in a game.

"This club stands against all forms of discrimination," Terry wrote. "Football is a sport for everyone, that is one of the main reasons why we love it." Before kickoff against Burnley, fans of the Blues unfurled a banner reading: "Black or white we're all blue." Chelsea has issued a public apology to the man targeted by fans in Paris who was identified in French media as Souleymane S. But the victim, whose last name has not been revealed, has rejected Chelsea's invite to come to London to watch Jose Mourinho's team play the return leg against PSG next month. The first leg was a 1-1 draw. "I appreciate Mr. Mourinho's invitation, but I can't get my head around being in a stadium at the moment," he said. Souleymane has now been contacted by French President Francois Hollande. The presidential palace Twitter account said Saturday that Hollande "gave him his full support following the odious racist aggression he suffered."
© The Associated Press

up  

UK: Farage praises his activists as BBC airs racist slurs

The leader is among friends in Thanet, but a recently excluded member's remarks still echo

22/2/2015- The prejudice widely perceived to be at the heart of Ukip is laid bare in a new documentary that reveals how support in Thanet, where the party’s leader, Nigel Farage, is seeking election as an MP, is riddled with racism. Yet in Meet the Ukippers, on BBC2 tonight, Mr Farage praises the activists – including a former National Front supporter – as his kind of people. In the film, Mr Farage says: “What I notice about the people in Ukip Thanet is that there is a real passion and determination to get this job done well. I couldn’t have a team anywhere in England who I feel more comfortable with than these people.” During the documentary, Mr Farage blames the “hatred of the tabloid press” for the perception that Ukip is a racist party. Martyn Heale, the local party chairman, boasts that Mr Farage is happy to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with him despite his past as a National Front supporter and says that Ukip declined his offer to resign over his far right past.

“I wasn’t quite aware that it was as extreme as they said and after, I think, a year and a half, my wife and I decided that it was not the right thing for me to do so I left,” said Mr Heale. “For Christ’s sake, I was never a member of the Gestapo.” Rozanne Duncan, the former Ukip district councillor, speaks on camera about her dislike of black people. “The only people that I do have problems with are negros and I don’t know why ... but I really do have a problem with people with negroid features, I really do. “A friend of mine said what would you do if I invited you to dinner and I put you next to [one], I said I wouldn’t be there, it’s as simple as that, I said I wouldn’t be there.” Ms Duncan recalls how she tried to block black people from getting supported accommodation in the 1980s. When asked if there was any particular group of people she wouldn’t consider, she said: “Yes, negros.” When asked what she meant, she explained: “Black skin, black curly hair, wide nostrils, shiny skin, that’s what I mean.”

After those remarks, Liz Langton-Way, the local party press officer, commented: “She has been told time and time again to keep her bloody mouth shut and I thought that by now the message would have got through.” The incident “made me think do I really want to be involved with these people because that was not what I was interested in.” Ms Duncan was expelled by the party for her remarks, but remains unrepentant. She says now feels “betrayed”: “There are other people who have said far worse things, far more derogatory – chinky, poofter – and they haven’t been expelled.” Meanwhile, Ofcom has revealed that it has received more than 4,900 complaints about the Channel 4 mockumentary Ukip: The First 100 Days, making it one of the most complained about programmes of the past decade. The satire speculated there would be raids on migrants, race riots, mass unemployment and Morris dancing if Mr Farage became prime minister.
© The Independent

up  

UK: Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races

Many who admit to being 'racially prejudiced' insist they are 'not racist', however

22/2/2015- Around half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races, new opinion research has found. When Ukip voters were asked by the pollster YouGov whether they would describe themselves as prejudiced “against people of other races”, only 49 per cent said they were not prejudiced. 42 per cent of the party’s supporters admitted to being “a little prejudiced” while 6 per cent said they were “very prejudiced” – a total of 48 per cent. The results of the poll suggest that Ukip voters admit to being significantly more racially prejudiced than the population as a whole.

Around half of Ukip voters say they are racially prejudiced to some degree

Around a quarter (26 per cent) of the general population said they were slightly racially prejudiced, just over half the number of Ukip voters. Sixty per cent of Conservatives said they were not prejudiced, 72 per cent of Labour voters, and 73 per cent of Liberal Democrats. Many of Ukip’s supporters who admitted to being “racially prejudiced” somehow insisted they were not “racist”, however. When asked directly in a separate question whether they held “racist” views, 28 per cent, significantly fewer, said they did – while 64 per cent said they did not.



The latest in an endless stream of race rows rocking Ukip involved an ex-councillor for the party saying she dislikes what she called ‘negroid features’. Rozanne Duncan was expelled from the party, claiming she was “no racist” and that she felt “betrayed” by the Ukip leadership. Ukip voters were also twice as likely as Conservative or Labour suppor-ters to say they held antisemitic views. Eight per cent of Ukip voters admitted to being antisemitic, compared to 3 per cent of Conservatives and 3 per cent of Labour supporters. The group which admitted to being most anti-Semitic were the Liberal Democrat voters, 9 per cent of which said they held such views. The poll was carried out by YouGov for the Sunday Times. Fieldwork was conducted on the 19th and 20th of February.
© The Independent

up  

UK: The resistible rise of Nigel Farage (opinion)

Ukip’s leader is revealed as a true Machiavellian in this US publicity shot. It shows a dangerous man: anyone who underestimates his threat to British decency is a fool
By Jonathan Jones

27/2/2015- Looking at Nigel Farage posing like a movie gangster in a publicity photo for his American trip – the cosy pint he affects for British audiences replaced by a macho cigar – I found myself thinking of Bertolt Brecht’s play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. In his 1941 satire on the far, far right, Brecht portrays Adolf Hitler as a Chicago mobster whose thuggish rise to power is made possible by his enemies’ weakness – his rise was “resistible”. Farage is not Hitler, of course – I would not dream of giving him that much histo-rical significance – but he looks a hell of a lot like Arturo Ui in this photograph. It appears on publicity material in the US, where he has gone down like a stormtrooper – sorry, a storm! – at a conservative Republican rally with his ramped-up rhetoric about the west’s “Judeo-Christian values” being undermined by an Islamist “fifth column”. The only fifth column that I can see that is seriously menacing decent British values of tolerance and kindness is Ukip, with its increasingly audible background drums of hate.

American republicans apparently believe he may “run Britain”. It is easy to laugh at that idea from this side of the Atlantic. Here in the UK the liberal consensus appears still to be that, despite a poll predicting that Farage will win a seat in the general election, he and Ukip are marginal, even declining forces on the national stage – and perhaps even a Good Thing if they undermine Cameron and let Labour form a government. But we should pay heed to the American view of Farage. And we should be scared by this photograph. This is a picture of a dangerous man. It is as if, to impress the Yanks, Farage has unveiled his inner gangster: the street fighter, the Machiavellian bastard, showing his arrogance and thuggishness. It is very risky to underestimate a politician who has successfully created a seat-winning British party to the right of the Conservatives. That phrase makes me shudder. To the right of the Conservatives. Such a force is a grotesque thing to have within our democracy – a deeply un-British virus, a cancer.

Brecht’s Arturo Ui is not only Hitler: he is Richard III. Brecht’s play is an update of Shakespeare’s study of power. The point about Shakespeare’s Richard III is that he is ill-favoured, with apparently no chance of becoming king. He does it through audacity, brutal cynicism and brazen fraud. Shakespeare was influenced by the political writings of Niccolò Machiavelli. Richard is a “Machiavel”, a ruthless political player. This photograph reveals that Farage too is a true Machiavellian. The revelation here is what fools he makes of us all. In Britain he assiduously maintains the image of an ordinary bloke, down the pub, always with a joke. Now here he is in America deliberately showing a totally different face. Perhaps it is the real him, the beer hall – sorry, conference hall – rabble rouser. And maybe it is also a confession of his total fakery. Like Arturo Ui or Richard III, he wears the right mask for the occasion. A normal guy, a nasty guy – whatever it takes. Farage is an utterly ruthless performer, and anyone who underestimates his threat to British decency is a fool.

The rise of Arturo Ui was resistible. Brecht would have applauded the protesters who made a fool of Farage when they wrecked his horrible attempt to make political capital in Rotherham. The way to fight Farage is with street protests, demonstrations, cartoons, insults – and any political weapon that comes to hand.
© Comment is free - Guardian

up  

Headlines 20 February, 2015

Malta: New NGO gives a voice to the migrant community

The Migrants Association in Malta aims to facilitate discussions with the government to improve the lives of migrants on the island.

20/2/2015- A new NGO has been formed in Malta to give a voice to the island's migrant community. The Migrants Association in Malta is headed by Bushra Fuad, from Sudan. At one of their regular Sunday meetings various members spoke of their needs. All were grateful that Malta gives the possibility of “a second chance of life”. They thanked the government of Malta for many things, in particular the protection and accommodation offered them. Many however felt that after residing in Malta for several years, they want to voice their concerns and seek solutions. Many did not qualify for refugee status or subsidiary protection, but as rejected applications they are allowed to stay with humanitarian protection status but with few rights. They stressed that many are already integrated into Maltese civil society but feel that they are offered fewer rights than those offered to migrants in other countries. Migrants from Sudan, Ghana, Gambia, Togo, Nigeria and Niger lamented issues with employment, travel, benefits, medical care, citizenship and insurance.

The association emphasized its desire for peaceful, cooperative discussion. “We don't want to cause any problems, we just want to talk with the government and improve things together," it said. “We are part of Malta. We are integrated." “We want polite, peaceful discussions, with respect and within the law. We want to contribute to the economic growth of Malta and are ready to contribute in the development of Malta in all forms.” The members of Migrants Association in Malta are looking for a space to hold their weekly meetings.

Migrants wishing to join the organisation, and anyone who can offer help and support in any way can contact the group by emailing on maltamigrants2015@gmail.com or by calling on 7760 6944.
© Malta Today

up  

Czech Rep: Crime victims to have more rights

Commissioner Jourová comments on the European day for victims of crime

20/2/2015- The European day for victims of crime is Feb. 22. Vìra Jourová, a Czech politician who is now serving as European Union's Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality in the Juncker Commission made a statement to mark the occasion. “Every year 75 million people fall victim to crime across the European Union. We need to support them in any way we can. As Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality I see it as my duty to care for the vulnerable in Europe,” she said. “From November this year, new EU rules guarantee a minimum level of rights for victims across the Union: the right to clear and understandable information on proceedings, the ability to participate actively in criminal proceedings and the benefit of victim support services,” she added.

“Member States should swiftly implement them into national law, so that people can rely on them in practice. In particular, women or men suffering violence or harassment deserve effective protection. Since January, restraining, protection and barring orders issued by one EU Member State must be recognized by all others. Such citizens need no longer fear for their safety if they live or travel abroad,” she concluded. EU member states have until Nov. 16 of this year to implement the Victims’ Rights Directive. It will give victims of crime stronger rights to support and protection across the European Union. The new directive replaces the 2001 Framework Decision and builds upon the minimum rights already established and sets clearer obligations for member states. The directive was adopted Oct. 12, 2012.

Additional rights and obligations under the new rules:
@ Victims have the right to understand and be understood. Communication must be accessible and in a language understood by the victim, including non-EU languages where appropriate. For children, communication must be adapted accordingly.
@ Member States must guarantee access to a basic level of support services and facilitate police referrals to victim support organizations. Victims must have access regardless of whether they officially report the crime. For vulnerable victims or those with special needs, there must be access to specialist services, such as shelters, trauma support and counseling.
@ Victims must be informed if the offender will not be prosecuted and have right to have such a decision reviewed.
@ Victims must receive an individual assessment to see whether they are vulnerable to secondary or repeat victimization or intimidation during criminal proceedings. If so, special measures must be put in place to protect them.
@ There must be particular attention for the most vulnerable, notably victims of particularly severe crimes, children, and victims of terrorism, organized crime, human trafficking, gender-based violence, violence in close relationships, sexual violence, or hate crime.
@ Family members have more rights – the definition of victim is widely defined and now includes family members of deceased victims as direct victims. Family members of surviving victims have the right to support and protection.

Example of how the Directive will improve the situation for crime victims:
While on holiday in another EU Member State, Stephanie was violently attacked and robbed. At the police station, she receives information on her rights in her own language and an interpreter helps her make her statement in her mother tongue. She receives a translated, written acknowledgment of her complaint and is informed about next steps. She is referred to a specialized victim support organization. Once back home, the authorities abroad keep her informed about all stages of the criminal proceedings. When she testifies in court, special measures are put in place so she does not have to face the offender again. When the offender is sent to prison, she is asked whether she wants to be informed about his release. As of Nov. 16, 2015, these safeguards will apply throughout the EU.

The European Protection Order
To protect victims of violence and harassment, national authorities often grant specific protection measures to prevent further aggression or re-assault by the offender. New rules introduced in January this year mean that a person granted a protection order in one MemberState continues to benefit from this protection when moving or travelling within the EU.

Right to compensation
The Directive relating to compensation to victims of crime means that people in the EU can apply for state compensation when they fall victim to crime abroad, and receive assistance to do so. All Member States must have a state compensation scheme providing fair and appropriate compensation to victims of intentional violent crime. When crimes are committed in another MemberState, victims can turn to an authority in the country where they live to apply for compensation and get help with the formalities.
© The Prague Post

up  

Czech Rep: Low turnout for pro-refugee rally

About 150 people demonstrate against xenophobia, racism in Prague

20/2/2015- About 150 people attended a meeting that was held in the center of Prague in protest against racism and xenophobia and in support of the Czech acceptan-ce of refugees, mainly from the war-afflicted Syria. The rally, whose motto was Refugees, welcome, was addressed by several speakers who condemned xenophobia and racism. The participants also observed a minute of silence in honour of the killed Syrians who failed to flee their homeland. The demonstrators then walked through the centre of Prague, carrying banners and chanting slogans.

No incidents accompanied the protest.
"For the time being, we have mainly seen negative reactions and attitudes to refugees, both among people and across the political spectrum," Magda Faltová said on behalf of the protest's organizers. "However, there are many people in the country who are tolerant and want to live in a society that respects people's rights and freedoms and is capable of accepting those who face danger and cannot stay in their homeland," Faltová said. She said the protest was meant as an appeal for the society and politicians to take an active approach to the issue of migration. The demonstrators were invited to sign a petition launched by Amnesty International and demanding the acceptance of 1,000 Syrian refugees by Prague.

The Czech government recently agreed with granting asylum to 15 Syrian refugee families who are now living in Jordan. Besides, the Czech Republic helps Syrian refugees directly in Jordan. A week ago, the Chamber of Deputies supported the reinforcement of the Czech humanitarian aid provided for the refugees staying in camps in Jordan and Turkey. In a resolution from Feb. 12, Czech lawmakers also rejected the idea of introducing refugee quotas for individual EU member countries, which would define how many refugees each country has to accept.
© The Prague Post

up  

Czech Rep: Rally in support of refugees

20/2/2015- A demonstration called "Refugees welcome! Protest against xenophobia and fanaticism" will take place in Prague on Friday, Feb. 20. The demonstration, which will be followed by a march, is organized by an alliance of civil initiatives, non-governmental organizations and individuals in cooperation with the Czech Muslim commu-nity, according to a press release.

Protest against xenophobia and fanaticism
When: Feb. 20 at 4:30 p.m.
Where: námìstí Republiky
nerasismu.cz
www.facebook.com/events/729399963824368

The organizers state they want to send a clear message that there is a part of society that is not xenophobic and has no problem with the fact that the Czech Republic will help refugees. They reject the current wave of anti-Muslim and anti-refugee hatred that has dominated the public space. “We do not agree that asylum and migra-tion debates will be determined by those who spread xenophobia, paranoia of Islamization of the Czech Republic, and religious hatred. More and more migrants, who face hate speech for his/her often presumed religion, have been contacting us. They are often people who fled to the Czech Republic from religiously motivated vio-lence e.g. from the former Yugoslavia," said Magda Faltová, spokeswoman for the demonstration.

The demonstration and march are intended to show that society is not divided by race, nationality or religion, but racism and xenophobia. “The Muslim community in the Czech Republic has recently become a scapegoat. The principle of collective guilt is used against us. We reject that. We would be glad to get involved in public discussions about interfaith coexistence and tolerance,” Raed Shaikh of the Union of Muslim Students and Youth in the Czech Republic, said in a press release.
© The Prague Post

up  

Poll: Czechs reject immigrants nearly most of all Europeans

10/2/2015- A total of 74 percent of Czechs are opposed to immigration from countries outside the European Union, which is nearly most of all EU nations, it ensues from the latest Eurobarometer poll organised by the European Commission (EC). An even more negative approach to immigration from non-EU states is taken only by Latvians (79 percent) and three south European nations: Greeks, Italians and Cypriots (75 percent each). In Slovakia, the share of opponents is the same as in the Czech Republic (74 percent). The most tolerant are Swedes, of whom only 25 percent are opposed to immigration from third countries. The EU average is 57 percent.

Latvians are also most opposed to immigration to their homeland from other EU member states. It is opposed by 63 percent of them, the poll showed. Czechs and Cypriots follow with 58 percent of opponents each. Slovaks ended fourth together with the British (52 percent each). In this category, too, Swedes are the most tolerant of all, with 16 percent of opponents, the poll showed. The EU average is 41 percent. Asked whether they wish the EU to adopt a joint immigration policy, 20 percent of EU respondents answered in the negative on average. The biggest opponents of a joint immigration policy are Austrians and Czechs, 36 and 33 percent of whom are against it, respectively. The opposition to it is the lowest in Lithuania (8 percent), the poll showed.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

The rise and fall of the far right in Finland

“Revolution!” So blazed the headlines in Finland following the 2011 general election. “This is a big, big bang in Finnish politics,” said Jan Sundberg, a political science professor from Helsinki University. The BBC’s Europe editor Gavin Hewitt claimed “a tremor hit the EU”.

19/2/2015- When the eurosceptic, nationalistic right-wing party True Finns emerged from near-obscurity to become the third-largest party in Finland in 2011, it seemed that the country had been radically altered. Founded in the mid-Nineties, and competing with parties well-established in Finland for over a hundred years, True Finns shattered expectations when they won 39 of the Finnish Parliament’s 200 seats, compared to just five in 2007. Though they had no majority to speak of, Helsingen Sanomat, the largest newspaper in Finland, described the party's leader and founder, Timo Soini, as “one historic victor above all others”.

Timo Soini was certainly unlike anything previously seen in Finnish politics. If the True Finns can be described as Finland’s Ukip, Soini could certainly give Farage a run for his money. At 6’2” and 18 stone, Soini is a bear-like man often photographed with a pint in hand and a Millwall FC scarf draped around his neck: he saw them play aged 14, and insists he was drawn to their blue and white strip matching the Finnish flag, not their colourful reputation. The only institution he reveres more devoutly than his football team is the Catholic Church, a further anomaly in a primarily Lutheran country. His appeals to working people (the party name True Finns, Perussuo-malaiset, translates more accurately as “ordinary” or “regular” Finns) and rogueish charisma ensured that, in a crowd of bland, traditional politicians, Soini stood out.

But four years distance makes his party’s win seem significantly less triumphant. A month after the election, the True Finns announced they would not be entering a coalition with the other two biggest parties, the National Coalition, the Social Democratic Party, due to irreconcilable differences over EU policies: the NCP had been a strong advocate of financially supporting Portugal, Greece and other indebted European countries, while the Finns consistently campaigned on their refusal to “throw away” Finnish taxpayers’ money to the EU. In opposition, and rebranded as simply “the Finns”, the far-right revolution began to fade. The Finns soon found they out-side of a coaliton, they were powerless. Meanwhile, they suffered a long string of very public controversies. In 2013, their MP James Hirvisaari was expelled for photo-graphing of a friend posing in a Nazi salute outside Parliament, having previously been reprimanded for a series of Islamophobic and rascist comments. Another high-ranking Finns Party MP, Jussi Halla-aho, has been investigated several times for inciting racial hatred.

Timo Soini’s blokeish charm has been unable to withstand the weight of these embarrassments. As the leader of an ineffectual and out-of-touch party, he looks increa-singly like a bad joke. Briefly this month, the second most popular free app in Finland was Happy Flappy Soini. The game’s opening screen sees a red-faced, grinning Soini give you a cheery double-thumbs-up (a visual reminder of the images plastered over the newspapers after the 2011 “victory”), before he quite literally loses his head as it zooms from his shoulders into the sky – as in Flappy Bird, the player frantically taps to keep it in the air. His appeal to the Finnish working class has been used to explain his earlier surge in popularity – but Soini also got lucky. The party that saw the most losses in 2011, losses which translated into gains for the Finns, was the Centre party, which had dramatically lost support after it was revealed their successful 2007 election campaign had received thousands of euros in questionable corpo-rate funding.

Erkka Railo, an associate professor at the Centre for Parliamentary Studies in Finlad and commentator on the rise and fall of the Finns party, told me that this supposed political revolution led by the Finns was “a perfect storm”: The Portuguese government fell three weeks before the Finnish elections, and the Euro seemed to fall apart, which made Timo Soini, who had been saying for over ten years that the Euro was doomed to fail, seem like a great prophet. Simultaneously, The Centre party had been mired in several scandals, including the receipt of unclear donations by shady businessmen. Plus, the economic crisis hit old industrial areas particularly badly, which prompted the working class to leave the Social Democrats and move to support the Finns party in protest.

Circumstances have changed since 2011. In opposition, the Finns have been overshadowed by the return of the Centre party, who have seen their popularity nearly double from 15 per cent, following the funding scandal, to 26 per cent. As a result, the Finns have seen their supporters fall away, now hovering at around 14 per cent. As Railo tells me, protest votes for the Finns had run their course: “Once the Centre party got its act together, their voters returned from the foray of supporting the Finns.” Meanwhile, the conversation around Europe in Finland has changed. Now, all the major parties stand united in their harsh opposition of forgiving Greek debt. The debate surrounding the EU has sunk into the background as concerns about Finland's shrinking economy take centre stage. And when it comes to something as series as national economic strategy, the Finns are certainly not seen as the reliable option.

As the Finns’ support continues to wane, their fortunes might cast a shadow across the surge of populist reactionary far right politics across Europe. Railo condemns the party to a slow crawl out of Finnish politics. “They're bound to lose the elections. That may, in turn, result in another four years in opposition, which may be too much for many of its supporters to bear.” Protest votes are usually a register of temporary discontent, and when rebellious outsiders attempt to enter the mainstream, they too often reveal major incompetencies. For Finland, at least, the far-right dream is already becoming a distant memory.
© The New Statesman

up  

Hungary: Far-right Jobbik second most popular party

The rise in the number of undecided voters has stopped, and the unpopularity of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party has not grown further, either, the findings of three pollsters showed on Wednesday. The far-right extremist Jobbik party has increased its fan base and it has clearly become the second-largest political power in Hungary.

18/2/2015- Pollster Medián has published the findings of its February survey on Wednesday, which has given us the chance to take a look at the approval rating of political parties via the averages of the three main pollsters. We should stress that Medián gauged political affiliations in December and January, whereas Tárki has not released the results of a poll in February therefore the chart above does not include its own readings yet. The latest data have come from Medián, which showed 27% approval rating for Fidesz, 14% for Jobbik, 11% for the Socialist Party (MSZP), 5% for the Democratic Coalition (DK), 4% for green party LMP and 3% for Együtt among eligible voters. The new figures show that after the popularity of Fidesz plummeted at the end of last year, the governing party boosted its appeal in this group by 1%, but the other parties’ support has increased more than that, either. The only exception is DK whose approval rating went up 2% in two months. The results published by economic and political news website hvg.hu show 45% for Fidesz, 21% for Jobbik, 17% for MSZP, 7% for DK, 5% for LMP and 4% for Együtt among voters with a firm party preference.
© Portfolio Hungary

up  

Spain: Leaked memo says gay people don't buy train tickets

Internal memo flagged ‘musicians, beggars and gays’ as problem groups needing extra vigilance when checking tickets

19/2/2015- Authorities at Madrid’s metro have opened an investigation into an internal memo circulated to employees that flagged gay people as a problem group that needed extra vigilance. The memo notes several stops along the metro, detailing the groups that workers should check to ensure that they have valid metro tickets. On Line 2 between the stops of Sol and Las Rosas, it urges workers to keep an eye on “musicians, beggars and gays”. The memo was met with bewilderment by many employees, who saw it as discrimination, said Teodoro Piñuelas, from the UGT trade union which represents metro employees. The union then brought the memo to the attention of the metro authorities. “I don’t understand why it would assume that homosexuals wouldn’t pay for their tickets and that they need to be monitored. Why not tall people, or blondes or those who wear glasses?” Piñuelas told El País.

After the memo was leaked to several news outlets on Wednesday, the managing director of the metro was one of the first to respond. “We have opened an investiga-tion and will determine who is responsible for the unfortunate memo,” Ignacio González Velayos wrote on Twitter. Not long after, metro authorities weighed in on their official Twitter page, adding: “The metro condemns the memo.” On Thursday, the LGBT group COLEGA-Madrid said it had brought the memo to the attention of the public prosecutor responsible for hate crimes. “This is humiliating and discriminatory,” the group said in a statement. “It’s clear discrimination and harassment due to sexual orientation.” Another LGBT group, Arcópoli, said it planned to meet Metro authorities on Monday to demand explanations and urge the service to launch a campaign to combat discrimination.
© The Guardian

up  

Norway: Major anti-racism turnout in Stavanger

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the centre of the western Norway city to shout slogans at the extreme Right group Pegida.

