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Headlines 27 March, 2015

RUSSIA & UK News Week 13

Intn\'l Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Headlines 20 March, 2015

UK, France, Germany & France News Week 12

Headlines 13 March, 2015

Germany, Austria & UK News Week 11

FRANCE, NETHERLANDS & RUSSIA News Week 11

Headlines 27 March, 2015

Migrant job-seekers can be denied benefits, EU lawyer says

26/3/2015- European Union nations can deny benefits to EU migrants unless they have previously worked in their host country, the EU's top lawyer said on Thursday, in a case brought by Germany and keenly watched in Britain. Even actively seeking work is not enough of a justification to claim benefits at the same time, European Court of Justice Advocate General Melchior Wathelet said. His opinion, which judges must consider in their final ruling, was likely to be welcomed by Eurosceptic parties in the 28-nation EU which argue that governments must do more to stop "benefit tourism" by EU migrants. Wathelet's view reinforces the precedent set by a November ruling that said EU migrants can be denied benefits if they move to a country with no intention of finding a job. [ID:nL6N0T1262] "This confirms that the right to live and work elsewhere in the EU is not the same as the right to claim benefits," said Catherine Bearder, a British liberal in the European Parliament.

Immigration has become a divisive topic in Europe as it struggles to recover from years of economic crisis. British Prime Minister David Cameron repeated his call last week for a "wide-scale change to the rules on welfare and benefits", in a reference to popular suspicion that EU immigrants come to Britain to scrounge off the state.
Cameron has promised that, if he wins a May election, he will renegotiate Britain's relationship with Europe on issues such as immigration and then hold a referendum on its membership of the bloc by 2017. In his opinion, the European Court of Justice's Wathelet said however that those who had worked in their host country should not be penalised. Germany was therefore wrong to stop benefits to a Swedish mother who became unemployed, Wathelet said.

Swedish mother-of-three Nazifa Alimanovic stopped receiving social benefits in Germany in 2012 after becoming unemployed. Alimanovic had worked in Germany between June 2010 and May 2011. Germany's Federal Social Court brought the case to the EU court. "Exclusion from social assistance benefits, provided for by the German legislation, is not applicable to the situation of Ms Alimanovic," Wathelet said. Alimanovic's three children had been born in Germany and attended school there.
© Reuters

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Macedonia must stop playing with Roma passports

26/3/2015- The ERRC has written today to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Macedonia to demand that they investigate allegations that politicians are coercing Roma to vote for their party by seizing their passports. The letter comes in response to leaked phone conversations purportedly between high-placed government officials. During the phone conversations the officials appear to explain how they withhold the passports of “Gypsies” in order to get their support, apparently in elections. It is widely reported that one of those speaking is the Interior Minister.

The allegations form a part of a larger patter of manipulation of the passports of Romani Macedonian citizens. As the ERRC has been reporting for over a year, Roma have regularly had their passports seized based on a regulation that the Constitutional Court has since ruled unlawful. Other Roma continue to be stopped from leaving the country at the border by Macedonian border guards based, the ERRC increasingly believes, on their race. Those guards place a special stamp with two lines through it in the person’s passport. A situation testing exercise the ERRC conducted has produced evidence that Roma are being singled out for this treatment.

“Passports are the most visible evidence of a person’s citizenship”, said András Ujlaky, the ERRC’s Executive Director. “The ongoing manipulation of the passports of Macedonia’s Roma citizens brands them as second-class citizens”. The ERRC’s advocacy officer and legal director are in Skopje today to talk to the media and international delegations about these problems, including the ERRC’s work to expose institu-tional racism against Roma at the border. They will be talking about the situation testing the ERRC has organised. They will also be talking about the ERRC’s campaign to encourage Roma to file legal complaints if they have had their passports seized or they have been refused the right to leave the country. By tomorrow, the ERRC expects over fifty complaints to have been filed.

© European Roma Rights Center

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Czech Rep: Court sentences student to 17.5 years for attempted murders

24/3/2015- A Czech court sentenced Tuesday university student Jan Mokry to 17.5 years in prison for two attempts to kill homeless men, after he expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler, confessed to the crime and said he regrets the victims' survival. Experts said Mokry, a student of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, does not suffer from any mental disorder and is fully responsible for his acts. They said the possibility of his re-integration in society is close to nil. Court panel chairwoman Katerina Radkovska said Mokry's guilt has been clearly proved.

The evidence included video recordings from camera systems, expert reports, testimonies of both victims, and the student's confession. Mokry attacked both victims in Prague last April and June, respectively. In both cases he chose a sleeping homeless man. "I stand by my deeds and views. I'm aware of being bad. It is people's nature to die. They die every day. I will continue, you cannot forbid it to me," Mokry told the court. Mokry said he would be killing homeless people again after he was released from prison.

He was also banned from Prague for ten years in order to further prevent him from killing homeless people. But Radkovska said an exceptional sentence would not be imposed on him. The prison stay seems enough for Mokry to give him a chance to change his views, she added. Mokry read from his notes about what further people he planned to kill. His targets were to be "homeless people, Gypsies, Jews and informers," he said. He mentioned some female fellow students, who, he said, were "valueless pieces of meat" whom he wanted to cut into pieces and throw into the Vltava River. Mokry also confessed to other crimes, including an attack on a third homeless man, but the police did not accuse him of anything else. Radkovska said Mokry probably only read about these crimes in media.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Slovakia: Number of extremist crimes drops

The number of crimes connected with extremism and racial motivation has fallen in Slovakia in recent years. The Slovak Interior Ministry announced these findings on 20 March.

25/3/2015- Last year Slovak Police discovered 66 such crimes, most frequently involving the banned promotion of various extremist and radical opinions. A total of 40 persons faced investigation and prosecution on these grounds, with police managing to solve half of the cases. In 2011, detectives in Slovakia investigated 243 cases of extremist and racist crime. Police also reported that extremist crime is now being committed more online. "The development of these crimes indicates the trend of manifestations of racial discrimina-tion and other forms of intolerance gradually moving recently from the 'streets' to 'virtual space'. In many cases this criminal activity is perpetrated through social networking sites," the Slovak Interior Ministry warned.

These crimes involve various incidents of defamation of a nation or a population group or incitement to ethnic, national and racial hatred. Social networking sites reportedly also serve for trafficking in extremist paraphernalia. The authorities believe that the influence of perpetrators' entourages, their family environments, and the Internet all contribute to these extremist displays, as does the allegedly inappropriate influence of the media. The ministry noted that right-wing radicals have changed their procedures now. "These activities are beginning to be more sophisticated and are marked by long-term planning with the aim of raising the money that is unavoidably necessary if their aims are to be achieved, which recently have mainly been politically motivated," the ministry said. Authorities also mentioned contacts between these groups and organizations abroad, such as the Workers' Social Justice Party (DSSS) in the Czech Republic.

The report on the development of extremism in Slovakia also included the People's Party "Our Slovakia" (LSNS), which is not seated in Parliament, among those entities holding extremist opinions; Marian Kotleba, who was elected the Governor of the Banská Bystrica Region in 2013, works in that party. Both Kotleba and the party are infamous for their anti-Romani propaganda.
© Romea.

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Slovenian journalists being locked in a senseless battle with Kafkaesque laws (comment)

'When a journalist is being prosecuted for doing their job the entire profession is on trial'
By Anne Mortensen


25/3/2015- At least half a dozen journalists have been charged or threatened with criminal indictments in the last 12 months under the Criminal Code of the Republic of Slovenia. One such investigative journalist is Anuška Deliæ, of the Ljubljana-based daily national newspaper Delo, who has been battling what has amounted to a Kafka-esque process. Deliæ published an article in Delo ahead of the December 2011 Slovenian elections that allegedly a linked between neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour Slovenia with and members of the Slovenian Democrat Party and military. She “sensed that something was cooking” when Blood and Honour published a counter-article on their website in the summer of 2012 that claimed her sources came from the Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA). Unbeknownst to Deliæ, charges were filed against her shortly thereafter.

She became aware of possible charges in March 2013 when authorities brought her in for questioning, but she only learned what they charges were more than a year later when authorities revealed them in an official indictment in September 2014. Though her hearing officially began on 15 October 2014, Deliæ first saw a courtroom on 5 January 2015. She is currently under trial for publishing alleged classified information under Article 260 of the Criminal Code. If convicted, she faces up to three years in prison. “I have my good days and my bad days,” said Deliæ. “I would be lying if I said it has been easy. I have been fortunate to receive immense support from my colleagues at home as well as abroad. The other side of the coin is anger with the State for allowing these bogus criminal charges to be brought in the first place.”

Other journalists also being prosecuted under the Criminal Code include Primož Cirman and Tomaž Modiæ, of the daily newspaper Dnevnik also based in Ljubljana. Both were brought before an investigating judge over an alleged insult against the Competition Protection Agency (AVK) and some of its staff. If convicted, the journalists face up to six months in prison. Other criminal complaints have been raised against Dnevnik journalists Peter Lovšin and Meta Rogliè. I asked Deliæ if she could offer words of advice to her fellow journalists to which she replied, “Fight for freedom of speech and media while you fight for justice and a fair trial. When a journalist is being prosecuted for doing their job the entire profession is on trial. Anyone can be next in line and we need to be vigilant of the developing situation.”

“Criminal prosecution of journalists for what they say or write is unacceptable,” said Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatoviæ. “In cases like these, national security concerns must be properly weighed against public interest. But journalists must be able to report on issues of public interest free from fear of prosecution and potential imprisonment.” According to a statement issued by Slovenian government representa-tives, the Prime Minister, Miro Cerar, is aware of Anuška Deliæ's case, and has expressed his view that “journalists should be protected from criminal liability when publishing information in the public interest.”

The statement also confirmed that the Ministry of Justice has been drawing up amendments to the Penal Code, which, according to the Minister of Justice, Goran Klemenèiè, should ensure that publishing classified information in the public interest will no longer be a criminal offence and the amendments to the Code are currently the final stages. “The Government of the Republic of Slovenia is aware of the significance of media freedom and is determined to respect the standards of media freedom, at home or abroad, in accordance with international norms and standards,” said Slovenian government representatives. Despite amendments to the Criminal Code in 2008, Article 158 of the Code continues to criminalise “insults”, punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to three months.
Slovenia ranks 35 in the Reporters Without Border's World Press Freedom Index 2015.
© The Independent

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Ultra-nationalist Ukrainian battalion gears up for more fighting

25/3/2015- The far-right Azov battalion, whose symbol resembles a black swastika on a yellow background, is preparing to defend the port city of Mariupol in south-eastern Ukraine against a widely expected attack by pro-Russian separatists. The 1,000 strong ultra-nationalist militia has a reputation as a fierce pro-government fighting force in the almost year-old conflict with the Russia-backed rebels in east Ukraine, and is disdainful of peace efforts. But the radical views of the commanders of a group affiliated to Ukraine's national guard which works alongside the army, and the use of symbols echoing Nazi emblems have caused alarm in the West and Russia, and could return to haunt Kiev's pro-Western leadership when fighting eventually ends.

"We don't like the ceasefire at all. As with the previous ones, it'll only lead to another offensive by the enemy," Azov commander Andriy Biletsky told Reuters while watching artillery drills at Urzuf, on the shores of the Sea of Azov, about 40 km south-west of Mariupol. "Appeasing the aggressor will only lead to more aggression. This war will inevitably continue - either until our complete defeat or until our full victory and return to our land in all east Ukraine and Crimea. We believe in the second scenario," said the 35-year-old from the city of Kharkiv. As the drills continued, other members of the battalion were in combat with the separatists at the village of Shirokino, some 60 km (38 miles) to the northeast.

Shirokino, where Ukrainian and rebel positions are separated by only a few kilometers of village dwellings, is one of several places along the line of contact where fighting has continued despite a February ceasefire. Mariupol, which Azov helped recapture from the rebels last year, is a big prize. Its capture would offer the separatists the chance to open a road further south a year after Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine. [ID:nL5N0W30SQ] Kiev and the West say Russia drives the rebellion in east Ukraine and has sent in troops as well as weapons to help the separatists. Moscow has sided with the rebels but denies direct military involvement.

"Patriot of Ukraine"
The Azov battalion originated from Biletsky's paramilitary national socialist group called "Patriot of Ukraine", which propagated slogans of white supremacy, racial purity, the need for authoritarian power and a centralized national economy. "Patriot of Ukraine" opposed giving up Ukraine's sovereignty by joining international blocs, called for rolling back of liberal economy and political democracy, including free media. In 2008, Biletsky urged "thousands of young fanatic apostles" to advance its ideas. Local media have reported on several violent incidents in which the group was involved. Since Azov was officially created last May, it has been involved in fighting on the outskirts of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, a battle for the town of Illovaysk which Ukrainian forces lost last summer and across the coast of the Sea of Azov.

But, since Azov was enrolled as a regiment of Ukraine's National Guard in September and started receiving increased supplies of heavy arms, Biletsky has toned down his rhetoric. Most of "Patriot of Ukraine" websites are now down or under restricted access. He denied Azov's symbol was a reference to Nazism, saying it was rather a Ukrainian nationalist symbol. Biletsky said he now has infantry and artillery units and was building a proper tank force. His troops training on the cannons in Urzuf were heavily armed with quality uniforms. Biletsky said his troops, all volunteers, were "officially" making 6,000 hryvnia ($316) a month but in fact around 10,000 hryvnia. Apart from getting funds from the interior ministry, Azov is believed to be getting support from among Ukrainian super-rich oligarchs.

Biletsky did not say whether and how his views have changed since he wrote the "Patriot of Ukraine" program but said his priority now was extinguishing the pro-Russian rebellion. "We have only one goal right now - fighting for the homeland until all of it is freed. And then we will try to build a new Ukraine that we could all be proud of. We are patriots. We believe in our nation, nationalism is our ideology," he said. Biletsky, a historian by education who is married with a son, was detained in 2011 on charges of assaulting a man. He was released after an amnesty in February 2014 and his aides dismiss the case as an example of political persecution of Ukrainian nationalists under Ukraine's ousted president and Moscow ally Viktor Yanukovich. He has since been elected to the Ukrainian parliament, riding a wave of an increased nationalist sentiment in Ukraine triggered by the war.

Pressure on Kiev
Some Ukrainian politicians have defended Biletsky and his troops as patriots. There is lingering doubt, however, over what role Azov might play when the military conflict ends and whether its members could challenge President Petro Poroshenko and his government or threaten the wider public security. Biletsky has criticized Poroshenko for losing out on in an information war against Russia and the rebels, and is dismissive of the chances for a negotiated solution to the conflict. "How can we settle it peacefully if part of our territory is occupied? Will they give us Crimea back? How can there be a peaceful way to stop an aggression?," he said. In a sign of persistent tensions between the pro-Ukrainian volunteer battalions and Ukraine's regular army, Biletsky blamed Ukraine's top military commanders for battlefield defeats.

He said he has lost about 60 men in the conflict and wants a revamp of Ukraine's armed forces to promote a new generation of field commanders who have fought on the ground in a conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people. "We have loads of generals brought up in the Soviet Union who have no idea of combat, who rose as state officials in uniforms rather than commanding officers in the field. These people don't want to and don't know how to fight."
© Reuters

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Bulgarian Parliament Votes on Anti-Discrimination Law Amendments

24/3/2015- Sex change will now be protected from discrimination after a law amendment passed in Bulgarian Parliament on Wednesday. Debates regarding the amend-ments of the Discrimination Protection Law had been suspended and MPs could not vote on the change. Deputy PM and Social Minister Ivaylo Kalfin convinced his collea-gues in Parliament to vote in favor. He explained that since the year 2012 correspondence with the European Commission has been emphasizing the need for anti-discrimination laws. ''The Commission has posed the question once more on August 22, and then in February 2015 announced that it is finally expecting for us to amend the law until the end of March,'' stated Kalfin in Parliament. ''Otherwise, there will be a EU procedure launched for unwillingness on our part to comply with the EU legisla-tion.'' He noted that the amendment will merely attempt to clarify the procedure already passed, and not for implementation of any new legislation.
© Novinite

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Bulgaria Registers 55% Increase in Number of Asylum Applicants in 2014

The number of asylum applicants in Bulgaria increased by 55% on an annual basis in 2014, according to Eurostat data.

24/3/2014- The number of applicants in Bulgaria increased from 7 145 in 2013 to 11 080 in 2014, according to the statistical office of the European Union. Bulgaria’s share of asylum seekers amounted to less than 2% of the EU total. In 2014, the highest number of applicants was registered by far in Germany (202 700 applicants, or 32% of total applicants), followed by Sweden (81 200, or 13%), Italy (64 600, or 10%), France (62 800, or 10%) and Hungary (42 800, or 7%). The number of asylum applicants registered in the European Union (EU) increased by 191 000 (+44%) on an annual basis to reach a peak of 626 000 in 2014. In particular, the number of Syrians rose by 72 000, from 50 000 in 2013 to almost 123 000 in 2014. The number of asylum applicants in 2014 more than doubled compared with 2013 in Italy (+143%) and Hungary (+126%) and increased significantly in Germany (+60%) and Sweden (+50%), while it decreased by 5% in France.

Compared with the population of each Member State, the highest rates of registered applicants were recorded in Sweden (8.4 applicants per thousand inhabitants), well ahead of Hungary (4.3), Austria (3.3), Malta (3.2), Denmark (2.6) and Germany (2.5). In contrast, the lowest rates were observed in Portugal, Slovakia and Romania. In 2014, there were 1.2 asylum applicants per thousand inhabitants in the EU. Syria (122 800 asylum applicants, or 20% of the total number of applicants) continued to be the main country of citizenship of asylum applicants. Of the 122 800 Syrians who applied for asylum in the EU in 2014, around 60% were registered in two Member States: Germany (41 100) and Sweden (30 800). Syrians represented also the main citizenship of asylum seekers in Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Spain, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Austria, Romania and Slovenia. Afghanistan (41 300 asylum applicants, or 7% of the total number of applicants) became the second country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU in 2014. Of the 41 300 Afghans seeking asylum protection in the EU in 2014, 9 700 were registered in Germany and 8 800 in Hungary.

With 37 900 applicants (or 6% of the EU total) in 2014, Kosovo completed the top 3 citizenships of asylum seekers in the EU, with more than half of them applying for asylum in Hungary (21 500). In some Member States, at least half of the applicants came from a single country. This was the case in 2014 in Cyprus (57% of the applicants came from Syria), Bulgaria (56% from Syria), Hungary (50% from Kosovo4) and Poland (50% from Russia). In 2014 in the EU, 45% of first instance decisions made on asylum applications were positive (360 000 first instance decisions were taken in the 27 EU Member States for which data are available, of which 163 000 granted refugee status, subsidiary protection or authoriza-tion to stay for humanitarian reasons). With 66 300 first instance decisions granting asylum protection status (or 41% of all first instance positive decisions), Syrians were the main recipients in the EU in 2014.
© Novinite

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No-one can predict European politics

24/3/2015- Fragmentation.
It has been a constant theme of European politics over the last few years. In several countries we are witnessing a gradual decline in support for traditional mainstream parties, as disillusioned voters strike out in unexpected directions. This loosening of old loyalties has been most notable in Greece: hardly surprising, in a country that has just lived through the steepest recession a modern industrial democracy has ever seen. The radical left coalition, Syriza, is now in government. The extreme right party, Golden Dawn - dismissed by its critics as a Neo-Nazi organisation - has a substantial parliamentary presence. But is Greece a one-off? Or is it the canary in the coal-mine?

Remarkable numbers
At first sight, elections in Spain and France this week suggest that the break-up of the centre-right/centre-left duopoly may not be quite as sudden as some expect. But look a little closer and some of the numbers are still fairly remarkable. In southern Spain the Socialist party won a closely-watched regional election in Andalucia, where it has governed since the restoration of Spanish democracy in the 1980s. But Podemos from the radical left - the Spanish Syriza - won an impressive 15% of the vote; little more than a year after the party was formed. The big loser in Andalucia was the centre right People's Party, which runs the government in Madrid, even though it came second overall. The PP will be parti-cularly concerned because the threat to the status quo doesn't come only from the left. An upstart centrist party, Ciudadanos, also won 9% of the vote, attracting support from people disillusioned by business as usual. So where does this leave the two main parties in Spain? As recently as 2008, the Socialists and the PP between them won nearly 84% of the vote in a general election. They won't come anywhere near that when the country goes to the polls later this year. Podemos is still some way behind them. But it is indisputa-bly on the rise.

More than a protest
In the first round of local elections in France this week Marine Le Pen's Front National did not top the polls, as many people thought it might. But the FN still came second with more than 25% of the vote, pushing the governing Socialists into third place. That suggests that support for the FN's anti-immigration, anti-EU message is more than a simple protest vote. Even if the mainstream parties conspire to keep the FN out wherever they can in the second round of voting, the French elections are another sign that many disgruntled citizens are now ready and willing to look for alternatives. Elsewhere on the continent there are similar stories. The rise of the Five Star Movement in Italy or UKIP in the UK, or even the AfD (Alternative for Germany) in Germany, suggest that some political fault lines are moving.

Buffeted lives
Why is this happening? The obvious answer is that it is partly the result of years of economic crisis, particularly in southern Europe. For many voters, mainstream parties have failed to step up to the challenge. But there's also a more general malaise - a feeling that ordinary lives are being buffeted by forces and institutions beyond the control of voters. The idea of a 'democratic deficit' has exercised many political minds, particularly among supporters of the European Union. Parties like Syriza and Podemos want to redefine what the EU does. But many protest parties want to destroy it. Of course, the centre ground is not dead. Well-funded party machines do not disappear overnight (even if supporters of the Greek Socialist party PASOK may beg to differ). But traditional parties across Europe are under pressure as never before in recent memory. And European politics has become fascinatingly unpredictable.
© BBC News.

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Germany: Court demands more proof in NPD hearing

In a court case to ban the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), the German Constitutional Court called on Monday for federal states to prove that German intelligence agents are not still active in the organisation.

24/3/2015- The process against the NPD, taken to the court by interior ministers of the federal states, is built upon a collection of data and citations gathered from within the party which are said to prove the likeness of its ideology to that of the Nazi party. A previous attempt to ban the party ended in failure in 2003 when it was revealed that many of the party's top officials were secretly agents of the German intelligence services, paid by the government. The Constitutional Court based its decision to uphold the party's legal status on the fact that the influence of the intelligence services and their informants on party ideology could not be disentangled from the party's own position. The 2003 court decision was a major embarrassment for the German political establishment.

The fear is that the current process could collapse for similar reasons. The state interior ministers have previously announced that all informants were withdrawn from the party be-fore the collection of evidence began. CSU interior expert Stefan Mayer reacted angrily to the decision, telling the Passauer Neue Presse that “the federal states can in no way be accused of not having provided a sufficient amount of proof.” Green Party head Kathrin Göring-Eckardt saw Monday's ruling as an “alarm signal” for the possible collapse of the pro-cess. “Memories will be stirred,” she told Die Welt. “This [ruling] confirms our scepticism about the whole process.” The process seeks to prove that the NPD contravene Article 21, Paragraph 2 of the German constitution, which states that political parties which “tarnish the free and democratic nature of the republic” violate the constitution.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Police investigate new Bundestag fire attack

23/3/2015- Unknown attackers threw a Molotov cocktail at one of the Bundestag buildings in Berlin at around 2:30 am on Monday, but failed to set the offices ablaze. Police told Der Spiegel that no damage was caused and that the security services were investigating the crime. The attack apes a similar one on November 24th last year, when a Molotov cocktail was set alight next to the building. After that attack, leaflets from a group calling itself the “German Resistance Movement” were found on the scene, warning of Germany's “shat-tering” and “balkanization” if it were to continue down the path of a “multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious and multi-historical” population. There were also attacks on the Reichstag on September 28th and on the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party headquarters on August 25th. Police said at the time that there were clues indicating a far-right political motivation for the latter attack.
© The Local - Germany

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Greece: Fascists At The Gate

23/3/2015- When some 70 members of the neo-Nazi organization Golden Dawn go on trial sometime this spring, there will be more than street thugs and fascist ideologues in the docket, but a tangled web of influence that is likely to engulf Greece’s police, national security agency, wealthy oligarchs, and mainstream political parties. While Golden Dawn—with its holocaust denial, its swastikas, and Hitler salutes—makes it look like it inhabits the fringe, in fact the organization has roots deep in the heart of Greece’s political culture. hich is precisely what makes it so dangerous. Golden Dawn’s penchant for violence is what led to the charge that it is a criminal organization. It is accused of several murders, as well as attacks on immigrants, leftists, and trade unionists. Raids have uncovered weapon caches. Investigators have also turned up information suggesting that the organization is closely tied to wealthy shipping owners, as well as the National Intelligence Service (EYP) and municipal police departments.