17/2/2015- The anti-racism protest, hosted by organisations Motmakt Stavanger, the Socialist Left Youth Party (SU), and the main Socialist Left Party (SV), Monday, started at 6 pm local time. Police had erected barriers and cordoned off certain parts of main square Torget near the harbour to separate the hundreds of demonstrators from the 20 to 25 Pegida members. Officers had turned out in force for the demonstration, held in cold temperatures, with several of them patrolling the area with police dogs. Protestors shouted slogans such as “Nazi pigs, Nazi pigs, get out of my town”, and “no racists in our streets” at Pegida, booing them, and banging on the barricades as speeches were held and music heard. The atmosphere grew tenser at approximately 6:30 pm, with police assuming a line of defence position as the event progressed.

Parts of Pegida’s speeches, which covered subjects including the oppression of women in the Muslim culture, were almost drowned out by the hundreds of vociferous demonstrators gathered. “Levels here at this protest are unusual for Stavanger,” a female police officer told The Foreigner, “it will be more interesting to see how things are when they disperse afterwards.” Local Liberal Party (V) politician Per A. Thorbjørnsen commented that he found the fact that the demonstration was being held so far into the heart of the city “provoking in relation to what is being said about Muslims and the demonstrators’ goals.” The protest ended peacefully at approximately 7:30 pm. Watch the video of the protest.
© The Foreigner

up  

Norway: Muslims to protect Oslo synagogue

17/2/2015- group of Norwegian Muslims will be forming a circle around Oslo synagogue after the celebration of Shabat this Saturday in a solidarity gesture called the Ring of Peace. "If the Jihadists want to use violence in the name of Islam, they must go through us Muslims first," said one of the event's initiators. Islam is to protect our brothers and sisters, regardless of which religion they belong to. Islam is to rise above hate and never sink at the same level as the haters. Islam is to defend each other. Muslims want to show that we deeply despise all types hatred of Jews, and that we are there to support them. We will therefore create a human ring around the syna-gogue Saturday, February 21," said the message from the organisers. After the attack on Copenhagen’s synagogue this weekend, anti-Muslim activists have tried hard to whip up anti- Muslim sentiment, the latest being Hege Storhaug of the anti-Muslim “think tank” Human Rights Service who in, a furous article in Dagbladet, loudybeats the war drum. Meanwhile, the different attempts to form a Norwegian PEGIDA movement seem to have collapsed.

With fewer and fewer participants in the PEGIDA demonstrations in Oslo, Monday’s march was called off, because the organisers forgot to apply properly for permission to use the grounds outside Oslo City Hall. A demonstration in Fredrikstad was called off, not surprisingly after it was revealed that the man behind it himself had been convicted for ten different bomb scares against public transport and death threats against a fellow right-wing extremist. Monday’s advertised march in Tønsberg was called off as well, due to lack of organisational competence. Mean-while, a group of young Muslims felt tired of being blamed for terrorism and antisemitism and decided to stage a solidarity demonstration with Norwegian Jews. Coming from different community milieus and mosques, they set up a Facebook event that is now being shared along social media, with several hundreds joining. The young Muslim initiative has been welcomed by head of Oslo’s Jewish Community, Ervin Kohn and the arrangement is taking place after Saturday’s Shabat celebration so that members of the Jewish con-gregation can also participate.
© HOPE not Hate News

up  

Soccer Racism Highlights Europe's Struggle With Transition and Entrenched Racism (opinion)

By James Dorsey, Senior fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies

20/2/2015- Recent soccer-related racism highlights European nations' tortured transition from ethnically relatively homogeneous to multicultural immigration societies amid a resurgence of entrenched racial, including anti-Semitic, attitudes that flourish in times of economic crisis and are not limited to Muslim communities. Fans across Europe have lined up on both sides of the racism divide in a debate that involves despite recent attacks on freedom of speech and Jewish symbols in Copenhagen and Paris, Jews, blacks and Europeans of immigrant extraction in general as much as it does Muslims. The debate is being waged against the backdrop of the rise of the ex-treme right in a Europe that struggles with high unemployment, low economic growth and thousands of refugees washing up against its shores who are seeking refuge from conflict in the Middle East and Africa.

The targeting by racist fans of Muslims and non-Muslims alike is evident in a survey of numerous racist expressions on and off the pitch. It has sparked opposition from soccer enthusiasts to whom racism is abhorrent. Right-wing fans often have links to racist political organizations whose legitimacy is being enhanced by European lea-ders like British Prime Minister David Cameron who recently refused to rule out a future coalition with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) that has no issue with associa-ting itself with Holocaust deniers and denounces not only Muslims but also economic immigrants from Eastern Europe. Europe's transition to multiculturalism was first dealt a body blow by Al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, subsequent bombings of public transport in Madrid and London, the murder in Amsterdam of a Dutch filmmaker, the flow of Europeans fighters joining the ranks of the Islamic State, the jihadist group that controls a swath of Syria and Iraq, and finally the recent attacks in Copenhagen and Paris.

European leaders have been at pains to insist that the continent's confrontation with political violence constitutes a conflict with radicalism rather than with Islam. Yet, racism on and off the pitch is rooted in entrenched racial attitudes that became publicly taboo post-World War Two but were never eradicated. They are reinforced by a failure to acknowledge that immigration starting with decolonization and a wave of Mediterranean guest workers in the 1960s has fundamentally changed the nature of European society and by discrimination in education, employment and off-the-pitch soccer. The latest incident of soccer racism in Paris with supporters of Chelsea FC, which fields some of England's most talented black players, chanting "we're racist, we're racist, and that's the way we like it" demonstrates the point. The fans repeatedly shoved a native Parisian off a metro train because of his skin colour rather than his faith. Italian police days later arrested 22 fans of Feyenoord Rotterdam for rioting in Rome and damaging the Baroque fountain on the Spanish Steps.

Right-wing, self-styled hooligans in Germany supported by the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) who in November set aside rivalries to riot in Cologne against the spread of what they termed radical Islam pride themselves on also targeting anarchists, Marxist-Leninists and other left-wing extremists. Some 50 police officers and 20 fans were injured in clashes. By contrast, the English Defence League that trace its roots to a right-wing soccer sub-culture emerged as exclusive-ly anti-Muslim as have similar groups in Norway and Denmark. "What we're seeing...is that the groups of ultra sports fans are themselves infiltrated by neo-Nazis," said Esteban Ibarra, president of Spanish advocacy group Movement Against Intolerance.

Increased expression of racism on the pitch is not going unchallenged. European clubs who thrive on fielding multicultural teams are opportunistically recognizing when convenient the continent's new reality in which immigrants account for up to 20 percent of the population. Real Madrid CF has removed the traditional Christian cross from their official club crest in a gesture that was as much designed to signal multiculturalism as it was to cement a lucrative three-year sponsorship deal with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi.

Yet, the gesture follows repeated expressions of anti-Semitism in Spanish sports, including some 18,000 people last May endorsing a profane and anti-Semitic hashtag after Real Madrid was defeated by Maccabi Tel Aviv in the final of Europe's main basketball tournament. Newcastle United football fans are meanwhile rallying against German anti-Islam movement Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) that plans to hold its first British march on February 28, the day New-castle United plays Aston Villa at St James' Park. Pegida said the march was to "show the Islamists we show no fear." In Madrid, a fan was killed in December in a clash between left and right wing soccer club supporters. Holland's Vitesse Arnhem was criticized last year for playing a friendly in Abu Dhabi despite the fact that its Israeli defender Dan Mori was refused a visa. Similarly, when Brazilian striker Dani Alves was taunted last year with a banana by fans, politicians and supporters across Europe ate bananas to denounce the insult to the Barcelona player on the grounds of his skin colour.

The failure to acknowledge societal change is reflected in the fact that senior soccer management in Europe does not reflect the cultural and racial diversity of society and the sport itself. Soccer management remains dominated by white Christian males, some of whom have in recent years been embroiled in controversy over racist and discriminatory remarks. Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), warned in an interview with England's Press Association that the wave of racism in soccer was part of a broader picture. "People don't respect ethnic minorities, except as players," Mr. Powar said.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Wurzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer and a forthcoming book with the same title.
© The Huffington Post

up  

When did racism become part of a 'lads' day out?'

20/2/2015- "We're racist, we're racist, and that's the way we like it," chanted a group of Chelsea football fans as they shoved a black man off a Paris Metro train. Again and again the black passenger attempted to board the waiting train, only to be pushed back onto the platform by a torrent of limbs and hateful words. The man went home to his wife and three children and, having lost his phone in the melee, was initially unaware the incident had sparked a global debate about racism that spilled far beyond the sports stadium. The ugly scene, caught on camera by a horrified onlooker, showed racism is very much alive and kicking -- and it's not just football's problem. "There's a strand of male culture you see in the UK, and to some extent other Anglo Saxon societies, prevalent among 20, 30 and even 40-year-olds, which is: you go abroad, you drink a fair amount, you sing songs and engage in banter, and pick on someone who is different to you," said Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE). "There's this pervasive sexism and racism. The idea that 'anyone who isn't like us, we're going to sing about them and insult them and it's part of the lad's day out.'"

Lad culture
It's a culture absent from women's football. "The fastest growing participation sport in the UK, and many countries around the world, is women's football," explained Lord Herman Ouseley of football equality group, Kick it Out. "And I have to tell you we don't get such incidents in women's football. Or such incidents in disabled people's football. But we get it in men's football. "It's part of that lad's culture and the stick-together mentality that goes with it. And it doesn't just have to be on the issue of race. It embodies sexism, homophobia and anti-Islam." Racism and football have a long relationship, says Powar, pointing to the strong sense of tribalism within the sport. "English football in particular is rooted in a white, working class community," he explained. "When the country started to experience mass migration from the colonies in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, then the racism that was prevalent on the streets and schools and workplaces, was being amplified inside football stadiums. "And then at some point racism in football stadiums was actually more prevalent than in the streets and schools -- it was more consistent, heard more often, and more virulent."

Return to 'dark days?'
Football's "dark days" of racial abuse in 1970s and 1980s are behind well behind us, he says. Though there is still some way to go in stamping it out completely. "Even 10 years ago, the chances of an ethnic minority hearing something racially offensive in the football stadium, was commonplace. "But now I think there's an acceptance that a line has been drawn, that it's not acceptable, and that we revere many black players. Chelsea fans themselves voted Didier Drogba, a black player, as being one of their all-time heroes." Strangely enough, the same Chelsea 'fan' who shoved the black passenger in Paris supports a team with some of the most talented black players in the league and which has just signed the talented Colombian winger Juan Cuadrado. In recent years football has suffered a spate of high-profile racial abuse cases, notably involving Luis Suarez, who is now at Barcelona and Chelsea captain John Terry. While Liverpool's Mario Balotelli was racially abused while playing in Italy's Serie A.

What price for safety?
Over the last decade, Europe's governing body UEFA have prosecuted over 120 incidents of racism -- sanctions included player suspensions, matches played behind closed doors, and fines. Back in Britain, the English Football Association created a 92-point Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Action Plan in 2012, including confidential hotlines for players to report discrimination, ethnic quotas for referees and coaches, and state-of-the-art cameras to catch racist abuse in the stands. Following the incident in Paris this week, Chelsea has now suspended five people from its home ground Stamford Bridge. Depending on the evidence, they may also be banned from the club for life. "In England, our stadiums are far safer, they're better stewarded, there are policing operations which are quite sophisticated," said Powar. "And actually some would argue that it's gone too far. Some would argue that those stadiums are quite sterile, that they lack the passion they once did."

Racism in the boardroom
Away from the stadia and away from the Paris Metro another kind of prejudice is in action. Powar estimates that just 3% of those in professional coaching and manage-ment positions are from ethnic minorities. "The boardrooms are almost exclusively white and male -- and senior administrative positions are the same way," said Ouse-ley. "We're seeing some progress, but it's slow. At the start of this season there were no black managers -- now there are five, including one in the premier league."
Queens Park Rangers boss Chris Ramsey is that one black manager in the English Premier League and he insisted blame for the incident in Paris shouldn't be left at foot-ball's door. "I don't believe they are Chelsea fans or fans of football," said Ramsey. "I believe they are acting in a manner which we all think is a thing of the past," he said. "Those views are intrinsic in everyday life. I've been saying for a long time these are social issues which manifest themselves in the football world." And as the incident in Paris showed, racism in football needn't be confined to the playing field.
© CNN

up  

FIFA president Sepp Blatter floats theory that racism is natural

FIFA president Sepp Blatter wrote a column about racism in the organization's weekly magazine.

20/2/2015- In denouncing racism, he cited "research into human evolution" that he says shows racism is hardwired into our DNA. Racism is natural, he says, but we must fight to "suppress gut feelings."

Here's his take:
Some scientists claim there is a germ of racist thinking within all of us. Their conclusions are based on research into human evolution. A fear of strangers and a suspicion of the unknown is a basic or ‘caveman’ instinct and part of a strategy for survival in an age when mammoths were served up for breakfast. Tens of thousands of years have passed but the basic instinct has remained, the researchers say. If so, it is disquieting, because it would mean racism is in our DNA. However, the evolutionary biologists say, there is an antidote: the intellect. It can suppress gut feelings, differentiate us from animals, and make us humans with clear principles and values. This does not mean that more intelligent people are less susceptible, or vice-versa (although the incident in Paris might appear to suggest this).

A 2012 study by UCLA's Eva Telzer, which Robert Wright wrote about in the Atlantic, found that racial biases don't appear in humans until age 14, suggesting those biases environmental not genetic. A different 2012 study found that unconscious racial biases exist, but said nothing about genetics. This study was misinterpreted in a Daily Mail article titled, "Racism is 'hardwired' into the human brain — and people can be prejudiced without knowing it" and the crackpot theory made its way around the internet. Blatter's column comes days after white Chelsea fans blocked a black man from getting on a subway car in Paris while singing racist songs.
© The Business Insider

up  

It’s high time Sepp Blatter’s gang recognised football’s racist underbelly

Football’s racist shame must be acknowledged before it can be tackled as the beautiful game suffers another appalling week in the spotlight 
By Marina Hyde


18/2/2015- Fears that Italian football might be losing its racist identity have been allayed by the intervention of the former Azzurri coach Arrigo Sacchi, who makes an important intervention on the changing face of football in his country. “I’m certainly not racist,” he began promisingly. “But look at the Viareggio [youth] tournament – I would say that there are too many black players. Italy has no dignity, no pride.” Invited to clarify later, Sacchi explained he had been misquoted – and hey, which racist hasn’t been? “I just said I saw a team who fielded four coloured boys – I just wanted to point out that we are losing our national pride and identity,” he added.

Mmm. Everyone’s a little bit racist, as the FBI director reminded us in a speech last week, with the exception of myriad folk in the upper reaches of football here and overseas, who are not racist. End of. It’s like Chris Finch in The Office says: “How can I hate women? My mum’s one.” Same with football bigwigs accused of racism: how can any of these people be racist? They’ve bought black players. Literally got their chequebooks out for them. If you owned a black player – or had owned one in the past – you ought to be automatically insulated from the preposterous idea that you might hold prejudiced attitudes. Especially if you let one play football for you. You would certainly be entitled to join the exalted club of football people who are not racists, but have occasionally been required to state this fact, much to their own exasperation. People like Wigan manager Malky Mackay, who isn’t racist, despite calling a Malaysian person a “chink” and whatnot.

Then there are people like his current boss Dave Whelan, who explained that “Jewish people chase money more than anybody else” in the course of backing Mackay on the whole “chink” thing – or “chingalings”, as Dave prefers. Then there’s Emre Belozoglu, who escaped FA punishment for racism a few times during his stint in the Premier League, but had a bit of bother with comments directed at Didier Zokora a couple of years back, and who isn’t a racist because “there’s no place for racism in Turkish culture – it’s a sin”. “If there’s the slightest feeling of racism inside me,” Emre went on, “may Allah rip my heart out.” He gave him a two-and-a-half month suspended sentence instead, the old softy. And then, arguably, there are people like Paolo DiCanio – although as Paolo himself has explained: “I’m a fascist, not a racist.” Another misquote there, apparently – and you can only imagine the scope for colossal misunderstanding those few words must have offered.

Presiding over it all, of course, there is Sepp Blatter, who famously explained that there is no racism in football. In light of the repulsive behaviour of some Chelsea fans on the Paris Métro on Tuesday night, he appears to have modified that position to “there is no place for racism in football!” But he has directed far more ire at another strand of racism he has identified: that of the British media who have investigated corruption allegations against Qatar’s successful 2022 World Cup bid. As discussed in this space before, the Swiss is moving ineluctably to the point where criticism of Fifa is itself a form of racism. Finally, no merely surface-scratching round-up of football’s non-racists would be complete without the inclusion of Ron Atkinson, who was of course caught opining that Marcel Desailly “is what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy, thick nigger”. His Ronship later was given the opportunity of starring in a BBC documentary entitled “Big Ron: Am I A Racist?” an inquiry to which the only possible response was surely: well of course you fucking are.

And yet, as each new racism/misquotation row reaches its unsatisfactory conclusion, you can’t help feeling that there is a sense among some people in the upper reaches of football that unless it involves a white hood and a burning cross, it isn’t racism. We are frequently encouraged to accept, ruefully, that it’s “a generational thing” – which always feels like something of a generalisational thing, given the variable ages of the offenders, and the number of enlightened pensioners who probably don’t care to be lumped in with the likes of Whelan. Incidentally, someone else who isn’t a racist is the current Italian FA president Carlo Tavecchio, who just last October was banned from attending Uefa jollies for comments made during his actual election campaign, in which he described African players as “banana eaters”. A bit of a storm in an espresso cup, I expect - but quite insufficient to see him lose the election. The former Juventus and Nigeria midfielder Sunday Oliseh has obser-ved: “To have someone elected who would make such a comment sends a message: we don’t care.”

However, we, or rather Tavecchio, has been instructed to give the impression of caring. I note that the terms of his Uefa censure include his being mandated to “organise a special event in Italy aimed at increasing awareness against racism”. Given the ongoing misunderstandings about racism in the game in his homeland, this country, and elsewhere, would this not seem like the perfect opportunity for addressing an issue which still seems to tie so many top football chaps in knots? How about an international conference for football bigwigs, held in Italy, to establish what racism in football is?

Or, even better, what Not Racism in football is?
© The Guardian

up  

Austria to Fly Back Illegal Kosovo Migrants

The Austrian Interior Minister in Pristina on Friday said the country will return migrants by plane every two weeks and that asylum requests will be expedited.

20/2/2015- The Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner and Kosovo Prime Minsiter Isa Mustafa, at a joint press conference on Friday in Pristina on the issue of illegal migrants from Kosovo, said people who had entered Austria in recent months will be sent back by plane and their asylum requests expedited. “All the asylum requests will dealt with within 10 days from the day they apply. The Prime Minister and I agreed that it is very important that the asylum seekers be sent back to Kosovo soon, therefore a plane will be organized every 14 days to return people to Kosovo,” Mikl-Leitner said during the press conference. She said asylum seekers from Kosovo were not eligible for asylum in Austria because “Kosovo is considered to be a safe and stable country” and a “better future awaits them in Kosovo”.

Mikl-Leitner warned that few Kosovars could expect to be granted asylum or to work there. “It is not true that you will be granted asylum as soon as you come to Austria and that you will find a job, ” she said, urging the authorities to take the phenomenon of migration seriously, and do more to boost economic development in the country. A high unemployment rate, with only around 40 per cent of adults actively participating in the workforces and a youth unemployment rate of 60 per cent, as well as low job security, are considered the main reasons for the mass exodus of Kosovo Albanians in the past few months. Prime Minister Mustafa said that he approved the stance of the Austrian government regarding the asylum seekers, as the plight of Kosovo Albanian migrants could not be compared to that of people fleeing conflicts such as those in Syria and Iraq.

“Our citizens cannot in any way be compared to those who are fleeing the hotbeds of conflict, such as Syria and other countries, and who seek asylum in Austria or other EU countries,” he said. He urged Kosovars to return home and work on getting their children back to school, and said those who had left jobs needed to go back to work. “This [migration] is damaging for both Kosovo and the countries to which our citizens have migrated,” he concluded. During the press conference, Mikl-Leitner held up a daily newspaper whose ad space is devoted to an awareness campaign, which advises Kosovo citizens against trying to enter Austria illegally, with this one saying: “There is no asylum in Austria.” The media campaign was started by the Austrian Interior Minister herself, after meeting her Kosovo counterpart, Skender Hyseni, in Vienna earlier this month.

Ad space would be taken out in Kosovo papers and on posters which “clearly communicate that Austria will not grant free access to its job market when one applies for asylum,” Mikl-Leitner said earlier this month. “A clear boundary has to be drawn. Our country has in the past months done a lot in taking on war refugees. When care for these people is blocked by migrants from safe countries, my patience has reached an end,” she said at the time. Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga has also led an awareness campaign in the past couple of weeks, traveling to the areas most affected by illegal migration, such as Ferizaj, Vushtrri and Podujevo. She has said Kosovo could not afford to lose its citizens and appealed to all those that she met to not leave, and try rebuilding their lives in Kosovo and “carry the weight” of independent Kosovo.

However, Jahjaga was not met with much sympathy by some citizens. In Mitrovica, a town considered the epicentre of ethnic tensions in Kosovo and one that has seen most of its citizens move to other cities in search of jobs, an old man reproached the President. “Aren’t you ashamed of working like this? I’ve worked for 35 years and I get 70 euros a month. Some 20,000 Kosovars were killed during the war, but 100,000 have left now because of the situation in the country,” he said, emphasizing the dire economic situation the country finds itself in 15 years after the conflict ended in the late 1990s. The Kosovo parliament passed a resolution a couple of weeks ago requiring greater commitment from the government towards economic development, with an emphasis on creating new jobs as a measure to prevent the flight of Kosovars.

The resolution requires that raw materials be exempt from customs duties and payment of VAT, the reduction of customs and administrative tax on those who create 10 or more new jobs, and the exemption from tax and VAT on all machinery, equipment or spare parts intended for manufacturing and processing in Kosovo. To what extent this resolution has been implemented since then is unclear, but it presents a risk to Kosovo’s already meager budget of around 1.5 billion euro, 95 per cent of which is filled by customs and tax administration.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Austria: Far-right leader sues ORF over gay claim

The leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) is suing the Austrian National Broadcaster (ORF) after a television soap opera it broadcasts suggested he is gay.

19/2/2015- Heinz-Christian Strache is also demanding that the popular show Vorstadtweiber (Austria’s answer to America’s Desperate Housewives) be cancelled. The offending scene from one episode, in which a character says that Strache is gay, was actually edited out of the final cut that was broadcast - but the text was not deleted from subtitles for deaf or hard of hearing viewers. "My client is not gay. However, this is irrelevant because his sexual orientation is in any case part of his private life," Strache's lawyer, Michael Rami told the Heute newspaper. However the FPÖ leader clearly feels his rights have been violated and wants the Austrian broadcaster to pay. According to the Kurier newspaper Rami is also representing Strache in a defamation lawsuit against rapper Nazar, who referred to the FPÖ leader as a “son of a b****” at a concert last week. Strache is demanding damages of €35,000.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Austria: Neo-Nazi number plate ban mulled

Austrian transport minister Alois Stöger of the Social Democrat Party announced Monday that he is planning to change the Motor Vehicle Act in order to restrict the use of banned symbols on vehicle number plates.

16/2/2015- According to a report from the Austrian Press Agency (APA), the minister announced that certain combinations of letters and numbers would be compiled and added to a 'banned' list. The list currently restricts the use of 'ridiculous or offensive' letter combinations, but doesn't presently cover banned neo-Nazi symbols. As examples, the minister cited the use of simple substitution codes, where letters are represented by numbers. For example, the initials of Adolph Hitler are symbolized by the number 18, while the Nazi greeting Heil Hitler would be 88. Similarly, the Klu Klux Klan would be 311, because K is the 11th letter which appears three times. Additionally, codes such as NSDAP - which stands for the National Socialist German Workers' Party - and SS would also be banned. The list of Nazi and racist symbols is currently maintained by the Mauthausen Commitee (MKÖ). Number plate combinations that already exist before the new regulations go into force, expected sometime in summer, would not be affected.
© The Local - Austria

up  

Ireland: Warning over homophobic 'catfish' attacks

18/2/2015- Members of Cork’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) community have been warned to take safety precautions when meeting online dates after reports of orchestrated attacks by assailants using websites and dating apps to attract their victims. A Facebook warning about the attacks has been widely shared on the social media network. The post’s author, Louise O’Donnell, said that a friend had been attacked by a group of men having arranged a date through a website. “Unfortunately, there is a group or groups of young people in Cork carrying out organised beatings against members of this community. Posing as young men and women on different sites including Tinder, Plenty of Fish and Grindr, they aim to get young gay and lesbians alone in secluded areas of the city to carry out vicious assaults,” the post read. “I would really appreciate if you’d spread the message, look out for one another and stay safe! Never agree to meet someone late at night, in a secluded area or alone,” she said. Can't see the Facebook post? Click here

Last night, Ms O’Donnell said her post was prompted by a friend who was confronted by a group of men when he arrived at a Cork city centre location for a date recently. The practice of creating fake online identities for deceptive purposes is known as “catfishing”. “When he got there four or five men hopped out of a van. Thankfully he managed to get away,” she said. Ms O’Donnell said that someone who read the Facebook warning had since been in touch to tell her of a similar incident, also in Cork. James Upton, auditor of UCC’s LGBT society, said that he was aware of a rise in physical and verbal homophobic attacks against the group’s members in the past six months. He said he believes it is a backlash against the LGBT community as the upcoming Marriage Equality referendum approaches. “We can’t tell our members not to go on these sites, but we would issue a word of caution about meeting people from them, that they could be catfished,” he warned. A garda spokes-person urged any victims of assault to report the matter to gardaí

 
© The Irish Examiner

up  

Ireland: Traveller TV: we deserve more than tokenism (opinion)

Broadcasters fail to tap ‘experience and knowledge minority ethnic groups offer’
By Rosaleen McDonagh


16/2/2015- Traveller Academy might well have been a more apt title for the four-part lifestyle series, Norah’s Traveller Academy which showed on RTÉ recently. Journalist Tracy Joyce, fashion designer Ann-Rose Mongan, visual artist Leanne McDonagh and beautician Christine Joyce are Traveller beoirs – women – who showcase their talents and appetite to succeed in Norah’s Traveller Academy. Ms Casey’s guidance as an entrepreneur is invaluable. Concerns arise relating to the benevolent attitude of the influential, powerful settled woman, offering her “expertise” to the young Travellers. Each of the women reflects the diversity within the community. All give accounts of denigrating and humiliating mo-ments preventing them from pursuing their dreams. Racism has a way of holding you back – delaying your life. Tracy, Leanne and Christine assert themselves through confidence and strength.