Several lawyers associated with two victims of violence by Party members—a 27-year old Pakistani immigrant stabbed to death last year, and an Afghan immigrant stabbed in 2011— charge that a high level EYP official responsible for surveillance of Golden Dawn has links to the organization. The revelations forced Dimos Kouzilos, director of EYP’s third counter-intelligence division, to resign last September. There were several warning flags about Kouzilos when he was appointed to head the intelligence division by rightwing New Democracy Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Kouzilos is a relative of a Golden Dawn Parliament member, who is the Party’s connection to the shipping industry. Kouzilos is also close to a group of police officers in Nikea, who are currently under investigation for ties to Golden Dawn. Investigators charge that the Nikea police refused to take complaints from refugees and immigrants beaten by Party members, and the police Chief, Dimitris Giovandis, tipped off Golden Dawn about surveillance of the Party.

In handing over the results of their investigation, the lawyers said that “We believe that this information provides an overview of the long-term penetration and activities of the Nazi criminal gang with the EYP and the police.” A report by the Office of Internal Investigation documents 130 cases where Golden Dawn worked with police. It should hardly come as a surprise that there are close ties between the extreme right and Greek security forces. The current left-right split goes back to 1944 when the British tried to drive out the Communist Party—the backbone of the Greek resistance movement against the Nazi occupation. The split eventually led to the 1946-49 civil war when Communists and leftists fought royalists and former German collaborationists for power. However, the West saw the civil war through the eyes of the then budding Cold War, and, at Britain’s request, the U.S. pitched in on the side of the right to defeat the left. In the process of that intervention—then called the Truman Doctrine—U.S. intelligence services established close ties with the Greek military.

Those ties continued over the years that followed and were tightened once Greece joined NATO in 1952. The charge that the U.S. encouraged the 1967 fascist coup against the Greek government has never been proven, but many of the “colonels” who initiated the overthrow had close ties to the CIA and the U.S. military. Golden Dawn was founded by some of the key people who ruled during the 1967-74 junta, and Greek dictator Georgios Papadopoulos, the leader of the “colonels” who led the 1967 coup, groomed the Party’s founder and current leader, Nikos Michaloliakos. Papadopoulos was a Nazi collaborator and served with the German “security battalions” that executed 130,000 Greek civilians during WW II. Papadopoulos was trained by the U.S. Army and recruited by the CIA. Indeed, he was the first CIA employee to govern a European country.

Golden Dawn’s adherence to Hitler, the symbols of Nazism, and the “Fuehrer principle”—investing the Party’s leader with absolute authority—is, in part, what has gotten the organization into trouble. According to an investigation by Greek Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor Haralambos Vourliotis, Golden Dawn is split into two wings, a political wing responsible for the Party’s legal face and an operational wing for “carrying out attacks on those deemed enemies of the party.” Michaloiakos oversees both wings. Prosecutors will try to demonstrate that attacks and murders are not the actions of individuals who happen to be members of Golden Dawn, because independent actions are a contradiction to the “Fuehrer principle.” Many of the attacks have featured leading members of Golden Dawn and, on occasion, members of Parliament. Indeed, since the leadership and core of the Party were jailed last September, attacks on non-Greeks and leftists have fallen off.

There is a cozy relationship between Golden Dawn and some business people as well, with the Party serving as sort of “Thugs-R-Us” organization. Investigators charge that shortly after two Party MPs visited the shipyards at Piraeus, a Golden Dawn gang attacked Communists who were supporting union workers. Golden Dawn also tried to set up a company union that would have resulted in lower pay and fewer benefits for shipyard workers. In return, shipping owners donated 240,000 Euros to Golden Dawn. Investigators charge that the Party also raises funds through protection rackets, money laundering and blackmail. Journalist Dimitris Psarras, who has researched and written about Golden Dawn for deca-des, argues that the Party is successful not because it plays on the economic crisis, but because for years the government—both socialists and conservatives—mainstream parties, and the justice system have turned a blind eye to Golden Dawn’s growing use of force. It was the murder of Greek anti-fascist rapper/poet Pavlos Fyssas that forced the autho-rities to finally move on the organization. Killing North Africans was one thing, killing a Greek quite another.

Instead of challenging Golden Dawn in the last election, the New Democracy Party railed against “Marxists,” “communists” and—pulling a page from the 1946-49 civil war-“bandits.” Even the center parties, like the Greek Socialist Party (PASOK) and the new Potami Party, condemned both “left and right” as though the two were equivalent. New Dawn did see its voter base shrink from the 426,025 it won in 2012, to 388,000 in the January election that brought left party Syriza to power. But then New Dawn is less interested in numbers than it is in wielding violence. According to Psarras, the Party’s agenda is “to create a climate of civil war, a divide where people have to choose between leftists and rightists.”

Some of the mainstream parties have eased Golden Dawn’s path by adopting the Party’s attacks on Middle East and African immigrants and Muslims, albeit at a less incendiary level. But, as Psarras points out, “Research in political science has long since showed that wherever conservative European parties adopt elements of far-right rhetoric and policy during pre-election periods, the upshot is the strengthening of the extreme far right parties.” That certainly was the case in last year’s European Parliamentary elections, when center and right parties in France and Great Britain refused to challenge the racism and Islamophobia of rightwing parties, only to see the latter make strong showings. According to the Supreme Court’s Vourliotis, Golden Dawn believes that “Those who do not belong to the popular community of the race are subhuman. In this category belong foreign immigrants, Roma, those who disagree with their ideas and even people with mental problems.” The Party dismisses the Holocaust: “There were no crematoria, it’s a lie. Or gas chambers,” Michaloliakos said in a 2012 national TV interview. Some 60,000 members of Greece’s Jewish population were transported and murdered in the death camps during World War II.

The trial is scheduled for April 20 but might be delayed. Golden Dawn members, including Michaloliakos and many members of Parliament, were released Mar. 18 because they can only be held for 18 months in pre-trial detention. The Party, with its ties in the business community and its “wink of the eye” relationship to New Democracy—that mainstream center right party apparently printed Golden Dawn’s election brochures—has considerable resources to fight the charges. New Dawn has hired more than 100 attorneys. If convic-ted, New Dawn members could face up to 20 years in prison, but there is not a great deal of faith among the anti-fascist forces in the justice system. The courts have remained mute in the face of Golden Dawn’s increasing use of violence, and some magistrates have been accused of being sympathetic to the organization.

One of the laws the Party is being prosecuted under is Article 187A, which can be a bit tricky. While Golden Dawn is charged with being a criminal organization, murder, assault, and illegal weapons possession, Article 187A kicks in when those crimes take on a political dimension and reach the level of trying to intimidate a group of people or population. But that is a slippery concept, because the prosecution will have to prove “intent.” It gives the defense plenty of gray area to work with, particularly if the defense is well finan-ced and the courts are sympathetic. Thanasis Kampagiannis of “Jail Golden Dawn” warns that the Party will not vanish on its own. “Many are under the impression that if we stop talking about Golden Dawn the problem will somehow disappear. That is not the case. The economic crisis has burnished the organization, but there are other causes that have contributed to its existence and prominence, such as the intensification of state repression and the institutionalization of racism by the dominant parties.”

But courts are political entities and respond to popular movements. Anti-fascists are calling on Greeks and the international community to stay in the streets and demand that New Dawn be brought to justice. Germans missed that opportunity with the Nazi Party and paid a terrible price for it.
© The International Policy Digest

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Poland: ‘Stop Racism in Sports' Competition Final in Polish Parliament

23/3/2015- 'Stop Racism in Sports’ Competition Final in Polish Parliament (nigdywiecej.org)The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association brought together creme de la creme of Polish sports journalists as well as Members of Parliament, former sports champions and representatives of key institutions to participate in an awards ceremony and an informed discussion on sports and discrimination on the eve of the UN Anti-Racism Day. The ‘Stop racism in sports’ competition for professional print, radio and television journalists covering issues of racism and discrimination was held under the auspices of Elzbieta Radziszewska MP, Deputy Speaker of the Polish Parliament (Sejm) and former Minister of Equality. The competi-tion was co-organized by the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association, the Parliamentary Committee on Sports and Tourism, the Polish Olympic Committee, the Civic Rights Commissioner, and the European Commission office in Warsaw.

The high-level awards ceremony took place in the Parliament’s main media room with the participation of a large number of officials and the media community. Dr Rafal Pankow-ski, a representative of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association, spoke at the ceremony and stressed the contribution of the late Marcin Kornak who had initiated the ground-breaking ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of the Stadiums’ campaign back in 1996. It was the first campaign against racism in sport in Central and Eastern Europe and it has resulted in a significant rise in social awareness. As emphasized by the Polish Press Agency report on the event, the awards ceremony was held on the first anniversary of the passing away of Marcin Kornak. Deputy Speaker Elzbieta Radziszewska said: "I am truly grateful to the NEVER AGAIN Association for your priceless commitment and tireless efforts in the fight against racism and discrimination over so many years."

'Stop Racism in Sports’ Competition Final in Polish Parliament (nigdywiecej.org)Other speakers, who delivered powerful condemnations of racism and intolerance and pledged their support to the anti-discrimination cause, included the former volleyball champion Malgorzata Niemczyk and the legendary 1970s football goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski (who had been criticized by 'NEVER AGAIN' for insensitive comments in the past). The discussion with the participation of media representatives continued for more than two hours in the format of an informal roundtable debate chaired by Mrs Radziszewska. The participants vowed to restore the positive multi-cultural atmosphere of the Euro 2012 ‘RESPECT Diversity’ campaign ahead of the UEFA Europe League final to be held in Warsaw in May 2015, in the run up to the 2017 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Poland as well as the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia.
© NEVER AGAIN Association.

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UN Committee to Vote on Benefits for Spouses of Gay Staffers

23/3/2014- Russia has called for a vote Tuesday in the U.N. budget committee on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's plan to give benefits to the spouses of gay U.N. staffers who are legally married — regardless of the laws on same-sex marriage in their home countries. Currently, family benefits for U.N. staff members are determined by their country of origin. The secretary-general has been an outspoken supporter of LGBT rights, and U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said he is making the change "within his authority as the manager of the U.N. system." However, additional funding to pay for the new benefits must be approved by the General Assembly's budget committee. Diplomats said they expect a close vote.
Russia strongly opposes same-sex marriage and has adopted laws restricting gay rights activities.
© The Associated Press

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Azerbaijani president: racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, prevail in world politics - not so much international law -

Azerbaijan holds an independent policy, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on March 19.

23/3/2015- President Aliyev was delivering a speech on the occasion of Novruz Bayram, the country's favorite national holiday. "Independence for us is what matters most and what we prize most," the president emphasized. “The Azerbaijani people have lived for centuries as part of other countries, empires, but they were able to maintain their national peculiarities. First of all, we were able to maintain our national values, holidays, literature, art, native language, ourselves as a nation. Today we are free.” The Azerbai-jani people are the masters of their own destiny, the president said. “Current realities show that only in a period of independence, can our people achieve success. If we review our history, the current period is a period of rapid development. We will continue ensuring our independent life. We will ensure prosperity for our people." President Aliyev said that of course, as far as Azerbaijan is strengthened, pressure on the country has also increased.

"Not everyone likes our independent policy,” the president noted. “Therefore, the pressure on our country has increased and pressure has been used. As a result, today some foreign circles hold an open campaign against Azerbaijan. We are ready for this. In fact, this campaign has never stopped.” Just on the eve of important international events, this campaign became uglier, the president said. “We faced this three years ago - in 2012 on the eve of the Eurovision song contest. Today we see this again on the eve of the first European Games. This is an anti-Azerbaijani campaign in a coordinated form. It is managed from one or more centers. It aims at tarnishing, discrediting our country, casting a shadow on our business and seeks to present Azerbaijan as a backward, non-democratic, non-free country. Of course, all this is based on a lie. Therefore, neither the people of Azerbaijan, nor the world community believes it to be true.”

President Aliyev said that the Azerbaijani people see everything. "Recent development, the improvement of our cities, the economic and social development of the country, the growth of our international credibility are available,” the president said. “At the same time, our business is not a secret for the world community. The numerous events, exhibi-tions, conferences, presentation of Azerbaijani culture in foreign countries also create conditions to provide the international community with full information about Azerbaijan. But despite this, we see that so-called experts, politicians, former state officials, media outlets have declared a kind of Cold War against Azerbaijan. I would like to reiterate that all these attempts are futile and cannot lead to anything. There is no power in the world that is able to influence the will of the Azerbaijani people." President Aliyev said that all freedoms are ensured in Azerbaijan.

"A free society has been formed in Azerbaijan,” the president stressed. “Everyone is free. Free press has been ensured. There are no restrictions on the Internet. Free internet is available. The freedom of assembly has been ensured. As opposed to some countries, the freedom of conscience and the freedom of religion have been fully ensured. But just look at the situation in those countries, where some circles are trying to blame us. Just yesterday, hundreds of protesters were beaten, insulted and arrested in the center of Europe. In other places, people are strangled, shot and killed. And no one is responsible for this." “Where are those non-governmental organizations, which accuse us? the president argued. “Why are they silent? Why do they not speak up? Why do they not blame these countries? Do they lack courage or are we in the policy of double standards?! Perhaps, a bit of both. Why have international organizations failed to disseminate statements? Why aren't resolutions adopted? It is difficult to get answers to these questions.”

“I openly ask these questions at numerous meetings with foreign colleagues, as well as with the heads of international organizations,” the president said. “Perhaps, such questio-ning has led to certain powers to attempt to exert pressure onto Azerbaijan? Unfortunately, hypocrisy, double standards, discrimination, racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, prevail in the world politics today, not so much international law. These are today's realities." "Therefore, we must be ready for this and we are ready. We are strengthening and developing our country. I would like to reiterate that all freedoms, including political freedom, freedom of conscience, economic freedom are available in Azerbaijan. Today, Azerbaijan is an exemplary country in terms of both economic development and inter-religious dialogue.” President Aliyev said that today everything is burning in the fire, namely, the Middle East, Europe and the CIS area.

“Might it be war, or ethnic confrontations, religious tensions or mutual accusations, all is unfolding,” the president said. "You can see that representatives of all nationalities and religions live like one family in Azerbaijan. This is our policy, people's order." "Today, Azerbaijan has become an important country for the world. The number of countries suppor-ting us on the international arena is growing steadily. Azerbaijan was elected to the UN Security Council - the most influential organization in the world with the support of 155 countries. Let those countries trying to blame us, be elected with the support of 155 countries. We will see whether they can succeed," he noted. “That is the reality,” the president said. “Of course, such injustice, double standards, hypocrisy and political incivility upset the Azerbaijani people. However, this will never affect our will. The European Games are just an excuse. As if there are some external forces believing that we do not deserve this, despite the fact that we have taken a great responsibility on our shoulders.

It is very difficult to prepare for these games in just two and a half years. These games will be held at the level of the Olympic Games. Seven years are given to prepare for the Olympic Games. We are doing this in just two and a half years. We are doing this with a low-budget." President Aliyev explained that demonstration in central Europe kicked off over the construction of a building. "The funds, we have spent on the preparation of the European Games, have been spent there on a single building,” the president said. “Where is ‘Transparency International’? Why do they keep silent? There is one infrastructure facility associated with transport in Europe. It has been built for ten years. They spent twice as much than we spent on the preparation for the European Games. The construction has not been completed yet. Why does nobody talk about this? Why does nobody write about this? These are rhetorical questions.”

“But we have to ask these questions and we ask them because we stand for justice,” the president said. “Justice must be everywhere - in a society, family and international relations. If justice is violated, then everything is violated. Faith is being undermined. It is like a new system of values which is being formed in the world. "There is an unfair approach instead of justice, inequality instead of equality, hypocrisy and lie instead of truth. We are fighting against this. Of course, Azerbaijan is a small country. But we have enough power to make our presence felt and enough power to influence current processes in the region and on the continent," president Aliyev stressed.
© AzerNews

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Anti-Fascist League Founded in Croatia

The newly-formed Anti-Fascist League will attempt to tackle what it says are the growing pro-fascist and extreme nationalist tendencies in Croatian society.

23/3/2015- “A general victory over Nazi fascism is still to be achieved,” the Anti-Fascist League’s first honorary president, 98-year-old World War II veteran and longtime activist Juraj Hrzenjak, told the launch of the campaign movement in Zagreb on Saturday. Defeating fascism “is generally a long process, especially in Croatia and other countries in transi-tion”, Hrzenjak said. “The Anti-Fascist League will advocate for peace, equality and freedom for all people under equal conditions,” he added. The alliance was set up by a network of anti-fascist, human rights and World War II veterans’ NGOs, as well as representatives of ethnic minority and religious communities. Hrzenjak said that 32,000 people from various NGOs and from the academic community have already joined over the last ten months since the alliance began operating non-officially.

Former Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, who attended the launch of the alliance to show his support, said it was a shame that there was still a need to campaign against fascist ideas. “The debate about the past is always a debate about the future,” Josipovic said. “Those who revise history, who want to make a patriotic regime out of the fascist regime that existed here during the war [the Nazi-allied Ustasa regime in Croatia during WWII]... are sending a false picture of our past and denying historical facts,” he said. Veteran human rights activist Zoran Pusic said that nationalist tendencies could currently be seen “not only in Croatia, but also even in the most democratic countries in the world, some of which are members of the EU”. “Something that I think should be the goal of this League is to warn about worrying facts which are somewhat similar to events that directed Europe towards the arrival of fascist regimes, with all catastrophic consequences it brought,” Pusic said.

Croatian historian Slavko Goldstein, who specialises in WWII and socialist Yugoslavia, said that despite former Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito’s wartime struggle against Nazi-allied forces, he could not be held up as an anti-fascist hero. “He was an anti-fascist leader for four years [1941-45]. Immediately after the war, in 1945, he was not an anti-fascist, since he introduced Stalinism, which is something that is contrary to anti-fascism,” Goldstein told the meeting. “Anti-fascism is the defence of human rights and democracy,” he explained. Representatives of anti-fascist NGOs from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia meanwhile said that they were talking about forming similar alliances in their own countries with a view towards creating a wider regional alliance.
© Balkan Insight

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Sunlight best disinfectant for deadly delusions of Hitler's Mein Kampf (opinion)

Republication in Germany of the Nazi leader's manifesto will remove any power it has left.
By Warwick McFadyen, senior writer

22/3/2015- It's only a book. It can't kill or maim. Drop it from a plane and it won't explode before impact and level a city. It's only a book. And yet within its pages are 80 million dead, a vast ocean of misery, destruction and loss. It is Mein Kampf (My Struggle), the mind of Adolf Hitler, writ large when he was in his 30s. Hitler killed himself 70 years ago next month. After the war, the occupying Allied forces banned publication of Mein Kampf. As Hitler was, for the purposes of its authorship a resident of Munich, the state of Bavaria held the rights to the book. It has withheld publication. However, next January the copyright will expire. For the first time since the Third Reich, Mein Kampf can then be published in Germany. But should it? The Institute for Contemporary History, Munich, plans to publish the book next year with scholarly commentary, context and corrections to the text; in effect, notes in the margin.

Argument has been raging in Bavaria for the past four years over the rights and wrongs of publication. The state had given the institute €500,000 ($700,000) for the project, but two years ago backed away from the proposal. Education and Science Minister Ludwig Spaenle said Holocaust victims and relatives had made plain the view that any reprint "of the disgraceful writings would cause enormous pain". A year later, the state – which had been determined to stop even extracts of the book appearing in print – had changed its mind. Spaenle now cited the imperative of allowing "the freedom of science to confront the topics which, in its view, are necessary".

The view among Jewish groups is mixed. Some believe an annotated version with notes is acceptable. Stefan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany was reported in The Independent, London: "It is very important that young people should see the critical version when they click on Mein Kampf on the web." However, Levi Salomon, a spokesman for the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism, based in Berlin, was against publication. "Can you annotate the Devil? Can you annotate a person like Hitler? This book is outside of human logic?" Obviously, you can. Perhaps Salomon is asking the wrong question. Perhaps it should be, Will the "notes in the margin" inhibit or stop an incitement to hatred? There's probably only a couple of clusters of people who would willingly read Mein Kampf. Those who want to dispassionately read the words of Hitler for historical purposes and those who want to reinforce, justify and rationalise their own bigotries and hatreds. I have tried to read all of it and, like many, been defeated by its sheer density of dull ranting banality. The evil of one man is in there, only it is cloaked in a uniform greyness. Hitler's maniacal talent was the shouted tirade.

The writer Daniel Johnson in an article in the journal Commentary wrote of an episode two years after the war in which the academic and author Victor Klemperer, who survived being a Jew in the Third Reich, replied to a former major in the Wehrmacht who was now after help. "Klemperer is blunt [that Hans] Hirche's word of honour that he was innocent of atrocities, even if accepted, does not exonerate him of guilt: 'You and all the others must have known what crazy criminals you were serving, what unthinkable cruelties you stood up for and made possible by your loyalty.' To the claim, "we didn't know", Klemperer rejoins: "Hadn't one of you read Hitler's Mein Kampf, where all that was later carried out had been planned in advance with shameless openness?"

Through the Nazi years, Klemperer kept a diary in which he noted examples of language mutilation under the Nazis. The examples became The Language of the Third Reich. In it, Klemperer wrote: "Mein Kampf, the bible of National Socialism, began to appear in 1925, and its publication literally fixed the essential features of its language. Following the party's takeover in 1933, the language of a clique became the language of the people, that is, it seized hold of all realms of public and private life: politics, the administration of justice, the economy, the arts, the sciences, schools, sport, the family, playschools and nurseries ... Of course the LTI [language] also took hold of the army, indeed with particular zeal."

More than 8 million copies of Mein Kampf were awash through Germany (population 80 million) at war's end. The people's thirst for the tome had not generated that many copies. Its usefulness was as a tool of the government. It was a symbol of validation, until the murderous machinery of conquest collapsed and rendered that validation to ash. At first, it set forth Hitler's worldview - and if enough had read it in those early years more notice may have been taken of the man's maniacal ambitions and reacted differently. But that's history. Despite the vile pockets of neo-Nazism that persist, nothing will rise from this book again. In the 21st century its power now derives only in its suppression. The neander-thal advocates of Mein Kampf point to its non-publication as a sign of its potency and the fear others have of it. That is bunkum. Like all political tracts, people or groups will pick and choose those bits from a work that suit their own purposes. Mein Kampf is a path, if you can stay the course, into Hitler's mind. It leads into darkness.

Klemperer wrote in the pits of his despair under the Nazis that in his country "all invention results in murder and war". Mein Kampf was Hitler's invention. To republish it in Germany is to bring into the light the evil one man wrote. It can then be said to be thoroughly dismantled.
© The Age

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Sweden: Neo-Nazi activity is on the rise

Sweden's neo-Nazi organizations are declining in numbers, but their activity is growing in intensity, an annual report by Swedish anti-racist foundation Expo has suggested.

24/3/2015- Last year the number of neo-Nazi propaganda actions reached record heights, according to Expo. “It's an enormous increase. Just in a couple of years, in three years' time, it has almost doubled. We have never seen this many activities before,” Expo investigator Anna-Sofia Quensel told Swedish Radio's news programme Ekot on Tuesday. 2014 was an election year in Sweden, with voters going to the polling stations to cast their votes for the Swedish parliament as well as the European parliament and local authorities. On average the neo-Nazi movements spread propaganda or carried out rallies and other actions seven to eight times a day. The number of neo-Nazi organizations in Sweden has gone down in the past few years, with the National Democrats one of the groups that completely folded in 2014. Expo names the Swedish Resistance Movement and the Party of the Swedes as the main groups today. But in total, the number of activities has risen by 23 percent, from 2,334 in 2013 to 2,864 last year. “The major part of activities is the spreading of propaganda, meaning sharing flyers, putting up stickers, often by night,” Quensel told Ekot.

She notes that the number of activities has risen in northern Sweden. Sweden's capital Stockholm tops the list for 2014, ahead of Jönköping in central-southern Sweden and Sundsvall further north. Göteborg and Malmö, the second and third biggest cities after Stockholm are only on 11th and 37th place on the list, respectively. Three police officers were injured in August last year as neo-Nazi protesters and anti-racist counter demonstrators faced off in the centre of Sweden's capital. In December last year, anti-racist rally was held in Stockholm, to mark the one-year anniversary of a neo-Nazi attack on a similar demonstration held in 2013 to protest Nazi graffiti daubed in the Kärrtorp area. Police arrested dozens in the ensuing chaos, and over 30 people have since been prosecuted, most of whom were part of the neo-Nazi groups. Earlier this year, the interim leader of Sweden's nationalist Sweden Democrats party, Mattias Karlsson - who is to step down as Jimmie Åkesson returns in April after five months' sick leave - hit the headlines when he called Islam "perhaps a greater threat than Nazism".
© The Local - Sweden

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Dutch split on refugee policy but don’t want borders closed

26/3/2015- Only one in five of the Dutch think the international treaty on refugees should be respected, according to a poll of over 1,000 people by market research group Ipsos. The treaty forbids signatories from sending refugees to countries where they may be in danger, nu.nl says. In addition, 52% think the country’s asylum policy makes it too easy for terrorists to enter the country and 45% think efforts should be made to tighten up refugee policy within the current legislation. Ipsos carried out the poll in the wake of the publication of a VVD plan which called for Europe’s borders to be completely closed to refugees. However, the Ipsos poll found just 14% in favour of completely closing the borders and pulling out of the international refugee treaty. Among supporters of the anti-immigration PVV, just 49% favour shutting the borders to all refugees, nu.nl reports.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: VVD MP wants closed EU borders, an end to EU asylum policy

22/3/2015- The ruling right-wing Liberal party on Sunday went public with a new refugee policy, setting it on a collision course with the coalition Labour party, the Volkskrant reports. The seven-page document, drawn up by MP Malik Azmani, states that Europe should drop its refugee policy and close its borders. Refugees should be provided with safe accommodation in their own region where they will be able to build a new life, possibly with European help. This is the message the new asylum affairs minister should take to Brussels,’ Azmani is quoted as saying by broadcaster Nos. The Labour party, which forms a coalition together with the VVD, is not prepared to work on pursuing this policy and considers the plan ‘unrealistic’, the Volkskrant says.

Party leader Diederik Samsom said on Facebook on Sunday evening the plan is ‘totally unacceptable’. Sources within the Labour party told the Volkskrant the plan has no chance of success and there is no majority in favour within the Dutch parliament. They also raised the question of how far the VVD is prepared to push the issue. The NRC’s chief political correspondent René Moerland said it is difficult to judge what the party hopes to achieve and that the timing, so close to the provincial elections, is interesting. ‘Is this a way of putting their coalition partner under pressure?’ he said. ‘This will further increase tension between the parties.’

Money
Azmani says the number of asylum seekers in Europe soared by 191,000 last year to 626,000. ‘The European migration system cannot be sustained and forms a major risk
to our security,’ he is quoted as saying by the Volkskrant. Current refugee policy aids people traffickers and the money they demand from asylum seekers is often used to fund armed struggle against the west, Azmani said. In addition, it is difficult to differentiate between real refugees, economic migrants and terrorists, the VVD docu-ment states. It is unclear from the media coverage what the status of the document has within the VVD and if it is supported by ministers, including the new justice ministry team. Refugee organisation Vluchtelingenwerk says 97% of refugees are currently looked after in their own region.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: 'Jan has a better chance of a job in Holland than Mohammed'

22/3/2015- The unemployment rate among people with an ethnic minority background is higher in the Netherlands than in any other EU country apart from Sweden, the Volkskrant reported at the weekend. According to figures from EU statistics office Eurostat and the OECD, 77% of the native Dutch working population have a job, compared with 49.5% of people from an ethnic minority. Only Sweden has a worst record, but Sweden accepts three times more asylum seekers than the Netherlands, the Volkskrant said. Asylum seekers find it more difficult to get a job than traditional labour migrants. The unemployment rate among Dutch people of Moroccan descent is now 19.6%, compared with 5.7% among the native Dutch. Before the start of the economic crisis, Dutch Moroccans had an unemployment rate of just 5.8%, compared with 2.8% among the white Dutch.

The jobless rate among people of Antillean ancestry is 19.3%, among Turks 15.3% and among Surinamese immigrants 13.9%. Sociologist Monique Kremer told the paper the high rate among people with ethnic minority origins is partly due to the fact they are more likely to have had temporary or flexible contract before the start of the crisis. Those jobs were among the first to go. Education However, Kremer said it is shocking that highly-skilled people with a minority background are much more likely to be unemployed than native Dutch people with the same level of education. ‘It is worrying and undermines our belief that everything will be fine if you have a good education,’ she told the paper.

Prime minister Mark Rutte told Metro newspaper recently that he is aware ‘it does matter if you apply for a job as Mohammed or Jan’. Fight ‘The paradox is that the solution lies with Mohammed,’ he said. ‘Newcomers have always had to adapt and always had to deal with prejudice. You have to fight your way in.’ Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher said on Sunday it is ‘unacceptable’ if people with an ethnic minority background are in a worse position on the labour market. ‘These figures should wake us all up,’ he is quoted as saying by news agency ANP. ‘We should never accept discrimination.’ ‘There is discrimination on the jobs market,’ he said. ‘Jan has a better chance of a job in the Netherlands than Mohammed.’ Discrimination leads to dreams of the future ending in frustration and wasted talent, he said.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: German Neo-Nazi band busted by Twente police

The police and the municipality put a stop to a performance by German neo-Nazi band Kategorie C. in Haaksbergen this weekend, a police spokesperson told NRC.

23/3/2015- Kategorie C. is an extreme right-wing band whose music is aimed at football hooligans. The band members belong to a group of hooligans of the football club Werder Bremen. The band wanted to perform in the Netherlands this past weekend and the band’s manager had been trying to book a venue for weeks. The police and Mayor Michael Sijbom of the Twente municipality Losser sent out warnings about the band’s plans to perform in the province. When it turned out that the band had a performance planned in Haaksbergen, the police and municipality had “intensive contact” with the organizers, after which the concert was cancelled and the whole party returned to Germany. No one was arrested. Performances by Kategorie C., who also goes under the alias “Hungrige Wolfe” (Hungry Wolves), usually attract about 300 spectators. Fans receive an email about the location of the concert a few hours before the concert starts. Venue owners usually do not realize that they have been booked by the infamous neo-Nazi band, believing that their venue was booked for a wedding or a birthday celebration until the event starts.
© The NL Times

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France: Pregnant Muslim mother suffers violent Islamophobic attack

26/3/2015- A pregnant Muslim woman wearing a headscarf was violently attacked in the French town of Toulouse by an individual, who accused her of wearing a "hijab" to hide her hair. According to her account, the attacker pulled on her veil, grabbed her by the hair and threw her to the ground, where he hit her several times in a street of the Rose Garden, in the north-east of Toulouse. The young women, in her thirties, lodged a complaint of racist abuse a day after the attack on 24 March. Investigators of the body of departmental security have interviewed the mother at the clinic she is recovering in. "There is no reason to doubt her word," said a police source, referring to the possibility of the establishment of a sketch of the assailant who fled.

'None of that in our country'
According to the victim's husband, Mounir, 33, the woman took her two daughters to school when she was faced by two young men. "One of them grabbed her hair, pulled on her veil while insulting her [saying] 'None of that in our country' ... He threw a lot of punches... His friend, who was not involved in the violence, told him to stop," the man was quoted as saying by La Depeche du Midi. In a statement, the Socialist deputy of Haute-Garonne, Christophe Borgel, said "there was no doubt" about "the racist and anti-Muslim character of this aggression". "The [French] Republic does not tolerate any racist attack, the [French] Republic will not tolerate any aggression because of the religion of one of its citizens," Borgel wrote.

The spokesman of the Regional Council of the Muslim Faith (CRCM) in the Midi-Pyrénées, Abdellatif Mellouki, said he had "deep concerns" about "an increase in Islamophobic acts. This comes less than 10 days after thousands of demonstrators marched in Paris and a dozen of cities in the country - including Lyon, Marseille and Grenoble - to protest against racism and Islamophobia. The protestors claim the attacks against Charlie Hebdo triggered further racist acts. In late February, an Odoxa poll revealed 77% of French people felt Islamophobia was progressing - while 68% said it was also the case for anti-Semitism.
© The International Business Times - UK

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France: Arson attack targets far right Town Hall

Vandals started a fire in a town hall run by the far-right National Front party in northern France on Wednesday morning. The words "Charlie is dead" and "Ben Laden" were also daubed on the building.

25/3/2015- Two scooters for the courier service were set alight in the arson attack and death threats against the far-right mayor were tagged on the building, according to Bruno Bilde, deputy mayor in the town of Hénin-Beaumont, L'Express reported. Vandals also sprayed graffiti inside the building, with tags including “Charlie is dead”, a reference to January’s terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo, “Ben Laden”, “Die Briois” and “Die Brice”, thought to be a reference to mayor Steeve Briois and Laurent Brice, an employee at the Town Hall. A ground-floor window was also smashed in the break-in. The alarm was raised by two employees at the Town Hall when they saw thick black smoke. Fire fighters arrived at the scene around 6am on Wednesday by which time the fire had been extinguished, emergency services told Express.

The arson attempt comes as National Front leader Marine Le Pen is set to hold a meeting in the town on Wednesday evening. The incident comes two days before the second round of France’s departmental elections in which the far-right party has once again achieved historic results. In a key test ahead of the presidential vote, Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right alliance took first place with 28.7 percent of the vote, while the National Front came second with 25.2 percent. The Socialists trailed in third with an estimated 22 percent, the latest haemorrhage of support for the party since Hollande, who has failed to address double-digit unemployment in the eurozone's second-largest economy, took charge in 2012.
© The Local - France

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France: National Front comes second in French local elections

France's centre-right UMP won the first round of local elections Sunday (22 March), the far-right National Front came second and the governing Socialists third.

23/3/2015- The elections, held in more than 2,000 local districts on all French territory except Paris and Lyon, were to elect the 101 departments’ assembly. They were considered as national test half-way through President Francois Hollande’s term. Marine Le Pen’s National Front came second with 25 percent of the votes. The party did less well than expected having been ahead in most opinion polls, with as much as 33 percent of voting intentions. But still it is the party’s highest ever score in local poll. The party will have candidates in the second round next Sunday in more than half of the "cantons" and it is in top place in about 40 departments. The result shows that the party is now well established all over the country and is an indication that it could do well in December’s regional elections. Le Pen welcomed the “massive vote" for her party and called for prime minister Manuel Valls’ resignation saying the result represented a "repudiation" of his policies.

The day’s main winner was former president Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of the UMP conservative party. Six months after coming back to politics, the UMP’s result – it got around 30 percent of the vote – will allow Sarkozy to claim that his party contained the National Front. The vote "shows French people’s deep aspiration for a clear change," Sarkozy said in a speech, adding that "the conditions for a massive swing to the right and centre are in place". If confirmed at the second round next Sunday, the party’s performance will give Sarkozy a boost against his rivals for the upcoming right’s presidential primary elections. With 20 percent of the vote, Hollande and Valls’ socialist party came third but did better than had been expected. However it will be absent in one ‘canton’ in four, which is unprecedented. With the addition of other left wing parties, the total for the left is around 37 percent.

The main issue for Sunday’s second round will how many seats the National Front will win and how other parties will position themselves. "All republicans are facing their responsi-bilities," said Valls in a televised statement. "I call on each one to adopt a clear position and vote for the republican candidate, whether from the left or right, when he is facing the far-right alone," he said. Sarkozy, for his part, maintained the so-called 'neither-or' position. "The UMP will call to vote neither for the National front, with which we have nothing in common, neither for candidates from the left, whose policies we fight," he said.
© The EUobserver

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France: ‘Abandoned’ French working class ready to punish left’s neglect by voting for far right

Analyst says the immigration fears of blue-collar voters have been ignored by the Socialist party.

22/3/2015-  At an election meeting just days before France’s regional elections, a Japanese journalist asked Marine Le Pen a question: why was her far-right Front National party tipped to do so well? Polls suggest that the FN vote will reach unprecedented levels, with up to 30% of the vote, just ahead of the opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party and leaving the ruling Socialist party trailing. “The Front National is alone against everyone. The French people have realised for some time now that the Front National’s analysis is right, and the other political parties have failed,” Le Pen responded. The FN had gone from “a party of opposition … to a movement of government” by addressing “the economy, immigration and Islamic fundamentalism”, she added.

From Le Pen, a damning analysis of this type might be expected. But from a member of the leftwing commentariat? A new “state of the nation” tome, L’Insécurité culturelle, by analyst Laurent Bouvet, has caused a storm in Paris salons by suggesting that the country’s working class is ready to vote FN in droves because it has been abandoned by the left and deceived by the country’s Socialist government. Bouvet accuses the left of sparking an identity crisis – “cultural insecurity” – among its core blue-collar electorate, by almost exclusively focusing on the problems of minority groups instead of French society as a whole. This has left the workers feeling cast adrift and alienated, he says. “The economic crisis, unemployment, social problems, globalisation make people afraid, but if it was just about economics we would see these people voting for the radical left, which they are not,” Bouvet told the Observer.

Bouvet is a political science professor and member of the leftwing thinktank the Jean Jaurès Foundation, which advises the Socialist party (PS) and aims to “promote the study of workers’ movements and international socialism and promote democratic and humanist ideas”. He says his latest, decidedly politically incorrect, message is one the left does not want to hear. Bouvet says PC blinkers have prevented the Socialists from addressing working-class anxieties about immigration and the rise of Islam – even in its moderate form – in areas where the so-called Français de souche (born-and-bred French) find themselves outnumbered by those with a different religion and cultural habits. Branded les petits blancs (white trash), and accused of racism or patronised if they express their fears, they have turned en masse to the FN, he says.

“With no political offer from the left, working-class French people feel they have been abandoned economically, socially and culturally. The FN has stepped into the breach: it says to these people: ‘you are the most important and we will fight for you’. “The left is trying to make up to what it calls ‘real minorities’ who it believes are discriminated against. In doing so it has become indifferent, even scornful, of the wider French working class. They say to these native French ‘you have not understood, you are racist and sexist’, and so these people have said, so be it. They are ready to admit voting FN because the left has abandoned them and the FN is interested in them.”

Bouvet is particularly scathing of the Socialist “ideas laboratory” Terra Nova, unveiled before Hollande’s successful 2012 presidential election, which suggested the Socialists could win by emulating Barack Obama’s mobilisation of the African, Latino and female vote, and by abandoning its traditional alliance with the middle and working classes. In a document entitled The France of Tomorrow, Terra Nova said the country would be “younger, more diverse, more feminised”, and declared: “The working class is no longer at the heart of the leftwing vote”. François de Closets, 81, a former AFP journalist and essayist on French society, agrees with Bouvet’s analysis that the French “political elite” has ignored and, worse, scorned the working classes.

“For the left, for the bobos (bourgeois bohemians), only the gay or ethnic minorities were interesting. It is fascinating to think that a whole generation of researchers whose job it is to observe French society has through ideological blindness not seen this section of France in danger of being attracted to Le Pen,” de Closets said in a recent interview. “Since the 1990s we’ve seen the workers vote for the FN,” he added. “The party is a chameleon that feeds on anger, discontent and fears. The FN saw the increasing irritation of the working classes faced with immigration. “When you are on high, well-placed, with a recognised status, the fact of being French doesn’t add much and you can, as an intellectual exercise, consider yourself post-national or European. France is only where you were born. But when you at the bottom of the ladder, poor, in a precarious situation, all that remains is your country. National identity doesn’t have the same significance for a bourgeois or for a proletariat,” de Closets added.

Bouvet argues that Hollande’s government has hugely disappointed the working class by missing the opportunity to enact a “great symbolic social reform” as previous Socialist administrations did with introducing retirement at 60 in 1980, a minimum social security allowance in 1988 and the 35-hour working week in 1997. “What they were waiting for was a great fiscal reform, a redistribution, which is what Hollande had promised. And symbolically, instead of fiscal reform, taxes have gone up under the Socialists. This matters. Working-class people have said, look how the left governs, and they are disappointed, deceived. “I’ve been accused of doing the work of the FN, but for me it’s saying things that must be said. It’s better to put these things on the table than sweep them under the carpet. It’s better to air these things in order to fight the FN, which I believe is a danger for the republic.”

Since the book was published in January – before the attacks on Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a Jewish supermarket by Islamist terrorists – Bouvet has been inter-viewed in the press, television and on radio as well as on social media networks.
© The Guardian

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Canada: Islam needs to reform or leave, says Canadian leader of PEGIDA

PEGIDA, a controversial European movement, plans to ‘send a message’ in a rally that has been denounced in the House of Commons and the Quebec legislature.

24/3/2015- Islam needs to change or it needs to leave. That’s the message from one of the leaders who has brought to Canada a controversial European movement that unites political conservatives, anti-immigration activists and neo-Nazis with the goal of beating back a perceived rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism. Jean-François Asgard is one of five people to have launched PEGIDA Québec earlier this year, the latest branch of a global anti-Islam movement that was created last fall in the Ger-man town of Dresden. PEGIDA (the name is a German acronym for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) was founded by a convicted burglar-turned-graphic designer who planned a protest against the opening of 14 refugee centres in his city. It has risen rapidly, gathering more than 20,000 people at its peak and provoking warnings and denunciations from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

That has done little to stop its global growth and there are now branches across Europe, in Australia, Britain and the United States. There is also a national PEGIDA Canada group as well as a branch in British Columbia. “The incompatibility of Islam with the west is flagrant and that’s the reason that PEGIDA and the Western patriots are rising up. It’s not just to counter Islam but to say that if Islam doesn’t reform itself, Islam needs to get out of the west,” Asgard, 33, told the Star in the group’s first interview ahead of a controversial march planned for this weekend. Though the group is still in its infancy it has already been denounced on the floor of the House of Commons in Ottawa and condemned by members of Quebec’s national assembly for promoting hatred and fear at an already sensitive time for Quebec’s Muslims.

“Its actions are directly targeting the Muslim community. Among its supporters, we find Christian fundamentalists and adherents of the (National Front of Canada), a movement that is clearly against immigration and ferociously anti-Islam,” wrote Québec Solidaire co-leader Françoise David in an letter published in Montreal’s Le Devoir. The rally, which PEGIDA is already touting as its North American grand opening, will start on the outer edge of Montreal’s “Petit Maghreb,” home to a number of the city’s North African — largely Muslim — businesses and residents. From there, Asgard said, it will head south with a planned stop outside the Islamic centre run by Adil Charkaoui, a man formerly accused of being an Al Qaeda sleeper agent.

Charkaoui has come under scrutiny after it was revealed that a number of the seven young Quebecers who recently fled the country to join the ranks of the Islamic State had attended his Islamic dogma and Arabic-language courses. “We intend to make a stop there (at Charkaoui’s mosque) and, with the loudspeaker, it will send a message,” Asgard said, adding that the police have already given the group a permit for the march. A number of other groups, including one describing itself as anti-fascists, are planning a counter demonstration. Earlier this week, former Bloc Québécois MP Maria Mourani, now an Independent who intends to represent the NDP in the next federal election, asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper to send a message that would “unequivocally urge the people of Quebec not to take part in this.”

“Although people are free to take part in demonstrations, we encourage them to abide by the rules of democracy,” replied Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. In a Facebook exchange with the Star another of PEGIDA Quebec’s administrators explained that the group is a reaction to last October’s back-to-back terror attacks in Ottawa and in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., as well as a perceived failure of the provincial government’s failure to crack down on Muslim fundamentalists in Quebec.
“It is all of those events as well as (Premier Philippe) Couillard protecting and consulting the fundamentalists instead of protecting us, so we must now do his job,” said the administrator of the Facebook page, who refused to provide his or her identity. None of the other organizers could be reached for comment.

Asgard said that a group of five people came together in January to start PEGIDA Quebec. For the most part, the leaders of the group were previously administrators of other Facebook pages that are critical of the Islamic faith. Plans for Saturday’s rally began taking shape only in the last few weeks with a March 14 dinner meeting, where great attention was paid to security and secrecy. Attendees were required to provide a telephone number and personal photograph before they would be provided with details on the meeting spot. Asgard said there have been more than 100,000 visits to the group’s Facebook page and between 300 and 400 people have shown an interest in attending the Saturday rally. He said he would be happy if even 100 showed up.

So far, the group appears to have gathered several dozen individuals ranging from sovereigntist supporters who have displayed their loyalty to the Parti Québécois, to fans of skinhead punk bands, to others whose social media profiles make reference to the Roman Catholic Crusaders of the Middle Ages.
© The Toronto Star

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Muslims in Canada and racism

21/3/2015- Chairperson of Spring Free From Racism Across the country, the Muslim population is growing at a rate exceeding other religions, according to Statistics Canada. It is even growing faster than the number of Canadians identifying as having no religion. The Muslim population exceeded the one million mark in 2011, according to the StatsCan National Household Survey, almost doubling its population for the third consecutive decade. However, the survey results should be taken with caution. Experts say that the voluntary nature of the survey, which replaced the mandatory long-form census, leaves gaps in the data from groups that tend not to respond to such surveys, such as new immigrants.

Religions by percentage increase: Muslim: 72.53 Hindu: 67.68 No religion: 63.68 Sikh: 63.43 As mosques become more commonplace and more women wear the niqab (veil), there are growing debates about accomodating religious practices. That internal debate in the Muslim community sometimes gets sidetracked, largely because of the backdrop of violence committed in the name of religion, which Canadian Muslims regularly condemn. Some Muslims I have spoken to feel a need to be extra nice just because they are Muslims. They feel the need to go beyond certain limits, which is very unfortunate. Sometimes the media will call something Islamic terrorism, and once you call it Islamic, you've brought forward a picture that is wrong. Polling has shown that Muslims are proud to be Canadian, sometimes more so than some other Canadians. Muslims very much want to integrate and be part and parcel of Canadian society.

One-on-one, non-Muslims may have favourable views of their Islamic colleagues, but that feeling doesn't always extend to the wider Muslim population. It isn't like Canadian Muslims have not tried to educate the Canadian populace, but for some reason there's still that edge with it that some Canadians have problems getting over. Muslims now represent 3.2 per cent of the country's total population, slightly up from the two per cent recorded in 2001. Immigration has largely fuelled the increase, with the largest numbers coming from Pakistan over the past five years, according to Statistics Canada. But the survey provides no breakdown of the branch of Islam that Muslims living in Canada belong to, as it didn't ask respondents whether they were Shiite or Sunni, for instance.

So, with all of this information, why is it that Canadians cannot accept the religious beliefs of the Muslims? There are numerous examples that keep coming up, such as the recent case where Quebec Judge Eliana Marengo told a Muslim woman that she must take offher hijab (head scarf) in court before her case would be heard. Judge Marengo cited Article 13 of the Quebec Rules of Court, requiring that any person appearing before the court must be "suitably dressed."

The woman, Rania El-Alloul, appeared in court on a car insurance issue without a lawyer. When asked why she was wearing a head scarf, she said it was because she was Muslim. The judge then ruled that, unless she removed the scarf, the case would not be heard and adjourned it indefinitely. In making her ruling, Judge Marengo did not cite security or other concerns, but stated that she would be similarly disapproving of people wearing sunglasses and hats, which are removed by people before entering court. But, a hijab is not the same as sunglasses or a baseball cap - it is worn by Muslim women as part of their religious beliefs. We are not talking about "laws" here, we are talking about what is reasonable to accommodate differences. This type of intolerance has no place in our justice system.

If you care about things like having religious symbols or prayers in school, I would think twice before cheering on this Quebec judgment. Quebec is leading the way to secularism in Canada based on French tradition and law. Canada has a far greater history of tolerance and acceptance of religious accommodation, including Christia-nity, in our schools and government than has existed in the United States, and almost weekly we hear concerns from the States concerning this. Like with all our other cultures, we need to celebrate the diversity of Muslims, and become active in promoting their culture and join in celebrating their festivals.
© The Regina Leader-Post.