Systemic racism
Integrity, grace and dignity were all part of the mix of narratives these young beoirs shared. Ann-Rose, with her flair, passion and keenness to learn how to read at 25, reminded us exactly how systemic racism impacts. Oppression brings hunger. Hunger ignites ambition. Ambition demands determination. These beoirs are imbued with these attributes. The four beoirs have done themselves and the community proud. Their achievements, drive, and energy are infectious. The camera lens brought these Travellers into full focus. State education never gave them the time and attention all children need to achieve. Isolation, discrimination, sexism and racism were the prime motivations in seeking a better life for themselves and their children. The labour market situation of Travellers is increasingly precarious. Census 2011 data shows an 84.3 per cent rate of unemployment, up from 74.9 per cent five years earlier.

One in three Traveller women (32.7 per cent) were looking after the home and family, nearly twice the rate of the general population (17.5 per cent). Some 9.5 per cent of all Travellers aged 15 and over were unable to work due to permanent sickness or disability. For a Traveller audience, seeing ourselves on television still feels relatively new. Given our history with the media there is always the concern that under-representation can lead to misrepresentation. Until now, mainstream media only ever wanted us for news items. The context of our engagement should be broader.

Platitudes of tokenism
Once-off programming is not a sustainable format to encompass cultural diversity. Please, can we move on from platitudes of tokenism? As with other State bodies, the Broadcas-ting Authority of Ireland falls short of appreciating the experience and knowledge minority ethnic groups offer. Diversity brings with it a rich texture of knowledge at all levels, which produces a better quality of broadcasting. Issues of participation, power and social mobility permeate all layers of oppression. Similar to black and minority ethnic groups, our role as Travellers in the media and other areas of Irish life seems to be as a source of curiosity – differences and similarities of the “other” are conversely surprising. Racism and discrimination are whispered in order not to alienate the settled viewing population. Articulate narratives of pride and composure hold the balance of blame under tight scru-tiny.

Ann-Rose Mongan was the focus of the second episode. She described her experience of living in a private rented apartment and not having any settled friends. Segregated lives tell a story of “us and them”. Irishness, in all its facets – depending on your ethnicity – determines the gift of possibility. The talented and strong beoirs defy low expectations. Where there is poverty there is a lack of opportunity. The vacuum created by exclusion cannot be addressed in this type of programming. Creating possibilities for the individual is admirable but tackling structural inequality needs more than one fairy godmother. Under the glare of the media one is always hopeful that the expectations raised for the beoirs can have a long and lasting affect. Regardless of how informative these platforms are, ultimately we’re dealing with the realm of entertainment.

Ann-Rose Mongan illuminated the experience of many Traveller beoirs over several generations. Putting in an order for Mongan’s design, I’m hoping she will have success. The image of her sitting at her kitchen table, stitching and sewing will stay with me. Similarly, her words of having no settled friends, resonates and echoes, as she asks in 2015, how can this be?
Rosaleen McDonagh is a playwright from the Traveller community
© The Irish Times.

up  

Italy: Muslim with traditional clothes and Koran insulted and shouted at in Milan

Students in six Italian colleges have also been banned from wearing the hijabStudents in six Italian colleges have also been banned from wearing the hijab

19/2/2015- A student in Italy dressed in traditional Arabic clothing appears to have been the subject of a string of derogatory comments as the public’s reaction to his appearance was caught on camera. Hamdy Mahisen, who is of Egyptian origin, attracted stares and insults as he walked around Milan for five hours, while holding a Koran in one hand and prayer beads in the other for a social experiment. On a high street, someone sneers “Taliban s***” while, even more disturbingly, a woman pushing a pram with a baby in it seems to turn around as he walks by her to shout: “Taliban!” Italy is currently on high-alert after a warning that Libyan militants inspired by Isis could make their way into Europe through the country.This has fuelled Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment towards refugees who have fled Africa before setting off on treacherous journeys across the Mediterranean to Italy in unsafe and overcrowded boats.

Groups of teenage girls and boys do not hide their astonishment at the sight of his appearance and openly stare, laugh and turn roun to look at him in the footage as he walks past. A person within a small group of young men, in the video also published yesterday by Italian newspaper Repubblicad, says “guys, you just missed the imam.” Thirty-year-old Hamdy, who speaks Italian fluently and lives in the city with his parents, was dressed in a traditional long white cotton robe commonly worn by mainly Muslim men in Arab countries – and not just imams – with a white cap. While passing through an indoor shopping piazza, someone could be heard saying “s***, have you seen the Isis?” A man standing near Hamdy at a tramstop makes the remark: “Look, he has got the Koran. Think he’s got a gun under his tunic?” The comments are indica-tive of the levels of Islamophobia and racism that Muslims and those from other ethnicities can encounter in Italy.

Aicha Mesrar, a 45-year-old Moroccan-born politician, fled the country after 23 years of living there due to fears over her children’s safety after a series of death threats. The local councillor was the first woman to wear a hijab in city hall as she held down her job for the Democratic Party in Rovereto, northern Italy. This week, female students at six colleges in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy have been banned from wearing the hijab – according to local paper Messaggero Veneto. One headmaster called Aldo Duri, of a technical college with many students of Arab origin, have been told that “outward signs of religion can be seen as provocation”. “Friction and insults that were fairly innocent between the Islamic community and the natives are now loaded with new meaning,” he was quoted by Trieste Prima as saying.
© The Independent

up  

Italy: Tiny Italian island swamped by migrant tide

Italian authorities on the tiny island of Lampedusa were on Tuesday attempting to process more than 1,200 newly-arrived migrants in a reception centre designed for a third of that number.

17/2/2015- The mainly African migrants were among some 3,800 would-be immigrants to Europe rescued in the Mediterranean since Friday, according to figures compi-led by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). At least 330 people are thought to have perished whilst trying to cross from Libya to Italy in the last week, 29 of whom died of exposure on Italian coastguard boats. The tragedies, and the dramatically increased numbers, have sparked renewed debate over whether European search-and-rescue operations are adequate in the face of a humanitarian crisis triggered by a combination of conflict and hunger across much of Africa and the Middle East.

IOM spokesman Joel Millman reiterated the organisation's concern that the chaos currently engulfing Libya would ensure the flow of migrants risking their lives to reach Europe with the help of ruthless people smugglers would continue and possibly increase after what was a record year for arrivals in Italy in 2014 (more than 170,000 people landed). "It seems to be growing," Millman told reporters at IOM headquarters in Geneva. "There are many, many speculations as to why. The profits .. are certainly one, but also things have gotten so out of control in Libya right now that even the smuggling gangs don't feel they can hold their inventory, to use such a word, indefinitely, so they have started vacating the space."

Millman highlighted a case where armed gunmen threated an Italian coast guard vessel to ensure they got their boat back after rescued migrants had been unloaded. "This is a rather extreme activity that indicates that this has become as chaotic an industry as Libya seems to be in general." UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said smuggling had become more lucrative and less risky because of the situation in Libya. "Smuggling networks are operating with much greater impunity," he said. Some of the migrants rescued in the Mediterranean this week told the refugee agency they had paid between $500-$1,000 (€439-877) for their crossing in rubber dinghies. "We've seen about 100 people per dinghy, so do the math. You're talking about $50,000-$100,000 per boat."

Edwards said UNHCR had also received information that smuggling networks in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, including the Horn of Africa, were also ramping up their activity. "This is a much wider problem than what we're seeing on the Mediterranean or just in Libya. It's quite wide. It's quite alarming."
© The Local - Italy

up  

Italian migrant centre 'overwhelmed'

Conditions at a migrant reception centre on the island of Lampedusa are "getting desperate", an Italian official has told the BBC.

17/2/2015- There are now more than 1,000 men, women and children housed at the centre, which is four times its current capacity. Some 2,700 migrants have been rescued from the Mediterranean since Saturday, the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) said. Boats carrying more people are due to dock at Lampedusa later on Tuesday. The influx has added more pressure to the already overflowing reception centre. The centre's capacity has been reduced to 250 while refurbishment work is being carried out. It can normally accommodate 400 people. The BBC's Tom Burridge says he has seen bus loads of men, women and children being transported around the island. The charity Save the Children said the situation was tense with supplies of food and other essentials running low. Around 2,000 of the migrants were saved during a major operation off the Libyan coast over the weekend.

The Italian coastguard said its members were threatened by Kalashnikov-wielding men as they attempted to rescue people from dinghies. Most of the 1,200 people we spoke to at Lampedusa's overcrowded reception centre were men in their early 20s and teens. Abdi Najid from Somalia said he travelled across five countries to reach Libya, where he paid smugglers several thousand dollars for the right to travel on their one of their boats. The 15-year-old now wants to live in Norway. Shennik from Nigeria told us he left Libya because there was fighting in the area where he was living. "In Libya they don't have respect for humanity", he said. Moudo Mjie, 30, from Gambia said the conditions at the centre, where he's sharing a small bed with another man, were not good. He was on board a boat rescued last week, when 29 people died of hypothermia after they were rescued. Many more people went missing. He now wants to get to Switzerland and find a job.

Lampedusa's proximity to North Africa has made it a regular target for tens of thousands of migrants attempting to reach Europe. About 3,500 died in 2014. Earlier this month, at least 300 people drowned when the dinghies they were travelling in got into trouble. UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said increasing instability in Libya was a contributing factor to the large number of migrants attempting the perilous crossing. "Smuggling networks are operating with much greater impunity," he added. There has also been debate over whether European search and rescue efforts are adequate. Italy's major patrol and rescue operation Mare Nostrum ended last year. A smaller scale EU operation, Triton, took over. Last week, the UNHCR said better lifesaving provisions were urgently needed to avoid further tragedies. But other European countries, including the UK, said a rescue service could encourage more migrants to make the journey.
© BBC News

up  

Italian town makes Himmler its poster boy in tourism brochure

Mayor says no offense intended after pamphlet distributed at Milan tourist expo features portrait of Nazi commandant, linked to legend of Roman treasure

17/2/2015- In December, Cosenza looked to its historic Jewish community in decorating its pedestrian boulevard, Via Arabia, with menorahs. Now the southern Italian town is delving into its Nazi past. Last week, Consenza’s tourism bureau distributed brochures featuring Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler at the International Travel Fair of Milan. The Cala-brian town of 70,000 is famous among Jews for its citron (etrog) groves, and is a major supplier for Israel’s Sukkot festivities. Recently, the town’s tourist industry began capitali-zing on its more historic Jewish ties — at the beginning of sixteenth century, Jews were expelled or forced to convert to Christianity — and the municipality has decided to restore a building located in its ancient Jewish neighborhood. But it is even more ancient history that interested the Nazis, and is the main focus of Cosenza’s tourism efforts.

The town’s new brochure tells the story of Alar I, king of the Germanic Visigoths who invaded Italy and sacked Rome in 410 CE. Shortly after, Alar found himself in Cosenza, where he met an unexpected death. According to legend, he was buried in the town’s Busenzo River with his many treasures. According to legend, chief among Alar’s loot was the golden menorah brought from Jerusalem by the Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Throughout the centuries, many people have tried to locate Alar’s exact burial location — and booty. As proud Aryans, the Nazi regime took a particular interest in history and myths related to the Germanic peoples of Roman times. As the brochure reads, “in 1937, the year when the legend of Alar hit the highest popularity, Himmler, commander of the Nazi SS, promoted excavations [in Cosenza to find Alar’s grave], but in vain.”

Although the text offers no other detail about Himmler’s story or role, the SS commander’s image dominates the brochure and is placed next to the headline. Mayor of Cosena Mario Occhiuto told The Times of Israel Tuesday that he had not seen the brochure before it was printed and distributed. He speculated the graphic designer made the choice to feature the Nazi merely because Himmler was mentioned in the text. “We consider Himmler one of the worst criminals in history,” Occhiuto said. “We did not mean to send any message different than that.” “However, we cannot pretend that the story of Alar and its fortune did not go as it is explained in the text,” he added. For the past few months, the city of Cosenza has been using the legend of Alar to promote itself as a touristic destination. Among their initiatives, during last December’s holiday season, they decorated the streets with Christmas lights inspired by Alar’s story, and one of the main boulevards was decorated with menorah-shaped lights.
© The Times of Israel

up  

Leave migrants on boats, says Italy's far-Right party leader

Matteo Salvini, the head of the Northern League, said help the migrants but do not let them come to Italy because Italy has "enough of them"

16/2/2015- The leader of Italy’s Right-wing party has said that immigrants making the treacherous journey across the sea from Libya should be left on board their boats. Matteo Salvini, the head of the Northern League, posted the comment on Twitter just hours after the Italian coastguard launched a huge operation to rescue more than 2,000 migrants in difficulty between the Italian island of Lampedusa and the Libyan coast. He said: “12 boats filled with immigrants south of Lampedusa. Help them, but don’t let them get off: we have enough of them!” He also posted on Facebook: “12 boats filled with immigrants (all peaceful?) were spotted south of Lampedusa. If I had my way, I would help them, care for them and give them food and drink. “But I would keep them away and would not let them get off, we have enough of them. Do you agree?” Some 2,164 migrants coming from Libya had to be saved from a dozen boats on Sunday.

The Italian transport ministry said the coastguard had been threatened by four armed men earlier in the day who approached them by speedboat from the Libyan coast. The men, wielding Kalashnikovs, forced the rescuers to return a boat that had been emptied of migrants. Mr Salvini's comments provoked outrage on social media while Andrea Cozzolino, the deputy of the ruling Democratic Party, described Mr Salvini’s words as “irresponsible”. One woman, Mariella Siviglia, wrote on Twitter: "Doesn't Matteo Salvini realise? We are at war and he insists on saying these things about people who are trying to flee from that war." Another user, Zu Palidda, posted: "Salvini is not human. Nor can we expect huma-nity from him or those who support him." Fabbio Nacio wrote: "How do you help castaways who are hungry, thirsty and dying? It's obvious: leave them to drown in the sea! #Delirious" The head of the populist party later reiterated his statement at a trade fair in Milan. He said: “No one should be allowed to disembark.” Mr Salvini is seen as a rising political force in Italy and his party, which seeks an exit from the EU, has experienced a recent surge in popularity amid continuing recession in the country.
© The Telegraph

up  

Greece commits to detaining migrants only exceptionally and for no more than six months

17/2/2015- On Tuesday 17 February, the Greek government committed to only detaining migrants as an exceptional measure and for no longer than six months. The government also pledged to release vulnerable migrants and to use alternatives to detention for irregular migrants. Finally, the government announced that the Amygda-leza detention centres will be closed, but the timeframe for its closure was not detailed. The Greek government acknowledged that the current detention conditions in immigration centres amount to inhuman and degrading treatment and that the situation should be changed immediately.

The announcement followed the suicide of a 28 year-old Pakistani in the Amygdaleza immigration detention centre in northern Athens on Saturday evening. The man had been held in detention twice for a total of 25 months. According to activists, he was the second person to die in the Amygdaleza centre during that week, and the fourth since last summer. A few days later, a 23 year-old Yemeni national took his own life in the detention centre of the Aliens Directorate of Thessaloniki. On Saturday 13 February, the Greek Alternative Minister for Citizens’ Protection Yiannis Panousis visited the Amygdaleza detention facility after the suicide of the Pakistani national and stated: “I am here to express my embarrassment. We are done with detention centres.” The government had already announced it would stop detaining migrants beyond the 18-month limit set by the EU Returns Directive.
© The European Council on Refugees and Exiles

up  

Russian resurgence: how the Kremlin is making its presence felt across Europe

Moscow is influencing policy and shaping opinion all over the continent, with ties to both the far right and the hard left

16/2/2015- Coming off the early shift at Hungary’s sole nuclear power station, on the Danube south of Budapest, Jozsef, a 30-year-old turbine engineer, is grateful to have a rela-tively secure job that pays considerably more than the national average. Hungarians have never been big fans of the Russians. But Jozsef knows whom he has to thank for his job security – Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, who is making a rare visit to an EU country with a trip to Budapest on Tuesday. Russia sealed a deal last year with Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, to build reactors at the Paks power plant in return for €10bn (£7.4bn) in tied credits. Orbán has been one of Putin’s most consistent supporters within EU circles. But it is not only in Hungary that the Russians are back. All over Europe, and particularly in central and southern Europe, the Kremlin is making inroads at a time when relations between Russia and the west are at their most tense and brittle in the post-communist era.

Russia is actively projecting its influences in the Balkans, particularly in Serbia and Bosnia, and has been noticeably cultivating ties with parties on the left and right further west in Europe. In Hungary, there were no tenders nor a bidding war for the nuclear project, no public debate. Hungarians first learned of the news from Russian websites. “I only know what I see on television. I don’t know how the deal was done,” Jozsef shrugs. “I did not know about it,” admits Attila Azódi, the Hungarian energy commissioner and a professor of nuclear engineering. “There were definitely reasons for that, if you look at the international situation. You have to ask the prime minister to understand the details.” The Russians already supply 80% of Hungary’s natural gas. If things go to plan at Paks, in a little more than a decade Russian technology and expertise will also be supplying 56% of Hungary’s electricity.

Orbán appears entirely comfortable with that dependency. He is the leader of a country in the EU and Nato, but voices only contempt for western “liberal democracy” and holds up Putin as a leader to be admired and imitated. When John McCain, the US senator, challenged him last year on his pro-Moscow leanings, Orbán, said a source who witnessed the exchange, replied: “I don’t care what you think. You don’t matter. Russia matters because of energy. Germany matters because of jobs.” In Budapest, the Putin-Orbán bonding will be reinforced in what is only the Russian leader’s second state visit to an EU country since the Ukraine conflict broke out a year ago. The first was last year to Austria, where he was also sympathetically received by a government stridently opposed to EU sanctions on Russia.

If Ukraine has turned into the battleground between east and west, Budapest often feels like the conflict’s playground. Websites and social media hum with Russian propaganda, conspiracy theories and paranoia. The neo-fascist Jobbik party, second biggest in parliament, is avowedly and loudly pro-Russia, its most senior member in the European parliament accused of being a Russian agent. “It’s surprising how open the Russian influence is,” said Péter Krekó, a Hungarian analyst at the Political Capital consultancy. “It’s not hidden. We are exposed. The Russians are making complete fools of us. Orbán has become a puppet of Putin. He thinks he can play east against west.” Moscow’s influence extends far beyond Hungary. The Putin regime is bankrolling France’s National Front on the far right. On the hard left, it has close ties to the new Greek government of Alexis Tsipras whose leftwing foreign minister has said Greece could be Russia’s “military and economic ally”.

In Serbia and Bosnia, Russian politicians, military, and energy lobbies are said to be calling the shots, influencing policy, and disrupting both countries’ hopes of joining the EU. Senior European and American diplomats and officials are also convinced, without supplying hard evidence, that the Russians have infiltrated, or are helping to fund, NGOs cam-paigning in Europe against fracking and the proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the US, and that they have also been quietly encouraging the Scottish and Catalan secessionist movements in Britain and Spain. The talk among policymakers in European capitals struggling to counter what they see as the slick Kremlin operations aimed at dividing and enfeebling Europe is of “Putin’s useful idiots”. Through its skilled and lavishly funded television, propaganda and social media operations, the Kremlin is influencing the argu-ments over Ukraine, often winning over European public opinion.

“It’s beyond irony,” said a senior figure in the European commission in Brussels. “You can hear Putin say he had to act in Ukraine to stop fascism, while he’s financing fascists right, left, and centre all over Europe. We’re naive in the west.” Another commission official dealing directly with Russia said: “These developments are part of an overall strategy going way beyond the conflict in Ukraine. The nationalist rhetoric has been developing in Russia for years. In helping the far right, the aim is to undermine our values and fundamentals. It’s very worrying.” In cultivating the far right and the hard left in Europe – between them they now control more than a quarter of the European parliament – Kremlin strategists are activating a policy that is at least a decade old, say Russian experts. “Links between Russian nationalists and the European far right go back to the 1990s,” said Anton Shekhov-tsov, an academic who researches far-right movements, citing Russian figures such as the nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky or the neo-fascist ideologue Alexander Dugin. “The major difference is that in the 90s the cooperation was done by individuals and groups, and they did not really think the state would benefit.”

The Russian state became interested in cooperation with the European far right as early as 2004, he added. Elections in Kremlin-backed breakaway states such as Abkhazia or Transnistria, in Georgia and Moldova respectively, would be observed and validated by far-right politicians from the EU. There was an ideological component to the partnership, given the increasing social conservatism of the Russian elite – homophobia, anti-immigration, opposition to the EU, anti-Americanism. Konstantin Malofeev, a wealthy Russian oligarch, Putin-backer and extreme nationalist who has said Ukraine is an artificial creation, appears to be a central figure in the funding and wooing of Russian support in Europe. He funded and attended a lavish event in a Habsburg palais in Vienna last year for leaders of the European far right, ostensibly devoted to marking 200 years since the alliance between the Russian tsar, the Austro-Hungarian emperor and the king of Prussia following Napoleon’s defeat.

Malofeev has been blacklisted by the EU for his role in Ukraine – he helped finance and supply the pro-Russia insurgency, some of whose leaders were his former employees – and cannot now travel to Europe. As he could not attend a wedding in Greece thrown by an oligarch friend, he invited the entire party of 90 to his estate south of Moscow in October. The attendees included Panos Kammenos, the new Greek defence minister and leader of the nationalist Anel party – Tsipras’s junior coalition partner. Thewedding details emerged from a batch of 700 emails of a diplomat at the Russian embassy in Athens, hacked in December and revealed recently in the German weekly newspaper, Die Zeit. The emails re-veal Russian diplomatic contacts with Greek and Italian neo-fascists. They also show Nikos Kotzias, the new Greek foreign minister, corresponding with Dugin, a key Putin ideo-logue and extreme nationalist. Kotzias started his job as foreign minister a fortnight ago, questioning the latest round of EU sanctions against Russia.

Previously, as a politics professor at Piraeus University, Kotzias organised several studies and polls on Greek attitudes to Russia. He concluded that many Greeks were disenchanted with their western allies and inclined to favour Russia. “For Greeks, Russia is a potential military and economic ally whom they respect and seem to know relatively well,” he wro-te, according to the hacked emails. Alexander Lebedev, the Russian businessman who owns the Evening Standard and the Independent, says it is not always clear whether wealthy Russian ideologues cultivating politicians in Europe are acting on direct Kremlin orders or just currying favour with the regime. “You can never tell whether they are trying to read the mind of their bosses in advance or whether they have been told what to do,” he said. But a €9m loan to Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France from the Russians – disclosed a couple of months ago – could only come with strings attached, said Lebedev. “What is the point of giving such a loan? The only way the party can repay the loan is by doing something politically.”

A Putin ally and MP from his United Russia party delivered a speech to a congress of the National Front in Lyon in November, in which he claimed Russia better understood the European people. “The will of the people of European countries is being subsumed by the will of a few little-known officials from the EU who in reality are simply American pup-pets,” declared Andrei Isayev. “In Russia, we think that democracy should respect the rights of the minority, but should mainly be about the will of the majority, which is based on traditional values. I am certain that in Europe, the vast majority of people would agree.” Le Pen would agree – as may Nigel Farage, of Ukip, who has voiced his admiration for Putin. But at present Orbán matters more because he heads a strong government with an unassailable two-thirds parliamentary majority and no opposition to worry about.

In the past year, he has purged around 200 diplomats from the Hungarian foreign ministry. Those remaining, say disgruntled former officials in Budapest, have been asked to detail the timings and contents of past contacts with US diplomats. “Now, like in the old days, it’s an advantage for a Hungarian diplomat to have studied in Moscow,” said Krekó. “It is clear that Russia is providing support for all these political parties all over central and eastern Europe,” said Tamás Lattmann, a law professor at Budapest’s National University of Public Service. “This is a very serious problem because when they get a certain amount of presence, if nothing else, then they can at least block, for example, the sanctions against Russia.” Alone among western leaders, Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, has warned recently that in his drive to divide and weaken the EU from within, Putin is also targeting aspiring EU members in the Balkans.

Twenty years after the Bosnian war ended, the Russians for the first time abstained in November on a UN vote extending the EU peacekeeping mission in Sarajevo. Ivan Krastev, a Bulgarian political analyst, told Radio Free Europe: “I do not mean military intervention, there are not going to be little green men in the Balkans. But in his attempt to disunite Europe, I believe that Putin can very well instrumentalise the lack of political stability and economic prosperity ... they see the Balkans as a place where they can use their power to disrupt.” As Putin goes to Budapest for what has become a rare experience – being welcomed by a friendly EU government – the turbine engineer in Paks is aware of the contra-diction, but is not bothered by it. “Hungarians are prejudiced against the Russians,” said Jozsef. “But people are happy about the Russians being back here.”
© The Guardian

up  

France: persistent discrimination endangers human rights (CoE)

17/2/2015- “Despite advances in legislation and measures to combat intolerance and racism, discrimination and hate speech not only persist in France but are on the rise. There is an urgent need to combat this in a sustained and systematic manner,” Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said today, publishing the report on his visit to France from 22 to 26 September 2014 (French). In this report, the Commissioner addresses issues of intolerance, racism, and respect for the human rights of migrants, Travellers, Roma and people with disabilities. “In recent years, there has been a huge increase in antisemitic, anti-Muslim and homophobic acts. In the first half of 2014 alone, the number of antisemitic acts virtually doubled, while the number of Jews leaving France for Israel tripled compared with 2012, which is a telling indication of their feeling of insecurity. The rising number of anti-Muslim acts, 80% of which are carried out against women, and homophobic acts, which occur once every two days, is also cause for great concern. It is essential to put an end to such acts, including on the Internet, and to punish those responsible.”