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RUSSIA & UK News Week 13

Nobody Wants to Live in the Mean New Russia (Opinion)

By Ivan Sukhov 

25/3/2015- Many people who were either born in Russia or have lived here for many years are feeling that it is now time to leave. And often their reasons have nothing to do with politics: They couldn't care less whether this is President Vladimir Putin's first or fiftieth term in office or who controls Crimea. They want to leave Russia because the social microclimate — the people whom they meet every day at work, at home and on the street — is changing for the worse. They see that people are becoming angrier, meaner and even dangerous. However, that aggression did not appear out of nowhere. The authorities violated numerous social taboos over the past year, and the list continues to grow. Thus, what began as political and propaganda manipulations intended to help the ruling regime maintain its grip on power could one day grow out of control.

That might work as a short-term tactic, but not as a long-term strategy. Apparently the authorities have not considered what type of population they will end up ruling once this degenerative process reaches its logical conclusion. As an example of this trend, an ethnic conflict recently occurred in the high-rise apartment building where I live on the outskirts of Moscow. A Chechen family moved into one of the apartments in our building this winter. Everything was fine — until a gang of skin-heads began harassing one of their young women. The troublemakers were not from our neighborhood, because nobody remembered seeing any signs of neo-Nazi activity there since the apartments were built in the 1970s — although the occasional skinhead had been spotted in the area.

As a rule, Chechens do not leave any act of aggression unanswered — especially when it is directed against their women. And they do not go running to the police: they call other Chechens to their aid. It turned out that a young skinhead woman led the gang in question. As a result, a young female neighbor and friend of ours — who, of course, has no connection to neo-Nazi skinheads — found herself surrounded by a dozen burly and bearded Chechens who began questioning her as she approached our building on her way home one evening. The young woman phoned her mother, a woman who had grown up in tough Soviet times and was not afraid to run outside, confront the men and bravely rescue her daughter.

The entire scene played out under the streetlights as several dozen neighbors in the three nearby apartment buildings looked on, glued to their windows. Not one of them came out to help or called the police. Luckily, nobody was hurt, but there is no guarantee things would have ended so well if it had been skinheads stopping a young Chechen woman instead. After calming down, my neighbor decided to find the apartment where the Chechens live and explain that, first, we all want to be rid of the Nazi scum disgracing our neighborhood, and second, none of us has anything to do with the skinheads, so let's work together and stop harassing each other under the streetlights, scaring young people and their parents half to death.

She made the rounds of the entire 14 floors of our building to find that Chechen family. Although she and other neighbors had seen members of that family in the elevator or holding the downstairs door open for mothers with strollers, not a single neighbor confessed to knowing anything about a Chechen family living there. She returned home more upset than she had been after rescuing her daughter. Why? Because she was convinced that fear had prompted many to keep their doors closed to her, and that fear had stopped even those who did open their doors from speaking freely. It turns out that two borders have changed this year — the line between Russia and Ukraine, and the line between those who aren't allowed to violate the law in Russia and those who are.

For example, if senior government officials believe that, even as Russia ostensibly wages a war against fascism in Ukraine, they can convene a forum of European neo-Nazis in St. Petersburg — a city that suffered enormous casualties during the war against Nazi Germany — what can you expect from a 15-year-old skinhead girl and her pubescent admirers toting beer cans and brass knuckles? The country's leaders essentially tell them: "Go ahead, harass whomever you want." And they are just punks living on the fringes of society. These punks could never have dreamed that leaders would one day hail them as the salt of the earth and the pillars of Russia's renewed empire.

They are like some menacing paste that the force of official propaganda has squeezed out of a tube and sent oozing into our streets, yards and buildings. And even the trouble they have already caused is enough to show that they will not be squeezed back into the tube, and that clearing them away will be no easy task. They are all just tools that Russia's leaders use to achieve their ends. They have the example before their eyes of Ukraine, where a little more than one year ago ultra right-wing protesters were throwing gasoline canisters into the fire with which they burned down the regime of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The Russian authorities held the forum in St. Petersburg not so much to receive some mythical minority stake in the parliaments of Europe — in which ultra right-wing groups are gradually gaining a foothold — as they did to show the potential nationalist opposition in Russia, and to perhaps even form a global ultra-right movement that supports Putin. Even in this year, that marks the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory over fascism, the Russian authorities couldn't care less about such semantic incon-sistencies. I care. The main achievement of that distant war is that millions of people gave their lives to draw the line beyond which we cannot pass without ceasing to be human beings. And yet, Kremlin spin doctors fail to see that their obsession with World War II and their torrent of anti-fascist propaganda is gradually degenera-ting into a modern-day version of Nazi slogans.

After everything I have said here, it is difficult to write these words, but I do consider myself a Russian nationalist. However, my nationalism is deeply rooted in the concept of "national interest." And I am convinced that it is in Russia's true national interest for as many people as possible to act humanely toward one another. Then it will not matter how many Chechens or how many Russians live in our building, and no one will be afraid to open the door to their neighbor. Then the country will open itself up to the great big world and to the future, and not close itself off and hide in the past. And any punk or criminal, of any race or social standing - right up to the most senior executives or government officials- will be held accountable for their actions, and when arresting them,the police will never fail to read them their rights. Ivan Sukhov is a journalist who has covered conflicts in Russia and the CIS for the past 15 years.
© The Moscow Times

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Russia Calls on UN to Confront Racism, Nazism in Democratic States

As the Russian delegation on the 28th UN Human Rights Council regular session stated, racial discrimination and xenophobia were still present at many democratic countries.

24/3/2015- Countering any manifestation of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia that are still present in many so-called democratic countries should be a priority for the UN, according to the Russian delegation statement on the 28th UN Human Rights Council regular session. "Discrimination and even segregation on racial and ethnic base are still present in many countries, including those claiming to be democratic," Russian delegation said on Monday. Russian delegation stressed that recent Nazi veterans' parade in Latvia, as well as neo-Nazi marches in Lithuania and Estonia, desecration of Soviet soldiers’ graves, situation in Ukraine, where Nazism is becoming the state’s ideology, demonstrate growth of radical extremist movements on the European continent and beyond. According to the statement, recent cases of police violence in the United States testify that racial discrimination problem that remains unsolved.

"What happened in the beginning of March in Los Angeles — another shooting by the US police of an African American, unarmed and also mentally unhealthy, — indicates on a serious problem of racial discrimination in the United States,” statement said. On March 1, Los Angeles police shot and killed a homeless man when, approached by officers, he engaged in what appears in a video posted online to be violent physical resistance. On March 7, a police officer shot dead an unarmed 19-year-old African-American teenager in the US city of Madison, Wisconsin. These incidents are the latest in a series of fatal casualties when US police have used what many are calling excessive force. Since the summer 2014, the country has seen a wave of protests calling for police accountability in light of the killing of two black men, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, by police in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri.
© Sputnik

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European Far-Right Parties Call for End to ‘Cold War’ Against Russia

23/3/2015- Far-right and nationalist parties from across Europe convened in St Petersburg on Sunday, condemning the pro-Ukrainian government in Kiev and calling for an end to the sanctions imposed on Russia by the west. The event, called the International Russian Conservative Forum, was organised by pro-Kremlin party Rodina and involved 400 participants from 15 countries, according to the conference website, although the BBC reported that 150 representatives attended. Speakers included members of Greece’s Golden Dawn party and Udo Voigt, former leader of the Germany’s National Democratic Party (NPD) who has praised Adolf Hitler in the past. The final resolution signed by attendees included calls for the disbandment of NATO, an end to the ‘Cold War’ against Russia and for the west to stop supporting pro-Kiev forces in Ukraine. Speakers also criticised homosexuality and cited Russia as the guardian of European values.

The conference was briefly halted by a bomb scare. The Moscow Times reported that police were alerted to the threat by an anonymous tip-off. The threat was received 20 minutes before the scheduled end of speeches but that the final resolution was signed before the Holiday Inn hotel, where the conference was held, was evacuated. The event was the first of its kind and it was not indicated whether it will become an annual event. The resolution read: “We demand the World Community to stop the ‘Cold War’ concer-ning Russian Federation; the cancellation of all political and economic sanctions and the renewal of equal and constructive dialogue between Russia and the west.” Referring to the Ukrainian conflict as an “internal affair of the country”, the signatories called on the west to stop supporting the Kiev government. “We united [sic] to stop military and social-political aggression in Ukraine in relation to Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republic. We ask the authorities of USA and countries of EU to refuse supporting regime of “Kiev’s junta”, concealment [of] its war crimes, and helping antinational Ukrainian government in financial, military and other ways.”

Roberto Fiore, leader of Italian party Forza Nuove (New Force), told attendees that Moscow has overtaken Rome as the guardian of European-Christian values. “It’s not me saying this - it’s God saying it,” he said. British politician Nick Griffin, who was leader of the nationalist British National Party until he was expelled in October, said the event showed Russia to be more democratic than the west. “If you tried to have a conference like this in the U.S. or the UK, it wouldn’t be allowed,” he said. The forum comes less than two months ahead of planned celebrations in Moscow on May 9 to commemorate the end of world war two. The Russian federation of Jewish communities expressed concern about the event being held in “one of the cities that suffered most from the Nazis”. Many of the parties involved, such as Golden Dawn and NPD, have been accused of neo-Nazi links.
© Newsweek

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Is Russia Against Fascism or Isn't It?

"Hitler couldn’t capture Leningrad, but these guys did"

23/3/2015- The International Russian Conservative Forum was held in St. Petersburg on Sunday, purportedly a gathering of respectful traditionalists from the European Union, Russia, and beyond, rather than a pep rally for fascists and racists. But the lineup, including Hitler apologists, Holocaust deniers, apartheid fans, and a Russian skinhead who once decapitated a puppy as a publicity stunt, gave it an air of dark surrealism. Speakers condemned the U.S. as the enslaver of Europe and sang the praises of Russian President Vladimir Putin, holding up Russia as the last fortress of Christendom in the war waged on it by liberalism and multiculturalism. “In the West, we are brainwashed to hate Vladimir Putin,” said British anti-abortion-rights campaigner Jim Dowson. He went on to say that Russia is blessed to be ruled by “a real man” while the U.S. is led by the “feminized” Barack Obama.

Roberto Fiore of Italy’s Forza Nuova said that as a Roman he saw Russia as the Third Rome, which inherited the Roman imperial crown by way of Byzantium. He said Russia was uniting Europe “against liberalism and Islamic fundamentalism” and that it was about to usher in a revolution “that would change Europe’s history.” The Russian organizer, Fyodor Biryukov of the Rodina party, agreed. He said the forum heralded the start of a new “conservative revolution against a few hundred families that possess the world.” Rodina was founded by the Russian defense industry czar, Vice Premier Dmitry Rogozin, who chose not to participate or comment on the forum.

After being being reelected in 2012, Vladimir Putin reinvented himself as a defender of conservative Christian values, a change of tack apparent in the arrest of the Pussy Riot band members for “insulting believers." Another cornerstone of his ideology is the Soviet victory in the war with Nazi Germany. Russian propaganda paints Putin as an “anti-fascist” who opposes what the Kremlin calls the rise of neo-fascism in Ukraine, which Russia invaded last year. These two ideological lines clashed at the forum, as both the timing and the choice of venue played against the organizers. The gathering was held as the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe approaches and in the city where nearly 700,000 died during the 900-day siege of Leningrad, as it was then known. “Hitler couldn’t capture Leningrad, but these guys did,” wrote liberal politician Leonid Volkov on Twitter before the forum.

The Kremlin said Putin was aware of the event. It offered no additional comment. A group of protesters gathered outside the Holiday Inn where the forum was held. One of the posters read: “We don’t need foreign Nazis in St. Petersburg—we ñan’t dispose of our own.” Police detained two young female protesters and a neo-Nazi who tore up one of the posters. Moderate nationalist Konstantin Krylov went out to taunt the protesters. “I came here to see those terrible fascists, but I couldn’t find any,” he said. Yet right there were the likes of Fiore, who boasted that for a large part of his career he had “defended fascism on a number of issues” and ventured that “85 percent of people in Italy will tell you that fascism has done many good things which attracted the world’s admiration.”

Fiore fled to Britain in 1980 after Italy issued an arrest warrant in connection with a blast at a Bologna train station that killed 85 people and that was blamed on a far-right extre-mist cell. He returned when charges could no longer be pursued. His sympathy for Russia is intertwined with deep anti-Americanism. “It is a historical fact that America brought the Mafia to Italy. We need Russia to liberate us from the American rule,” he said. Other notable figures at the forum included German Udo Voigt, a member of the European Parlia-ment, who glorified Hitler as a “great statesman” and claimed that the Holocaust's death toll had been grossly exaggerated. But like every other participant, he has hardly any weight in his country. Major far-right movements—Hungary’s Jobbik, France’s National Front, and Germany’s Pegida—declined to participate, an organizer said. Vilen Siderov of Bulgaria’s Ataka party showed up in St. Petersburg a day before and flew back the same evening. Two Russian members of parliament who were to preside over the forum also dropped out the day before it began.

Greece’s Golden Dawn was the only major party that sent its delegates to the event. Its representative Eleftherios Synadinos complained about “persecution,” citing the arrest of the party’s leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, in connection with the murder of a leftist musician. “It is symbolic that his trial begins on April 20,” Synadinos said (that's Hitler’s birthday). His colleague Georgios Epitideios later said the remark wasn't significant and didn’t represent the party line. Golden Dawn was previously accused of praising Nazis and playing Hitler’s party anthem at one of its gatherings. Most of the speakers expressed their support for the pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine. “It is clear that the vast majority of people in East Ukraine and Crimea are ethnically Russian and are entitled to view the revanchist and aggressive Ukrainian nationalists as a threat,” the former leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, said.

A few Russian volunteers fighting in Ukraine were in the audience. One of them, Alexey Milchakov, or "Fritz," is a young neo-Nazi from St. Petersburg who now heads a rebel storm unit of fellow skinheads who deny Christianity as a "Jewish religion" and adhere to the pagan beliefs of the ancient Slavs. He gained notoriety in 2012 after publishing photos that show him decapitating a puppy, then barbecuing and eating it. He dismisses claims by Russia's leaders that the rebels are fighting fascism in Ukraine. “We are fighting a Russopho-bic junta. It’s a duty of a Russian nationalist to fight it,” Milchakov said. He said Russian history books include distorted information about fascism and its champion Benito Mussolini. “You know [Putin’s party] United Russia translates into Italian as Fascia Russia?” he asked. It doesn't.
© Bloomberg.

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Russian Antifascists Protest Far-Right Forum

A conference of Russian and Western far-right figures in the Russian city of St. Petersburg was delayed on March 22 after what police said was a bomb threat targeting the event’s venue.

22/3/2015- Organizers of the Russian International Conservative Forum said police informed them of an anonymous tip that a bomb had been planted in the Holiday Inn hotel hosting the event in the city center. They said a bomb squad was set to arrive at the hotel and that attendees could be evacuated. The conference gathered Russian and Western far-right figures, including many politicians linked to neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic views. Organizers accused the forum’s “opponents” of phoning in the bomb threat. “Apparently this is how our opponents decided to disrupt our gathering,” the BaltInfo news agency cited an unidentified organizer as saying. Earlier in the day, police arrested several antifascist activists protesting outside the hotel. Dozens of people took part in the protest outside the hotel where the controversial gathering was being held. The organizers say all participants, including foreign guests, belong to officially registered parties.

The list of foreign guests include European Parliament members Udo Voigt, a German politician accused of voicing anti-Semitic and xenophobic views, and Georgios Epitidios, a representative of Greece’s Golden Dawn party, which is viewed in Athens as neo-fascist. Jared Taylor, an American who calls for white supremacy, and Nicholas Griffin, former head of the British National Party and a prominent Holocaust denier, are also on the list of participants. Griffin said at the event that "I see this forum as a way of pushing the fight back against liberalism and what we call modernism, the destruction of traditional values, including Christianity throughout the modern world." He added: "Russia is about tradition and Christianity and it's very important that traditionalists from Russia, Europe, and America get together to present our ideas more effectively to the general public."

Aleksandr Kofman, a pro-Russian separatist leader in Ukraine's rebel-held Donetsk region, is also on the guest list. The list also includes Russian politicians Yegor Kholmogorov and Stanislav Vorobyev, who have called for the "reunification" of eastern Ukraine with Russia. Russian lawmaker Aleksei Zhuravlyev, who has called for same-sex families to be strip-ped of the right to have children, was also expected to attend the meeting. Activists and politicians alike have demanded that authorities ban the gathering, saying its participants judge people only by their race, religion, and sexual orientation. Boris Vishnevsky, a member of the opposition Yabloko party, said the views of the participants represent "xeno-phobia, the hatred of aliens, and dividing people into categories, which always gives rise to bloodshed." St. Petersburg city authorities had not publicly responded to the request to ban the gathering.

The meeting comes weeks before Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts foreign leaders and dignitaries for a military parade in Moscow celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Nazi defeat in World War II. Putin and other Russian officials are fiercely proud of the Soviet role in the Allied victory over Adolf Hitler's Germany and voice anger at what they say are efforts in some EU and NATO nations, such as the Baltics, to glorify the Nazis. Russian officials and media also portray the pro-Western government that came to power in Ukraine with the downfall of former President Viktor Yanukovych as a "fascist junta." But Kremlin critics say Russia is persistently courting far-right politicians and groups in Europe in order to bolster support abroad for Putin, further the conservative agenda he has pursued in his third term, and counter U.S. influence. Voigt, the leader of Germany’s National Demo-cratic Party who once praised Hitler as a “great statesman,” said at the conference that "we do not support the sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict." "It is incredible what patience Russia and President Putin have shown in the face of NATO's aggressive policies," Voigt said.
© RFE/RL

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European neo-Nazis hold meeting in Russia

22/3/2015- Meps from Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn and Udo Voigt from the German neo-Nazi NPD were among the participants at the pro-Kremlin International Conservative Forum in St. Petersburg. According to the forum’s website, some 400 people from 15 different countries gathered on Sunday (22 March) to back a resolution on scrapping EU sanctions against Russia and protecting “Christian traditions”. Other participants included nationalist parties from Belgium (Euro-Rus), Bulgaria (Ataka), Denmark (The Danes), Italy (New Force), Spain (National Democracy), Sweden (Party of the Swedes) and the UK (British National Party). The resolution, while supporting Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, asks the USA and its allies to “stop the creation puppet antinational regimes in independent countries.” Aleksandr Koffmann, the "foreign minister" of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic” was reportedly also present.

Among a list of points of support for Russia and broad criticism against the EU, it adds:
“We are, Conservative forces, represented by expert community, based on the latest scientific data of the population, demographic capacities of our countries in these processes, we won't be able to provide our people the worthy and good future.” It describes Nato as “an instrument of dictatorship of military strength”. The forum describes itself as a “scientific conference” and was organised by the “Russian National Cultural Center - People's House.” According to Bulgarian media outlet Novinite, the event organiser includes Russia’s Rodina party. Formed in 2003, the party lists Russia’s Deputy PM Sergey Rogozin as a member.
© The EUobserver

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UK: Neo-Nazi rally in Manchester to mark White Pride Worldwide Day

Manchester council has condemned Saturday's planned gathering at Piccadilly Gardens with spokesman Pat Karney saying it 'makes me sick to the stomach'

27/3/2015- A neo-nazi rally is being planned in Manchester city centre for Saturday afternoon to mark ‘White Pride Worldwide Day’. The event is expected to take place in Piccadilly Gardens at lunchtime. Police are understood to be expecting between 50 and 70 people at the rally, which has been advertised on the English Defence League website. The EDL held a rally in the city centre earlier this month. A previous such rally held in Swansea two years ago eventually saw a man jailed for hanging a life-sized golliwog on stage while dressed in a Ku Lux Klan outfit. According to promotional posters circulating online, there will be a ‘nationalist disco’ and buffet after the event. Manchester council immediately condemned the rally.

City centre spokesmsan Pat Karney said: “All of Manchester will condemn the vision and hatred they are bringing to our city and having read some of the scandalous antics they’ve got up to in the past their presence here makes me sick to the stomach.” The Swansea White Power rally in 2013 resulted in the jailing of white supremacist Darren Clifft, who later changed his name to Christopher Philips. He travelled to the gathering with a Ku Klux Klan outfit bought from America, a court heard, which he then wore at an extreme right-wing music event held afterwards. Clifft was filmed hanging a golliwog on stage. Officers later seized a National Front membership card and a white KKK outfit from his house in the West Midlands.

According to online reports of Saturday's gathering, it is being organised by a couple from Heywood who are National Front members. The flier refers to a ‘buffet’ followed by a ‘nationalist/patriotic meeting with great prominent “time served” speakers from around the country’. It will be followed by a raffle and ‘nationalist disco’. A second flier describes Saturday's gathering as ‘that time of year ... where white patriots can gather together, with their white pride flags and flags of the white nations, to celebrate the great history of the white race and to speak out against anti-white racism’. The rally comes after several hundred members of the English Defence League held a march in the city centre earlier this month. Greater Manchester Police have not yet commented.
© The Manchester Evening News.

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UK: What happens when a county of 590,000 people loses its only gay bar?

That’s what has just happened in Gloucestershire - but do we need them any more?

27/3/2015- In a quiet function room in Gloucester, a group of friends are drinking tea and enjoying some cake served from a table which is adorned with rainbow flags. The members of the Gloucestershire Gay and Lesbian Community (GGLC) seem as optimistic as they are welcoming. But when they hand you a copy of their spring newsletter, you can’t help but notice the rather plaintive note on the back page. “Local ‘haunt’, The Westgate,” it begins, before adding forlornly: “‘Haunts’ is now ‘haunt’… any ideas anyone?” And now the newsletter is out of date. That last “haunt” has gone. The rainbow flag still flies over Gloucester’s Westgate gay bar. But the doors are locked. The last dedicated lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) venue in the entire county has closed. This was the starting point for gay pride marches, the place where everyone popped in for a pre-parade pint.

At weekends, the disco would last all night. And this, in a place so far from the self-consciously liberal elites, was a venue where everyone really was welcome. Drag queens performed here, but little old ladies also popped in for tea. A cheerful debate starts up amongst the GGLC men as to whether the ladies were unaware of what the rainbow flag signified, or only too aware and rather happy about it. “It’s so sad to walk past it and see it boarded up,” said Howard Hyman, 68, a retired local authority worker. “In the Eighties until the late Nineties,” remembered Mark Merrett, 51, a publications editor, “there was a pretty lively scene: three pubs in Chelten-am, one in Gloucester, a regular evening at a Gloucester night club, monthly nights at Cheltenham racecourse.” Now there is no LGBT venue in a county of 590,000 people, up to 34,000 of them gay by some estimates.

“If you want a gay night out,” said Mr Merrett, “You have to go to Bristol – a 60-mile round trip – or Birmingham, 50 miles away.” Gloucestershire may be the most extreme example, but it is far from the only area where LGBT venues are closing, and where some feel the gay scene is contracting as a result. Even in Manchester’s gay village there are reports of bars struggling. In London, campaigners are fighting to save the Joiners Arms in Shoreditch, after the famous gay venue was closed and earmarked for development. Closer to home, Mr Merrett remembered: “When a gay bar closed in Hereford four years ago, a friend of mine said it was the last straw, and moved to Bournemouth.” It has been suggested that as well as struggling to recover from a fire in 2013, The Westgate was caught up in a general industry down-urn, which according to Camra, the Campaign for Real Ale, is causing 29 pubs to close each week.

Other gay bars, however, may be closing for unexpected, rather positive reasons. “Sometimes there’s not quite the same need for these venues as there once was,” said Stephanie Fuller, of the Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity which provides support for young LGBT people. “Sometimes people feel safe in other bars, so they don’t need gay venues as much.” In Gloucester, they agreed. Royston Glue, 26, an administrator from Cheltenham, said this was particularly true of younger generations: “You can walk into some pubs as a gay couple and not get harassed. There is more acceptance.” The internet, too, seemed to have reduced a sense of isolation, even in supposedly remote rural areas. The decline in that vibrant late Nineties scene, Mr Merrett said: “Seemed to coincide with the rise of online dating.” But progress – still – only went so far. Gay venues, they agreed, were the only places where LGBT people could feel entirely free.

“You can now legally be husband and husband or wife and wife,” said Michael Charlton-Hubble, 68, a retired superintendent registrar. “But the attitude behind that legislation doesn’t extend to showing affection for each other. I can’t honestly feel comfortable holding my husband’s hand in Gloucester.” As for kissing in a non-gay pub, they all agreed – forget it. Hence, said Ms Fuller of the Albert Kennedy Trust, there continues to be a need for gay venues, especially for those just starting to come out. She reeled off some chilling statistics: 24 per cent of homeless 16-25-year-olds in the UK identified as LGBT, a massive over-representation given that the latest figures suggest only 6.9 per cent of the general population are LGBT. Of those homeless LGBT 16-25-year-olds, 77 per cent reckoned the reason for their homelessness was being rejected by their families because of their sexuality.

LGBT venues, said Ms Fuller, could provide a vital refuge. “For most people, they are still a starting point, a place to head for at the beginning. They give a sense of identity, as well as being a place for meeting people and meeting partners. They are still needed.” In Gloucester, of course, they were hardly going to be defeated by the closure of The Westgate. Their organisation, they said proudly, had survived for more than 40 years, making the GGLC the oldest such social group in the country still in existence. Already, the plans for the future are being formulated – “I wonder whether we should be looking at starting a gay coffee shop,” said Mr Charlton-Hubble, “Or finding a friendly pub landlord...” Other venues might come and go; but they would continue to provide cake, rainbow flags and a warm welcome.
© The Independent

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UK: Thugs target Muslim graveyard in act of hatred

Vile thugs have angered mourners and members of the Muslim community after writing hate-filled phrases at a graveyard.

26/3/2015- One visitor spotted the graffiti, claiming to be by Britain First, sprayed over the Muslim graveyard sign at Cathcart Cemetery on Tuesday. They returned yesterday to find the vile slogans still there. Amjid Bashir, an entrepreneur from East Kilbride, is one of the organisers of Islam Awareness Week and has been sickened by the act of hatred. He tweeted The Evening Times about it. Mr Bashir said: "Someone saw it on Tuesday and went back on Wednesday and took a picture of it. "My-self and most other people see this as hate crime. "It is no different to desecrating graves of the Jewish or Christian Community. "There was a big campaign last week for Islam awareness week about the need to tackle Islamophobia and how much it bis affecting every day Muslims, who are really trying to give back to dispel the negativity.

"We do have a problem on our doorstep and it needs to be addressed. "The police have been involved and they are going to hopefully get out there this morning. "My understanding is that it will be treated as a hate crime. "We are disgusted by it. "My father is buried there, and I feel disgusted...The person who first shared this, their family are buried there. "This is the last resting place of my father and it's hard enough going there with a lot of emotion to deal with, having a loved on who passed away. It's difficult to visit. The last thing you want to do is be confronted with hatred on the way to seeing one of your loved ones. "It's despicable and it seems as if the people who did this have no regard for the deceased or the fact it's a very emotional place."

Police and East Renfrewshire Council are understood to be aware of the incident. A Spokeswoman for East Renfrewshire Council said: “This is a disgraceful act of vandalism that does not reflect the views of our local community or the wider Scottish community. “We have reported this matter to Police and our graffiti removal team are on their way to the site. “East Renfrewshire Council has a zero tolerance policy to any form of hate or racism and would urge local people to contact Police if they have information about this incident”.
© The Evening Times

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UK: Police agree hate crime data sharing measures with CST and TELL MAMA

The police have reached an agreement with Jewish and Muslim community organisations to share hate crime data.

25/3/2015- The agreement enables sharing of anonymous data with the CST (the Community Security Trust) and TELL MAMA (which measures anti-Muslim attacks), to increase understanding of the nature and extent of hostility. Police will only refer individual details with the express permission of the victim, whilst committing to ensuring security and accuracy of the data, meeting standards of data protection. The Chief Executive of the CST, David Delew welcomed the move, saying: “CST is proud of our close working partnership with the police across the UK. Our existing data sharing agreements are delivering real benefits for us all in our understanding of hate crime in local areas. This latest development will see those benefits replicated throughout the UK”. Fiyaz Mughal, the Chief Executive of Tell MAMA said “TELL MAMA is developing strong and close working relationships with police forces across the UK.”

“We believe that data sharing agreements form the backbone that will ensure police and TELL MAMA have a good understanding of what’s happening at the local level and are able to pick up trends and respond accordingly.” The chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group to combat Antisemitism, John Mann MP called the move “an important and welcome step from the police.” “They are the first to implement one of the recommendations of our recent All-Party Parliamentary Report into Anti-semitism and should be congratulated for doing so. Data sharing between the police and CST allows the UK to boast one of, if not, the best data set on antisemitism in the world. I am delighted that we continue to pave the way for others to act”.

National Policing Lead for Hate Crime, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: “It is essential that we have the fullest picture of targeted hate crime so that we can put measures in place to protect victims and bring offenders to justice. In the UK, we have some of the best reporting structures in the world but we know that many crimes are never reported to authorities. It’s vital that we share available data to give us the clearest picture of the extent of hostility.
© Jewish News UK

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UK: fight over mosque at heart of community tensions

Amid furore over Tory’s alleged EDL dealings in Dudley, little has been said about the prayerhouse at its centre – a contentious issue simmering for years

25/3/2015- Two bulbous white domes perch incongruously atop a draughty Grade II-listed former school across the hill from Dudley’s ruined castle, symbols of Islamic architecture bolted on to the old building that has for decades allowed the town’s growing Muslim population a space to pray. Next door, inside the community centre, Amjid Raza, the mosque’s spokesman, explains how the political row that led to Afzal Amin’s resignation as Tory candidate for Dudley North on Monday was just the latest twist in a 15-year battle that has seen ugly and violent protests as the far-right has sought to inflame community tensions for their own ends.

“It’s just another example of how the mosque has been used for political gain,” says Raza, whose organisation has been planning a new mosque since 2001. It was worse five years ago, he says, when the building he is sitting in was stoned amid violent demonstrations organised by the English Defence League, prompting many arrests. It was the EDL Amin allegedly plotted with, according to the Mail on Sunday, over an anti-mosque march the newspaper said he would then take credit for stopping. But in the political fallout – and the potential consequences for the Conservative election campaign – little was said about the contentious issue of the mosque, which has been simmering for years.

The town’s thousands-strong Muslim population outgrew the building years ago, Raza says. At a funeral earlier this year there was so little room, people were forced to pray on the pavement, and there are few modern facilities. But since it was first set up to deliver a new building for 750-800 worshippers 14 years ago, the Dudley Muslim Association (DMA) has been forced to run the gauntlet of political fights, legal battles and misinformation, amid increasingly vitriolic anti-mosque campaigns run by far-right groups. Another 700-strong EDL demonstration against the proposed mosque was staged in February, three months after councillors finally approved the DMA’s latest plans. Paul Golding, the Britain First leader, reportedly reacted to the go-ahead by saying he would bury a pig on the suggested site in protest.

Raza blames far-right groups for several myths surrounding the project, which has been nick-named a megamosque or supermosque. It is nothing of the kind, he says. There are plenty of bigger mosques around the West Midlands. There have been claims the mosque’s minaret would dwarf the town’s historic medieval buildings, the castle or the “top church”, and that a call to prayer would be sounded five times a day. All nonsense, Raza says. “It was never dominating the skyline, never the top building,” he said. In any case, the proposals approved in 2014, altered to take account of local opposition, reduced the height from 33 metres to 18 metres, he says. Raza gestures at plans on his open laptop and measures the mosque dome with his fingers. “You see? Only 25% is for prayers, the rest is for training enterprises, a car park, sports and leisure facilities, open to all the community.”

The latest proposals, which also have fewer outbuildings and more car parking than previous plans, attracted 885 letters of objection and 370 of support. But councillors passed them by five votes to three, compared with a margin of zero to nine for the initial plans. The mosque site falls within St Thomas’s ward, one of the 10 most deprived areas in England, Raza stresses. “Among the highest unemployment levels, the lowest educational achievement. And in St Thomas’s there is not a single faci-lity for the young, the elderly.” It has been a long, bitter battle, with both the council and the DMA losing decisions in the high court over the issue. With hindsight, Raza says, there are lessons to be learned. The DMA could have been more proactive early on in communicating a positive message. This year, on the day of the Febru-ary EDL march, it held an interfaith day attended by 300-400 people. But, he says, the DMA is swimming against the tide.

“I’m not here to blame anyone. But when you look at the current climate against immigration, it’s not hard to see where things are coming from.” He insists that com-munity relations are good in Dudley, where of 312,925 people 93.7% are white, 3.9% Asian and 1.2% black. It is “people from outside who are creating fear and hatred”. “It’s the environment in which we live,” says Raza. “Somehow it seems like Muslim-bashing is a vote-winner or a good story.” He is frustrated at constantly “being put on the back foot” and says that, amid news of British Muslim youths heading out to Syria to fight for Islamic State, “this new mosque is an opportunity for young Muslims to be channelled in the right direction”.

The West Midlands has had a troubled history over race since the 1960s. In Smethwick, Tory candidate Peter Griffiths won the seat in 1964 under the campaign slogan “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour”, while Enoch Powell was Tory MP for the nearby seat of Wolverhampton South West at the time of his “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968. More recently, the British National party’s Simon Darby gained 10% of the vote in Dudley in 2005. Ukip got 8.5% in 2010. Near the proposed mosque site, a derelict part of Hill Street, shoppers asked about the mosque repeat some of the lines that have reverberated around the issue for years. “They’ll build it higher than the castle, it’s not in keeping with local monuments,” says one young woman. Another says: “Why do they need a bigger one? Can’t they pray at home?”

Dan Gilliam, 27, who works at Midlands Vaping, a local e-cigarette cafe, and lives near the mosque site, says: “It’s introducing the wrong community into the area. This is the Black Country. It’s miners and pubs, everything that is not Islamic.” Gilliam said he went to an Islamic event about the plans, where he learned about the sports centre open to all. But he was resolute: “It won’t bring the community together, it will separate it. It doesn’t need to be that big and it doesn’t need to be in that location.” Dudley’s Muslims tell a different story. They describe feeling let down by the formerly Tory, now Labour-led, council, which first opposed the mosque in 2007 and has fought against the DMA in the high court.

Mohammed Sharif, 48, a Muslim who runs the King Street supermarket Sharif and Sons, says he has never in his adult life been subjected to anti-Muslim feeling or seen a racial attack, but he was reminded of a childhood incident after the EDL march in February, when he was advised by police to close his shop. “That day reminded me of being nine or 10 and I remember feelings of opposition,” says Sharif, who is from Dudley but lives in Birmingham. “Not a nice feeling. But it’s just a few people stirring up trouble.” Sharif says there is a need for a new mosque. “The council should realise they have a community here that need somewhere to pray. It’s a fundamental right, a place of worship.”

Abdullah Abasi, 27, who works in security and lives in St Thomas’s, says local and national politicians needed to do more to address the false perceptions. “The problem is communication,” says Abasi. “That Tory candidate using the mosque as a tool to win the election will only further divide people. You can’t deceive your own com-munity. I do feel let down. The council is too slow to cooperate, to respond.” The saga has left scars. Raza says the Muslim community felt betrayed after the council decided in November 2010 to try to reclaim the Hill Street land from the DMA, taking advantage of a “clawback” clause in the original contract stipulating the land had to be developed by 2008.

“That was a big mistrust issue,” says Raza. The deadline slipped because of a protracted planning battle the DMA had to fight. The clawback issue, which could yet halt the mosque and is separate from the planning consent, is still to play out. In February 2014, a high court judge found in favour of the council’s right to buy back the land, but this was challenged by the DMA. In May 2014, one of the country’s most senior judges, Sir Stephen Sedley, ruled the DMA had a “legitimate expectation” that the council would extend the deadline for the development. He said the council had taken political and substantive steps against its own planning officers’ advice. A court of appeal hearing is expected in October.

Pete Lowe, the Labour leader of Dudley council, says the clawback decision is inherited and the result of complex government legislation relating to a fiduciary duty to ensure value for money. But Lowe says he is committed to a replacement mosque. “From Dudley council’s point of view, our door is always open and we will continue with our positive dialogue to find a positive solution,” says Lowe. He adds that “community cohesion is very good”, but claims the issue had been hijacked by the EDL and others. “You’ll hear the minaret will be higher than Dudley Castle and the call to prayer will be five times a day. Neither of these are true,” he says. He describes the allegations surrounding Amin as “beyond the House of Cards” and agrees that the council had a responsibility to demystify the issue.

Ian Austin, the incumbent Labour MP set to profit from the Tory candidate’s resignation, says of the mosque: “There’s a difference of opinion, but how do you resolve that? Do you resolve it by trying to exploit it or do you sit down with the DMA and the council to find a solution that the local population will be happy with? “Inflaming an already sensitive issue like this is unbelievably unhelpful.”
© The Guardian

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UK students' union passes policy to stop white gay men acting like black women

Cross-dressing and drag is banned as delegates use jazz hands instead of applause

25/3/2015- UK's National Union of Students has passed a policy to stop gay men appropriating black female culture. Delegates at the Women's Conference today, many of them self-identified feminists, have passed plenty of motions. Just one of them was ensuring everyone at the conference understood that some behaviors were damaging. On Twitter, they announced: 'Some delegates are requesting that we move to jazz hands rather than clapping as it's triggering anxiety. Please be mindful!' A later motion passed was 503: 'Dear White Gay Men: Stop Approprirating [sic] Black Women'. Put forward by the NUS LGBT Committee, they believe the appropriation of black women by white gay men is prevalent within the LGBTI scene and community.

'This may be manifested in the emulation of the mannerisms, language (particularly AAVE- African American Vernacular English) and phrases that can be attributed to black women. White gay men may often assert that they are “strong black women” or have an “inner black woman”,' they said. 'White gay men are the dominant demographic within the LGBT community, and they benefit from both white privilege and male privilege.' They claimed the appropriation is 'unacceptable and must be addressed'. Passing the motion, they agreed to eradicate the appropriation of black women by white gay men and to raise awareness of the issue. A second motion passed was the banning of cross-dressing or drag as it could be offensive to trans women. 'To issue a statement condemning the use of crossdressing as a mode of fancy dress,' they pledged.

'To encourage unions to ban clubs and societies from holding events which permit or encourage (cisgender) members to use cross-dressing as a mode of fancy dress'. This ruling was given an exclusion to queer students who want to use cross-dressing in their everyday lives as a mode of expression and to those who want to cross-play by flipping the gender of a fictional character in fancy dress. A NUS spokeswoman told Gay Star News: 'We're a democratic society, and if members voted for it, these are our policies'. Several have mocked the policies online, with the New Statesman calling into question the second motion for being 'remarkably conservative' for a group 'otherwise so much at pains to stress the variety and fluidity of gender'. Others on social media also questioned the first, saying inspiration for the slang like 'shade' and 'spill the T' was taken from the underground drag culture in the 70s and 80s, Paris is Burning and modern shows like RuPaul's Drag Race. And some were less subtle.
© Gay Star News

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Stronger UK Civil Society Will Thwart Extremism, Home Secretary Says

24/3/2015- UK Home Secretary Theresa May delivered a speech against extremism in which she explained in greater detail the counter-extremism strategy launched by the government in October. This strategy aims to tackle the spectrum of extremism, violent and non-violent, ideological and non-ideological, Islamist and neo-Nazi – hate and fear in all their forms. The overriding messages from May’s speech were that British values can overcome extremism in all its forms, and that those who work to undermine those values will face zero tolerance. “In a pluralistic society like ours, there are responsibilities as well as rights,” May said. “You don’t only get the freedom to live how you choose to live. You have to respect other people’s rights to do so too. And you have to respect not just this fundamental principle but the institutions and laws that make it possible.”

“But," she said, "there is increasing evidence that a small but significant number of people living in Britain – almost all of whom are British citizens – reject our values. We have seen the Trojan Horse plot to take over state schools in Birmingham. Widespread allegations of corruption, cronyism, extremism, homophobia and anti-Semitism in London’s Tower Hamlets. Hate speakers invited to speak at British colleges and universities. Segregation by gender allowed at universities and even endorsed by Universities UK. Charities and the generosity of the giving public abused by extremists. Examples of Shari’a law being used to discriminate against women. Thousands of ‘honor’ crimes committed every year. And hundreds of British citizens who have travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq.”

May pointed out that recorded hate crime has risen every year since records were first collected in 2008. According to the Community Security Trust, the number of anti-Semitic attacks in Britain has more than doubled in the last year and, at 1,168, it now stands as the highest on record. According to Tell MAMA, a charity that records anti-Muslim attacks in Britain, there are hundreds of incidents every year, including arson attacks on mosques and threats against worshippers. “It’s clear from these examples that extremism can take many forms," May said. "It can be ideological, or it can be driven by social and cultural norms that are contrary to British values and quite simply unacceptable. We have been clear all along that the government’s counter-extremism strategy must seek to defeat extremism in all its forms, but it’s obvious from the evidence that the most serious and widespread form of extremism we need to confront is Islamist extremism.”

“Islamist extremists believe in a clash of civilizations. They promote a fundamental incompatibility between Islamic and Western values, an inevitable divide between 'them and us,'" May said, noting, "They demand a caliphate, or a new Islamic state, governed by a harsh interpretation of Shari’a law. They utterly reject British and Western values, including democracy, the rule of law and equality between citizens, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religion or sexuality. They believe that it’s impossible to be a good Muslim and a good British citizen. And they dismiss anybody who disagrees with them – including other Muslims – as 'kafirs,' or non-believers.”

“We must always take care to distinguish between Islam – a major world religion followed peacefully by the overwhelming majority of one billion Muslims worldwide – and Islamist extremism," she said. "Islam is entirely compatible with British values and our national way of life, while Islamist extremism is not – and we must be uncompromising in our response to it.” “I know there are some people who disagree with me," May continued. "They say what I describe as Islamist extremism is simply social conservatism. But if anybody else discriminated against women, denounced people on the basis of their religious beliefs, rejected the democratic process, attacked people on the basis of their sexuality, or gave a nod and a wink in favor of violence and terrorism, we wouldn’t hesitate to challenge them, or – if the law was broken – call for their prosecution and punishment.”

May asked to imagine what Britain would have been like if its political leaders had taken a defeatist approach to racism. “As Britain began to become a more multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious country, political leaders took concerted action to prevent racial discrimination and make racist attitudes socially unaccep-table,” she said. “Legislation was passed prohibiting discriminatory behavior and punishing racially-aggravated crime. Organizations were established to monitor racism and report on progress. Civil society campaigns – including action in sport, the arts and media – helped to build social norms that conveyed the message that racism is never acceptable. We need to take the same kind of approach to extremism, and that is what our counter-extremism strategy will do.”

The government’s new Extremism Analysis Unit is up and running and helping to inform not just this strategy, but government decision making on matters such as visa applications. As the unit grows and develops, it will inform more and more of what the British government and the wider public sector does. In particular, the Extremism Analysis Unit will help to develop a new engagement policy, which will spell out clearly for the first time with which individuals and organizations the government and public sector should engage and should not engage. “This,” May said, “will make sure nobody unwittingly lends legitimacy or credibility to extremists or extremist organizations, and it will make very clear that government should engage with people directly and through their elected representatives – not just through often self-appointed and unrepresentative community leaders.”

May added that the Extremism Analysis Unit will also inform the development of a counter-entryism strategy. “We know from examples such as the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham that extremists use entryist tactics to infiltrate legitimate organizations to promote their own agendas," she said. But, "The counter-entryism strategy will ensure that government, the public sector and civil society as a whole is more resilient against this danger.” The government is also acting on evidence of women being “divorced” under Shari’a law and left in penury, wives who are forced to return to abusive relationships because Shari’a councils say a husband has a right to “chastise," and Shari’a councils giving the testimony of a woman only half the weight of the testimony of a man. It will therefore commission an independent figure to complete an investigation into the application of Shari’a law in England and Wales.

Recent headlines regarding schoolchildren becoming victims of extremism have highlighted a potential blind spot in the UK’s fight against radicalization. May said that the government will toughen up the requirements to make sure that identities of all governors are known to their school and the wider community. Furthermore, she continued, “we will clarify the rules to make it clear that governors should only serve on more than two governing bodies in genuinely exceptional circumstances. And we will establish a national database of school governors, held centrally by the Department for Education. Outside the state sector, we will initiate a review of supplementary schools – which at present are unregulated and not inspected – to protect children from extremists.”

“And," she said, "we will take similar action in other institutions and sectors. We will review and reform the governance and inspection arrangements for further education colleges. We will make sure that major state employers such as the NHS have robust procedures in place to identify extremism and deal with it. We will publish a clear framework which will set out the circumstances in which central government should intervene when councils fail to respond to extremism or have been infiltrated by extremists.” May said the government will also "commission Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to conduct an all-force inspection of the police response to ‘honour’ crimes, female genital mutilation and forced marriage. We will require police forces to record anti-Muslim crimes as well as anti-Semitic crimes. And we will create new extremism officer positions in prisons to deal with extremist prisoners and prison gangs.”

May said the government will also ensure that the immigration system is as strong as it can be when it comes to preventing foreign extremists doing damage in Britain.
“We will therefore conduct a full review of citizenship law to make sure successful applicants for citizenship respect British values," she said. "We will expect people coming to Britain on time-limited visas to sign a declaration saying they will respect British values while they are here. We will create new powers to refuse or remove licenses to sponsor visa applications from people or institutions that promote extremist views or knowingly and without challenge host extremist speakers. We will refuse asylum to extremists who pose a threat to national security. And we will – through the immigration rules – require all foreign religious workers in pastoral roles to speak English.”

The UK government plans to create a place-based, multi-agency, single-pot funding model called the Helping Isolated Communities Program which will include training and skills projects, help for women to get into work, mentoring schemes, interfaith projects, getting school pupils mixing with children from other backgrounds and intensive English language training. “We will deny extremists the opportunity to spread their messages of hate by introducing banning orders for extremist groups that fall short of existing terrorist proscription thresholds,” May said, adding that, “We will introduce extremism disruption orders, which are civil powers to be used against individual extremists who incite hatred. And we will introduce closure orders, for premises that are owned or occupied by extremists or are used to host extremist meetings or speakers. When we decide whether to impose a banning order on an organization based in this country, we will take into account the conduct of any organizations to which they are affiliated overseas.”

May said, “We will seize the opportunities provided by the Internet to promote British values [and] will support civil society organizations who want to fight back against extremism online. We will work with our international allies and seek a partnership with social media companies and communication service providers to deal with extremist content online.” She also said that, “We will bring in new powers for whistleblowers and a new extremism community trigger. This will allow members of the public to demand action if the police fail to investigate hate crime or other extremism-related offences, and it will allow them to demand a response from the relevant inspectorates if they have concerns about extremist behavior in a particular institution.”

May concluded by emphasizing the partnership model and warning enemies of British values. “In developing the strategy I have described today, we are saying we want to form a new partnership – a partnership consisting of every single person and organization in our country that wants to defeat the extremists.” “This partnership will empower those who want to celebrate our values and defeat ignorance," she stated, noting that, "This partnership will be a living testimony to show all that we can achieve together. How we are united – bound together by our values, a bond that will always prove stronger than any of the false and dangerous narratives dreamed up by our enemies.” “But to those people who do not want to join this new partnership, to those who choose consciously to reject our values and the basic principles of our society, the message is equally clear," May made clear. "The game is up. We will no longer tolerate your behavior. We will expose your hateful beliefs for what they are. Where you seek to spread hate, we will disrupt you. Where you break the law, we will prosecute you. Where you seek to divide us, we will stand united. And together, we will defeat you.”
© HS Today

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UK: Racism 'rife in English football'

Racism is widespread in English football with police having to deal with hundreds of incidents from the top of the game right down to grassroots level, an investigation has revealed.

24/3/2015- It also revealed that Chelsea supporters have been involved in the highest number of reported racist incidents as they travelled to and from matches on trains. It follows the high-profile case of a black man who was prevented from boarding a train in Paris by Chelsea fans as they sang a racist song, with five of them due in court this week. The information, gathered by the Press Association from 24 police forces across the country, shows there have been over 350 incidents since 2012. But as that only accounts for around half the police forces in the country, the actual figure is likely to be much higher.