The Commissioner welcomes France’s sound legal and institutional framework for combating racism and discrimination and urges the authorities to continue to fight resolutely against these phenomena. “To this end, it would be helpful to give full effect to the criminal law provisions recognising “testing” as evidence of discriminatory conduct and to include the fight against discrimination in a national plan to promote and protect human rights. Ratifying Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights on the general prohibition of discrimination would also help to further strengthen the legal framework.” The trend towards more stringent and more complex rules in the asylum and immigration field raises serious questions of compatibility with France’s international commitments, particularly with regard to being granted asylum and the reception of asylum seekers. “The serious and chronic inadequacies in the reception of asylum seekers force many of them to live in extremely vulnerable and degrading conditions. Lasting solutions need to be found as a matter of urgency to ensure that everyone has effective access to reception centres and social protection.”

The reception and care of unaccompanied migrant minors highlights a further shortcoming in the French migration system. “There are between 7,000 and 12,000 such children living in France, 3,000 of whom are in Mayotte. Many are left without any social or educational support or medical care and some are even homeless. Their age is often determined following certain highly questionable procedures, especially when these involve bone age tests. It is not uncommon for these children to be deprived of their liberty when they arrive at the border unlawfully. The French authorities must put an end to these practices and provide better reception conditions, including overseas.” The Commissioner also calls on the French authorities not only to honour their commitment to take in 500 Syrian refugees, but to take in even more and to remove all barriers, such as the obligation to have an airport transit visa, which undermine their chances of being granted asylum. The Commissioner also calls on the authorities to improve the living conditions of migrants in Calais and to afford them greater protection against violent xenophobic attacks.

Commissioner Muižnieks urges France not to adopt or implement legislative or other measures to accelerate asylum procedures still further, until the structural problems in the national asylum authorities have been resolved. He underlines the need to improve the effectiveness of remedies in the asylum and immigration field, by expediting the introduc-tion of suspensive appeals against all decisions taken in these matters, including overseas. In addition, he recommends that the authorities improve the legal aid and procedural guarantees offered to immigrants and asylum seekers and cease the practice of holding hearings by the ‘liberties and detention judges’ in the annexes of regional courts located in the immediate vicinity of administrative detention centres or waiting zones. High levels of anti-Gypsyism have prevailed in France for a very long time, and the Commissioner calls on the authorities to firmly tackle hostile speech and acts directed at migrant Roma and Travellers, including on the Internet. He recommends that the authorities put an end to the discriminatory system applied to Travellers, provide appropriate camping areas and ensure effective access to education for the children of Travellers by promoting solu-tions more in keeping with their lifestyle.

Like Travellers, migrant Roma continue to be targeted and stigmatised by hate speech emanating from certain politicians and by sometimes harmful media coverage. They are also the victims of violence perpetrated by individuals and at times even by members of law enforcement agencies, in particular during forced eviction operations. The Commissioner also underlines the urgent need to guarantee Roma access to healthcare, education, housing and employment, and to conduct public awareness-raising activities to combat stereo-types and prejudice against Roma and Travellers. With regard to the situation of persons with disabilities, the Commissioner notes that despite a well-developed legal framework and the priority given to independence and social inclusion, these are not always guaranteed in practice. “There is an urgent need to rectify a situation which continues, de facto, to perpetuate the social exclusion and marginalisation of persons with disabilities. The serious delays in ensuring that public places are accessible and the shortcomings in the arrangements concerning guidance and support for these persons should be dealt with as a matter of priority.”

The Commissioner is also concerned that thousands of persons with disabilities are obliged to leave France to find more appropriate solutions to their situation abroad, particularly in Belgium. He also condemns difficulties in access to employment and the discriminatory conditions applying to workers with disabilities within certain specialised facilities. Lastly, while welcoming the measures adopted to promote the education of children with disabilities in mainstream schools, the Commissioner notes with concern that no educa-tion solution has yet been found for some 20,000 of these children, and particularly for those with autism spectrum disorder. “The authorities should step up their efforts to ensure that all children receive appropriate education. The authorities should also attach priority to setting up local services promoting the social inclusion of people with disabilities, and improve the support provided to those with autism, in particular by making greater use of educational, behavioural and developmental methods in the care they are given.”
© Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

up  

French politicians up in arms after Muslim party joins electoral race

New party Union of French Muslim Democrats (UDMF) is to present candidates in eight cities in the local elections to be held in France next month. Established in 2012, the party says it wants to counter the rising tide of islamophobia by giving Muslims a platform in politics. But critics argue it will further isolate the country's six million Muslims.

15/2/2015- "It's a downright provocation, and an insult to Muslims," Geoffrey Carvalhinho from the conservative UMP told RFI on Saturday, after France's all Muslim party announced it would be competing in next month's local elections. "I've gone door-to-door in my neighbourhood and spoken with Muslims and many have told me they don't want to make a huge fuss and dance about being Muslim. They're French, end of story." Carvalhinho is one of several candidates vying for a mayoral post in his town of Pantin on the outskirts of Paris, home to a huge diaspora community. But Carvalhinho says he's worried that if the Union of French Muslim Democrats enters the political mainstream, it could mean that French Muslims may have to choose between their country or their religion. "Do we have a Catholic party, a Jewish party, no, so why should we have a Muslim party?" questions Jacques-Elie Chabert, a CEO of a local TV station targeted at the Muslim community.

Nonetheless, Chabert recognizes that Muslims may not have any other choice, given the rising tide of islamophobia in France in the wake of last month's terror attacks at Charlie Hebdo headquarters. "It's the best way of promoting pride among Muslims," he told RFI. However, some observers warn that an all-Muslim party set up to echo the community's concerns, will feed the hysteria of far right parties like the Front National. "I am against all the things which can separate and divide people", Gérard Prudhomme, a deputy-mayor from Seine-Saint Denis, a tough Parisian suburb, told RFI. "This kind of initiative will further boost the Front National's clout." Marine Le Pen's party made fresh gains in recent legislative elections, and is hoping to do the same on March 25th. The Front National on Saturday described the decision of the Union of French Muslim Democrats to stand in local elections as "backward" and said it would aggravate tensions between communities.

The UDMF has hit out at criticism, and insists that it is not a "religious" party, but merely wants to give Muslims a platform to express their concerns. Yet the timing of their announ-cement, so soon after the January 7 attacks, has been perceived as insensitive. Whilst fans of French writer Michel Houellbecq have been quick to point out the parallels between fiction and reality - as in Houellbecq's last novel "Submission", he described a scenario in which an all Muslim party would come to power and subject the country to sharia law. The cutoff date was 2022. France still has a long way to go.
© RFI

up  

France: 10 hours of fear and loathing in Paris

One month after the terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, NRG's correspondent, wearing a tzitzit and a kippa, took what proved to be an intimidating walk across the French capital. "What is he doing here Mommy? Doesn’t he know he will be killed?" one little boy asked, saying it all
By Zvika Klein

15/2/2015- "Go f*** from the front and the back," "Viva Palestine," "Hey you, with the kippa, what are you doing here?" these were only a few of the remarks sent my way as I was walking through the streets of Paris wearing a tzitzit and a kippa. Welcome to Paris 2015, where soldiers are walking every street that houses a Jewish institution, and where keffiyeh-wearing men and veiled women speak Arabic on every street corner. Walking down one Parisian suburb, I was asked what I doing there. In modern-day Paris, you see, Jews are barred from entering certain areas.

About six months ago, New Yorker Shoshana Roberts uploaded a video to YouTube in which she documented the sexist remarks and harassment she suffered during 10 hours of walking down the streets of the Big Apple. After the Jan. 9 attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, where four people were murdered for the sole reason of being Jewish, we decided to see what it was like for a Jew living in the City of Lights. For 10 hours I quietly walked down the streets and suburbs of Paris, with photographer Dov Belhassen documenting the day using a GoPro camera hidden in his backpack. Given the tensions in Paris, which is still reeling from a wave of terrorist attacks (including the murder of Charlie Hebdo magazine journalists), I was assigned a bodyguard.

In zero-degree weather, thousands of Frenchmen braved the cold wind on their way to just another day at the office. We started walking – first through the quieter quarters of the city, across from the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, and the Jewish neighborhoods, and later through the mostly Muslim neighborhoods. Areas known as tourist attractions were relatively calm, but the further from them we walked, the more anxious I became over the hateful stares, the belligerent remarks, and the hostile body language. At times it was like walking in downtown Ramallah. Most women were wearing a veil or a hijab, most men appeared to be Muslim, and Arabic was prevalent everywhere. We decided ahead of time that I was to walk through these areas quietly, without stopping anywhere, without speaking to anyone, without so much as looking sideways. My heart was pounding and negative thoughts were running through my head. I would be lying if I said I was not afraid.

"Just like Ramallah"
Walking into a public housing neighborhood, we came across a little boy and his hijab-clad mother, who were clearly shocked to see us. "What is he doing here Mommy? Doesn’t he know he will be killed?" the boy asked. Walking by a school in one of Paris' neighborhoods, a boy shouted "Viva Palestine" at me. Moments later, passing by a group of teens, one of the girls remarked, "Look at that – it's the first time I've ever seen such a thing." Walking down another neighborhood, a driver stopped his car and approached us. "We've been made," I thought. "What are you doing here?" he asked. "We've had reports that you were walking around our neighborhood – you're not from around here." In one of the mostly-Muslim neighborhoods, we walked into an enclosed marketplace. "Look at him! He should be ashamed of himself. What is he doing walking in here wearing a kippa?!" one Muslim merchant yelled. "What do you care? He can do whatever he wants," another, seemingly unfazed merchant, answered. Over at a nearby street I was lambasted with exple-tives, mostly telling me to "go f*** from the front and the back."

At a nearby café, fingers were pointed at us, and moments later two thugs were waiting for us on the street corner. They swore at me, yelled "Jew" and spat at me. "I think we've been made," the photographer whispered at me. Two youths were waiting for us on the next street corner, as they had apparently heard that a Jew was walking around their neighborhood. They made it clear to us that we had better get out of there, and we took their advice. "A few more minutes and this would have been a lynching," the bodyguard told me as we were getting into the car. "Leave this area right now." Is this what life is like for Paris' Jews? Is this what a Jew goes through, day in and day out, while walking to work or using public transportation? The majority of French Jews do not flaunt their religion, as the Jewish community leaders have urged them to wear hats as they walk to and from work, or go bareheaded. But what about nighttime? Well, Jews prefers to stay inside in the evening. It is safer at home.
© NRG

up  

Sweden's Roma Commission Wants to Popularize Word for Anti-Gypsy Prejudice

Sweden's Commission on fighting racism against the local Roma minority has urged the Swedish Academy to introduce a term for antiziganism to the Swedish Academy Glossary (SAOL).

15/2/2015- Antiziganism is a word akin to antisemitism, but denotes hostility, prejudice, discrimination or racism directed at the Romani people, otherwise known as gypsies. Sweden's commission on fighting antiziganism believes that if this word becomes widely known, it will draw attention to the vulnerable situation of the Roma minority in Swedish society. In a letter to the Swedish Academy, the commission said that " antiziganism is a negative stereotype of the Roma as a group; in other words, it is a form of racism." The commission expressed hope that the word antiziganism will be as widely known as the term antisemitism. "We must do away with generalizations about the Roma and concentrate on eliminating barriers that still affect their access to basic human rights," the letter said. According to commission head Heidi Pikkarainen, "the inclusion of the word antiziganism in the dictionary will become just one step in spreading information on the vulnerable situation of the Roma minority". Created in 2014, the commission specifically deals with collec-ting facts and spreading knowledge of how to reduce racism in relation to the Roma minority in Sweden.
© Sputnik

up  

Sweden: Neo-Nazis held for newspaper 'threats'

Three people with reported connections to a neo-Nazi organisation have been detained by police after being found lurking outside the Stockholm editorial offices of a national newspaper.

14/2/2015- "They have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and unlawful threats," said Lars Byström at Stockholm police. The three were taken into questioning on Friday and were formally arrested later in the evening. Lars Byström declined to comment on media reports that the three were linked to neo-Nazi group the Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska motståndsrörelsen - SMR). "I can confirm that a police operation has been conducted near the Expressen office building, but I also want to be clear that all attempts to threaten and commit violence against Expressen and other media merely results in more journalism," he said. Expressen, whose offices in the same building as Dagens Nyheter, has published a series of articles on the Swedish Resistance Movement and the Party of the Swedes (Svenskarnas parti) in the course of the past week. "Since 1944 it has been our mission and conforms with our idea of journalism to bring attention to xenophobia," Expressen's editor-in-chief Thomas Mattsson said in a comment to the TT news agency. The Swedish Resistance Movement is recognised as one of the key members of the white power movement in Sweden and their publication material openly praises the life of Adolf Hitler. Four of the group's members were jailed in June 2014 for their part in the clashes in Stockholm suburb Kärrtorp in December 2013.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

Netherlands: Info and inclusion key to combating extremism, says Rotterdam mayor

18/2/2015- Rotterdam mayor Achmed Aboutaleb told a conference on combating Muslim extremism in the US that even with a soldier on every street corner, ‘you are never completely safe from people who are willing to die for their delusions’. Aboutaleb, who hit the international headlines for telling would-be jihadis to ‘disappear’ and never come back, is one of several foreign officials invited to attend the three-day conference organised by the White House. Aboutaleb said that as mayor of ‘an international city where 175 nationalities live together’ having access to information and being actively involved in what is going on is vital. Secondly, there must be good education and enough traineeships and jobs.

‘Exclusion and discrimination make young people vulnerable to the messages of [extremist] recruiters,’ he said. Thirdly, officials must set boundaries and monitor them. When people take Dutch nationality, ‘I point out the rights and the duties which Dutch law imposes on them,’ Aboutaleb said. Muslim voices It is also crucial that people talk to each other, the mayor said. ‘As mayor and a practicing Muslim, I also call upon the Muslim community to take action and make their voices heard more loudly.’ The conference was opened on Tuesday by vice president Joe Biden who said the United States must ensure that immigrants are fully included in American society to prevent violent ideologies from taking root at home. The delegates to the conference include elected officials, community leaders and religious figures as well as representatives from abroad.
Read the full speech (in English)

Read the full speech (in English)

Read more at DutchNews.nl: Info and inclusion key to combating extremism, says Rotterdam mayor http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/02/info-and-inclusion-key-to-combating-extremism-says-rotterdam-mayor/

© The Dutch News
up  

Six Dutch jihadi suspects go on trial, but none will be in court

18/2/2015- Six alleged Dutch jihadis go on trial on Thursday but none of them will be in court to hear the case against them, the Telegraaf reports. Three have refused to attend the trial because they object to being strip-searched twice, the paper says. Two others are in Syria and one is dead. Three men – Oussama C, Azzedine C (alias Abou Moussa) and Rudolph H – are being held at the high security terrorist wing at Vught prison. According to their lawyers, the suspects will not come to court because they will have to undergo two body searches, which they regard as extremely humiliating. Court attendance is not compulsory in the Netherlands. ‘Our clients will not cooperate with having their body cavities inspected,’ lawyer Michiel Pestman told news agency ANP.

Video
Two other suspects – Aniz Z and Hatim R – are known to be in Syria. The third, Soufiane Z, is thought to have died during a bombardment. He hit the headlines after ma-king a short film about Dutch jihadis called Oh Oh Aleppo, a pastiche title on a reality soap. He also claimed that Dutch jihadis would not be a danger if they returned home. The public prosecution department says it will continue to press charges against Z until it has concrete proof he is dead.
© The Dutch News

up  

Netherlands: MPs, officials want answers on Rijswijk ‘jihad gala’

16/2/2015- MPs and local officials have raised concerns about a fund-raising meeting featuring allegedly radical imams which is due to take place in Rijswijk on March 8. The Tele-graaf reports on Monday that several imams accused of preaching hatred and encouraging jihad will be at the meeting, which the paper dubbed a ‘jihad gala’. Rijswijk mayor Michel Bezuijen has brought forward a meeting with police and justice ministry officials to discuss the event. That meeting was originally scheduled for Wednesday. The event is said to be a charity fund-raiser and has been organised by The Hague foundation Rohamaa. Among the speakers are said to be Tarik bin Ali, described by ‘jihad expert’ Ronald Sandee as a jihad facilitator. D66 MP Gerard Schouw has asked social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher what he is doing to prevent controversial imams coming to the Netherlands. ‘Minister Asscher said in August last year he wanted to stop so-called hate imams from coming to the Netherlands, by refusing them visas for example,’ Schouw said.
© The Dutch News

up  

Netherlands: From Pim Fortuyn to Geert Wilders & the PVV

In the Netherlands, the right-wing PVV (Freedom Party) has steadily garnered power using a hate-filled discourse directed at Muslims and elites alike.

14/2/2015- The Dutch far-right has evolved into one of the most successful national movements in Europe. Its leader Geert Wilders is a major political figure with international support. In many ways Wilders is the heir of Pim Fortuyn, a politician who played a crucial role in shaping a new right-wing current, ‘national-populism’, in Dutch politics, and who was murdered in 2002. Populism here means the idea that society is separated in two camps; the ‘good people’ versus a ‘corrupt elite’. The ‘people’ are not the whole of society, but the part of the society that is considered pure and whose political will is considered legitimate: it is a partial object that stands in for the whole. Who is part of the ‘people’ is not given, the borders of this category are contested. The selection of those considered part of it and who are not is a political act. Different kinds of populism use different criteria to select and shape ‘the people’ into political actors. In national-populism, the ‘people’ and the nation tend to overlap: the nation is not equal to the citizenry but to the ‘people’, a term with an historical, ethnic connotation. The national-populism of Fortuyn and Wilders calls for the disappearance of an ‘alien’ minority culture to preserve a mythical, homogeneous ‘Dutchness’.

A nationalist trailblazer
During the nineties Fortuyn became a public figure combining nationalism with populism and right-wing, anti-left liberalism. He argued for neoliberal economic policies and deep cuts in social services. His book De Verweesde Samenleving (‘The Orphaned Society’), published in 1995, showed him to be a conservative cultural pessimist, decrying the loss of community, the decline of patriarchal authority figures and the erosion of social norms and values. Two years later, in his book Tegen de islamisering van onze cultuur (‘Against the islamization of our culture’), he declared ‘Islamic culture’ in particular to be a threat to Dutch society. Fortuyn framed Islamic culture as uniform and a-historical. Supposedly, Islam was not only a religion, but also a world-view and political ideology. According to Fortuyn, under the influence of individualism and ‘cultural relativism’, Dutch people risked losing their identity to this ‘backward’ culture.

Fortuyn supposedly attacked Muslims for their culture, not for their ethnicity as such or for being immigrants. In this way, Fortuyn could distance himself from the pseudo-scientific biological racism of the extreme-right at the time. Cultural othering replaced racial othering; ‘culture’ replaced ‘race’ as the marker producing a hierarchical difference between an inferior out-group (the target being especially Muslims) and the superior in-group. Fortuyn’s avoidance of the charge of ‘racism’ by claiming he wasn’t targeting individuals or a ‘race’ but a ‘culture’ or ‘religion’ remains a standard argument of the Dutch Right. In practice, the categories constantly overlap and the distinction often becomes meaningless; in his book The Orphaned Society, Fortuyn wrote that he considered it impossible for people to ‘leave their culture behind’. And in a famous interview with the daily De Volkskrant Fortuyn’s discussion of Islam segued into linking crime to ethnicity: “Moroccan youth never steal from a Moroccan. Did you ever notice that? But we can be robbed.” [1] Culture functions here in a manner analogous to how race functions in biological racism; heredity is taken as determining the characteristics of human beings.

Fortuyn did not invent these ideas. An important step in introducing such views into the Dutch political mainstream was a 1991 speech by future European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Frits Bolkestein [2]. Back then, Bolkestein was leader of the right-wing liberal VVD, one of the major parties in the Netherlands. In a speech for a meeting of the Liberal International, Bolkestein posited a contradiction between European and Christian civilization and the culture of the Middle-East and Islam. In this discourse, democracy and human rights became products of a singular European culture, instead of results of political conflicts inside different cultures. Likewise, Fortuyn assimilated political concepts as the separation of church and state or equal rights for women and homosexuals into ‘Dutch culture’. Fortuyn’s national-populism was a mix of moral conservatism and economic liberalism that integrated elements of the Dutch progressive liberal hegemony that had come into being after ’68.

By linking his attacks on the Muslim minority to Muslims’ supposed reactionary views on democracy, women’s rights and equal rights for homosexuals, he also appealed to people who considered themselves to be progressive. For Fortuyn, Dutch culture — including the democratic gains he claimed were part of it — was in danger because the ‘elites’ of the Netherlands refused to recognize the ‘threat’ of Islamic culture. In populist fashion, Fortuyn appealed to ‘the Dutch people’ to defend their culture. But on 6 May, 2002, Pim For-tuyn was killed by environmental activist Volkert van der Graaf. Despite its electoral success, Fortuyn’s party quickly tore itself apart after his death in fights between feuding individuals. But the potential for an anti-immigrant party to the right of the VVD hadn’t disappeared and different political forces would try to appeal to Fortuyn’s followers. Of several would-be heirs, Geert Wilders has been the most successful. He has also moved much more to the right than Fortuyn ever did.

In Fortuyn’s footsteps
In the late nineties and early 2000s, Wilders was a parliamentarian on the right wing of the VVD and was closely associated with Bolkestein. Another strong political influence on him was fellow VVD-parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali [3]. Together, Wilders and Hirsi Ali developed a so-called ‘critique of the Islamic religion’ that saw the behaviour of Muslims as determined by their religion and that blamed the social-economic misery and lack of democracy in many Islamic countries as well as sexism and racism inside Muslim communities on their ‘backward’ culture. In 2004, Wilders left the VVD and two years later he organized his own party, the Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV, Freedom Party). In the meantime, the Netherlands was shocked by another murder. In 2004, film-maker and columnist Theo van Gogh was murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist [4]. Van Gogh, a supporter of Pim Fortuyn was a reactionary who often insulted gays, women, Jews and most of all Muslims to whom he referred in terms like ‘goatfuckers’ or ‘pimps of the prophet’. After this murder, dozens of mosques and scores of people were attacked.

The Monitor Racisme en Extremisme, a publication by the anti-racist Anne Frank foundation and the University of Leiden, recorded 106 cases of anti-Muslim violence between 2 and 30 November. In this climate, Wilders’ popularity soared. In 2006, in its first elections, the PVV won 9 out of 150 seats in the parliament. After the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, the major parties tried to make the parliamentary elections of 2010 about social-economic issues and Wilders’ popularity declined somewhat. In response, the PVV tried to connect its anti-Islam and anti-migration positions to economic issues. Earlier statements about attacking trade-unions, or a flat tax rate, abolishing the minimum wage and libera-lisation of the law on dismissals flew out of the window. Instead, the 2010 program of the PVV is an example of ‘welfare-chauvinism’.

The PVV now promised to defend the welfare state; rejected liberalization of the law on dismissals; demanded keeping the retirement age at 65 et cetera. Such proposals to preserve social rights were combined with proposals to exclude minorities from those rights, by making social security dependent on length of citizenship and language skills, and denying social security to people wearing a burqa or niqab. The program claimed that ‘only the PVV defends the welfare-state and that is why we plead for a stop on immigration from Islamic countries. It’s one or the other; either a welfare-state or an immigration-country’. This link between ‘Islam’ and social rights is indicative of the ideological evolution of the PVV; a few years before, ‘Islamization’ was supposedly one of several problems facing Dutch society. By 2010 it had become the root cause of social problems, of crime, of the national deficit, of deteriorating social services….

The new government of VVD Prime-Minister Mark Rutte needed the support of the PVV to have a majority in parliament. Its coalition agreement reflected a number of priorities of the PVV. A ‘very substantial’ lowering of non-western immigration into the country was one of its top goals. The government proposed doing that through further restricting asylum-rights and restrictive immigration policies. Other typical PVV positions the government adopted were criminalizing undocumented migrants and revoking the Dutch nationality of criminals with double nationalities. In return for policies like these, the PVV gave up many of its ‘left-wing’ social-economic demands, instead supporting 18 billion Euros in austerity measures. However, the government collapsed in 2012 when the PVV withdrew from talks on even more austerity measures. At the following elections, the PVV took a heavy blow, losing ten seats. Even so, with 15 seats it is the third party in parliament.

The right-wing drift
In late 2013, Geert Wilders began cooperating with parties like the French National Front (FN), the Belgium Vlaams Belang (VB) and the Austrian Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ), parties who for decades have been the core of the European far-right. This step surprised many, since Wilders had always been careful to keep his distance from such parties. However, in recent years, the core of the European far-right has been converging with the trajectory of Wilders. The FN has been evolving towards positions that are close to those of Wilders. The FN today denies its antisemitic past. The FN and PVV pose as the defenders of certain gains of modernity against a supposed Islamic threat. The FN, like the VB and FPÖ, still has in it remnants of an older European far-right which is anti-modernist, antisemitic and references historical fascism, but this side has been marginalized enough for Wilders to feel he can now ally himself with such parties.