The charity Show Racism The Red Card said the number of incidents shows that racism is a societal problem and it was particularly shocked by the number of incidents of racist abuse at children's matches. The British Transport Police said since 2012 it had dealt with 15 incidents of alleged racism involving Chelsea fans, the most of any club in the country. Manchester United were second with 10 incidents, followed by Leeds with 10, West Ham with eight, Arsenal with four and Portsmouth with four. A club spokesman for Chelsea said of the investigation: "The club's position on discriminatory behaviour is clear and we work closely with relevant authorities on their investigations."

Greater Manchester Police reported 46 incidents, which included a man cleaning a toilet in a stadium being told "that's a f****** black man's job, you f****** n*****" and a manager at a children's game being told "I'll do you, I'm gonna wait for you outside, I'm going to do you, you f****** n*****". The force also said that on two occasions a letter was written to a specific footballer containing racist abuse and during a game someone shouted "what is this the United Nations, how many chinks and w*** do you need?". Hertfordshire Police recorded 11 incidents of alleged racist abuse at children's football games, while Northamptonshire Police said that during a non-league game a man was spat at and racially abused before eventually having his leg broken in a strong challenge.

Gavin Sutherland, campaign co-ordinator at Show Racism The Red Card, said: "This data from police forces around the UK shows that although football clubs have taken strong action against people using racist language inside stadiums, racism is a real problem within society. "People who exhibit racist behaviours in 2015 are doing so, in the main, away from football grounds. "Especially worrying are the incidents of racist abuse at youth team football matches. People engaged in racist abuse at these venues know that they are more likely to get away with it, because of facilities, a lack of stewarding and security, but the impact on young people will be consider-able. "Primarily, they are being exposed to racism, which in itself is frightening, but also it may influence their own behaviour."

Other incidents included Cleveland Police reporting repeated monkey sounds and gestures during a Middlesbrough v Blackburn game in November last year and Devon and Cornwall Police said a man was headbutted and racially abused during a non-league game. Surrey Police said a referee received racist insults during a kids' game and Essex police said a footballer refused to shake hands with a player from the opposite team before racially abusing him. Due to the fact that some police forces were unable to provide the information or did not reply to the request, Mr Sutherland said there would certainly be a greater number of cases.

"These incidents, although shocking in themselves and how geographically widespread they are, will be just a part of the picture," he said. "These are the incidents that have been reported. There will certainly be a greater number unreported and under-investigated. "Show Racism The Red Card has always stated that the reason racism manifests in football is that it is a societal problem. "The campaign works with young people and adults not just to educate against racism, but encourage the use and development of critical thinking skills to break down the misinformation that supports racist beliefs." A club spokesman for Chelsea said of the investigation: "The club's position on discriminatory behaviour is clear and we work closely with relevant authorities on their investigations."
© Eurosport

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UK: Newcastle hostel bosses 'horrified' after being recommended as place for fascists to stay

The owners of the Albatross hostel in Newcastle said they did not know that white supremacists were recommending their business

23/3/2015- A North East budget hotel says it is “horrified” after discovering it was being recommended as a place to stay by white supremacist groups. The owners of The Albatross backpackers hostel on Grainger Street in Newcastle discovered they were being flagged up to people attending the neo-nazi White Man March last Saturday. The business, which offers beds from £16.50 per person per night, was being suggested on a number of websites supporting the march, which was organised by white supremacist group National Action. “We abhor anything of this nature and certainly anyone coming to Newcastle who attends an event like this would not be welcome at our hotel,” a spokesman for hotel owners, the Malhotra Group, who claimed it had no knowledge of the recommendation and that it was completely opposed to the rally or any event that promotes fascism, said. “We just want to make it clear that we had no idea that the hostel was being suggested as a base for those supporting this march and we are completely against it. “We do not want to have any association with anyone who promotes fascism or racism.” Police arrested nine people after a hundred far right protestors marched on the streets of Newcastle. Neo-Nazis had travelled from as far as Eastern Europe to attend the march and were joined by North East representatives of the BNP. Northumbria Police assistant chief constable Winton Keenen said: “The majority of people attending this event did so peacefully. “However, there were a number whose behaviour was unacceptable resulting in nine people being arrested. “We simply will not tolerate people engaging in behaviour that could negatively impact on our communities and will take positive action against those who do.”
© The Chronicle Live

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British Political Candidate Resigns After Allegedly Attempting to Stage Fake Anti-Islam Rally

A British Conservative politician has resigned after recordings leaked where he was apparently shown attempting to persuade the far-right English Defence League to threaten a demonstration outside a mosque, so that he could fulfill his "fantasy" of playing peacemaker.

23/3/2015- Audio recordings of Dudley North candidate Afzal Amin were leaked by former leader of the English Defence League (EDL) Tommy Robinson, who made them surrep-titiously. They were published in the Mail on Sunday, and reveal conversations between Amin, Robinson, and EDL chairman Steve Eddowes. Amin is heard suggesting that the EDL threaten to hold a march against a mosque in the week before the UK general elections in May. Later, Amin said, they should publicly announce that the march has been called off and the issues have been resolved, while crediting Amin. He also said that they should hire two EDL sympathizers to campaign for him. The West Midlands candidate promised that the action would "bring the English Defence League out of the shadows into the main political debate." He also said that, "if I win my election, in parliament you've got a very strong, unshakeable ally who's going to work hard to get you involved in all the institutions of the state and get you the exposure you need." "Ninety-five percent of what you want to campaign against, we're with you," he added.

Amin also laid out his ambition, suggesting that he was hoping to eventually become British prime minister. "My ambition goes well beyond being an MP," he said. "I think I can get to the top." After the recordings were made public, Amin spoke to BBC, claiming that his messages had been wrongly interpreted, and that he had been the victim of a "year-long sting operation." "What you're describing here is very normal conflict resolution confidence building measures," he said. He added: "There's no way I would have the confidence to propose such a maneuver to the EDL leadership. And he's the one that proposed that absolutely, we would do this march, and we would negotiate our way out of it. See when he first came to me he presented himself in tears saying that he wants to see an improved Britain." Amin said that Robinson had been crying, saying that he couldn't provide Christmas presents for his children.

"I stand beside my desire to see peace within our communities," he said. "I stand by my desire to see a united Britain where we all live together. The British Muslim community isn't going anywhere. Supporters of EDL aren't going anywhere. We all need to share this space on our island. And the more we understand each other, the greater that unity can be. And what I want to see in all of this work is that that intention is recognized." Amin was scheduled to make his case to the Conservative party on Tuesday, and said he planned to make a "robust defense" of his actions. However, on Monday he officially resigned. With the UK elections fast approaching, surveys have shown that more than 50 percent of the British public think immigration should be a top priority for the government. However, activists suggest that the politicization of the issue, as well as growing anxiety around Islamophobia and the fear of extremism can be damaging.

"It's such a shame that politics is being used in such a way to create more problems than solutions," Omer El-Hamdoon, president of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) told VICE News. "To make use of the tensions that exist between far-right groups like the EDL and their opposition to mosques in general as a platform for political gain, I think it's quite dis-graceful." El-Hamdoon also said that it is very important that anyone that has serious concerns be enabled to sit down in a calm atmosphere to air them, and that discussion be facilitated by politicians. He said that spokespeople for MAB regularly engaged in discourse with concerned citizens, and would be willing to sit down with the EDL. "Obviously there are people who are fascists," El-Hamdoon said. "They don't want to — no matter how much you reason with them — they don't want to reason or accept it, and that's not acceptable. So we don't want to sit down with people who have that kind of mentality. Whereas people who are sincere and say 'look, we are concerned about the extremists in the UK,' we say 'yes, so are we, so let's sit down and try and talk about it.'" However, he added that anyone stoking these fears or scaremongering for political gain wasn't helping the country advance.

Don Flynn, director of the Migrants' Rights Network, told VICE News that the next six weeks before the general election are really about "containment — dealing with the toxic ele-ments, challenging it wherever politicians come out with explicit messages, being able to challenge those and come up with the facts and with the evidence." He added that at this stage in the electoral cycle: "In a sense we've lost the opportunity because by the time you get to the last six weeks of an election campaign politicians are responding to pu-blic opinion polls and there's very little we can do to change. We just simply have to go along with the rise and if the opinion polls are negative we can see what we can do to limit the impact of it but not fundamentally change it. They're not going to challenge the prejudices which appear to be firmly in place." Flynn said that the theme that concerns his organization most at the moment is the growth of anti-Islamic sentiment. "It's resonating to an extent that is extremely unhealthy, and a lot more can be done to counter those sorts of messages." He added that despite the constant talk of immigration, he didn't believe any of the three main parties really had "much of an idea what they're going to do about" the issue. Any proposals at this stage, Flynn said, are basically going to be "mood music rather than a promise to do this or do that."

Adam Memon, head of economic research at the Center of Policy Studies think tank, also criticized Amin's actions: "I would say that it is an utter disgrace if a parliamentary candi-date has been colluding with an extremist organization like the EDL," he told VICE News. "Nobody who offers to be an unshakeable ally of the far right deserves to be an elected representative. Immigration needs to be discussed in a calm and rational way. Extremists will try to hijack the debate to spread fear and division. We must decisively reject that discourse." On his website, Amin wrote that his three main goals were establishing a jobs support network, raising the standard of education in local schools, and improving care for the elderly. Amin worked in several service jobs before becoming an officer in the British Army. He also "remains one of very few Black Country boys to get to Sandhurst [mili-tary college]," according to his website. The Black Country refers to a heavily industrialized area of the UK's West Midlands, so named for the color of the smoke produced there.
© Vice News

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UK: Conservatives suspend candidate over far-right plot claims

22/3/2015- Britain's ruling Conservatives have suspended a Muslim candidate in a key seat following allegations he plotted with the far right English Defence League (EDL) to stir up racial tension to help win votes in May's election. Afzal Amin, a parliamentary candidate in Dudley North in central England, was shown in video footage and telephone recordings obtained by the Mail on Sunday newspaper trying to persuade the EDL to announce a march against a new mosque in the area. Amin then allegedly planned to take the credit for brokering the suspension of the protest. A spokesman for the Conservative Party said Amin had been suspended with immediate effect, pending an investigation. "The Conserva-tive Party views this as a matter of extremely serious concern," he said. Amin has denied the allegations, telling the Independent on Sunday newspaper that the claims were based on small snippets of over 57 hours of meetings he had held with the local Muslim community and the leadership of the EDL, a street protest movement.

The allegations are damaging to a Conservative party that needs to win seats such as Dudley North, currently held by opposition Labour on a tiny majority, to have a chance of obtaining a majority on May 7. The Conservatives have governed Britain in coalition with the Liberal Democrats since 2010. Opinion polls currently show neither the Conservatives nor Labour likely to win enough seats to form a majority government in May. Parties such as the anti-EU UKIP and the Scottish nationalist SNP could have a decisive role in the outcome. UKIP, a party that has quickly grown in popularity, has had to suspend a number of its own parliamen-tary candidates, including two on Friday over separate claims about expenses and a workplace incident.
© Reuters

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UK: The baroness, Islamic extremists and a question of free speech

Two groups campaigning to get British Muslims involved in the election are "clever fronts" to win political access and influence for Islamists holding extreme views, writes Andrew Gilligan.

22/3/2015- At first glance, it looks admirable: two closely connected campaigns, called YouElect and Mend (Muslim Engagement and Development), to get British Mus-lims involved and voting in this year’s general election. Mend says it is “creating and supporting an environment in which British Muslims can confidently and critically engage in politics”. One of YouElect’s leaders, Jamil Rashid, told the Islam Channel: “We’re all part of this society, so I think it’s extremely important that Muslims stand up and be counted.” Who could disagree? That, no doubt, is why the Electoral Commission has made Mend an “official partner” in registering Muslim voters for the coming campaign; why at least 10 Labour and Tory MPs joined the launch of Mend’s “Muslim manifesto” in the Commons earlier this month; and why even Lynton Crosby, the Conservative campaign director, addressed a Mend fringe meeting at last year’s Tory conference.

Mend also holds events with police chiefs, gets funding from the EU and is a “key partner” in the Hacked Off campaign for state-backed controls on the press. The truth, however, is that these distinguished bodies and people have been conned. Both Mend and YouElect are clever fronts to win political access and influence for Islamists holding extreme and anti-democratic views. When not giving reassuring interviews, Mr Rashid is a director of the London-based Muslim Research and Develop-ment Foundation, the think tank of one of Britain’s most notorious hate preachers, Haitham al-Haddad, an extremist cleric and Sharia judge from east London. Haddad describes democracy as “filthy”, regards music as a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace”, states that Jews and Christians are the “enemies of Allah” who will “all go to hellfire” and advises Muslims not to “integrate … as simple as that”.

On March 6, Mr Rashid spoke at a rally organised by Cage, the pro-terrorist lobby group which had the week before provoked outrage by describing Mohammed Emwazi, “Jihadi John”, as a “kind and gentle” man who had been “radicalised by MI5”. He described Cage as “the leaders in our community – we are all Cage, and we stand with them in all their endeavours”. Ismail Patel, the director of YouElect, is also spokesman for the British Muslim Initiative, closely linked to Hamas, the terrorist group which wants to destroy Israel, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to replace secular democratic government with a caliphate under Islamic law.
Then there is Mend. It, too, has defended Cage, accusing the media of trying to discredit the group after the “Jihadi John” episode. It, too, has links to Haddad, who, despite his views on democracy, has appeared in a Mend video urging Muslims to vote. He has said in the past that voting may be permissible to return a Muslim majo-rity government in “50 years, something like this” as a prelude to “Islam spreading all over the world”.

Mend is next month launching an election tour, to “reinforce the importance of electoral participation” and encourage Muslims to go to the ballot box. A star speaker at five of the six events listed will be Abu Eesa Niamatullah, another British extremist who opposes democracy. In a YouTube talk seen by the Telegraph, Mr Niamatullah attacked “the inherent weakness of democracy” because “it’s all down to the masses, to the people, to decide what is right and what is wrong”. Mr Niamatullah said that the people of Britain were “animals … there is very little difference between our behaviour and the behaviour of dogs or animals and that’s why Sharia is so noble”. In his view, it is “the Creator [who] is the one who should decide what the laws should be”.

Mr Niamatullah, also known as Abu Eesa, from Manchester, is a full-time preacher and an instructor for the Al-Maghrib Institute, whose dean of academic affairs, Yasir Qadhi, will appear at the same Mend events. Mr Qadhi has previously claimed the Holocaust was a hoax, although he now says he believes it did happen and has repudiated his views. On April 3 in Manchester, one of the speakers booked to appear alongside Mr Niamatullah is Baroness Warsi, the former Tory chairman and the first Muslim woman to sit in Cabinet. Let us hope she has not read his views on women in the workplace from the “Prophetic Guidance” website. “I am an absolute extremist in this issue in that I don’t have any time for the opposing arguments,” he wrote.

“Women should not be in the workplace whatsoever. Full stop. I simply can’t imagine how we will safeguard our Islamic identity in the future and build strong Muslim communities in the West with women wanting to go out and becoming employed in the hell that it is out there.” There is no suggestion that Baroness Warsi endorses such extremist views. Even carrying money in your pocket is “entirely unacceptable from a fiqhi [Islamic law] point of view”, according to Mr Niamatullah since there are “pictures of a non-mahram [forbidden] woman” – the Queen – on the banknotes, though he has “regretfully” conceded that this particular rule must be broken if daily life is to remain possible.

Baroness Warsi claimed last night that she was not appearing with anybody else at the Manchester event, although Mend’s own website lists her and Mr Niamatullah as speakers. Flyers for the event naming the pair have been circulating online for weeks. Other avowed Mend democrats include Azad Ali, the group’s head of community development and engagement, who has written of his “love” for Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda recruiter; said that the Mumbai attacks were “not terrorism”; justified the killing of British troops and stated that “democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the Sharia, of course nobody agrees with that”.

Mend itself is a rebranding of a group called Engage, or iEngage, which was removed as secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia in 2011 after The Sunday Telegraph revealed its links with extremism. The name change appears to have been enough to fool many MPs and official bodies. Mend also appears dramatically better funded than in its Engage days, doubling its claimed number of staff and hiring regional co-ordinators across England. Much of Mend’s money may come from the proceeds of tax avoidance. Sufyan Ismail, its chief executive, is a Lancashire businessman with reported assets of £65 million who earned his fortune by creating one of the country’s biggest tax avoidance consultancies, OneE Group, described as a “specialist advisory unit for high net worth entrepreneurs, footballers and celebrities”.

OneE specialises in what its website called “income sheltering solutions” and “profit extraction” techniques, often through its offshore subsidiary in Cyprus. In an adap-tation of the HMRC slogan “tax doesn’t have to be taxing”, OneE’s tag-line was that for its clients “tax doesn’t have to be”. Mend is based in OneE’s London office. Mr Ismail, who lives in a leafy lane near Bolton, has been able to kill two birds with one stone, depriving the infidel British state of tens of millions in revenue while ma-king himself extremely rich. As well as advising others how to avoid tax, OneE’s accounts show that it paid more than £26  million in two years into an “employer-financed retirement benefit scheme” and millions of pounds in “loans” to Mr Ismail. The £26 million could, of course, represent generous pensions for OneE’s 45 staff, averaging almost £600,000 each, nearly 10 times their average salaries. Or it could be a scheme to save Mr Ismail and his fellow directors paying almost any income tax. HMRC bluntly describes schemes of this type, which are legal, as “tax avoidance.”

Another of Mr Ismail’s companies, the now-liquidated 1st Ethical Tax Planning, was subject to an HMRC investigation, according to documents at Companies House. The directors were reported by the liquidator under the Company Directors’ Disqualification Act, though Mr Ismail has not been disqualified. The auditors of OneE Group resigned in 2013 and the accounts of a related company, OneE Tax, have been revised and resubmitted – twice. The outcome of the HMRC investigation is unknown. OneE did not return calls seeking comment, though the company has previously said that the pensions wheeze was merely “responsible tax planning” with nothing “aggressive or abusive” about it. Mr Ismail said last night that he had resigned as a director of OneE three months ago, but declined to respond to questions about the company or 1st Ethical Tax Planning. He said that he had “never engaged in tax avoidance of any description”.

Mend’s own accounts are not yet available, but in the last two years Mr Ismail and a fellow director of OneE have donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to their personal charity, 1st Ethical Charitable Trust, which has spent large sums on UK community projects, almost certainly including Mend. So why are Mend and YouElect urging Muslims to participate in a system which many of the two organisations’ key figures fundamentally reject? One clue may come in Mr Niamatullah’s speech, in which he said that Muslims should act as an “underground movement … to affect and influence people”. Mr Ali’s day job is as a community affairs co-ordinator for the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), an extremist group based at the East London Mosque, which wants to create a Sharia state in Europe.

According to a training session for recruits, the IFE’s goal is “not simply to give da’wah [call to the faith]. Our goal is to create the True Believer, to then mobilise those believers into an organised force for change who will carry out da’wah, hisbah [enforcement of Islamic law] and jihad. This will lead to social change and iqamatud-Deen [an Islamic social, economic and political order]”. IFE’s “entryism” helped to install Lutfur Rahman as the Labour leader of Tower Hamlets council. He then gave them millions of pounds in grants. Mend also appears to have been funded by Tower Hamlets. Mr Rahman was expelled from the Labour Party, but re-elected as an independent, with IFE help. He represents Islamism’s closest ally in UK political office.

Mend and the IFE cannot, of course, hope to replicate their success in heavily Muslim Tower Hamlets across the UK. But by building links with an unsuspecting political establishment, they can further the Islamist agenda. Mend’s “Muslim manifesto” attacks the way that the government has treated Islamists as “beyond the pale” and demands they be brought into “partnership” with Whitehall. Mend wants to return to the position under the previous administration where non-violent extremists were treated as legitimate representatives of their community. Mr Ali, for instance, was the chairman of the main liaison group between the Muslim community and the Metropolitan Police. Mend has enjoyed some success in this field, building links with some police and crime commissioners, including Greater Manchester’s Tony Lloyd and West Yorkshire’s Mark Burns-Williamson.

The manifesto claims that the Government’s promotion of British values “provides a fertile environment for the festering of far-Right ideas” and says that “integration narratives” are “concerning”. It claims, falsely, that “government policy continues to conflate religion with extremism”. It makes valid points about discrimination against Muslims in employment and anti-Muslim attacks, which are on the rise, albeit from a low base. But it uses selective evidence, often choosing the gloomiest opinion polls and the most damning studies to paint a picture of a community under siege. (Mend’s Facebook page is far more inflammatory, hosting, for instance, an article which says that Muslims may face a holocaust.)

It also claims that far-Right extremism is a “growing problem”. But, according to the anti-fascist group Hope not Hate, the British far-Right is “shrinking” and “in its worst state for almost 20 years”. The manifesto claims that a “surge in Islamophobic hate crime” after the killing of the soldier Lee Rigby included the murder of Mo-hammed Saleem, a Muslim. Mr Saleem was killed three weeks before Drummer Rigby’s death, by a Ukrainian racist who had been in Britain for five days. Mend and YouElect, along with the IFE, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Unite union and the TUC, on Saturday organised a “march against Islamophobia”, assembling outside that well-known media hotbed of hate, the BBC.

“Islamophobia”, one of Mend’s favourite charges, is a standard accusation made by Muslim wrongdoers to smear critics and deter scrutiny. No doubt this article will attract a similar response. But every time the charge is abused by the likes of Mend, it loses a bit more credibility and further damages the genuine victims of anti-Muslim prejudice.
© The Telegraph

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UK: Ukip faces crisis after suspensions and racism claims

Within 24 hours party suspends Janice Atkinson and Stephen Howd, while Jonathan Stanley stands down complaining of culture of bullying and racism.

20/3/2015- The UK Independence party is facing a major crisis after the suspension of two parliamentary candidates within 24 hours and the resignation of a third who claimed there was “open racism and sanctimonious bullying” in the party. Detectives are investigating an allegation of fraud after the suspension of Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson, its candidate in Folkestone and Hythe, over claims that a member of staff attempted to overcharge EU expenses. The party has also suspended Stephen Howd, its candidate in Scunthorpe, while an investigation is carried out into an alleged incident at his workplace. In a third development, Jonathan Stanley has stood down as parliamentary candidate for Westmorland and Lonsdale, complaining of a culture of bullying and racism. Stanley, an Edinburgh-based doctor, said he quit because there was open bullying within the party.

Stanley told the Westmorland Gazette: “I have given my full resignation to the party because of issues happening in Scotland: open racism and sanctimonious bullying within the party. “This sectarian racist filth in Scotland needs cleaning up. It is a great threat to the Eurosceptic cause and civil society.” Stanley, a surgeon, has indica-ted that party turmoil in Scotland and Farage’s pledge to restrict migrants’ access to the NHS and schools are behind his reasons to leave the party. In a resignation letter, he wrote: “Recent performances in the handling of issues in Scotland, in the banning of migrant children from state funded education, and in health care have left me unable to campaign for UKIP. This is a sad decision for me.” Farage has recently said migrant children should not gain automatic access to the state-funded education system and that tourists, students and all those moving permanently except refugees would need medical cover before entering the country.

Stanley also claims that the party has engaged in “sectarian, racist filth” in Scotland which must stop if it is to make gains. “The language of English nationalism and the sectarian outfit in Scotland have been corrosive to the Eurosceptic movement and to Unionism,” he wrote. A Ukip spokesman said: “We are treating Mr Stanley’s comments with the incredulity they deserve. “Mr Stanley and the party have been drifting apart politically for some time and his resignation comes as no surprise to us. However, we wish him all the best for the future.” Earlier this week Scottish Ukip MEP David Coburn was criticised for comparing Scottish minister Humza Yousaf to Islamist terrorist Abu Hamza.

The series of problems for Nigel Farage’s party has been pounced on by David Cameron. The prime minister said in a statement that it was “just the latest in a whole set of catastrophic blunders, disasters, missteps by this party”. Atkinson and her office are at the centre of inquiries by the Kent and Essex serious crime directorate after a report in the Sun on Thursday night. The newspaper reported that a staff member obtained an invoice from a restaurant for a sum more than three times the actual cost of an event, apparently with the intention of claiming it back from Brussels funds. A Kent police spokesman said: “The allegation is being reviewed and the investigation is ongoing.” The owner of the restaurant that hosted the function said he blew the whistle when he became aware that taxpayers’ money might be at stake, rather than that of a private donor.

David Goulding, of The Hoy, said: “She explained to me that it was a way of them getting some funds into their Ukip account to help with their campaign. “I didn’t really have a problem with that as it was a sponsor. The problem for me became apparent when I found out that you and me and the rest of the British public were the sponsor because they were claiming the money back off the EU which we pay into.” A Ukip disciplinary panel will determine on Monday whether Atkinson, who found herself in hot water last year after she was caught by TV cameras calling a Thai woman a “ting tong”, should face action over the allegations, Farage said. Atkinson had been due to challenge the Conservatives in Folkestone and Hythe on 7 May, but has now been suspended from the party whip and removed as a general election candidate while the party investigates the claims.

The Sun reported that one of Atkinson’s staff members obtained an invoice from a restaurant for a sum more than three times the actual cost of a party event. It said the individual told the manager of the restaurant: “The idea is we overcharge them slightly because that’s the way of repatriating [the money].” The £950 food and drink cost of the event, held before the party’s spring conference in Margate last month, was reportedly paid by credit card, according to the report, which included video footage of the discussions over the bill. But it is alleged that the staff member negotiated for and accepted an invoice for £3,150, made out to the newly formed group of rightwing parties Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, of which Ukip is the biggest member, and its associated foundation the Initiative for Direct Demo-cracy in Europe. Farage told LBC radio: “I was deeply shocked when I saw it. It was one of the most incredibly stupid and dishonest things I’ve ever seen in my life.

“This was a member of staff. Exactly what the relationship between that member of staff asking for a false bill and Janice Atkinson is, I don’t know.” He added: “I spoke to her after mid-night last night. She was in bed. I said: ‘What on earth’s going on? What is this?’ She said there was a confusion, there was a mess-up. I didn’t get a clear answer.” The party was quick to stress that the decision meant Atkinson was no longer its general election candidate in the seat, where Tory Damian Collins is defending a healthy majority of 10,122. The party’s spokesman said it had suspended another candidate over a separate incident. “Ukip has suspended the Scunthor-pe PPC, Stephen Howd, while an investigation takes place into an alleged incident at his workplace.” In a statement, Howd, a barrister, said: “Allegations of harass-ment have been made against me. The allegations are contested. “They are now the subject of tribunal proceedings and, as such, the matter is sub judice and it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment.”
© The Guardian

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UK: Six men arrested after apparent 'anti-Semitic attack' at synagogue in Stamford Hill

22/3/2015- Six people have been arrested after an apparently anti-Semitic attack at a synagogue in north London - leaving one man needing hospital treatment. Shocking video footage filmed at the synagogue on Craven Park Road, Stamford Hill appears to shows terrified staff and worshippers cowering inside a room as chairs are thrown through a door. Police were called to reports of a fight at the synagogue just after 1am today. Detectives believe a group of revellers who had been partying at a nearby house tried to break into the building. They briefly managed to push through the synagogue doors but were eventually forced out by security guards. Six people - four men and two women in their late teens - were today being held in custody on suspicion of assault and public order offences in connection with the incident, Scotland Yard said. A spokesman said the fight was being treated as "anti-Semitic" but police do not believe it was a planned attack.

In a statement, he said: "The disturbance began when a group of drunk males, believed to have walked to the area from a house party nearby, tried to gain access to the synagogue in Craven Park Road, N15. "One man was injured as he sought to prevent the group from entering the building. He sustained facial injuries, not believed to be serious, and was taken to hospital for treatment. "A small number of the group did briefly gain entry to the synagogue before being remo-ved by security staff. "The incident is being treated as an anti-Semitic incident, due to remarks made by one of the group. However there is nothing to suggest that it was a planned or targeted attack." Jonathan Waterfield, who is leading the investigation, said patrols had been stepped up in the area to reassure local people. He said: "We are investigating to establish the full circumstances of the incident and to identify anyone else involved in the disturbance who has not yet been arrested. "We have also increased police patrols in the Stamford Hill area to provide reassurance to the community."
© The London Evening Standard.

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UK: Nine arrested after Newcastle demo

21/3/2015- Police have made nine arrests after demonstrations were held by rival groups in Newcastle. Approximately 100 people from far right group National Action held a march at the city's Quayside. While around 70 people held a counter demonstration at the same location. Officers said both events passed without any significant disruption. But arrests were made for public order offences relating to inciting racial hatred after two flags were burned. Assistant Chief Constable Winton Keenan said:
The majority of people attending this event did so peacefully. However, there were a number whose behaviour was unacceptable resulting in nine people being arres-ted. We simply will not tolerate people engaging in behaviour that could negatively impact on our communities and will take positive action against those who do. We have an excellent relationship with our vast and diverse communities with great community cohesion, not just in Newcastle but across the force area. I'd like to thank the local community and businesses for their cooperation during today's events.
© ITV

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UK: Anti-racism campaigners hail no-show of supporters of far-right at rally

Anti-racism campaigners have hailed a "no-show" by supporters of a far-right movement at a rally in the Scottish capital.

21/3/2015- The Scottish branch of Pegida, the far-right movement from Germany, was expected to hold a static demonstration in Edinburgh this afternoon. It was due to be the first Scottish rally by the group, whose German acronym means Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West. There was a "significant" police presence around Waverley Station, the Royal Mile and outside the Scottish Parliament, where Pegida supporters were expected to come face-to-face with a counter-demonstration of around 200 people organised by campaign group Unite Against Fascism (UAF). But there was no obvious sign of an appearance by Pegida supporters at the foot of the Royal Mile, where police barriers had established a "sterile" area to keep them apart from the rival protest. The road at Horse Wynd was later reopened to traffic without any apparent confrontation having taken place.

Police said the day passed without incident and no arrests were made. Luke Henderson, UAF Edinburgh co-ordinator, said: "It was an absolutely fantastic result today, the first ever no-show by Pegida." He added: "All the diversity, all the tolerance of the city was demonstrated by our side today. That's why we're stronger together, rather than the division and hate of groups like Pegida." Also present at the counter-demonstration was Nick Gardner, Labour councillor for the city's Leith Walk ward. He said: "It's really good to see the message being sent out from so many people across the city that racism is not welcome here and that we don't want to see hate crimes."

Police Scotland chief superintendent Mark Williams, Edinburgh city commander, said: "A significant police presence was put in place to facilitate today's demonstrations and I'd like to thank the public for remaining patient. "I would also like to thank those who took part for conducting themselves in a peaceful manner. The day passed without incident and there were no arrests made." Pegida held its first UK rally in Newcastle last month. Northumbria Police said 375 people were on the Pegida rally while 2,000 joined the Newcastle Unites counter-protest in the city centre.
© The Herald Scotland

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UK: Edinburgh Pegida march had only ‘four participants’

Just four people turned up for the first Scottish demonstration of a group which campaigns against what it calls the “Islamisation of Europe”.

21/3/2015- Pegida, which was formed in Germany last year, had hoped that between 80 and 100 people would attend the demo outside the Scottish Parliament yester-day. But Police Scotland said the actual number attending had been far smaller. About 200 people attended a counter demonstration against the group. Pegida Scotland had invited “all patriot groups” to the event using its Facebook page after 400 members of Pegida UK attended a rally in Newcastle last month. The anti-immigration group, whose full name translates as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, was formed in Dresden and claims to be non-violent and non-racist. How-ever, it has attracted support from elements of the far right. German chancellor Angela Merkel has accused the group’s members of having “prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts”. Police initially said the Edinburgh event had been cancelled due to a low turnout, but later said the demonstration had gone ahead with four par-ticipants. Chief Superintendent Mark Williams said: “A significant police presence was put in place to facilitate today’s demonstrations and I’d like to thank the public for remaining patient. “I would also like to thank those who took part for conducting themselves in a peaceful manner.”
© The Scotsman

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Intn\'l Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Georgia: Copy of Anne Frank’s Diary on display in Tbilisi

25/3/2015- A copy of the Diary of Anne Frank – one of the most widely recognised pieces of texts describing the horrors facing Jewish victims of the Holocaust, is on display in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi this week. The copy of the infamous diary is being exhibited by Europe House. The exhibition began on March 21 and will continue until March 30. Young teenager Anne kept her diary when she and her family were in hiding for two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. The Frank family was eventually arrested in 1944, and Anne died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945. Anne Frank’s father Otto, the only known survivor of the family, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find Anne’s diary had been saved by one of their helpers Miep Gies, who had earlier helped keep them hidden. The diary was then published in 1947 and later translated into more than 60 languages.

The diary was given to Anne on her 13th birthday and chronicles her life from June 12, 1942, to 1 August, 1944. The Tbilisi exhibition is being organised by NGO Analytical Centre for Interethnic Cooperation and Consultations (ACICC). On another note, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, following the brutal murder of 69 protesters in the South African township of Sharpeville in 1960. Every year around 21 March, the UNITED network coordinated the European-wide Action Week Against Racism and called on the international community to bring an end to racism, discrimination and intolerance.
© Agenda Georgia

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UN says learning lessons of intolerance critical to eliminating racism

21/3/2015- Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the United Nations today urged Member States to boost efforts towards ending discrimination around the world and ratify a critical international convention aimed at abolishing racism in all its forms. “We have seen the end of colonialism, the dismantling of apartheid and the rise of a global movement for equality,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared in his message for the Day. “Yet, as history and current events attest, racial discrimination still presents a clear danger to people and communities in all regions.” The UN General Assembly, in a show of solidarity with the anti-apartheid movement, established this Day to commemorate the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, when 69 people were killed and many others injured as police opened fire on a peaceful protest against South Africa's appalling pass laws.

This year's theme – “Learning from historical tragedies to combat racial discrimination today” – aims to explore the root causes of racism and racial discrimination and will stress the essential need to learn the lessons history has provided in order to combat racism and racial discrimination today. In his message, Mr. Ban observed that 2015 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent – two cornerstones of the UN's effort to preserve the memory of perpetrated injustices and eradicate intolerance.

He added that learning the lessons of history was critical to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and an opportunity to renew a commitment “to building a world of justice and equality where xenophobia and bigotry do not exist.” “Lasting peace can only be built on the premise that all people have equal rights and dignity – regard-less of ethnicity, gender, religion, social or other status,” the Secretary-General continued. “To that end, I urge all nations to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to promote historical accuracy and put in place robust policies and laws that will end all forms of discrimination as enshrined in the Convention.”

In a statement delivered by the Permanent Representative of Tajikistan, Mahmadin Mahmadaminov, the President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, similarly extolled the importance of learning from “the profound and lasting impacts of historical human rights tragedies” such as slavery, the slave trade, and the oppression of institutionalized racism. “We should draw important lessons from these past tragedies, so that we may use this knowledge to address contemporary manifestations of racism and racial discrimination,” said Mr. Kutesa. “Prejudice must not be allowed to rake root in our societies. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Calling upon all Member States and global citizens “to continue to reject and prevent discrimination” in all its forms, the General Assembly President urged the interna-tional community to do its best in preventing the growth and spread of xenophobia, stereotyping, hatred and marginalization which, he said, have “the potential to compromise peace, stability and development around the world.”
© UN News Centre

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Values threatened by hate speech must be reinforced

The most effective way to counter hate speech is to reinforce the values of democracy and human rights that it threatens, the heads of three intergovernmental human rights institutions said today in a joint statement on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

20/3/2015- Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Christian Ahlund, Chair of the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), and Morten Kjaerum, Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), stressed that hate speech needs to be confronted and condemned directly by counter-speech that shows its destructive and unacceptable character. Politicians and other public figures have a particular responsibility in this regard because of their capacity to influence a wide audience, they said. In addition, education has a key role to play in undermining the misconceptions and misinformation that form the basis of hate speech.

“Hate speech is an extreme form of intolerance and contributes to hate crime. If left unaddressed, it can lead to acts of violence and conflict on a wider scale,” ODIHR Director Link stressed. “Within the OSCE region, it is important for political representatives and opinion-makers such as the media, community leaders and educational institutions to show strong leadership whenever hate speech and hate crimes occur.” Aware of the grave dangers posed by hate speech for a democratic society, the heads of the three institutions said that criminal prohibition is necessary when hate speech publicly incites violence against individuals or groups of people, but is not sufficient to eradicate it.

“Raising public awareness of the importance of respecting pluralism, as well as of the dangers posed by hate speech can often be the most effective means of preven-ting it,” ECRI’s Chair Ahlund said. “In this context, national authorities should support non-governmental organisations, equality bodies and national human rights institu-tions working against hate speech.” Ahlund, Kjaerum and Link stressed that victims should be helped to cope with the trauma of being targets of hate speech and encouraged to report it to the authorities. At the same time, appropriate action must be taken to ensure that society understands that the use of hate speech is unac-ceptable.

“In the current climate, we need urgently to move away from the culture of impunity we see on internet and social media platforms,” said FRA Director Kjaerum. “Na-tional authorities as well as the private corporations that run them need to work together. This would help to reduce marginalisation and fight radicalisation, which are both for good reason high on the European agenda.” The Heads of all three organisations said they would continue their co-operation to raise awareness about the need to promote mutual respect and understanding between all groups in society and provide support to governments to prevent and combat the dangerous consequen-ces of hate speech.
© EU Fundamental Rights Agency

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International Day Against Racial Discrimination: Recognise past abuses against minority groups

Ahead of International Day Against Racial Discrimination on 21 March, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) calls on EU institutions and Member States to recognise Europe’s role in past human rights abuses against minority groups – including slavery, the slave trade, colonialism, and the Jewish and Roma genocides during World War II – and their continuing impact on racism and racial discrimination today.

20/3/2015- Many crimes against humanity and past abuses have not yet been officially recognised to the extent that they should be. For instance, the Roma genocide during World War II has been overlooked in many commemoration events. Similarly, claims for remembrance of and apology for the slave trade and colonialism have been ignored to a large extent. Such recognition is crucial to ensure that the lessons of history are learned, that the root causes of current manifestations of racism can be understood and addressed, and that trust increases between minority and majority groups.

For instance, racism played a key role in the slave trade by constructing the European myth of an inferior Black race that served to legitimise systematic discrimination and violence against Black people. Although science has disproven these biological racism theories, hostility and prejudices towards Black people continue to be embedded – even unconsciously – in the idea of an inferior Black “race”. This legacy extends beyond States that were actively involved in the slave trade and has had a profound impact on the shaping of the European psyche towards people of African descent and Black Europeans. Similar stereotypes exist for other groups such as Roma, Jews and Muslims.

EU Member States should therefore publicly recognise the legacy of historical abuses, for instance by considering establishing truth commissions, producing history fact-sheets and educational material, reviewing curricula and related text books, and exploring national reparation schemes. These measures could be further encouraged and embedded in European strategies to combat specific forms of racism, as is the case in some countries’ national Roma integration strategies.

ENAR Chair Sarah Isal said: “Racism has been the bedrock of key events in European history – in particular the Holocaust, the slave trade and colonialism. Recognition of these past abuses is crucial to address the humiliation, discrimination and violence millions of people in Europe continue to face today because of their skin colour, ethnicity, culture or religion. Instead of proposing an increasing number of national laws aiming at disclaiming any responsibility in past abuses, legislators should take steps to overturn the tragic impact of these events on their fellow citizens. Peace is the result of acknowledging roles and responsibilities during the dark hours of the past, not of denying memories and their impact.”
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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UK: Crowds Gather in Dorchester to stamp out racism

A crowd gathered in Dorchester town centre to join a band of unions and political parties in an anti-racism march.

21/3/2015- Unison and the Green Party were among a handful of others who joined to celebrate what the chairman of Unison, Berny Parkes described as a ‘celebration of culture’ for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Supporting unions and their members brought banners and chanted through Dorchester high street as part of a peaceful protest to be sure their message was heard until they reached the war memorial where the march terminated. The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination stems from the Sharpeville massacres on March 21, 1960 in South Africa, in which 69 unarmed protesters were shot by 300 police officers who were integrated by all white people at a peaceful protest for their human rights. 180 others were seriously injured in the same protest. The message of anti-racism is one that on the day was being rolled out across Europe, with similar protests and marches happening across the world.

Paul Kimber, Labour leader for Dorset County Council said: “It’s here for us to show we support all these people who are rightfully very concerned about racism, not only nationally but also in Dorset.” Tim Nicholls, the secretary for Unison in the South West said to marchers: “You are not alone. This is part of a national demonstra-tion across Europe standing up to racism.” He compared Britain’s economic state to other countries in the EU who are more affluent. On the subject of Britain’s cultural diversity and the political debate over Britain’s migrant population, he said: “People don’t come here to starve, they come here to work.” Green party Parliamentary candidate for West Dorset, Peter Barton, hit out against political party UKIP and a range of remarks that have been made by party leader Nigel Farage about migrant workers in Britain ahead of the next general election. He said racism was still a problem in society, especially with politicians making remarks in the public eye about migrant workers and those of an ethnic minority.

Berny Parkes said that this peaceful protest was the first for them, but would not be the last either. The late Nelson Mandela had previously paid tribute to the day saying that March 21 was a day to remember and sing the praises of those who have perished in the name of democracy and human dignity.
© The Dorset Echo

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UK: Thousands take to the streets of London in protests

Tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in marches against racism and fascism on Saturday across the UK.

21/3/2015- The demonstrations are organised by more 12 groups including Stand Up To Racism, Unite Against Fascism, the Muslim Council of Britain, and Stop the War. There are parallel marches in capitals across Europe and around the world. The activities are to commemorate UN Anti-Racism Day which commemorates the victims of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, when 69 peaceful protestors against apartheid were killed by South African police. Stand Up To Racism (SUR), the main UK organiser, said: "From Germany to Greece to Ferguson, people who want a society free from racism are saying no more. People are taking to the streets in large numbers to oppose the racist Pegida movement in Germany and the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, and to protest institutional racism and police violence against Black communities.

"People are outraged at the Islamophobic and anti-Semitic backlash after the Copenhagen and Paris attacks, and the mass media silence on the Chapel Hill shootings where three Muslim students were brutally shot dead, so many have mobilised under the slogan 'Muslim Lives Matter'. Immigrant communities are fed up with being wrongly blamed for an economic crisis they did not create. On UN Anti-racism Day people across the world will be taking a stand." In London, protesters assembled in front of the British Broadcasting Corporation to march to Trafalgar Square, close to government buildings and the Houses of Parliament. The protesters held banners reading "No to Islamophobia #MuslimLivesMatter", "From Ferguson to London #BlackLivesMatter", "Stamp Out Anti-Semitism" and "Immigrants Are Welcome Here."

Many organisations have warned of a recent escalation of hatred, racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the UK. "This racist tide will only be driven back by you and me standing up and confronting it," said a statement by SUR. Diane Abbott MP, who planned to attend the London march, said: "A wave of ugly immigrant-bashing racism is sweeping through Britain, led by UKIP, pandered to by the media and conceded to by many others. This demonstration is the start of the fight back. We have to gather everyone willing to stand up to racism." Maz Saleem, daughter of the late Mohammed Saleem will also attend. She spoke out about her father's death: "My father Mohammed Saleem was brutally murdered on the 29th April 2013 by a right-wing terrorist purely because he was a Muslim, not because he was Asian but because of his faith.

"Islamophobia is rife and Islamophobic attacks continue to rise fuelled by sensationalised headlines run by media and also by the governments stance on treating all Muslims as terrorists." Some attendees at the London march posted images of a small counter-protest by members of the anti-Muslim group Britain First. Last year, over 10,000 people from the UK, including students, trade unionists, migrants, and people from all faiths, took part in protests in London to call for action on racism.
© The International Business Times - UK

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Ireland: Government ‘in denial’ over reality of racism in Ireland

Dublin rally told legislation that seeks to dressing racism is ‘completely inadequate

21/3/2015- The Irish State remains in denial about racism, a rally in Dublin to mark UN international day against racism on Saturday was told. The United Nations designa-ted March 21st a global day against racism in 1966 and marches and rallies were held across the world to commemorate the victims of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, when 69 peaceful protestors against apartheid were killed by South African police. Shane O’Curry, chair of the European Network Against Racism, Ireland, told around 150 people at the event outside the Central Bank, racism was a daily fact of life for all ethnic minorities in Ireland. He cited the experiences of abuse against Travel-lers, Roma, Asian people, Muslims, black Africans and undocumented migrants, recorded by ENAR Ireland, as evidence of this.

In a report published on Friday ENAR Ireland found black people were the most likely to suffer racist abuse here, followed by people identified as Asian or Asian-Chinese. “And yet the State is in an official state of denial about this,” said Mr O’Curry. “There are no CSO figures on racism to speak of. “There are no measures for redressing racism to speak of. The 1989 Incitement to Racial Hatred Act is the only piece of legislation that names racism and yet it’s completely inadequate.” He said there had been no action plan against racism since 2008 and there were no hate-crime provisions. He called on the Government to bring forward an action plan against racism to address institutional racism and to take a “root and branch look at racism and its causes and the reasons why people are divided against each other”.

Among the steps the Government could take, he suggested, would be to recognise Travellers as an ethnic minority and to end the accommodation of asylum seekers in direct provision centres. Dublin City People Before Profit councillor, Bríd Smith, said racism was a feature of societies that were divided against each other by those in authority. “The reason racism is out there is because Government, the authorities want us to think someone else is to blame [for society’s problems]. They want us to think the problem is the migrants, the problem is the Travellers, the problem with low wages is the competition from workers from Eastern Europe driving down wages.” She said the message communities had to send out was: “migrants are not to blame, the Travellers are not to blame.”

Maureen Ward, vice chairwoman of the Irish Traveller Movement called for the Irish state to recognise Travellers as an ethnic minority, saying it would enable a “shared pride and shared identity” which was essential “for any community seeking to take its rightful place in wider society” “So on behalf of Irish Travellers I call on the Irish Government to let us have an Ireland where we as Irish Travellers are proud of our identity and have our ethnicity recognised so we can achieve our fullest potential and play an active role in Irish society.” Edmond Lukusa, Sinn Féin councillor in Fingal, described the area he represented in Mulhuddart as one of the most ethnically rich and diverse in the State. A tenants’ group had been established to counter racism and among its activities was to record incidents of racist abuse.

Echoing Mr O’Curry, he said there was a “lack of real data” on racist attacks. “Neither the gardaí nor Fingal County council collect such data. Nor do they have any policy or procedures in place to allow a true picture of racism to emerge. This must be challenged.”
© The Irish Times.

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Greece: ActionAid publishes social experiment ahead of anti-racism day

20/3/2015- As the world marks International Day for the Elimination of Racism on Saturday, the Greek branch of NGO ActionAid has released the results of a small public experiment it conducted on February 20 to gauge the public’s reaction to a staged racist attack. The organization hired two actors – one to play a belligerent, racist Greek and the other a quiet Bangladeshi – and placed them at a two busy bus stops near downtown Athens during rush hour, where they acted out variations of a scene in which the Greek orders the Bangladeshi to get up off the bench and abuses him with racial slurs. A camera crew located across the street recorded the responses of the genuine commuters waiting at the bus stop. The scene was repeated 22 times over the course of eight hours to an “audience” of more than 200 commuters.

The results of the experiment are optimistic as in 15 of the 22 scenes, the public reacted in favor of the Bagladeshi and lambasted the “Greek racist” for his behavior. On four occasions there was no reaction whatsoever, and on two members of the public sided with the “racist.” “Racism begins and ends with is. Each and every one of us must stand up to racist phenomena and stand beside the people that suffer them,” said ActionAid Hellas chief Gerasimos Kouvaras in a statement on the release of the experiment’s results. “For over 40 years we have championed the poor and disenfranchised, the people who are discriminated against. We could not remain silent toward phenomena of racism in our own country.”
© The Kathimerini.

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The Tangled Web of Discrimination Faced by Muslim Women

While Muslim women’s experiences of discrimination are mainly understood as based on religion, this tends to conceal the fact that they are also discriminated against just because they are women.
by Julie Pascoet, ENAR policy officer

19/3/2015- “We don’t want women with headscarves.” This short statement in February by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy illustrates the level of rejection that Muslim women can face in some European countries, as if a society could simply get rid of them, as if this headscarf could rob them of their humanity. I personally know women who were rejected from jobs or could not access vocational trainings because they are Muslim—with or without headscarves. On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination—March 21—it is high time that we address this open rejection of Muslim women and realize that these women are victims of racism.