At the same time, the PVV is drifting further to the right. For the PVV, Muslims should be subjected to other, more oppressive laws and regulations than people in the ‘in-group’; their holy book should be banned, there should be a special tax for wearing head-scarves, unlike other religious groups they should not be allowed to organize their own schools, and recently the party called for closing all mosques in the Netherlands. Since 2013, the PVV has slowly extended its field of activity. In 2010, when Wilders was tried for inciting hatred, the PVV organized a small support rally but for a long time this was the only extra-parliamentary activity of the party. However, in early 2013 the PVV opened a website to give juridical advice to people objecting to the construction of mosques in their neighbourhood and in February that year Wilders declared a ‘resistance tour’ throughout the country to collect signatures against the government’s austerity policies.

On September 21, on the same day that left-wing organizations organized an anti-austerity protest, the PVV organized its first large demonstration, with a couple of thousand of participants. Wilders’ speech at the rally was a mix of nationalist rhetoric, attacks on austerity policies and against his usual targets like Islamization. New about this rally was the presence of activists from a range of fascist and nazi groups. Wilders doesn’t feel the need anymore to distance himself from such groups. The potential of the PVV to mobilize supporters was remarkable considering its weak organizational structure. The PVV doesn’t have members, branches or other publications than a website. This way, Wilders is not accountable to anybody. He determines who will be candidate in elections for the PVV and who of its representatives are allowed to talk to the media. Wilders is a prominent figure in the media, regularly drawing attention with statements intended to provoke, but often refuses to participate in news-programs and talk shows, saying he distrusts the ‘left-wing’ media. However, the PVV and Wilders reach a large audience through right-wing blogs and social media.

Riding the wave of institutionalized racism
One distinctive characteristic of Wilders’ current, and of the new right-wing in the Netherlands in general, is its ambiguous attitude to the heritage of the post-’68 social move-ments. They are vehemently opposed to the ecological movement, and of course to anti-racism. But (verbal) support for women’s rights and those of LGBT’s as well as opposition to antisemitism have been made into markers of ‘Dutchness’ and modernity. In Dutch national-populism, the left and progressive background of these emancipatory ideas and how they were part of social conflict is ignored. Emancipation in Dutch society is supposedly completed: emancipation movements are ‘out-dated’, except among ‘backward’ minori-ties. The fight against sexism, homophobia and antisemitism is redefined as one against ‘non-integrated minorities’, especially Muslims who are considered to be inherently misogynist, homophobic and antisemitic. In the words of PVV parliamentarian Fleur Agema; “antisemitism and homophobia are not Dutch phenomena. They have been imported, for a deplorable part from Morocco.”

Racism in the Netherlands is not limited to the PVV, but Wilders, and Fortuyn before him, do more than just reflecting existing sentiments: they mobilize and shape a social base for their politics. A 2010 report showed job applicants with non-western names had less chance to be invited for a meeting with potential employers: on average 9% less chance for men. More than a third of Dutch jobseekers of Turkish and Moroccan origin experience discrimination when looking for work. Unemployment among people with a non-western background is 14.2%, among ‘indigenous’ Dutch it is 4.3% [5]. Amnesty International has criticized the Dutch police’s ethnic profiling, and the dominant nature of prejudices and stereotypes among them [6].One 2010 study showed that over a quarter of the 1020 respondents had a negative view of foreigners, with 10 % stating they were racists [7]. Almost three-quarters of Dutch Muslims feel that since the rise of Geert Wilders Muslims are viewed more negatively and almost a quarter of Muslims experience discrimination on a regular basis.

At the same time, the development of Dutch nation-populism shows racism doesn’t grow spontaneously into a political force. Bolkstein and Wilders were members of the main-stream ‘center-right’ VVD, Fortuyn was a well-known publicist for established right-wing media. Together with a range of publicists that are also often linked to the center-parties, they shaped and popularized the culturalist and nationalist ideas that come together in the ideology of the PVV. With the parliamentary left either largely ignoring racism or even taking over parts of the national-populist discourse, opposition to this deeply rooted Dutch racism needs to come from somewhere else. There’s a strong taboo on the existence of everyday and institutionalized racism in Dutch society since it so strongly contradicts the Dutch self-image as ‘open and tolerant’. Many anti-racist organizations and organizations of minorities have become institutionalized, dependent on government funding and are hesitant to rock the boat. The liveliest anti-racist activities have come from outside the established left organizations and structures, often organized by young people of color.

Footnotes
[1] http://www.volkskrant.nl/binnenland...


© International Viewpoint
up  

Europe’s ugly curse returns (editorial The Australian)

Although it has stirred widespread controversy, Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for Europe’s 1.4 million Jews to consider a “mass migration” to Israel is hardly surprising. As the Israeli Prime Minister puts it, 70 years on from the Holocaust Jews are being “murdered again on European soil only because they were Jews”. They are targeted in a rising tide of anti-Semitism seen across the continent. Murderous attacks have been seen in Paris, Brussels and even in Copenhagen which, like so many cities, hosts a hotbed of jihadist militancy spurred by the evil appeal of Islamic State to migrant Muslim communities.

18/2/2015- European leaders have expressed resentment over Mr Netanyahu’s call. So, too, have European Jewish leaders. French President Francois Hollande has pledged to protect all his country’s citizens, warning that anti-Jewish sentiment threatens his country’s foundations and telling Jews: “Your place is here in your home. France is your country.” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has insisted: “The Jewish community is a large and integrated part of Danish society.” But what both ignore is that the sense of profound unease overtaking Europe’s Jews runs far deeper than the recent terrorist attacks. Its roots lie in the years of demonisation of Israel by European intelligentsia and political leadership starkly demonstrated in a single day recently when the European Court of Justice incomprehensibly removed Hamas from its list of proscribed terrorist organisations just as the European Parliament resolved to support a Palestinian state.

It is little wonder Europe’s Jews feel so unsettled when, following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, France made it plain Mr Netanyahu would not be welcome at the march of solidarity, even though Jews were killed and flown to Israel for burial, away from the French cemeteries that come under anti-Semitic attack. No similar attempt was made to keep Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas away and the Israeli leader was right to defy Paris and attend anyway. The incident underlines a failure of leadership. There is concern among far too many European leaders to pander meekly to the Palestinian cause and portray Israel as the villain in the Middle East, a stance that often spills over, as it sometimes does here, into anti-Semitic posturing. More of Europe’s leaders should follow the lead of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls who, in a remarkable address, has denounced the evils of “Islamo-Facism” and warned of the dire consequences for France if its Jewish community continues to suffer.

It will be a tragedy if Europe’s Jews conclude they have no alternative but to leave. Statistics show 7000 French Jews migrated to Israel last year, twice the number in 2013. “Jews deserve protection in every country, but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home,” Mr Netanyahu said after Copenhagen’s attack, giving expression to the ideal in his country’s 1948 Declaration of Independence that pledges it will always be “open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the exiles”. Instead of resen-ting this, European leaders must deal more forcefully with anti-Semitism. They need to follow Mr Valls’s powerful lead. Europe’s Jews must be assured of their security, not left hanging by weak political leadership. Europe would be the big loser if they felt they had no alternative but to take Mr Netanyahu’s advice.
© The Australian

up  

Four Baltic marches, one dangerous racist trend (opinion)

By Efraim Zuroff 

15/2/2015- This coming week will see the opening of what I refer to as "Baltic Neo-Nazi/Ultranationalist March Month." Within exactly 29 days, four such marches will take place in the capital cities of the Baltic European Union members - Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. And while there obviously are different local nuances, the similarities between the marches are far too numerous to ignore, reflecting a dangerous trend, which deserves to be treated seriously by Brussels. All the marches are being sponsored by right-wing organizations with fascist sympathies and zero tolerance for local minorities. At past marches in Lithuania, the most popular slogan shouted was "Lietuva lietuvams" (Lithuania for Lithuanians); and in Estonia, it has already been announced that the theme of this year's march will be "Eesti eestlastele" (Estonia for Estonians). In other words, as far as they are concerned, only ethnic Lithuanians or Estonians belong in their country.

The sponsors also share a critical view of the accepted narrative of World War II and the Holocaust, which includes the extensive and zealous collaboration by tens of thousands of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians in the mass annihilation of not only their fellow Jewish citizens, but also of thousands of Jews deported from elsewhere in Europe to the Baltic countries to be murdered there, as well as tens of thousands of Jews murdered by security police units from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in Belarus. As far as the organizers are concerned, the real "genocide" was that supposedly committed in the Baltics by the Communists, whereas the Holocaust was primarily a respite from the two periods of Soviet repression and persecution in 1940-1941 and 1944-1991. The revisionist bent of the marchers was boldly evident in both Lithuania and Latvia in previous such events. Thus, for example, the Latvian march is ostensibly to honor the locals who fought alongside the Nazis in the two Latvian SS divisions, whom the marchers seek to portray as Latvian free-dom fighters.

They conveniently forget three important histo-rical facts: that the goal of these divisions was a victory of the Third Reich, that Nazi Germany had absolutely no intention of granting Latvia independence even if it had won the war, and that among these so-called "Latvian heroes" were quite a few former members of the Latvian Security Police who had actively participated in the mass murder of Jews, local and foreign. In Lithuania, prominently displayed among the nationalist heroes was Juozas Ambrazevicius, the Prime Minister of the Lithuanian Provisional Government establis-hed in July 1941, which fully supported the Third Reich and encouraged Lithuanians to participate in the mass murder of their fellow Jewish citizens, hardly a qualification for glorification. At these marches, Lithuanian swastikas, a slightly altered version of the Nazi original to avoid legal problems, were a very common sight.

All four marches are being held in the main avenues of the capital cities, and three of them are celebrations of local independence days. The first march, on February 16 in Kaunas, which was the capital of the first Lithuanian republic in modern times, marks the independence granted in 1918. The second, a week later, on February 23 in Tallinn, marks Esto-nian independence, and the third, which will be held in the center of Vilnius on March 11, marks the renewal of Lithuanian independence in 1990. (The Latvian march, which will be held in Riga on March 16, is linked to a historic battle of the Latvian Legion.) The combination of exclusionist nationalist slogans with the achievement of freedom for the Baltic peoples is a toxic combination which sends a racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic message which, at least in theory, runs counter to the values of the European Union.

With the exception of the Estonian march which is relatively new, being held this year for only the second time, I have had the painful experience of personally monitoring each of the three Lithuanian and Latvian marches in recent years. I have also tried, together with Prof. Dovid Katz of Vilnius, the founder and editor of the website www.defendinghistory.com, who has courageously sought to expose and combat Holocaust distortion in Europe and especially in the Baltics, to convince local authorities to either ban the marches or at least to distance them from the city center. Not only have these efforts been unsuccessful, lacking support from any Western country, but the number of participants appears to increase every year.

Obviously, the time has come for Brussels to deal with this potentially very dangerous phenomenon by taking more active measures to combat local xenophobia and anti-Semitism and by working together with the post-Communist "new" democracies of Eastern Europe to curb their enthusiasm to rewrite the history of World War II and the Holocaust. In that respect, perhaps the most effective tool would be to grant Communist victims the recognition and commemoration they deserve, making it abundantly clear that while they were undoubtedly victimized by a criminal regime, their plight was intrinsically different than that of the Jews under the Third Reich.
Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of its Israel Office. His most recent book is "Operation Last Chance; One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice." His website is: www.operationlastchance.org and he can be followed on Twitter @EZuroff
© i24 News

up  

GERMANY & UK News Week 8

Germany: Academics to republish Mein Kampf in 2016

Researchers at the Munich Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) plan to publish an annotated edition of Adolf Hitler's infamous book “Mein Kampf" [My Struggle] after its copyright runs out this year.

20/2/2015- It's a moment the academics have spent years preparing for, knowing that the deadline for the copyright to expire – 70 years following the author's death – was soon to arrive. IfZ deputy director Magnus Brechtken said that the two-volume new edition will contain 2,000 pages. Just 780 of those will contain Hitler's original 27 chapters, while the rest will be made up of around 5,000 comments from researchers, an introduction and the index. IfZ director Andreas Wirsching said last year that “what we are publishing here is an anti-Hitler text”. The State of Bavaria, which inherited the rights to the 1925 book from the Nazis' Franz-Eher Publishing House, has had a complex relationship with the project. It promised €500,000 of funding in 2012, before Bavarian minister-president Horst Seehofer reconsidered after a trip to Israel.

He said at the time that “I can't apply for a ban on the [neo-Nazi] NPD [at the Supreme Court] in Karlsruhe and at the same time support the publication of 'Mein Kampf' with the state coat of arms.” A gathering of justice ministers from all the German states decided last year that it should remain forbidden to publish non-annotated copies of “Mein Kampf”. Anyone publishing unedited versions will face a prosecution for incitement to hatred, they said. But they did not make a firm decision on the status of annotated copies like the one proposed by the Institute, although a spokeswoman for the Bavarian justice ministry said such a work should be legal under certain condi-tions.
© The Local - Germany

up  

One people?: Study looks at Germany, 25 years after the wall fell

Disaffection with the political system appears greater in the former East German states than their western counterparts. Reunification wasn't easy, says the government's representative for the old GDR.

19/2/2015- Iris Gleicke, the German government's representative for the "new," or eastern, federal states, on Wednesday presented a report on attitudes towards reunification a quarter of a century after the fall of the Wall. The 50-year-old Social Democrat from the state of Thuringia, who has a background in East Germany's protest movement, entered politics after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ever since, she has been working to promote the acceptance of reunification among Germans.

One people, different memories
According to the report, East Germans tend to be more distrustful of politics, which, Gleicke says, is based on what they experienced after the fall of the wall. It's also evident in the greater approval - compared to western German states - of political protest movements like PEGIDA or parties like the rightwing populist AfD. Gleicke understands East Germans who say they don't feel they are being noticed, and rail at "the top brass." However, she declares it's no excuse for people in eastern Germany to fall for "far- right rabble-rousers."

Hurtful debates
The recent debate about the East German "unjust state" is a good example of how such attitudes evolve, she says. Of course, East Germany was a dictatorship, she adds, but that only describes the system, and not its people, who could perceive the debate as a "depreciation of their own biographies." As far as living conditions are concerned, too, many things are still not equal, stressed Gleicke. When the public debate ignores ignore this people in eastern Germany can only shake their heads. Wages, old-age pensions, pensions for mothers are all different in east and west, notes Gleicke. The minimum wage recently adopted for all of Germany, she said, was a "long overdue signal." In addition, the experience of post-Communist privatization in East Germany continues to have an effect. This should have seen the planned economy-controlled companies of the former East Germany converted to operate successfully in the market economy. The Treuhandanstalt, the agency charged with the task, instead became a byword for winding-up and collapse. The "Treuhand" (trust) - as it was colloquially known - was not only responsible for errors, according to Gleicke, but also for "grandiose failures."

A political divide
The assessment is not only hers, but also that of the researchers who produced the report. Ahead of the 25th anniversary of German reunification, they conducted a representative telephone survey of 2,000 people. It was found that, while people in the former East and West assess their living conditions similarly well, they take different political positions. And, those in the East who are middle-aged are much more concerned about issues like retirement provision, children, immigration and integration.

More skeptical, more detached
Almost three-quarters of those in the former West felt politically "at home" in today's federal republic, compared with barely 50 percent of easterners, said study lea-der Everhard Holtmann. In the former East, 28 percent of people said they had no confidence in democracy. "This is a potential from which from social movements can arise," said the University of Stuttgart's Oscar W. Gabriel. Gleicke summarizes the perceptions of easterners as "consistently more skeptical, more critical and more detached." However, she emphasizes that German reunification has been a "good and successful development." The study shows that has much has been achieved, but Gleicke is keen not to gloss over the problems. For example, economic strength remains far from even. She wants a broad debate on the question: "Are we one people?" - the title of the study - and wants to push for the equalization of pension provision in the former East and West, as set out in the coalition agreement of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and their partners, the Social Democrats.
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Germany: Pegida plans Dresden mayoral bid

Lutz Bachmann, founder of anti-Islam movement Pegida, said on Monday that the group was ready to choose a candidate to run for Dresden city hall in June.

17/2/2015- At a 4,000-strong rally in the city, the fifteenth since the movement began last October, Bachmann said that there were three possible candidates, and the person selec-ted would be introduced soon. Bachmann himself is out of the running, as he has a criminal record and was forced to step down from leading the group after evidence of racist comments he had made against immigrants emerged online, alongside a picture of him styled as Hitler. At the meeting, Bachmann also reported on a conference he had held with Pegida offshoots from different cities and put forward ten political demands under the title “Dresden Theses”. One of the key points in the list is the immediate deportation of people whose asylum applications are rejected. Other cities saw smaller demonstrations by Pegida copycats on Monday, including Leipzig, Chemnitz, Magdeburg and – for the first time – Nuremberg.
© The Local - Germany

up  

Germany: Neo-nazis no-show their annual march in Dresden. Is Pegida to blame?

Every year on February 13, locals link arms to form a human chain across the Elbe River and Dresden’s old town. The gesture is part symbol of remembrance of the World War II bombings that left the city in ruins and part act of defiance against a coinciding neo-Nazi march.

16/2/2015- This year there was still a chain—but no visible neo-Nazis, in their first no-show in the nearly 10-year-long marching tradition. Instead, a mishmash of picketers protes-ting the extremists’ possible presence spread across in front of Dresden’s famous Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), as prominent politicians spoke in solemn commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the British and American bombings. Observers say that in fact, the neo-Nazis' absence may be due in part to the rise of a group that many accuse of har-boring the same sort of hatreds that the neo-Nazis do: Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or Pegida. Whether by drawing support from the neo-Nazis or by raising the public's resistance to the messages, Pegida seems to have thrown the neo-Nazis' annual march off stride. “Maybe it would be too stressful [for the neo-Nazis] to show up,” said local Maria Rohr, who watched a smaller podium devoted to anti-Islamophobe speeches behind the official event. “They knew the opposition would be great this year and probably wanted to march on a calmer day, when their views wouldn’t be drowned out.”

Overlapping movements
Since the late 1990s, Dresden has earned a notorious reputation, courtesy of annual neo-Nazi marches on the February 13 anniversary of the city's firebombing by Allied forces in 1945. That notoriety was further enhanced in recent months as Pegida emerged in the city. The movement, nominally against radical Islam but accused of harboring broad anti-immigrant sentiments, grew from a Facebook page created in October 2014 into a protest group that drew tens of thousands to weekly marches held as recently as last month. Al-though the two groups are often cast in a similar light, their messages and constituencies overlap but differ. Pegida draws support from people with a broad swathe of ideologies—including neo-Nazis—and taps into German frustrations about a range of issues, ranging from reforming Germany’s immigration policy to relations between Russia and Germany, said Dresden city spokesperson Kai Schulz. “A lot of people within Pegida are just normal people.”

A study published at the beginning of February by Hans Vorländer, a professor at Dresden’s Technical University, described the average Pegida member as a man who is between the ages of 25 and 49; is undereducated; lives in Saxony; served in the Bundeswehr, Germany’s Army; and is self-employed. But there are neo-Nazis embedded within Pegida. About one-third of Pegida members sport right-wing ideologies, while the rest are simply “disenchanted with the current political situation,” said Werner Patzelt, another Tech-nical University professor, who sent students to survey members of Pegida as they marched through the city. And many say Pegida are far from their claims of “Wir sind das Volk”—or “We are the people”—a slogan popularized in the Leipzig demonstrations of 1989 that peacefully led to the demise of communism. Over the past three months, the number of attacks on refugees in Germany has tripled—something that Andreas Zick, who researches violence, told Der Spiegel is sparked by the ideology put forth in part by Pegida members at their now dwindling weekly protests.

Patzelt said that neo-Nazis did indeed join Pegida, in hopes of making their positions publicly heard in a group that dwarfed their own numbers, and was viewed as more mode-rate. But as Pegida protests dwindled in size in recent weeks—the last march drew 2,000 as opposed to the 25,000 immediately after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris—the neo-Nazis no longer had a strong outlet to vent their frustrations. Furthermore, the international media attention cast on the most extreme members of the Pegida sent a clear message that "Nazis are not welcome" in Dresden and sapped their overall strength, said Richard Mauser, a local resident who toted a sign that said everyone has a place in his city.

'Foreigners aren't to be feared'
Dresden’s attempt to recast itself as an accepting city—dual defiance against neo-Nazis and Pegida—could be seen in the days leading up to today's events. For weeks, the city was coated with posters proclaiming “February 13, 2015: With Courage, Respect and Tolerance: Dresden avows itself to color.” Large local non-profit Forum Dreizehnter Februar the-med its February 13 programming around immigration and multiculturalism in Dresden, with an upcoming roster of exhibitions and plays casting the spotlight on Islam, as well as Judaism and other minority religions. “Dresden is going through the same demographic transition that West Germany was in the '60s and '70s,” said Kai Viertel, forum spokesperson and Dresden native. “We need to educate ordinary citizens here that foreigners aren’t to be feared. Their acceptance still hasn’t caught up to that in the West.”

The human chain itself—as it has been since its creation in 2010—is a “sign of solidarity," Schulz said. "We think of the family we have lost, but also live further on in peace." But there still could be work to do, warned local university student Nils Rübelmann, who carried one of many bright yellow “Refugee Welcome” signs seen in the crowd on Friday. “We know how the people in Pegida think and we know how the counter-protesters think,” Rübelmann said. “It’s really the people who are doing nothing that we don’t know about. There could be a lot of opinions to change.”
© The Christian Science Monitor

up  

GermanyL: PEGIDA - The Last Stronghold of a 'Fortress Europe' Asylum Policy? (opinion)

By Andreas Hieronymus, Board Member of ENAR (European Network Against Racism) and researcher on racism and discrimination

18/2/2015- The growing PEGIDA (“Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident”) movement in Dresden (East Germany) has raised concerns across Europe. The collective trauma from the early 1990's, when a wave of racist anti-immigrant pogroms in East and West Germany followed unification, is re-activated. Thankfully however, in the Western part of Germany, off-springs of PEGIDA are not able to mobilise more than 500 people, while counter-demonstrations number tens of thousands. People hide and support undocumented “Lampedusa-Refugees” who came from Italy, and in areas with high immigrant populations, a wave of solidarity with newly arriving refugees sweeps over the country. What is behind these trends?

In the last two decades, Germany transformed into a country of immigration, changed its citizenship law, implemented EU race directives, created the largest low-paid sector in Europe and became the leading economic power. Until recently, “newcomers” entered largely low-paid, blue-collar jobs and mainly working class people felt challenged. Now skilled labour is attracted and two groups challenge the middle class: the emerging internal migrant middle class - children and grandchildren of the “guest workers” who moved to Germany in the 60s and 70s- and young, skilled, middle-class people from crisis-ridden EU countries moving freely to Germany.

A survey found that those who disagree that ‘Islam belongs to Germany’ include people from three groups. (1) Those on the winning side of the economic development of the last 20 years, with a high sense of status and fearing changes in society influenced by Muslim migrants. (2) Those with lower levels of education, belonging to the multi-ethnic “service proletariat”, in competition with migrants for their existing workplaces and (3) Those who are fairly well off, have a strong confidence in their competencies, are well travelled, perceive themselves as open-minded and have the highest education of all three groups. In their perception, they had to work hard to get where they are and now ask why “those Muslim” should be welcomed. If we interpret racism as a social practice to protect one’s own social status by downgrading and excluding racialised ‘competitors’, we can understand why those groups are so easily mobilised by the right-wing and racists, and why they unite behind the “common enemy”, which, for them, is Islam. This perspective enables us to develop alternative practices, which emphasises cooperation over competition and produces a “good” life for all.

A report by the Open Society Initiative For Europe shows how unification affected identity formation and feelings of ‘belonging’ among the remaining local population in the Berlin district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf. Events around the establishment of a reception centre for asylum seekers in the area, in 2013, reignited a trauma stemming from the time of uni-fication, when the downturn of the socialist economy was accompanied by a wave of racist attacks. A top-down approach by the Berlin state administration in the allocation of a new reception centre reinforced the belief of locals that their voice was not heard – a feeling that is deeply routed in the experience of unification, and re-fuelled by a “Citizens initiative”, being a cover-up for the Nationalist Party of Germany. The study shows that, if asked, and involved in the decision-making, the local population had a myriad of resources at hand to manage the question of asylum seekers differently. For example, the lively local civil society and the sense of belonging and identity among the older genera-tion, are an important basis to re-build solidarity, including towards newcomers.

The “Asylum Compromise” of 1992, following unification of Germany, established a basis for building walls for refugees to traverse. This fermented the grounds for a common EU asylum policy, resulting in “Fortress Europe”, with the ‘new’ Berlin Wall “rebuilt” around the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the wider European public recognises the deadly conse-quences for those trying to come to Europe. As I write, another 300 deaths are estimated to have occurred in the channel off Sicily, as migrants endeavoured to reach Italy. The mobilisation and counter-mobilisation around Islam, migration and refugees shows that the “fortress Europe logic” is no longer dominant. This struggle for a renewed command of the “fortress logic” has been taken up by the “new right”, which organises ‘professional’ protests, and has found a social base to operate, by gaining spurious legitimacy from seg-ments of the alienated middle classes. These developments demand a response; being a call for a progressive European Asylum Policy, that recognises the justified criticism of existing asylum policies, and that aims to develop a new form of European solidarity, from below, geared towards an open, fair, equal and inclusive European society.
© The European Council on Refugees and Exiles

up  

Jewish Cemetery in Germany desecrated, mirroring French vandalism

Both sites have been targeted before; French PM outraged, calls them an insult to the memory of the dead.
Swastika's at Jewish cemetery

17/2/2015- A Jewish cemetery in the northern German city of Oldenburg was desecrated over the weekend, the Oldenburger Online newspaper reported on Monday.
Police are investigating the incident which left swastikas splattered on the cemetery's entrance, a wall as well as on two parked cars. This is not the first time the burial ground was targeted in such a fashion. Right-wing extremists have vandalized the site a number of times. In a prior case, one man was successfully charged in a court of law, sentenced to two years' probation for shooting paint-balls at a number of Jewish gravestones.

In France, an unrelated attack on a Jewish cemetery also transpired over the weekend; vandals uprooted 300 gravestones in the Alsace region, near Germany. Like the Oldenburg cemetery, the French cemetery in Sarre-Union is no stranger to such attacks. In 1988, 60 Jewish headstones were overturned, and in 2001, 54 graves were vandalized In the most recent case, five French teens were detained on suspicion of having committed the desecration, which was discovered at around the same time as the vandalism in Germany. The suspected teens are all between the ages of 15 and 17 and were arrested after one turned himself in, claiming to a prosecutor that he had no anti-Semitic motives and that the outrage across the nation compelled him to do so. In response to the French case, the country's Prime Minister Manuel Valls took to Twitter, calling it “a vile, anti-Semitic act, an insult to the memory” of the dead.
© The Jerusalem Post

up  

Pegida protests dwindle in Germany but resentment persists

The protest was billed as a moment of renewal, a return to the spot where it all started. But instead it may have marked the beginning of the end.

15/2/2015- Last week, the right-wing group whose demonstrations have shaken Germany gathered once again in the eastern city of Dresden. They carried German flags and shou-ted slogans against the lying press and the country’s leaders. They claimed that many asylum seekers are illegitimate. They complained of a creeping Islamic influence in society. This time, however, only about 2,000 people braved the damp February night to show their support for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or Pegida, after its German acronym. At its peak in January, the weekly march attracted 25,000 people. It spawned sister demonstrations in other German cities and several other European coun-tries. Ever since they began in October, the protests have convulsed Germany’s political scene, provoking counterdemonstrations and condemnation by national leaders. Now the Dresden demonstrations are ebbing, thanks to a leadership controversy and an internal split. But the dissatisfaction they unearthed isn’t going anywhere – and it has long-term consequences for Germany and beyond.

“The true reasons why Pegida emerged will not disappear,” said Werner Patzelt, a political scientist at the Technical University in Dresden who has polled the protesters. The discourse of mainstream political parties has shifted to the left, said Prof. Patzelt, opening up space on the right side of the spectrum. “It is exactly into this representation gap that movements like Pegida … have jumped.” Peter, a 49-year old father and customs official who declined to give his last name, said he was motivated to march by what he described as the growing power of Islam in Germany – just look at how many minarets there are in cities, he said, or the way that pork isn’t served in some schools. “This is my country, this is my culture,” he said last Monday night in Dresden’s historic Neumarkt square. “The people who come here should assimilate and accept it.” According to Prof. Patzelt’s polling, about a third of those involved in the movement in Dresden could be described as right-wing xenophobes, while the other two-thirds are a variety of concerned or outraged citizens, with complaints against the media, mainstream political parties and the validity of some asylum seekers.

The immediate cause of Pegida’s recent troubles is internal. Late last month, it emerged that Lutz Bachmann, the movement’s founder, had posted a photo of himself on Facebook sporting a Hitler-esque mustache and hairstyle, together with the caption “He’s back.” In another posting, he referred to immigrants as “trash,” “scumbags” and “cattle.” The con-troversy led to a schism in the group’s leadership, with one prominent figure, Kathrin Oertel, leaving Pegida to form a separate outfit called “Direct Democracy for Europe.” It held its first protest on Feb. 8 and 500 people attended. “I don’t think [Pegida] will survive the split,” said Juergen Falter, an expert on right-wing groups and a professor of poli-tical science at the University of Mainz. The more radical members will gravitate toward the ultranationalist, neo-Nazi fringe, he predicted, while others will give their support to the Alternative for Democracy, a new euroskeptic, conservative party that is uneasy with immigration.

Last Monday, Mr. Bachmann, Pegida’s founder, was once again at the microphone. The controversy over his comments about migrants was overblown, he said, and claimed his choice of words had been similar to what “every one of us has used at the pub.” He thanked the crowd for coming. The protesters booed as he noted that the landmark church behind them – a reconstruction of an 18th-century building – had switched off all of its lights in a silent gesture of opposition to the march. Those gathered in Dresden weren’t bothered by Mr. Bachmann posing as Hitler in a photo. “This is just parody, like comedians do,” said Rene Dizk, 55, who has attended the Pegida marches since they began. What did disturb the protesters was how they were portrayed in the media. At various points during the demonstration, loud chants of “Luegenpresse!” – lying press – reverberated off walls and cobblestones.

They weren’t racist or uneducated, many of the marchers asserted, and they voiced support for allowing legitimate refugees to come to Germany. Yet there was also a frank discomfort with Islam, with the numbers and types of asylum seekers arriving in Germany and with a perceived lack of assimilation by immigrants. “The people were not asked for their approval” on policies related to migrants, said a 69-year-old, a retired Siemens employee who asked not to be named publicly. He added that he doesn’t want mosques built in the centre of German cities and complained that many refugees weren’t legitimate. “Everyone has the same opinion, but a lot are afraid to say it,” he said. Behind the microphone, the speakers fulminated against the press and against Germany’s political leadership as the audience waved flags and homemade banners. But there was little talk of what specific changes the movement sought to make. It’s a common problem in protest movements, said Nico Lange, an expert on German politics at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin.

“They stick together by being against something, not for something,” he said. When they try to articulate particular demands, things fall apart. At the end of the demonstration, Mr. Bachmann vowed the protests would continue and told his supporters to go home in groups. Afterward, he sat smoking a cigarette and declined to talk with The Globe, saying he had no time. Within half an hour, the square was quiet and empty.
© The Globe and Mail

up  

UK: Two men admit homophobic attack on gay couple in Glasgow

Two men have admitted carrying out a vicious homophobic attack on a gay couple in the Gorbals area of Glasgow.

19/2/2015- Calvin McLelland, 20, and 16-year-old James Knots confronted Dillon Jeffreys, 25, and his partner, Connor Sullivan, 19, in McNeil Street on 17 August 2013. McLelland punched Mr Jeffreys to the ground. When Mr Sullivan intervened he was attacked by McLelland and Knots. Both admitted assault aggravated by prejudice over sexual orientation. Sentence was deferred. Glasgow Sheriff Court heard that Mr Jeffreys and Mr Sullivan were partners and had been socialising in Glasgow city centre on 16 August 2013.

Gay insult
Just after midnight they made their way home through the Gorbals where they saw a group of youths, including the two accused. Procurator fiscal depute Mark Allan said: "Dillon Jeffrey was asked by a member of the group 'Are you gay?' to which he replied 'Yes'. "Connor Sullivan was then asked 'Are you gay?' to which he replied 'Yes'. "Connor Sullivan then heard the word 'faggot' being used as Calvin McLelland approached and thereafter punched Dillon Jeffrey, knocking him to the ground." The court heard Mr Sullivan intervened before being punched by McLelland and sent to the ground. Mr Allan added: "Thereafter James Knots and McLelland were involved in an assault when Dillon Jeffreys was on the ground." They repeatedly kicked him on the head and body - all of which was seen by two police officers on plain clothes, who were dealing with another incident.

Skull fracture
When McLelland and Knots spotted the police they ran off and an ambulance was called for the two victims. Mr Jeffreys had a cut on the back of his head treated with two stitches. He continued to feel sick and dizzy which was investigated and found to be caused by a skull fracture. Mr Sullivan suffered bruising as a result of the attack on him. McLelland, from Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, was found at his home address the next day. The apprentice bricklayer pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Jeffreys to his severe injury and assaulting Mr Sullivan to his injury, both charges aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation. Knots, from the Gorbals area of Glasgow, was traced a month after the attack. He pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Jeffreys to his severe injury, aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation. Sheriff Sam Cathcart deferred sentence on both men until next month and continued their bail.
© BBC News

up  

UK: Newcastle fans united against anti-Islamic group Pegida

Club’s supporters send ‘you are not welcome’ message to far-right ahead of Pegida march

19/2/2015- Newcastle United fans have urged far-right activists to stay away from their city, amid growing tensions over the anti-Islamic movement Pegida’s first rally in Britain. Supporters of Pegida – a new populist anti-immigrant group – have staged marches in several German cities in recent months, with a UK offshoot planning its first demonstration in Newcastle next weekend. There are fears that the rally, which is due to be held on the same day as Newcastle United home match against Aston Villa, could attract as many as 2,000 people and spill over into violence.

Last night the NUFC Fans United supporters group made it clear that far-right protesters were not welcome in Newcastle, saying the city was “famous for its tolerance, integration and warmth of spirit”. In a statement, they warned: “There is a fear that Newcastle United supporters who are of the Islamic faith or origin may be singled out for abuse by this group and we say that the authorities cannot allow any of our community, whatever their race, creed or religious belief to be treated in such a manner in our city on match day or any other day.

“What kind of message does it send to those who come to study in our colleges and universities, or who visit as tourists to wonder on the splendour of our heritage history? What message does it send to those who may be offered the opportunity in the future to come and work in a city that has prided itself on its warm welcome but will now be tarred with being a city that allowed itself to be associated with those of the German Far Right. Is this the message we want our city to be remem-bered by and tarnished with?” On its Facebook page yesterday Pegida warned extreme far-right groups to stay away from the demonstration, insisting it wants it to be peaceful.

Matt Pope, of Pegida UK, insisted that the movement believes in “freedom of expression and speech”. “In an ideal world we would love the extreme right-wing element to leave us to it,” he said. “But this isn’t an ideal world. As long as everyone behaves themselves, this should go without incident.” Pegida UK is an offshoot of the group which began in Dresden, Germany, last October. Its name translates as Patriots of Europe Against the Islamisation of the West.In Dresden earlier this month, 25,000 supporters joined a rally which was condemned by the Chancellor Angela Merkel for being xenophobic. She said the organisation’s leaders have “prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts”. Pegida says it merely opposes radical Islam and hate preachers and believes “Muslims need to adapt to our way of life in the west instead of us adapting to them”.

Professor Matthew Feldman, an expert in fascist ideology at Teesside University’s far-right research centre, said Pediga UK had emerged from nowhere and, unlike other far-right groups like the BNP and EDL, appealed to some middle-class people who are concerned about multiculturalism and Islamist extremists. “They want people to take families to the demonstration and be the acceptable face of anti-Islamisation,” he said. “They are clearly trying to develop the brand.” He said it’s difficult to pinpoint the leadership, as so much is done via social networking sites, unlike the physical structure of the EDL and the membership system of the BNP.

Matt Pope: Pegida organiser
Matt Pope, the self-styled organiser of the Pediga UK rally in Newcastle on Saturday, was born in Stevenage and now lives in Cambridgeshire. The 29-year-old previous-ly worked as a nurse and says he is now a social worker. Pope became involved in Pegida after studying Islam for around 11 years. He says he has Muslim friends and the organisation isn’t about antagonising the Muslim community, but challenging extremism. Pope says despite a suggestion on the internet that he has an assault conviction, he has none. He describes himself as “a very liberal person”.
© The Independent

up  

UK: The English Defence League and the new far-right

A street demo against "Islamisation" shows the potential for the English far-right to regain lost momentum.

17/2/2015- Britain's political far-right is in its weakest position for twenty years, according to a report by the campaigning anti-racism movement Hope Not Hate. That may seems obvious to anyone looking at the condition of two recently high-profile far-right groups, the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL). The former suffered an electoral wipe-out in the European elections of May 2014, the latter splintered and weakened after its leader Tommy Robinson’s depar-ture in autumn 2013. But against these trends, there are now worrying signs of resumed momentum on the far-right. In the west midlands town of Dudley over the weekend of 7 February, for instance, more than 1,200 were present at the EDL’s street movement. That's back to the level of the two demos it held here in 2010, and represents its first surge since the stagnation caused by Robinson’s departure. A depressed town abandoned by manufacturing industries, Dudley offers fertile ground for anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment to breed. In the early 1960s, British Afro-Caribbean residents were the primary target of racism in such areas; since the 1990s, racism's focus has shifted to British Asians, particularly Muslims.

This time, the angry EDL demonstrators - most of them from England's midlands and north-east, where the movement is strongest - were here to oppose the building of a mosque. They see this as symbolising the taking-over of their culture and demographic landscape, although the 2011 census finds that of Dudley metropolitan borough's population of over 300,000 (including 80,000 in the town itself), only 4.1% are Muslims. The EDL also talks of “Islamification”, though by far the most numerous religious group in the borough, at 63.5%, identify as Christians. Matters haven’t been helped by sensationalist media reporting of the mosque issue, nor by the fact that UKIP’s Bill Etheridge, MEP for the area, has also opposed it being built. The local Express & Star published a cropped image of the proposed mosque without showing the entire plan of the complex. This includes an enterprise and education centre, a community centre, a sports centre and a 120-space two-storey car park. None of the EDL demonstrators consulted had any idea about the full plan for the building.

Many on this demo were optimistic about their future street presence. The EDL’s street movement has benefited from the events of 2014 and early 2015: the Trojan Horse investigation into Birmingham's schools, the Rotherham sex-grooming scandal, and new terrorism threats in Europe (highlighted by the Paris and Copenhagen attacks). The coverage of these events in the mainstream media and the political discourse around them has enabled ideas that were propagated by the EDL to be-come increasingly acceptable in society. The “clash of civilisations” argument, for instance, has dominated mainstream coverage of the Charlie Hebdo debate, and the "religion-radicalisation" narrative is also the norm (as in the BBC Panorama programme on "The Battle for British Islam" in January 2015). These fitted well with the EDL activists in Dudley, who claim that Islam itself is the problem.

A movement of splinters
Tommy Robinson told me: “When we were talking about these issues since five years ago, we were shunned and called racists. Now, in the last twelve to eighteen months, they, the politicians and media, are all talking about the same issues…My speech at Oxford Union was very well received… These ideas become more main-stream. People are listening to us now. We’ve been proved right.” Robinson has been confident in asserting that the EDL is “a force that isn’t going away”, though he himself publicly quit the group to look for a more`respectable platform. Many on the Dudley demo also envisage the street movement growing across the country. An EDL activist from Crewe said he would be interested to see what Pegida UK - taking its name from the German "anti-Islamisation" movement - is doing, and sees the potential of EDL and Pegida UK joining forces. Many like him, many in the EDL see themselves as part of an anti-Muslim movement across Europe in which mainstream political discourse has contributed to reinforcing ideologies propagated by the far-right.

Pegida UK was set up just a week before EDL’s Dudley march. Ideologically it’s a UK extension of the German far-right movement, based in Dresden where its rallies drew around 25,000 people. However, organisationally there’s no direct connection between the two. A day after the Dudley demo, Pegida UK’s representative Mat-thew Pope published an online video to explain what the group is about - and so far his is the only face of the group. It plans to hold its first rally in Newcastle on 28 February, with similar events to follow in Birmingham and London. Its Facebook post says: "All are welcome to attend. Let’s show the Islamists we show no fear." Tom-my Robinson said that the core of the group is “ordinary men and women” who are opposed to “Islamification”, just like the EDL. But behind the façade, EDL activists reveal that some of the splinter groups from the EDL have been organising Pegida UK.

In particular, Northwest Infidels and Northeast Infidels, consisting of Loyalists and white supremacists, were formed by regional organisers kicked out by Tommy Robin-son. They are now pulling football fans into their ranks, to become Pegida’s foot soldiers. Other splinter groups like the English Volunteer Force and South East Alliance are also getting involved. “They’re basically providing the venue for people to flock to”, a London-based EDL activist said. “A lot of them are neo-Nazis. They’re fed up with Muslims and they are against all Muslims. But to be honest, their ideas, a lot of them, are respected by mainstream society…” “As white Europeans, they’re joi-ning in the Europe-wide movement against Islamification”, he said. “It’s easier for English anti-jihadists to go to work in Germany because they don’t have cameras on every street corner like we do…That’s why Pegida UK organisers have been operating underground, and they’ll remain off the radar. All by Facebook and PO box.”

It looks like Pegida UK will be a loose aggregate of far-right sympathisers, EDL’s splinter groups and remnants of white-power groups. Tommy Robinson has seen the growth of these nuclei in the past two years. “Since I left, these splinter groups are very active and have developed…,” he said, “There are young kids who come through the EDL and get radica-lised in these further right groups. I see the splinter groups as a problem. They’re around the EDL and they are trying to pull people out, to their side.” He showed me a picture of a young boy with a Nazi salute. He knew this boy three years ago - he has joined Northwest Infidels after hanging around them for all that time. The mushrooming of these splinters continues to challenge the EDL. “The divide within the EDL is to do with regions…It’s to do with the regio-nal organisers”, said Robinson.

“For instance, Paul Pitt, from South East Alliance, he was the regional organiser for Essex. When I kicked him out, some of the people went with him which gave him a support base. The same is happening with Yorkshire…They’re kicking out the organiser for what she said and done [a reference to Gail Speight, found guilty of charity theft]…but the loyal friends and people she’s had around her for four-five years will stay with her. Then what she’ll do is join the local splinter group, Northwest Infi-dels, bringing her people and bringing up their number. You say EDL are anti-Muslim. Their rhetoric is anti-non-white.” The real face of Pegida UK remains to be unvei-led. But the estimated few hundred are organising and aiming to draw thousands into its new movement, and they will bring fear and violence to communities wher-ever they visit.
© Open Democracy

up  

UK: Controversy builds ahead of anti-Islamisation Pegida protest in Newcastle

17/2/2015- An anti-Islamisation 'Pegida' march due to be held in Newcastle later this month has attracted protests and counter-protests as controversial MP George Gallo-way has said he will join the demonstration against Pegida. Pegida (which in German stands for 'Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West') began regular protests in Dresden, East Germany in October. The peaceful marches grew from a few hundred people to tens of thousands within a matter of weeks. They claim to want to protect the country's Judeo-Christian heritage, though numerous Christian groups have condemned Pegida, and counter-demonstrations with a pro-immigration mes-sage have attracted even larger numbers across Germany. This week's Pegida march in Dresden only attracted about 2,000 people, suggesting that enthusiasm is waning.

Galloway, the Respect Party MP for Bradford West, last week called on the Home Secretary to ban the Newcastle march scheduled for February 28, and said that he would attend a counter-demonstration if it went ahead. "Freedom of speech has its limits," Galloway told the Newcastle Chronicle. "I can't shout 'fire' in a crowded cinema, no one can racially abuse or threaten another person without legal consequences. So I don't accept that Pegida, an openly racist party from abroad, has the right to spew hatred on our streets. "I know that the police have only limited powers to stop these marches but the Home Secretary has the power to nip this in the bud by banning these knuckle-dragging thugs from the streets of Newcastle and elsewhere in the country," Galloway said. The counter demonstration has been organised by Newcastle Unites, a multicultural group that has also protested against the far-right English Defence League.

But some are protesting the Bradford MP's involvement in the anti-Pegida demonstration. Two students wrote an open letter saying that they were concerned about how Galloway's controversial political views, such as his stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict, would reflect on the counter-demonstration. The MP has described the open letter as 'defamatory'. "I'm extremely disappointed that two individuals with their own agenda, in a highly-defamatory letter over which I am taking action, are effectively undermining the opposition to Pegida," Galloway told  the Newcastle Chronicle. Newcastle Unites posted a comment on its Facebook page about Galloway's attendance, saying: "Some may not agree with his politics, or some of his views, however we can't deny that he's been a leading voice against fascism for many years, and in recent years against the rise of Islamophobia.

"He is highly respected by many including many Muslims, so therefore we are proud to announce that George Galloway MP has confirmed that he'll stand united with Newcastle Unites Against Pegida on 28th February." Pegida has spread to a number of European countries in the past few months, although marches held outside Germa-ny have not received anywhere near as much support. The first protest in Malmö, Sweden on 9 February only attracted around 30 people, with an estimated crowd of 3,000 gathering to protest against Pegida. More than 15,000 people have 'liked' the Pegida UK Facebook page, and so far 653 people have said they plan to attend the Newcastle rally.
© Christian Today

up  

UK: Chelsea FC to ban far-right fans who stopped black man getting on train

Chelsea Football Club has said it is prepared to ban fans who prevented a black man getting onto a train in Paris before they declared: "We're racist and that's the way we like it".

17/2/2015- Footage posted online shows the commuter apparently trying to board a metro train in the French capital but a group of football fans are shown shouting at and gesturing to him before pushing him out of the carriage when he steps in. On a second attempt he points to a space where he could stand but is pushed away again as he steps forward, before the group of males erupt into a chant while other commuters look on from the platform bewildered. The supporters are thought to have been travelling to the Parc des Princes ground for the Champions League match against Paris St Germain last night which ended in a draw. Chelsea released a statement condemning the incident and said it will take action if members are found to be involved. "Such behaviour is abhorrent and has no place in football or society," the club said. "We will support any criminal action against those involved, and should evidence point to involvement of Chelsea season-ticket holders or members the club will take the strongest possi-ble action against them, including banning orders." Former England player Stan Collymore tweeted: "Chelsea fans. Save your spite for those on the train, I'm sure you'll want to see them banned from holding season tickets at your club."
© Sunday World

up  

UK: Ed Miliband: 'Facebook and Twitter must help counter anti-semitism and Islamophobia'

17/2/2015- Ed Miliband today called for social media giants to join in the fight against anti-semitism and Islamophobia online. The Labour leader said there are "real fears" about rising levels of intolerance in the wake of terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. The British Jewish community have called for more protection, fearing copycat attacks on UK soil. Mr Miliband spoke out in the wake of the attacks in the Danish capital, where a gunman shot dead a film director at a cafe event on free speech and then killed a Jewish security guard at a synagogue. The atrocity bore resemblances to the Paris attacks, when several people were killed by Islamist extremists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and at a Jewish supermarket. Mr Miliband said the attacks would provoke fear among people of all backgrounds. At an event in Lincoln, he said: "There is real fear among Jewish families, among Muslim families, among people of all backgrounds about the rising intolerance that we see. "We have to recognise that - but recognising it is not enough.

"Europe's leaders have got to show a unity of purpose in tackling these issues. "I don't think we can just walk by on the other side when we have seen the kind of events we've seen in Copenhagen." The Labour leader called for better work within communities to "nip in the bud" the radicalisation of young peop-le, alongside cross border working among European countries. Mr Miliband also said ministers need to engage with social media to try and prevent radicalisation online. He said: "I think that the freedom of social media is incredibly important but we have to look at the ways we can counter this stuff online." Twitter's chief executive Dick Costolo has previous-ly admitted in a leaked internal memo that the company "sucks" at tackling online abuse. But he added: "We're going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them."
© The London Evening Standard.

up  

UK: Islamophobia is a cover up for recession, say experts

General elections in the U.K. are getting close. All the parties are trying to talk about the most important topics to get the most votes. However, maybe one of the most sensitive topics, Islamophobia, seems to have a different place on their agenda.

15/2/2015- The Muslim community in the U.K. is concerned about rising Islamophobia in the region. The latest numbers according to a survey conducted by YouGov shows that in the U.K. 58 percent of people believe that Muslims as a community are not doing everything they can to stop terrorism. At the same time, 46 percent believe that majority of British Muslims do not share British values. Prince Charles seems to agree with them. It was seen as a provocative move when he stated in his latest interview that Muslims in the U.K. have failed to integrate. He said: "Particularly in a country like ours where, you know, the values we hold dear. You think that the people who have come here, born here, go to school here, would abide by those values and outlooks."

These views have created a negative focus on Muslims both by politicians and the media. In a climate of suspicion, the U.K. is getting closer to general elections. Election campaigns haven't actually started yet, but speaking to Daily Sabah, the vice president of the "Stop The War Coalition," Chris Nineham, said Islamophobic narratives will be the future of election campaigns: "There has been growing Islamophobia rhetoric from both media and politicians since the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the events in Paris. One of the five major parties standing on a racist policy is the UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party). A new anti-terrorism bill has been introduced by the government, which is implicitly anti-Muslim, which says communities to integrate to British society; it has a coded language from the government to generate anti-Muslim anxiety."
Nigel Farage, who is the head of UKIP, has already made many anti-Muslim statements. Once he openly suggested that Muslims were to blame for a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism in Britain. He also stated that public figures and politicians are reluctant to condemn anti-Jewish actions for fear of offending Muslim sensibilities. Also, a UKIP candidate said Islam is against everything modern Britain stands for. Despite these racist comments UKIP has increased its support. Messages from politicians and the media blaming Muslims for everything might actually have different intentions. European Muslim League Chairman Dr. Yvonne Ridley says the worsening Western economy actually plays a huge role in the community and triggers Islamophobia.

"There is a recession affecting most of the West, and those mired in poverty are being told by voices from the Far Right that all their problems are down to immigrants, a code word for Muslims. So you have communities of white, working class people who are also disenfranchised and looking for someone to blame. It makes the perfect cocktails for Islamophobia, which in turn is impacted and felt by the poor Muslim communities. The Muslims there withdraw and become isolated, and as you can see, it is a vicious circle. Poverty, unemployment and racism breed extremism on all sides and produces extreme reactions; it's no wonder so many young people are being drawn to ISIS after being given false promises of money, marriage and status."
© The Daily Sabah

up  

UK: Tribunal finds GMP victimised black police officer

Paul Bailey, a Detective Constable, complained that he had been racially discriminated against when ordered to return from secondment early

15/2/2015- Greater Manchester Police discriminated against and victimised a black police officer by failing to investigate his complaints of racism, an employment tribunal has ruled. Detective Constable Paul Bailey complained that he had been racially discriminated against when he was summarily ordered to return from a secondment at the North West Regional Crime Unit. The chair of the Manchester-based Black and Asian Police Association, he launched an employment tribunal which has now ruled he was victimised and racially discriminated against because GMP failed to investigate the formal race complaint he made when he was moved back to GMP. His victory has led to fresh claims the force remains ‘institutionally racist’. The tribunal upheld DC Bailey’s allegations that the force terminated his secondment ‘summarily’ without allowing him to complete five years in the new role as planned. His police car and right to claim travel expenses as part of the secondment were also withdrawn ‘without consultation’, the panel concluded.

The tribunal agreed that his treatment amounted to victimisation but that ‘the more likely explanation was ineptitude’ and a failure to ‘grasp the nettle’ rather than direct discrimination. However, the panel concluded he was also the subject of ‘direct discrimination’ and victimisation in the failure to investigate the complaints he made after he was ordered back to GMP. The officer alleged he was treated differently to white colleagues. It was the second time in five years the officer, who has been with GMP for 24 years, had mounted an employment tribunal alleging racism. One of three allegations he made in 2008 was partially upheld. Then a detective in the Major Incident Team, he launched his case after being disciplined for wearing traditional African dress. As part of a ‘compromise agreement’ reached after the first tribunal, all parties agreed he should be seconded to the Warrington-based North West Regional Crime Unit only for the detective to be suddenly ordered back to his home force without discussion.

DC Bailey’s deputy at BAPA, PC Charles Critchlow, a former president of the National Black Police Association, said: “GMP is still institutionally racist. Paul Bailey was discriminated against on the grounds of his race. This is the 50th anniversary of the first race relations legislation in the UK. GMP is supposed to be celebrating that as a progressive organisation. But to be found guilty of racism like this is problematic. People should be disciplined for this.” DC Bailey said: “I feel vindicated by this decision. Getting to this ruling has taken a heavy toll on my health. I have spent the past weeks and months battling to expose the victimisation and discrimination I have suffered. But I look forward to this matter being concluded soon so I can put it behind me.” The officer and GMP have been invited to thrash out a ‘remedy’ by the employment tribunal within a month. Deputy Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: “Greater Manchester Police acknowledges the judgment made by the employment tribunal with regard to Detective Constable Paul Bailey.

“We agree with the ruling of the tribunal that DC Bailey’s return to Greater Manchester Police following his secondment was managed badly, but did not amount to direct race discrimination. We accept the findings of the tribunal that the force’s actions amounted to victimisation because of a previous agreement made with DC Bailey. “We also accept the findings of the tribunal that the force should have referred DC Bailey’s complaint about his treatment to PSB (GMP’s Professional Standards Branch), and that our failure to do so amounted to direct race discrimination and victimisation. “This is something we as a force take extremely seriously. The organisation will always try to resolve workplace complaints in the most appropriate forum and this issue, together with the other important lessons the tribunal identified, is something we will look to learn from as we move forward.”
© The Manchester Evening News.

up  

UK: Organiser of 'anti-Semitic' protest in Stamford Hill 'arrested and banned from London'

15/2/2015- A man who planned a protest "against Jewification" has been arrested and apparently banned from the whole of London. Joshua Bonehill revealed an image on his blog which purports to show a letter from police outlining bail conditions after his arrest on Friday. It reveals a ban on entering "the area contained within the M25 except to answer police bail". Bonehill, from Yeovil in Somerset, had planned to hold a demonstration in Stamford Hill in March to protest against "Jewification and anti-white oppression". The demon-stration, which was set to take place on Clapton Common on March 22, drew angry responses on social media. Labour MP Luciana Berger, who was recently the target of anti-Semitism on Twitter, tweeted: "This 'rally' has no place in Britain." Liam Hoare wrote: "A white supremacist march to 'liberate' Stamford Hill -- is this real?" And Ava Vidal posted: "Since when has there been a 'Jewification' of Britain? Are people losing their minds?!" Police confirmed a "22-year-old from Yeovil" was arrested on Friday by officers investigating allegations of inciting racial hatred. A tweeted posted by Hackney borough police's official Twitter account said: "The man has been bailed with conditions. Any breach of those bail conditions will be dealt with appropriately and proportionately." A Scotland Yard spokesman added the arrested related to "two visual and written publications on the internet" but said the force would not comment on bail conditions.
© The London Evening Standard.

up  

UK: Man threatened to kill Muslims after Paris attack

A council roads worker called 999 and threatened to kill “all the Muslims in the country” after reading about the French terror attacks.

14/2/2015- Vincent Hannah claimed he was a member of the far-right National Front group during the early-morning call. Hannah made the alcohol-fuelled phonecall to the emer-gency control room at Bilston at 5.30am on January 17. He admitted making grossly offensive phone calls by uttering threats and using racially offensive language at Edinburgh Sheriff Court this week. His lawyer said he was “ashamed” of the comments and had been on medication at the time of the incident. The court heard that Hannah, 51, launched the aggressive outburst after watching and reading coverage of January’s Paris terrorist incidents. Fiscal depute Mark Keane said Hannah phoned 999 and shouted: “Muslims that’s killed Muslims and will only kill Muslims.” When the call operator asked if he needed help, Hannah said: “Get all those Muslims out this country, they have killed our people.”

The operator again asked Hannah if he needed police, but he replied: “No, I dinnae, this is the National Front here by the way. “The police don’t give a f*** about this country, and you dinnae, because all the Muslims in the country, I’m going to kill them.” Police traced Hannah’s address in Gowkshill, Gorebridge, from the phone number he had called from and arrested him that evening. Mr Keane said: “He [told police] he regretted it, it was very stupid and that he had been drunk at the time.” Defence agent Neil Martin told the court that Hannah got upset after reading about the three-day terror attacks by 
Islamic extremists in France. Seventeen victims died in the attacks, which included a massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine. Mr Martin said: “To say he’s ashamed of what he did would be something of an understatement. He has been left utterly mortified by his conduct. These are not views that he holds, he doesn’t know why he made these comments.”

He said Hannah, a full-time road sweeper at Midlothian Council, had been drinking and was on medication which he should not have taken with alcohol. Sheriff Gail Patrick fined Hannah £400, and said: “The emergency services are far too busy to cope with people like you. But I’m encouraged that you don’t hold these views, because terrorists are one thing and Muslims are quite another.”
© The Edinburgh Evening News

up  

UK: British Jews say ‘no thanks’ to nationalist group’s support

Britain First, a far-right party that opposes ‘Islamization’ of UK, claims to be dismayed that Jews are considering leaving the country

14/2/2015- The far-right nationalist group Britain First is reaching out to support the UK Jewish community, but British Jews are not keen to accept the gesture. Britain First decries what it calls the Islamization of the UK and describes itself as “a patriotic political party and street defense organization.” In late January the group conducted a “solidarity patrol” in support of Jews living in Golders Green, a northwest London neighborhood in the borough of Barnet with a large Orthodox Jewish community. In a video made by the organization to document the patrol, its leaders cited anti-Jewish passages from the Quran and expressed their “heartbreak” over the fact that rising anti-Semitism is causing increasing numbers of the 300,000-strong British Jewish community to consider emigrating.

According to the results of a poll released just prior to the “solidarity patrol,” almost half of British Jewish respondents said they fear they have no long-term future in the UK or Europe. Another survey showed that anti-Semitic views were common among British citizens. Earlier this month, the Community Security Trust, an organization monitoring anti-Semitism in the UK, reported that 1,168 anti-Semitic incidents took place in 2014 — more than double the figure from the year before. Another 500 incidents involving anti-Israel hostility occurred over the past year. As distressing as the statistics may be, representatives of the organized Jewish community in the UK have said unequivocally that the offer from Britain First is unwelcome.

“They are a far-right, nasty, racist group that intimidates minorities, especially Muslims,” Dave Rich, a spokesman for the Community Security Trust told The Times of Israel. “The Jewish community should and will not have anything to do with them,” he said. Britain First leader Paul Golding said in an interview with The Times of Israel that his party merely wants to support the Jewish community in the face of “a sustained attack by Islamization.” “It’s quite scandalizing how the Jews have been treated,” he said. Golding claimed that there are Jews among Britain First’s ranks and that the party has more activities planned to demonstrate solidarity with the Jewish community. Golding, however, would not share details about these plans, citing a “need-to-know-only” policy regarding dissemination of such information. “We are kind of like the army in that way. It’s like how the soldiers don’t know the battle plans, only the generals do,” he said.

The party’s “battle plans” have included those for “mosque invasions” whereby uniformed Britain First members enter mosques uninvited and hand out Christian leaflets and army-issue Bibles to Muslim worshipers in what they call a “Christian crusade.” Britain First’s founder, Jim Dowson, reportedly left the party in July 2014 over his opposition to these “mosque invasions,” which he called “provocative and counterproductive.” According to Rich, the Community Security Trust consulted to the Bradford Council for Mosques fol-lowing “mosque invasions” in Bradford last spring. Last year, the council made a donation that helped save the city’s only synagogue. While Bradford MP George Galloway has called Britain First a “neo-fascist gang of fanatics,” Golding prefers to label his party as “loyalist.”

Britain First was founded in 2011 by former members of the British National Party, Golding included. Both parties are staunchly anti-immigration, and both advocate the voluntary resettlement of immigrants back to their ethnic homelands. When asked about whether Jews, most of whose families immigrated to the UK, might be targeted by Britain First’s mission to rid the country of immigrants and non-Christian influences, Golding insisted that his party had no problem with Jews. “Jews don’t cause any problems,” he said. “The only community that is not willing to integrate into British society is the Islamic one.” But Rich doesn’t buy this. He claims Britain First does not really like Jews and is just using the Jews as a way of “winding up the Muslims.” “Other right wing groups like the English Defence League and the BNP have tried this kind of thing before, but we can see right through it,” he said.

Simon Round, spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, echoed this position. “We are appalled — but not fooled — by the attempts of the far right to curry favor with our community. Our principled opposition to all forms of racism includes both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Such attitudes have no place in our inclusive society,” he said. Sydney Faber, who made aliya to Israel from the UK six years ago, is one of the Jews whose emigration Britain First claims to regret. Faber told The Times of Israel he doesn’t see a future for Jews in Britain and is concerned when he visits friends in London who show no indication of leaving. “The rise of the Muslim population is problematic. The writing is on the wall,” he said. This, however, does not mean that Faber believes that Britain First is sincere in its concern for Jews. “Most right wing movements in the UK over the years have been anti-Semitic. I don’t believe they are really siding with the Jews,” he said.
© The Times of Israel

up  

UK: We must stamp out hatred wherever we see it (opinion)

Media reactions to the killings in Copenhagen and Chapel Hill have shown some worrying inconsistencies
By Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain

16/2/2015- I have been a hospital doctor for almost 40 years, mostly in the NHS, and have seen the impact of bereavement on families at close quarters. Grief transcends the bounda-ries of race and creed and it is with great sadness that we see how mindless violence has filled the last week. It began with the murder of three young Americans in Chapel Hill in North Carolina, apparently because of their Muslim faith, and ended on Saturday night with shootings at a cafe and synagogue in Copenhagen. Muslims killed in Pakistan and Egyptian Christians in Libya only add to the rising death toll. These attacks reflect the worst in our society and I worry that the actions of a few who are intent on killing for no obvious reason other than hatred for the victims’ background, beliefs or points of view is creating fear that divides communities. The Muslim Council of Britain, of which I am secretary general, has consistently condemned violence, regardless of the identity of the perpetrator or victim. Our faith, like all faiths, is clear that no amount of dislike for a person’s belief ever justifies the taking of a life.

Such acts of terror should face the full force of the law. But simply bringing the criminals to justice is not enough in itself. The best way to defeat their hatred is to bring even stronger bonds between communities here in Britain. This is why, while we were deeply offended by the deliberate insults of Charlie Hebdo magazine, we condemned without equivocation the brutal attack in Paris. Our response to these insults was instead to mobilise imams (Muslim theological leaders) across the UK to express our deep sadness at the caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in newspapers in the UK for the first time, while exemplifying his ideals by rejecting any violent response. In addition, we organised an inter-faith solidarity summit to show the world that terrorists should never divide us, and launched the #VisitMyMosque open day which sought to break the negativity around Muslims by demonstrating openness and transparency. To celebrate the United Nations Interfaith Week 2015, our major affiliate, Muslim Council of Wales, demonstrated historic brother-hood between Jews and Muslims by organising a dinner reception to Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis at Cardiff City Hall on 4 February.

However, it is with great sadness that we seem to observe a lack of consistency in the response by senior politicians and the media to these violent attacks. When a perpetrator is assumed to be Muslim and the victims are not Muslim, there is, and in our view rightly, extensive coverage of such crimes and condemnations at the highest level of government. Yet when Muslims are the victims of such crimes, the same sense of outrage is not visible. A case in point is the murder in Chapel Hill of three young Muslims, where only after the intervention of President Erdogan and sustained outrage on social media, was there any response by the establishment and little coverage in the UK. This inconsistency from bodies that are meant to represent us all, breeds mistrust and an increased sense of being seen as the “other” – a key factor in the radicalisation of young people. But these incidents have also demonstrated the danger posed by the growth in hatred. As the sister of one of those murdered in Chapel Hill highlighted, it may be inevitable that the relentless negative characterisation of Muslims within the media leads to these acts of violence.

In just the past two weeks in the UK, a mosque has been attacked in Norwich, a lady wearing a headscarf was threatened on the London underground without anyone coming to her aid, a headteacher let us know that parents were removing their children from religious education class because Islam was being taught, a school governor informed us of a growing trend of Islamophobia among children in a school – and this is over and above the consistent hate mail, verbal abuses and media excesses that seem to form part and parcel of life, as hatred against Muslims has become normalised. To combat the evolving threat we face from such increased hatred, I believe we need both a top-down and bottom-up approach. At the national level, the government and senior politicians must be consistent in raising the profile and tackling all hate crimes equally, through a strategy fully co-ordinated with all those communities impacted.

In particular, the Department for Education must act to counter anti-Muslim prejudice in schools, and all hate crimes must be recorded by the relevant authorities and appropriate protection and support provided where needed. The media’s portrayal of Muslims is hugely negative and inconsistent – but only through self-reflection from journalists is this likely to change. At the grassroots level, we must work hard to change the discourse of hate, and drive it away from the dinner table – it should no longer be seen as socially acceptable to speak about all adherents to a particular faith in such a derogatory manner. And while great interfaith work is being done up and down the country, communities still need to deepen their growing ties by working more closely together, as we have tried to do, for example, through a joint statement with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which called for constructive dialogue.

In the end, it is only through a consistent and unified approach across all levels of society that we have a chance of combating the scourge of Islamophobia, antisemitism and hate that seeks to sow division and fear in our society, and which provides fertile ground for further violent attacks here in the UK. I believe we have the goodwill and the opportunity to ensure that divisive forces are defeated. A safer and stronger Britain would be the result.
© Comment is free - Guardian

up  

COPENHAGEN TERRORISM

Danish free speech fight continues after attacks

Prominent Danish free speech advocates like Flemming Rose remain defiant in the aftermath of the Copenhagen attacks, but an opinion poll reveals that Danes' support for publishing potentially offensive material has decreased.

20/2/2015- Insults, axe attacks and bullets -- nothing deters noted Scandinavian journalists and cartoonists in the crosshairs of radical jihadists from free speech even if it means living under permanent police protection. The most prominent in recent years, 68-year-old Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, whipped up a storm across the Muslim world with his now storied 2007 sketch of the prophet Muhammad as a dog. Targeted in several foiled plots, Vilks survived the latest attempt on his life last weekend when a gunmen sprayed a hail of bullets at a Copenhagen cultural centre hosting a conference on blasphemy where the controversial cartoonist was a guest speaker. One of four Scandinavians on an Al-Qaeda hit list of 11 enemy targets, Vilks told The Local that he has "no reason to be scared" and will carry on with his Lars Vilks Committee.

'Wanted dead or alive'
For a decade now Scandinavia has lived under Islamist threat for pushing the boundaries of a free press. The battle began in 2005 with the publication by Danish daily Jyllands-Posten of 12 cartoons of Muhammad deemed so offensive in the Muslim world that they sparked global protests. Most controversial of all was the depiction of the Islamic prophet wearing a bomb in his turban, the work of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, now 80 years old. The men responsible for the publication of the cartoons, later reprinted by others including French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo, were Jyllands-Posten's former editor-in-chief, Carsten Juste, and its former culture editor Flemming Rose.

The three Danes and Vilks are among 11 people targeted in 2013 by the Islamist magazine Inspire as "wanted dead or alive for crimes against Islam". The list includes The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie and Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier, one of 12 people killed when jihadist gunmen stormed the Paris office of the weekly last month. Westergaard has been targeted several times, including in an axe attack by a Somali hitman in 2010 in which he made an escape to his high-security bathroom. Now elderly, Wes-tergaard has largely withdrawn from the public eye, as has Juste, who is 67. In Sweden, Vilks is continuing his critique of Islam though satire on religion is less widespread there than in some other European countries.

Return to 'Middle Ages'
Rose too remains an active proponent of the right to free speech in his role as foreign editor of Jyllands-Posten, where security is tight and where he is constantly accompanied by bodyguards. "A Europe without blasphemy is back in the Middle Ages," the 56-year-old journalist wrote in a column this week in Britain's Guardian newspaper. His fight for free speech earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize this year and on Tuesday Danish daily Politiken -- having in 2010 apologised for reprinting some of the cartoons -- said in an editorial that the threat to freedom of expression "has gradually dawned on even the most staunch multiculturalists". While hate speech and defamation are punishable by law throughout Scandinavia, Sweden became the first country in the world to legally protect press freedom in 1766. All five Nordic countries made the top 10 list for freedom of expression in 2013 rankings published by Reporters Without Borders. But unlike the rest of the Danish press, Rose's embattled paper Jyllands-Posten refused to carry Charlie Hebdo's satirical cartoons after the January attacks, citing security reasons.

"Who says that it was a must to reprint these drawings?" Danish media expert Lasse Jensen told AFP. "I don't think that freedom of expression today in Denmark is any more threa-tened than a week, a month or 10 years ago. People still express themselves and they do so freely." The Local has also decided against republishing the Charlie Hebdo, Jyllands-Posten or Lars Vilks cartoons. In the aftermath of the Copenhagen attacks, popular support for publishing controversial cartoons took a significant fall. In an opinion poll carried out shortly after the Paris attacks, 79 percent of respondents said that Danish media should not refrain from publishing "satirical drawings and expressions that can be offensive to religious groups". When the same question was posed in the days after the Copenhagen attack, that number fell to 63 percent.
© The Local - Denmark

up  

Danish Jews hit by mounting anti-Semitism

Denmark's small Jewish community, which Wednesday buried a Jewish man shot dead outside the Copenhagen synagogue, has been the butt of mounting anti-Semitism in recent years after centuries of living at peace.

19/2/2015- Unlike many European Jews, Denmark's Jews were never forced to wear a yellow star nor targeted by anti-Jewish measures during the German Nazi occupation of World War II. Yet Denmark currently is proving no exception to the rise in anti-Semitic attacks across the continent. Most of the country's Jewish community -- estimated at between 6,400 and 8,000 people -- lives in Copenhagen, which was rocked by twin shootings over the weekend. "The Jewish community have been in this country for centuries. They are at home in Denmark, they are part of the Danish community," Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said Monday echoing national sentiments after the deadly attacks. Established in the kingdom from the 1600s, Jews helped modernize a country reputed for its tolerance, with few emigrating nowadays to Israel. But even prior to Sunday's attack on the synagogue that killed 37-year-old Dan Uzan, anti-Semitic acts were on the rise.

In 2012 Israeli ambassador Arthur Avnon advised visiting Israelis against obvious displays of their religion or speaking Hebrew in public. A Jewish community organization had also urged parents with children in the Jewish school in Copenhagen to take extra precautions. And last summer's bitter fighting between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip brought a flurry of anti-Semitic acts, ranging from insults to physical assault. Authorities reported 29 such acts in six weeks from July to mid-August, more than throughout all of 2009. Poli-tical leaders responded by organizing a "Kippah march" through central Copenhagen and the Nørrebro district home to many Middle Eastern immigrants, which passed off peacefully.But less than a week later the Jewish school Carolineskolen was daubed in anti-Semitic graffiti and its windows smashed.

Resisted Nazi persecution
Through World War II, however, Danes supported the Jewish community, never resorting to persecution. Invaded by the Nazis in 1940, Denmark was able to maintain its democra-tic institutions in exchange for trade with Germany, notably by exporting its agricultural goods to Berlin. Anti-Semitism was not widespread in Denmark at the time, and unlike what happened in France and Norway, the wartime authorities did not discriminate against Jews. SS raids were met with hostility among the Danish people. In August 1943 the Danish government resigned, refusing to crush resistance within the country to the Nazi occupation. Two months later the Nazis mounted a massive operation to track down the country's Jews but the majority escaped across the waters to neutral Sweden with the help of the Danish resistance. Historians estimate that more than 7,000 people avoided deportation, while only 500 Danish Jews were arrested and 51 killed.

While the Danish resistance movement is estimated to have included well over 20,000 Danes who worked to actively undermine the German occupation, another 6,000 or so Danes are estimated to have supported the corps of Danish Nazis known as Free Corps Denmark (Frikorps Danmark). A book released in October claimed that Danish Nazis actively participated in the murder of 1,400 Jews at a prison camp in Belarus during World War II.
© The Local - Denmark

up  

7 Axioms of the Copenhagen Terror Attacks

We Must Stand Up to Fear and Fight Islamist Extremism
By Deborah Lipstadt

18/2/2015- The news of the attacks on the Copenhagen cafe and synagogue did not surprise us. We may keep hoping this will stop, but the rational parts of our brains know that it will not, at least not for the long term. There have been enough of these attacks that we can now see there are certain things which are axiomatic about them.

Axiom #1: They are part of a pattern. By that I do not mean to suggest that they are all organized by ISIS or ISIS-like groups. They may not be physically connected with one another, but they are ideologically connected. The individuals behind them have been radicalized by a stream of Islam that abhors Western democracy and all it stands for. Some have suggested that the Danish shooter was not “radicalized.” If so, that makes it even scarier. He was not part of a radical group, but he clearly absorbed the message of radical Islamists. How else might you explain his targeting of free speech advocates, police officers and Jews?

Axiom #2: Unless you name something you cannot solve it. We are fighting Muslim extremism, not violent extremism. This violence is directly connected to Islam, though not to all Muslims. To avoid identifying the connection to Islam is not only silly — if one can use that word in conjunction with such a serious threat — but it also pulls the ground out from under moderate Muslims who want to fight this dangerous trend.

Axiom #3: This is not traditional European anti-Semitism. The people who have committed these crimes are convinced that killing Jews is not just acceptable, but a desirable thing to do. In contrast to much of the European anti-Semitism we have seen in centuries past, which attacked Jews for being different from the majority, this form hates both Jews and the majority society and all it stands for, including freedom of religion.

Axiom #4: “Yes, but” comments make room for violence. Muslim extremists pull the triggers, but they have accomplices. They have been given intellectual shelter by those who try to explain these incidents with “yes, but” explanations. In the case of the anti-Semitic actions, they say, “Yes, this is awful, but if Israel only…” (you can fill in the blank) “…this would not happen.” To engage in this kind of reasoning is to rationalize this violence, to make it logical and to render it legitimate. The people who do this — including many well-educated academics — must be called out for what they are doing: justifying murder. Next time someone makes this link, ask him or her: “Oh, so that makes it acceptable to shoot Jews thousands of miles away from Israel?” They will probably respond: “Of course not. We are just looking for the roots of the violence.” Do they really imagine that if Israel were to pull out of the West Bank these killers would stop shooting Jews?

Axiom #5: There are many liberal voices that did the same thing with the cartoonists (and before them with Salman Rushdie): “If only they had not insulted the Prop-het, this would not have happened.” Not only does such reasoning justify the murders, but it is also objectively wrong. Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that published the original Muhammad cartoons in 2006, did not republish the Charlie Hebdo ones. That did not stop the attack on the Copenhagen cafe.

Axiom #6: “Violence works.” That is what Jyllands-Posten wrote in an editorial in January explaining its decision not to republish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. The edi-tors were frightened. Jews are also frightened. They do not wear kippot in many European cities. They do not carry anything that identifies them as Jews. In Denmark, a Jewish radio station shut down and a Jewish school closed just in the last few days. In short, the Muslim extremists are winning.

Axiom #7: This is not just a war on Jews. It is a war on Western democratic liberal values. This is a war being waged by people who reject the notion of freedom of speech, press, religion and expression. In the aftermath of some of these killings I have heard people say that these killers are foreign to European society and they “don’t understand” these concepts. I would argue otherwise. They understand them and reject them.

We are waging a war against extremists who are inherently opposed to everything we value about the society in which we live. They want us to live in fear. Doing so grants them a victory and, as the Danes at the cafe learned, doesn’t protect us from future violence. In sum, we must name the threat, help those Muslims who reject these behaviors, challenge those who would engage in rationalizations and, somehow, refuse to succumb to fear.
Deborah Lipstadt, a Forward contributing editor, is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University.
© The Forward

up  

Denmark: Jewish community radio station shuts down in wake of terror attacks

Radio Shalom advised by PET to take a break while Jews across Europe demand more protection

17/2/2015- For the first time in the station’s history, Radio Shalom did not broadcast its usual blend of programs about Jewish culture, music and history on Monday evening. The control board located in a basement in Nørrebro was silenced for what host Abraham Kopenhagen called "security reasons". “PET says it's too dangerous,” Kopenhagen told DR Nyheder. “We do not feel that it is too dangerous, but we respect the information we are given.”

No cops in the doorway
Kopenhagen said that Radio Shalom will be back on the air when PET tells them that it is safe. The security agency offered to protect the station while it was on air, but Kopen-hagen turned them down. “We must do as instructed, but we will not have police standing outside the door,” he said. "We would rather close down until it is quiet again. I do not know how long that will take.” The radio station was not the only Jewish institution in Copenhagen that chose to shut its doors following the weekend's attacks, which included the fatal shooting of 37-year-old Dan Uzan, a guard standing in front of the synagogue on Krystalgade by Omar Abdel El-Hussein. The Jewish school Carolineskolen was also closed yesterday.

Calls for greater protection across Europe
Jews across Europe are fearful and calling for better protection in the wake of the Copenhagen attacks. Rabbis in both Britain and France called for better protection at synagogues and schools. “There is much fear; people are afraid to go to synagogue,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin from the organisation European Jewish Community told DR Nyheder. Rabbi Barry Marcus from London Central Synagogue called the weekend’s attacks “very uncomfortable, very disturbing and extremely troubling”.

A war on democracy
Margolin said he was “not surprised” by the Copenhagen attacks and wants all Jewish institutions in Europe to be given 24/7 police protection. “We are disappointed that European governments still do not listen to our cries for help and ensure that all Jews are protected,” he said. Rabbi Marcus said that simply beefing up security is not enough. “For us it is very clear what is happening in Europe,” he said. “There is an attack on western European democracy and its values.”
© The Copenhagen Post.

up  

After the Copenhagen attack: the atmosphere is subdued – except on social media

‘Vilks was friendly and eager to chat. When I asked him if he regretted making fun of the prophet he said he never had, and after the latest attempt on his life he repeated this assertion to the Danish media. He is a provocateur not an Islamophobe’
By Brendan Sweeney
 

17/2/2015-It is Sunday evening and a small crowd has gathered outside Krudttønden, the cultural centre where the day before lone gunman Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein opened fire on a meeting to debate art, blasphemy and freedom of expression. In the bitter cold, people gather as close to the centre of the police boundary as they can. Bunches of flowers pile up on the pavement. A police helicopter clatters over nearby Nørrebro, where I live. The atmosphere is subdued but there is no sense of anger or panic. Danes are not given to histrionics. My own reactions to the attacks are an equal measure of sadness and relief. I am particularly relieved the Swedish artist, Lars Vilks, who is presumed to be the main target of the first assault escaped unharmed. Although he has brought down the ire of Muslims for drawing a picture of a dog with the head of Muhammad in 2007, there is much more to Vilks than that.

In September last year I met him on the shores of Kullaberg Nature Reserve in Sweden where he was busy repairing a massive installation he built from driftwood in 1980. Subsequently, he battled the Swedish authorities to stop them from demolishing it. Flanked by two armed bodyguards, Vilks was friendly and eager to chat. When I asked him if he regretted making fun of the prophet, he said he never had, and after the latest attempt on his life he repeated this assertion to the Danish media. He is a provocateur not an Islamophobe. For an outsider – albeit one who has lived in the country for 22 years – one of the most curious things about Danish reactions to the terror attacks in Copenhagen is what was left unspoken. No one said, “How could this have happened here?” Outrage and horror were clearly visible on the faces of politicians, journalists and ordinary people but no one appeared to be taken by surprise.

Expecting an attack
The Danes have been expecting an attack of this nature since 2005 when Danish daily Jyllands-Posten printed satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that enraged Muslims across the globe, and since the Charlie Hebdo massacres there was a sense that the likelihood of such an assault had significantly increased. The fact that armed police officers were present at the cultural centre and the synagogue, where the second attack took place, shows how seriously the authorities took the threat and how much combating terror has become normalised. On national television the previous evening, Søren Espersen, foreign affairs spokesman for the anti-immigrant party the Danish People’s Party, took care not to capitalise on the situation. In keeping with his colleagues from other parties he sought consensus. As well as being an attack on Denmark’s well-integrated Jewish community, politicians of the right and left agreed this was an assault on Danish democracy and the right to free expression, and these values must be upheld whatever the cost.

Superficially at least, this gravitation towards the centre felt very similar to the consensual mood that existed at the height of the Muhammad cartoon crisis in 2006 when criticism of the government’s handling of the problem was almost non-existent and all political parties stood shoulder to shoulder against what was regarded as an external foreign threat. However, on social media and in the commentary section of tabloids such as BT and Ekstra Bladet there is a markedly different tone. Readers are raging not just against terrorism or fundamentalism but Islam itself and the religion’s quarter of a million adherents in Denmark. Many think Islam and the liberal secular society that dominates Danish culture and politics are incompatible. A couple of anonymous commentators even suggest Muslims should be forcibly removed. This is the other side of Danish liberal attitudes towards free-dom of expression: hate speech as part of public debate.

It is hard to gauge how representative these commentators are but since maverick politician, Mogens Glistrup, proposed sending all Muslims back to where they came from in the 1970s, the debate about Islam’s role in this country has been a fertile subject for discussion. Although Glistrup’s spectre still haunts the Danish immigration debate – he died in 2008 – the discussion has become more sophisticated if not always more conciliatory. Luckily, other points of view are being aired as well. In the left-of-centre daily Politiken novelist Carsten Jensen levelled criticism against not just Danish People’s Party’s anti-immigration policies but also the Social Democrats, many of whom he accused of being just as xeno-phobic. He reminded readers that the gunman who attacked Krudttønden was not a Taliban suicide bomber and asked if Denmark had become a “self-radicalising” nation. During the last 12 years, he went on, Denmark has fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and against Islamic State , and yet the enemy when he came turned out to be a local man from Nør-rebro in Copenhagen.

Fear of a backlash
In the same paper, leaders of the Muslim community express their fear of a backlash, although a violent response seems unlikely. In contrast to neighbouring Sweden, where arson attacks on mosques are not unusual, Denmark’s neo-Nazi movement is negligible. Instead, the focus in Copenhagen has been on how to protect the country’s 8,000 Jews. During the German occupation of the second World War, Danish resistance was not particularly effective but Danes are immensely proud that their countrymen managed to save almost the entire Jewish population from the gas chambers. Appropriately, perhaps it is the synagogue which has become the chief focus of the vigils to commemorate the attacks. This is apt in another way as well. The English translation of Krudttønden is “powderkeg” and this is not a desirable metaphor for a nation which is just starting the process of healing the rift between Denmark’s large Muslim minority and the majority Danish culture. Brendan Sweeney lectures in politics at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad.
© The Irish Times.

up  

Denmark: Gunman's Neighborhood Is Infamous Underbelly of Copenhagen

Gritty Norrebro Home to Gang Violence and Immigrants

16/2/2015- Every Dane knows of Norrebro, the Copenhagen neighborhood where police shot dead the gunman suspected of carrying out attacks on a synagogue and a free speech event that shocked the country. Blighted by protests and gang warfare, the area is a cauldron of cultures and ethnicities in sharp contrast to more homogenous regions of Copen-hagen and has suffered from a bad, some residents would say overblown, reputation. The suspect, named by media on Sunday as Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, was shot right by the Norrebro train station on the corner of a busy intersection marked by brightly lit shawarma grilled meat cafes, currency exchanges and other shops. It is an area of contrasts – red-brick housing estates stand next to 100-year-old tenement buildings and a green strip of parks, sports pitches and bicycle lanes runs through its heart. A busy Christian commu-nity center is streets away from Denmark’s first purpose-built mosque, opened just last summer.

Residents piled up flowers outside the synagogue where one of the two people killed in the attacks was shot and the site was visited by Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who called the shootings a terrorist attack. In Norrebro however, there was a sense of a community under siege – the media descended on the place where the suspect was killed in a shootout with police and residents passed by quickly, avoiding the cameras. Many declined to speak – women in hijabs or niqabs walked around the film crews. “I think what we have here is so stupid. We have one person killing two other people. Of course it’s bad. But next time I pass by here, it’s not going to mean anything to me,” said 24-year-old Heider, a media student, rejecting religious links to the attack. “The thing is how much attention has the media paid to this? What about the events in Nigeria a couple of months ago when 500 died – no one heard a thing,” he said. When asked about his roots, he shoots back: “I’m Danish!”.

‘I’m Not a Terrorist’
Residents of Norrebro appeared resigned to the media onslaught, which they say will tarnish the neighborhood’s reputation further after the area was known for protests against housing policies in what used to be a squalid workers’ area. In the 1970s, squatters took over buildings, the hippy movement flourished and from the 1980s onwards an influx of refugees came from conflicts in Iran and Iraq, Pakistan, Morocco and Yugoslavia. Now over a quarter of Norrebro’s residents are immigrants or children of immigrants. Gang fought gang, in turf warfare particularly between the Hell’s Angels and new immigrant groups. Gunfire in Norrebro was not unusual, although residents say that is now a thing of the past. But while the area appears run down, there is a clear sense of community and a pride in its tumultuous history. A Norrebro local committee member, Mogens Petersen, smiles and shrugs as he recounts decades of protests and years of shootings.

“We haven’t been polarized yet. I think that could happen out where there aren’t any foreigners. When you live together, you’re not so afraid of each other,” he said. “There’s lunatics all over but it’s not my neighbor, it’s not where I buy my vegetables,” he said. The suspect shooter was known to police precisely because of his connections to gangs. El-Hussein was convicted two months ago of a violent assault against a commuter on a train in 2013. Local media said he was the son of Palestinian immigrants who argued aggres-sively about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, had a short fuse, but had not shown signs of radicalisation that could lead to an attack. While most residents preferred to say nothing, an articulate 16-year-old student, who did not wish to give his name but who had moved here as a child from the Middle East, spoke of his anger at the events. “Those who come out and shoot people, just because of some stupid cartoons, I am completely against. The prophet, praise be upon him, has been drawn for hundreds of years,” he said. “Those extremist should be isolated. They are just making a bad image for Muslims. I am not that image that the whole media wants to show, that I am a bad man, that I want to fight every one, that I am a terrorist.”
© Reuters

up  

Denmark: 2 Charged With Helping Copenhagen Terror Gunman

Slain Terrorist Attacked Synagogue and Arts Center

16/2/2015- Danish police said on Monday they had charged two people with aiding the man suspected of shooting dead two people in attacks on a synagogue and an event promo-ting free speech in Copenhagen at the weekend. The shootings, which Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt called acts of terrorism, sent shockwaves through Denmark and have been compared to the January attacks in Paris by Islamist militants that killed 17. “The two men are charged with helping through advice and deeds the perpetrator in relation to the shootings at Krudttonden and in Krystalgade,” the police said in a statement, referring to the location of the two attacks. Police had no further comment on the two men, who were detained on Sunday.

The gunman struck on Saturday afternoon, attempting to shoot his way into a cafe hosting a free speech event with Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has received death threats for depicting the head of the Prophet Mohammad on a dog. Vilks was unharmed but a 55-year-old man was shot dead and three police officers injured. The shooter then attacked a synagogue, killing a guard outside and injuring another two police officers. Danish media widely reported the gunman to be Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein. Reuters could not confirm his identity and police declined to comment. Denmark became a target of violent Islamists 10 years ago after the publication of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad, images that led to sometimes fatal protests in the Muslim world. Many Muslims consider any representation of the Prophet blasphemous.
© Reuters

up  

Denmark: OSCE/ODIHR Director Link condemns terrorist attacks in Copenhagen

16/2/2015- Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), today condemned attacks that killed a security guard at a synagogue and a participant in a freedom of speech event in Copenhagen on Saturday. “I am shocked by the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen on the weekend,” Link said. “While such attacks affect us all, they have a particularly strong impact on the daily lives of Jewish people; now is the time to stand together against these crimes based on hatred, including those based on anti-Semitism.” Link welcomed the swift action by Danish authorities to address these crimes, while calling on governments across the OSCE to take all appropriate efforts to meet the security needs of Jewish communities. “I call on governments to assess the security needs of Jewish commu-nities and take all necessary steps to prevent such horrible crimes from happening,” the ODIHR Director said. “Such attacks are a strong reminder of the need to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms – including the freedom of speech – and for effective responses to all bias, discrimination and violence targeting different communities.”

Saturday’s shooting followed the killing, on 7 January 2015, of 12 people in an attack on the Charlie Hebdo Magazine, of a police officer on the next day, and then of four people during an attack on a kosher supermarket near Paris on 9 January 2015. The attacks earlier this year followed the attack on four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014, and the killing of four people in March 2012 in an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. The importance of developing adequate responses to violent attacks and other manifestations of anti-Semitism was emphasized at a high level event in November to mark the 10th Anniversary of the OSCE’s Berlin Confe-rence on Anti-Semitism. Participants, including civil society representatives, who played a major part in the event, produced a set of recommendations for further action by participating States to provide security for Jewish communities.
© The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

up  

Denmark Wants To Rehabilitate Islamic Radicals — But Is It Failing? (News Analysis)

By Jeffry Mallow 

15/2/2015- The murder of two Danes, one in a cafe where Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks was attending a free speech forum, and one at the Copenhagen synagogue, says it all. Islamists draw no distinctions, not even for countries where Muslims have been welcomed. Nor are they driven by “anti-Zionism,” as the left in Denmark and elsewhere claim. This is about killing speech and killing Jews. The initial provocation, if one can call it that, was the 2005 Mohammed cartoon controversy, in which some radical Muslim leaders around the world called for the deaths of the Danish cartoonists who depicted the Prophet in an unfavorable light, or depicted him at all, contrary to sharia law. In many countries Danes were attacked and Danish businesses destroyed. But one country in which there were no violent responses was Denmark itself, where a group of moderate imams called for peaceful demonstrations, reminding their followers that as immigrants, they had worked hard to obtain the Danish passport and should not lightly discard it.

This latest attack is also an attack on them. They take their citizenship seriously, as a gift that few other countries afford them. To have their co-religionists violate the Danish commitment to free expression and religious tolerance infuriates them both as Muslims and as Danes. Denmark offers its citizens full participation in the political process. Some accept; some choose terrorism despite the offer. Most prominent of the first group is former Danish parliamentarian Naser Khader, son of a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother. Khader is a leading proponent of peaceful coexistence between democracy and Islam. In 2005 he established a new movement, Moderate Muslims, later renamed Democratic Mus-lims. For his efforts, a spokesman for a radical group of Danish imams stated, “If Khader becomes Minister of Integration, it would be likely that someone dispatched two guys to blow him and the Ministry up.” This endorsement of terrorism by a group of radical Muslims saw its realization with Saturday’s attacks.

There are other examples of the Danes’ commitment to integration, not only on its own terms, but also as a bulwark against terrorism. In recent weeks, they have tried a unique experiment to combat Islamist violence. While other countries are arresting their citizens returning from service in ISIS, Denmark has decided to rehabilitate them, treating them not as criminals or potential terrorists but as wayward youths who deserve a second chance. Many think it naïve; in any case, it is a clear measure of Danish bona-fides with res-pect to its Muslim citizens, even the radical ones. But are these initiatives working? The jury is still out — way out. The anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party continues to gain adherents. Jews avoid wearing kippot or Stars of David in public. A government official asked the Danish Zionist Organization to take down its flag because it might enrage other participants — at a festival of diversity! A man with a Middle-Eastern accent approached my wife and me, saying, “You look like Americans and Jews. I hate them both.”

Several weeks ago, a group of pro-Israel, pro-peace Danish Jews and non-Jews and Iranian dissidents had to be driven away in buses from their rally because the police couldn’t guarantee their security, due to increasing threats from young Muslims who were clustering in ever-louder and more violent groups nearby and even driving past in their cars shou-ting anti-Semitic slogans and waving Hamas flags. An eyewitness filmed several young men shouting “Fucking Jews” at the rally participants. The policemen who were wounded Saturday guarding the Copenhagen synagogue had not been assigned there recently, as is the case in France. The synagogue has constant protection by police and by private security guards, one of whom was the second fatal victim of the attacks.

I think this is a wake-up call for the Danes. A Jewish friend tells me of the words of a Christian relative who will be attending all subsequent demonstrations: “This is Denmark. This doesn’t happen here.” My Danish friends, who identify themselves philosophically as social democrats, voting for left-liberal parties, are taking events very seriously. None is pretending that this is anything other that what it seems. Contrary to common perceptions, Danes have no special like or dislike for Jews. But they do not distinguish among Danes, by religion or ethnicity, and they will not stand for other Danes being attacked. The Nazis didn’t understand it; neither do the Islamists. Nor do the Islamists understand the depth of Danish commitment to free expression. They’re about to find out.
Jeffry V. Mallow has lived in Denmark, as a guest professor and a Fulbright scholar.
© The Forward

up  

Denmark: Terror attack in Copenhagen calls for inclusive commitments against hatred

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) strongly condemns the deadly shootings in Copenhagen, Denmark this weekend, which took place in front of a synagogue and a café holding a debate on free speech.

16/2/2015- This double attack against both the Jewish community and freedom of expression is reminiscent of the January terror attacks in Paris. It highlights once again the need for political leaders to commit to curbing anti-Semitism and all forms of racism in European society, and not only focus on short-term security measures. Public authorities across Europe must take concrete measures to prevent such acts of hatred without stigmatising and polarising any community. Equality and non-discrimination standards must be complemen-ted by specific policy strategies to address all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. Resources should also be set aside for cross-community and community-led initiatives and actions to foster social inclusion and mutual understanding. ENAR Chair Sarah Isal said: “This most recent tragic event shows the European dimension of the issue and the need for a European-wide response. How many more deaths before we start tackling the root causes of intolerance and violence? It’s becoming increasingly obvious that security alone will not be enough to break the vicious circle of exclusion, mutual fear and suspicion. More long-term investment in non-discrimination, education and employment policies is crucial.”
© EUropean Network Against Racism

up  

Denmark: Copenhagen attacks raise fears of antisemitism around Europe

Speculation that shootings were inspired by Charlie Hebdo attacks after Danish-born suspect is shot dead

15/2/2015- Senior rabbis and Jewish politicians have warned of rising fears of antisemitism across Europe after the weekend’s terrorist attacks on a free-speech debate and a synagogue in Copenhagen. As police investigated whether a 22-year-old Danish-born gunman they shot dead had acted alone in staging Denmark’s most lethal terrorist attack in decades, which killed a film director and a young Jewish man and left five police officers injured, the European Jewish Association called for increased security. Rabbi Mena-chem Margolin, the association’s general director, said EU leaders had not done enough to combat antisemitic attacks and prejudices in the lead-up to the attacks on Saturday and in the early hours of Sunday, and pointed to a need to “secure all Jewish institutions 24/7”. Rabbi Barry Marcus, of the Central Synagogue in London, said the events of Copenhagen “were not a kind of abberation, there’s a pattern”.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, sparked controversy by immediately calling for European Jews to emigrate to Israel. “This wave of attacks will continue. Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home. We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe,” he said, echoing comments he made at the time of the Paris attacks. In Denmark, the spy chief, Jens Madsen, said the gunman, who was known to police because of past violence, gang-related activities and possession of weapons, had perhaps been trying to stage a copycat attack of the three days of bloody mayhem in Paris last month which began with a massacre of cartoonists and others at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and ended in a murderous siege at a kosher supermarket.

“We cannot yet say anything concrete about the motive … but are considering that he might have been inspired by the events in Paris some weeks ago,” Madsen said of the Danish gunman who was shot dead by officers after an altercation as he returned to a working-class neighbourhood in Copenhagen on Sunday morning. Local media named the Danish-born suspect as Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, reporting that he was released from prison a few weeks ago after serving a sentence for knife crime. Police did not confirm the name. The attacks sparked condemnation across the world with France’s president François Hollande warning that the “same targets” – symbols of freedom of speech, Jews and police – were hit in Copenhagen and Paris. The European Jewish Association called for increased protection of Jewish institutions across Europe. Denmark’s centre-left Social Democrat prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, described the killings as “a cynical act of terror”. She said: “We have tried the ugly taste of fear and powerlessness which terror hopes to create,” and added that Denmark was living a day of sorrow. “We will defend our democracy and we will defend Denmark at any time,” she vowed.

The mood in Denmark and its capital city of less than 1 million people was one of shock, sadness and confusion as the police operation continued. Since the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten first published cartoons by various artists depicting Muhammad in 2005, provoking protests across the Muslim world in which at least 50 people died, cartoonists have received death threats and police protection and authorities in Denmark have spoken of foiling planned attacks in recent years. But the reality of the weekend’s attacks and a normally peaceful city which prided itself on tolerance swiftly seeing itself saturated with armed police shocked many. “We hear about attacks in Paris or London, but we’re still struggling to think that it could happen here in our little fairytale country,” said Birgitte Krogh, a primary school teacher who had joined crowds in central Copenhagen to remem-ber the dead and was wondering what she was going to tell her eight-year-old pupils in school on Monday. “It’s not that we never thought it could happen … but we’re used to being safe here.”

Many in the crowd defended the Danish tradition of freedom of speech while also saying it was important to respect minorities and not fall into provocation. Some feared a rise in political extremism, namely the far-right Danish People’s party, which had seen high scores in last year’s European election. The first attack came at 4pm on Saturday afternoon when the windows of a cafe in a smart area of eastern Copenhagen were riddled with automatic weapon fire during a debate about freedom of speech attended by, among others, the French ambassador discussing Charlie Hebdo, and Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who depicted Muhammad in a cartoon as a dog in 2007 and whose life has been under threat ever since.

The gunman fled the scene, but at around 1am he struck again outside the city’s synagogue on a narrow street in the heart of Copenhagen, shooting dead Dan Uzan, 37, a Jewish security guard who was manning the door of a bat mitvah party. At dawn, the suspected gunman was killed in a shootout on a quiet street in the traditionally working-class area of north-west Copenhagen, bordering the Nørrebro district. The graffiti-tagged streets of red-brick blocks and low-rise social housing mark the most densely populated area of Denmark – a mixed neighbourhood where immigrants from countries like Turkey, Pakistan and Somalia mix with young Danish students, and whose streets are slowly becoming more gentrified as young people are priced out of the centre of the city. Some locals spoke of drug and gang crime, petty criminals “beggars and junkies” and unemployment, what one local termed a “rough neighbourhood”. But many said they enjoyed the cultural mix where people had long lived harmoniously together.

During the afternoon police continued to search apartments and raided an internet cafe nearby as part of their investigation, taking away two people in handcuffs. By mid-after-noon hundreds of Copenhagen residents began gathering with candles and flowers outside the city’s synagogue in support of the Jewish population. Jonatan Sousa, an economist at Copenhagen city hall and member of the Jewish community, described how the gunman struck just as a local family had been celebrating a bat mitzvah and the man killed was a friend who had been monitoring the door. “At the synagogue the morning before her party, the girl whose bat mitzvah it was had given a very moving speech about peace in the world, and to think her party ended the way it did,” Sousa said. “We all knew each other, it’s a very small Jewish community in Copenhagen, maybe 5,000 to 7,000 people. We knew it could happen, when we heard of the shooting at the debate we thought the Jews could be next. But the reality of it has left the Jewish community deeply shocked, deeply sad. The fact that right now all the Danish people are here and behind us, we’re all grateful for that.”
© The Guardian

up  

Denmark: Copenhagen attacks: terror into the night

It has been a dramatic weekend in Copenhagen. Here is a timeline of events in the terror attack that killed two and injured five.

15/2/2015- Saturday's twin attacks on a cultural centre and synagogue in Copenhagen left two people dead and five police officers wounded before the assailant himself was gun-ned down. Following is a timeline of the dramatic events, which lasted nearly 14 hours from the first burst of gunfire to the last.

In the first attack at around 3:30 pm (1430 GMT), a man armed with a machine pistol fires dozens of rounds on the cultural centre where a forum on Islam and free speech is taking place attended by dozens of people. Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, survivor of several death threats since gaining international notoriety for a 2007 cartoon portraying the Prophet Mohammed as a dog, is a speaker at the forum titled "Art, Blasphemy and Freedom". His presence requires police protection. The assailant's barrage of gunfire is caught on a recording broadcast by the BBC.

France's ambassador to Denmark, Francois Zimeray is at the event, having been invited little more than a month after the attacks in Paris that left 12 people dead at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, followed by the killing of a policewoman, and four Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket. Speaking to AFP by telephone from the cultural centre, Zime-ray recounts how all the participants threw themselves to the floor as soon as the gunfire erupted. "Intuitively I would say there were at least 50 gunshots, and the police here are saying 200. Bullets went through the doors," he says. A 55-year-old participant is killed and three police officers are wounded. Danish media identify the dead man as documentary filmmaker Finn Norgaard. The gunman flees the scene in a Volkswagen Polo, sparking a manhunt.

'Gunman acted alone'
At first investigators think two men are involved including one in the getaway car, but after gathering eyewitness accounts they conclude that the gunman acted alone. He aban-dons the car some two kilometres (a little more than a mile) to the north of the cultural centre, near a railway station. At 5:07 pm, police release the car's licence plate number and warn Copenhagen residents against trying to apprehend the suspect.

At 5:45 pm police say they have found the abandoned car.
At 7:23 pm police issue a description of the suspect as being "between 25 and 30 years old, around 1.85m (six foot one inch) tall, athletic, of Arab appearance but with lighter skin than normal and with black, slick hair."
At 8:06 pm police release a still from video surveillance footage taken outside the railway station showing him wearing a dark anorak and a maroon balaclava carrying a black bag:

The second shooting takes place between midnight and 1am Sunday outside Copenhagen's main synagogue. A spokesman for a Jewish association, Jeppe Jul, tells Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter that the assailant looks like a drunken partygoer, saying he vomited in the street. The gunman opens fire without warning, wounding two police officers and killing a 37-year-old Jewish man, Dan Uzan, a guard at the synagogue. The gunman flees on foot.

At around 4am, police receive a call from a taxi driver who thinks he spotted the fugitive. Security forces stake out a building in the working-class neighbourhood of Nørrebro.
At around 5am the man arrives and fires on police, who return fire, killing him.
Early Sunday, investigators say they believe the man was behind both attacks. Police add that the attack may have been inspired by the Paris attacks and that the man was "on the radar" of authorities prior to carrying out the deadly shootings. Police go on to launch several raids, including one on an Internet cafe in Copenhagen.

Police say the suspect was a 22-year-old man born and raised in Denmark who had a history of assault and weapons offences. Several media outlets name him as Omar El-Hussein. Danish tabloid Ekstra-Bladet says he was released from jail two weeks ago after serving a term for aggravated assault. Police said they are investigating if the man had received help from others and the possibility he had travelled to conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq.
© The Local - Denmark

up  

RSS feed
Suggestions and comments please to info@icare.to