According to recent reports by organizations like the Collective Against Islamophobia in France and Tell Mama in the UK, Islamophobia appears to be an extremely gender-biased form of discrimination: between 58 percent (UK) and 78 percent (France) of reported cases of discrimination concern women. This is likely due in part to the fact that many Muslim women are easily identified as Muslim. In a study carried out by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in 2009, 84 percent of the respondents who reported wearing traditional or religious clothing in public were women. Islamophobia is a form of racism resulting from the social construction of a group as a race, attributing to Muslims, and those perceived as such, unchangeable specificities and stereotypes. These critical levels of discrimination targeting Muslim women across Europe, coupled with the increase of parties promoting Islamophobic ideas, policies, and practices during the last European elections, demand concrete action.

The European Network Against Racism’s new project Forgotten Women: The Impact of Islamophobia on Muslim Women [PDF] aims to document this problem in Italy, France, Denmark, Germany, and the UK. Focusing on racist violence, speech, and employment practices, the project will make concrete recommendations to European and national decision makers to ensure Muslim women are better protected by law and specific measures are adopted at the national level to that effect. We will work in conjunction with feminist and Muslim women organizations to support them in their struggle for full equality and counter stereotypes which have significant impact on levels of discrimination.

While Muslim women’s experiences of discrimination are mainly understood as based on religion, this tends to conceal the fact that they are also discriminated against just because they are women. Certain religious practices are often treated as intrinsically contrary to gender equality. In some cases, in fact, the rhetoric and language of feminism has been co-opted by Islamophobes. Throughout Europe, we see political representatives and some feminist leaders focusing their interest and energy against Muslim religious practices, when little is done to fight the deep inequalities that still persist for all European women.

Muslim women are women as much as they are Muslim. Preliminary findings from our research in the five countries show that Muslim women suffer from the same inequalities all women experience—the gender pay gap, difficulty accessing employment, the glass ceiling, violence—but these are compounded by additional factors such as a migrant background or wearing a headscarf. For example, in a country like Italy where the female employment rate is 46.5 percent—20 points below male employment—discrimination of Muslim women in the labor market further hinders their chances of getting a job.

In the five countries covered by the project, it is virtually impossible to identify and separate the gender, ethnic, and religious motives for discrimination as they overlap in the case of Muslim women and more broadly due to the lack of data on ethnicity and religion (except for the UK). Nevertheless, the headscarf stands out as the main argument to openly discriminate against these women in areas such as education, employment, and healthcare. Public debates and surveys show that a majority of the population in these countries has a very negative view of the headscarf, generally considered a symbol of oppression. When it comes to physical assaults targeting Muslims, almost all victims are women. With this project, the European Network Against Racism and its partners hope to raise awareness about this overlooked phenomenon, debunk myths, and as a result improve the protection of Muslim women.









At a time when women have managed to become economically independent and gain positions of power in Europe, it’s extraordinary that we would still discriminate against some of them based on how they dress. The perceptions around Muslim women expose the overall level of emancipation of women in Europe. Action is needed, not only by EU member states but also by women’s rights organizations. Women should be empowered regardless of the way they dress. Whether or not we understand the choice of these women to dress differently, we need to highlight and nurture the commonalities of our struggle for equality. Diversity is key to achieve economic and social prosperity—Muslim women can contribute a lot in this direction and should not be prevented from doing so. Our society cannot afford to exclude women when its core values include gender equality and the fight against racism.










© Open Society Foundations - Voices.
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Headlines 20 March, 2015

Dying for Justice (report)

20/3/2015- On Monday 23 March, the Institute of Race Relations published Dying for Justice which gives the background on 509 people (an average of twenty-two per year) from BAME, refugee and migrant communities who have died between 1991-2014 in suspicious circumstances in which the police, prison authorities or immigration detention officers have been implicated.

It concludes that:
@ a large proportion of these deaths have involved undue force and many more a culpable lack of care;
@ despite critical narrative verdicts warning of dangerous procedures and the proliferation of guidelines, lessons are not being learnt; people die in similar ways year on year;
@ although inquest juries have delivered verdicts of unlawful killing in at least twelve cases, no one has been convicted for their part in these deaths over the two and a half decades of the research;
@ privatisation and sub-contracting of custodial, health and other services compounds concerns and makes it harder to call agencies to account;
@ Family and community campaigns have been crucial in bringing about any change in institutions and procedures.

Comments:
‘If the Macpherson report was intended as a way of restoring community faith in the British police, the issue of deaths in custody is the one which is constantly undermining it. As more deaths take place and no one is ever prosecuted, it inevitably sows seeds of incredulity, anger and despair.’ Harmit Athwal, co-editor of Dying for Justice

‘The processes and procedures for getting justice are all smoke-and-mirrors, particularly for those families, friends and communities devastated by custody death loss and then made to suffer no-answers grief with no one held accountable. ‘ Colin Prescod, IRR Chair

‘There needs to be a mechanism for state institutions and the private companies they employ to be held to account when people die. The lack of accountability over black deaths in custody is a global issue and one that will not go away until urgently addressed.’ Deborah Coles, Co-director INQUEST
1. Download a free copy here 2. Or buy a printed copy here
© Institute of Race Relations

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Ukraine: Dynamo Kiev facing UEFA probe over racism

20/3/2015- UEFA announced on Friday it has opened disciplinary proceedings against Dynamo Kiev amid claims of racial abuse during the Ukrainian side's meeting with Everton in the UEFA Europa League. Dynamo advanced to the quarterfinals of the Europa League via a 5-2 drubbing of Everton at Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex Thursday but its achievement has been soured by allegations of "racist behaviour". The Ukrainian powerhouse, who triumphed 6-4 on aggregate, will meet Fiorentina in the quarterfinals. UEFA's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body will deal with the case on March 26. Dynamo is also facing separate charges, with the club in hot water for setting off fireworks and insufficient organisation, pertaining to some blocked stairways - as detailed in a statement from UEFA. Meanwhile, Barcelona also has a case to answer after the European governing body opened proceedings for an "illicit banner" displayed during the UEFA Champions League second-leg fixture against Manchester City at Camp Nou Wednesday. The case will be heard on May 21.
© Goal

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Hungary: Far-right Jobbik is almost the most popular party

The approval rating of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party stagnated among eligible voters, whereas the far-right nationalist Jobbik party, which recorded its biggest popularity ever in February, increased its appeal further, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos between March 6 and 13, the pollster said on Tuesday.

17/3/2015- Fidesz had an approval rating of 21% among eligible voters in March and in February too, while Jobbik’s rating rose to 18% from 16%. The opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) stood at 11% a month ago and 12% in March. Ipsos also reported that the Democratic Coalition (DK), a formation of former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány, continues to linger at 4%, while green party LMP had 3%, Együtt (Together) and PM each had 1%. The ratio of those keeping their distance from any party dropped to 37% from 40%. The latest figures indi-cate that Fidesz has 1.7 million voters, whereas Jobbik is close on its tail with nearly 1.5 million supporters, followed by the MSZP with 1 million people backing it. The voter base is no bigger than 300,000 people for DK, about 250,000 for LMP and PM and Együtt have a largely 100,000-strong supporting group each. According to Ipsos data, this was the first time since general elections last April when the approval rating of Fidesz among voters with a firm party preference dropped to below 40% (the February reading), to 37% in March.

The extremist Jobbik party recorded its highest score yet in this category as well, boosting its approval rating to 28% from 25%, while the Socialists enjoy a 19% approval rating. DK had 7% after 6% in February and LMP’s support fell to 4% from 5%. Együtt and PM would get 1% of the votes in this group, which marks no change compared to February. Ipsos said the success of the far-right Jobbik party has to do with the fact that it still has behind it nine tenths of those who had voted for it in April 2014 and has managed to garner new supporters too. The survey shows that one tenth of those who cast their vote for Fidesz last April, i.e. about 200,000 people, have joined the radical right wing since then but Jobbik has also managed to gain the support of more than one tenth of those who had not cast their ballot at all, i.e. about 350,000 voters.

The national radical party found support mostly among those in their 20s and 30s, people with a low level of education and those without a job. Jobbik managed to raise strong interest and sympathy in these groups, Ipsos said, adding that the party was more popular than Fidesz in the U30 age group in February and it maintains its lead 21:17. It also noted that for those who mentioned Jobbik as their second-favourite party said they were dissatisfied with the general situation of the country, adding that because of this the party should expect an actual vote from them soon.


© Portfolio Hungary

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Spain’s immigration and anti-racism agencies left languishing

Funding for integration policies slashed despite experts warning of risk of Paris-like unrest

17/3/2015- Immigrants assaulted at the Ceuta and Melilla borders, young Spaniards recruited as jihadist combatants, or other Spaniards who think foreigners are stealing their kindergarten spots or welfare grants... Avoiding such problems and prejudices requires careful work by the government, but two Spanish public agencies devoted to analyzing them have been languishing for lack of funds and leadership. The Permanent Observatory on Immigration (OPI) was without a director for a year until October, while the Spanish Observa-tory on Racism and Xenophobia (Oberaxe) has been headless for the last three months. These monitoring bodies produce studies on immigration-related issues, gauging the success of the integration of migrants into society, the education system and the labor market, issuing policy guidelines and evaluating Spaniards’ attitude to foreigners.

Some analysts say the current center-right Popular Party (PP) administration is deliberately neglecting the bodies, and warn about the risks of not doing enough to bring migrants into the fold of Spanish society. “Everything that had been created is being dismantled,” says Miguel Pajares, a sociologist at Madrid’s Complutense University who drafted the OPI’s annual immigration and job market report until 2010. After he left the agency, there was one more report in 2011, and then there were no more after that. “It’s not just about the figures. What’s at stake here is having Spain evolve towards a disintegrated society that could produce street riots like the ones we saw in the suburbs of Paris,” he says, in reference to the 2005 uprisings in the poorest neighborhoods of the French capital.

But Esteban Ibarra, president of the advocacy group Movimiento contra la Intolerancia (Movement against Intolerance), says the previous Socialist administration is as much to blame as the current conservative one. “The Observatories never had the relevance they should have had, either under the PSOE or under the PP,” he notes. “We need to consi-der the roots of the problem, and neither one of these agencies is prepared for that.” A spokesman for the Labor Ministry, which both OPI and Oberaxe answer to, attributed the prolonged lack of leadership at both to the “usual” appointment procedure, and said that both agencies continue to produce a significant amount of research. But the monthly bul-letins on racism and xenophobia stopped coming out in 2011, and the quarterly reports on the evolution of foreigners with residency cards now get published every six months. The last one came out in June 2014.

“Immigration has fallen off the political agenda,” says José Antonio Moreno, of the CC OO labor union. “The PP is trying to make it invisible. The good thing is they are not trying to use immigrants as scapegoats, the bad thing is they are not encouraging coexistence policies, either,” he says. In early 2012, the newly elected PP government eliminated a state program that funded immigrant integration measures, including reinforcement classes at schools. This program had already been languishing for two years before that, going from a budget of €100 million in 2010 to €66 million the following year. “With these cuts, the message they are sending out is that integration is solely the immigrant’s obligation, rather than a process that affects those who come here but also the rest of society,” says Ana Corral, of labor union UGT. “It’s an ideological issue: on one hand, they keep the immigrants out of the health system, and on the other they arrest the Islamic State people. The integration effort goes beyond the Interior Ministry,” says Esperanza Esteve, a Socialist deputy. “They have ruined the big-picture vision of this matter.”
© El País in English

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Sweden: Anti-Semitism in Malmo Reaches New, Horrific Depths

The Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed its deep alarm and disgust over two new manifestations of anti-Semitism in Malmo.

16/3/2015- “In 2010, the Simon Wiesenthal Center slapped a travel advisory on Sweden’s third largest city, Malmo, for failing to act against serial harassment of the city’s Rabbi and other Jews and Jewish institutions. Virtually nothing has changed since then,” lamented Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the leading Jewish Human Rights organization. “If anything, things may be getting worse. Now the world is witness to new, insidious acts of Jew-hatred, including harassment of Jewish citizens by Muslim youth as they try to bury their loved ones in the Jewish cemetery; and today, in an act reminiscent of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda, a group of anti-Israeli demon-strators, wearing protective clothing and masks in order to avoid being infected by Zionist bacteria and “Isolera” viruses, entered some stores in the city to confiscate Israeli products, declaring them fruits of illegal occupation of Palestine and as such must be boycotted or destroyed. “Such outrageous actions are reminiscent of Nazi racist anti-Jewish propaganda and boycotts in the 1930s. We fear that such actions will only escalate unless and until decent Swedes of all political persuasions rise up and declare, enough is enough! These hateful provocations aren’t designed to help a single Palestinian, only to demonize and isolate Israel and Sweden’s Jews."
© The Simon Wiesenthal Center

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Latvian Nazi Compatriots March in Riga

Wiesenthal Center decries 'distortion of history' at march of Latvian veterans, noting many 'participated in the mass murder of Jews.'

16/3/2015- Latvian veterans who fought on Nazi Germany's side against the Soviets in World War II staged a controversial march in Riga on Monday to mark the anniver-sary of a 1944 battle. Around 1,500 people took part in the parade through Riga's Old Town amid massive police security, Latvia's deputy chief of police Artis Velss told AFP, with no arrests reported by midday. Self-styled anti-fascist groups were due to hold their own demonstration immediately after the main parade had concluded, according to an agreement with police. Veterans of the Latvian Legion have paraded in Riga every March 16 since Soviet rule ended in 1991. The date marks a failed 1944 battle to repel the Soviet Red Army, paving the way for nearly half a century of occupation.

Jewish groups, Russia, and Latvia's large ethnic-Russian community which accounts for a quarter of the country's two million citizens, see the parade as glorifying geno-cidal Nazism because the Legion, founded in 1943, was commanded by Germany's Waffen SS. Efraim Zuroff from Jerusalem's Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center told AFP the parade was "one big lie" and a "distortion of history" as he observed the event in central Riga. "Among the ranks of the Latvian Legion were quite a few people who participated in the mass murder of Jews. And these are the heroes of the new Latvia?" Zuroff said. Veterans claimed they were trying to defend their small home-land against Soviet occupation during their collaboration with the genocidal Nazi war machine. "They (Legion members) didn't want a return of Soviet occupation and felt they were doing the right thing," 81-year-old Janis Lusis told AFP, adding that his brother was a member of the group.

Some 140,000 Latvians, mostly conscripts, fought in the Legion. Roughly a third died in combat or Soviet captivity. Another 130,000 Latvians sided with the Soviets, and almost a quarter were killed, many in battles with Legion compatriots. Moscow seized Latvia under a 1939 deal with Berlin carving up eastern Europe, and later deported 15,000 Latvians to Siberia. Germany drove out the Red Army when it ripped up the pact and invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Some Latvians hailed the Nazis as liberators. But they brought terror, massacring 70,000 of the country's 85,000 Jews, aided by local collaborators. The Soviets recaptured Riga in October 1944 and held on to the country until the communist bloc crumbled in 1991.
© Arutz Sheva

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Poland: Police break up neo-Nazi gang

Police have disclosed that 13 people have been arrested in Poland in a bid to break up a neo-Nazi gang.

16/3/2015- Besides 'propagating totalitarianism,' the suspects also stand accused of inciting acts of destruction against property used by religious minorities. One man is allegedly connected with an attempt to burn down a mosque in Gdansk, northern Poland. Although actions against the gang began in May 1 2014, prosecutors and police have not divulged any information on the arrests until now. The most recent arrests took place in recent days. Besides leaflets promoting totalitarianism, police have seized fascist symbols, live ammunition and pneumatic weapons. It has been claimed that the suspects are connected with the 'Blood and Honour' (Krew i Honor) natio-nalist group and its militia Combat18. The group published a list of 'enemies' of the Polish race in 2006 on the Redwatch website, sparking widespread media coverage.
© The News - Poland

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Ukrainian Jewish leader stands his ground

Ukraine’s Jewish community is largely staying put, despite the violence and rumoured rise in anti-Semitism, Josef Zissels says.

15/3/2015- Born after the Holocaust, Ukrainian Jewish leader Josef Zissels might have thought himself lucky just to be alive. But instead of living quietly as a radio engineer in the then Soviet state, he became an outspoken dissident and human rights activist, was arrested twice for “defaming the Soviet political and social system" and served a total of six years in prison. Now head of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine, and vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, he is once again in the midst of geopolitical turbulence, as Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces continue their battle for eastern Ukraine. And once again, Zissels, 68, is digging in his heels. Far from fleeing Ukraine, he says, he feels most at home there.

He maintains that Ukraine’s 300,000-strong Jewish community — which some figures put much lower — is largely remaining within the country’s borders, in spite of the violence and rumoured rise in anti-Semitism after the “Euromaidan” revolt that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. “Fifty-eight hundred Jews left during the con-flict,” he said on a visit to Toronto last week. “But this is not a ‘Jewish question,’ it’s a war. Jews are suffering in the same way other Ukrainians are.” Although Rus-sian media frequently refer to Ukrainians as “fascists,” the far right represents only a small part of the political spectrum, Zissels says. In an open letter to President Vla-dimir Putin last year, he wrote that Euromaidan protesters “included nationalistic groups, but even the most marginal do not dare show anti-Semitism or other xeno-phobic behaviour.”

Many Jews who have immigrated to Israel over the years have returned, he says. “They found that Israeli life is not what they imagined it to be, and they came back.” Now, many have moved from eastern Ukraine to Kyiv and other western Ukrainian cities to escape the war, which has killed more than 6,000 people. The conflict in Ukraine goes much deeper than Russia’s desire to take revenge on its former possession for choosing to move closer to Europe and the West, Zissels maintains. “Russia is a country that in its history doesn’t have experience with democracy. It is an authoritarian empire. If it loses something its instinct is to grab it back — as though a leg has been cut off and it is left with a phantom pain.” Unlike those who blame only Putin for arousing aggressive nationalism over Ukraine, Zissels says “it’s not the leadership, it’s the whole nation.” Recent polls show an overwhelming majority of 80 per cent back Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Containing Russia, Zissels says, cannot be done simply by sending western weapons. “Putin will send more weapons, because he wants to keep the conflict hot.” But, he adds, “in the 21st century we should not allow the world to be thrown back to the early 20th century by force.” Could the West do more? “The West really isn’t pres-suring Putin,” he argues. “The sanctions aren’t working. For a (situation) like this, sanctions need to be global, and the world has proved incapable of this. In 1937, it wasn’t able to put those kinds of sanctions on Germany.” Meanwhile, says Zissels — a member of a committee to choose the head of Ukraine’s new anti-corruption bureau — Ukraine is fighting its own internal battle with corruption. He is not confident it will end any time soon.

“In Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and other former Soviet countries it’s part of the culture and mentality. You can’t pull yourself out of the mud by your hair. To change the situation you need a critical mass of people who are ready to change. “These are evolutionary processes, not revolutionary ones. The direction now is positive, but it’s very slow. The absence of law was the same in czarist and in communist times.”
© The Toronto Star

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Netherlands: Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb tops popularity poll

18/3/2015- Rotterdam’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb is the most popular Dutch politician, according to research involving 11,000 people for news agency ANP and quoted by the Tele-graaf. Aboutaleb scores 7.49 out of 10, beating Amsterdam’s mayor Eberhard van der Laan by 0.48 percentage point. Bottom of the popularity poll of 12 is Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam PVV, who scored less than 3. Aboutaleb, who became the first Muslim mayor in the Netherlands when he took over the helm in Rotterdam in 2009, is not only popular among his own party (Labour) and the VVD, the researchers found. Members of the PVV also respect Aboutaleb, who came to the Netherlands as the son of an imam at the age of 15, the Telegraaf says. André Krouwel of the Kieskompas research team said Aboutaleb ‘speaks everyone’s language’. Aboutaleb is left on social and economic issues but has a hard line on radicalisation, telling people who don’t like the Dutch way of life to leave, he pointed out. However, despite the large sample, Kieskompas warns that the poll may not be repre-sentative of the general population because well-educated people are better represented on the panel than the elderly and low-skilled.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: PVV senate campaign leader paid son to build party website

17/3/2015- The leader of the senate campaign for the anti-Islam PVV was under fire again on Tuesday after RTL news reported her son’s company made the party’s senate website. Earlier it emerged Marjolein Faber had employed her son’s company to run the Gelderland PVV website, which was paid for with public money. Faber has ad-mitted her son’s involvement in both projects but said she had not broken any rules. She also pledged to pay back the Gelderland cash, put at €8,500, out of her own pocket. The PVV hopeful said on Tuesday the senate rules allow a free choice in deciding who to give contracts to. Party leader Geert Wilders said Faber’s decision to use her son to build the senate website was ‘clumsy’. ‘I am assuming we have now had all of these sort of jokes,’ he said, adding that no rules had been broken. The situation is particularly noteworthy because Faber has made political integrity a major issue and campaigned for the dismissal of junior minister Co Verdaas over his expenses in 2012.
© The Dutch News

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Dutch prime minister: Greece could be shut out of Schengen over migration threat

16/3/2015- If Greece goes ahead and allows large numbers of migrants into the rest of Europe, serious consideration should be given to expelling Greece from the Schen-gen zone, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte told parliament on Monday. Earlier this month, Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos threatened to open the country’s borders to refugees unless Athens is given debt crisis support. The Greek government also wants to open the borders with Turkey and close its detention centres for mi-grants without proper paperwork. Rutte described the threat on Monday as ‘idiotic’ and unacceptable. If Athens presses ahead, Greece could be excluded from the Schengen open border area very quickly, the prime minister is quoted as saying by the Volkskrant. The Schengen agreement allows people from the 26 signatory countries free movement without border controls.
© The Dutch News

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Dutch PM Rutte closes in on anti-Islam Wilders in opinion poll

The liberal party of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte continued a recovery in opinion polls ahead of local elections, despite the resignation of two members of his cabinet.

15/3/2015- The Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) has over the past two weeks closed the gap with the right-wing Party for Freedom of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, pollster Maurice de Hond said on Sunday. The poll, based on representation in the 150-seat parliament, showed Rutte's VVD at 23 seats, trailing Wilders' PVV by one. The VVD has gained 6 seats, or 4 percent, during election campaigning, but is still down 18 seats, or 12 percent, from when it took power in 2012. Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten and his deputy, State Secretary Fred Teeven, Rutte's crime-fighting duo, resigned last Monday after acknowledging they had misled parliament about a legal settlement with a drug kingpin in 2001. That failed to dent Rutte's rise in the polls.

Five parties are competing to become the largest in the March 18 provincial election, which also indirectly determines the composition of the upper house of parliament. Rutte leads a coalition government with the Labor Party, but relies on several small parties in the Senate to pass laws. A defeat on Wednesday could weaken the coali-tion, which nearly toppled in December, just halfway into a four-year term. Wilders, whose tough line on immigration has made him one of the most popular Dutch poli-ticians, holds a slim lead on Rutte's VVD, but Wilders has consistently underperformed polls on election day and a third of voters are undecided, so that could change.
© Reuters

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EU Plans to Accelerate Migrant Deportation

19/3/2015- The European Union is looking to step up the deportation of migrants as part of a drive to counter the impression that asylum-seekers will enjoy a good life once they make it to Europe. An internal EU document on action to deal with the migrant influx, obtained by The Associated Press Wednesday, urges member countries to “take action to curb the level of expectation” of would-be asylum seekers. “The swift return of migrants could serve as an example to counter the vain promise that migrants will see an immediate improvement in their lives,” said the EU presidency text, obtained ahead of a two-day summit of EU leaders starting Thursday. More than 276,000 migrants entered the EU illegally last year, many fleeing poverty or conflict. Strife-torn Libya is the main jumping off point for people headed to Europe, and governments are increasingly concerned that extremists are also making the Mediterranean crossing hidden in refugee boats.
© The Associated Press

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Austria: In Vienna, a bid to foster 'Islam of the Austrian kind'

European countries are watching closely Austria's governance of Islam, a faith under the spotlight after recent terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. Austria's ban on foreign funding of preachers has raised concerns.

20/3/2015- A controversial legal reform on Islam in Austria could become a beacon of hope in Europe as it rushes to assimilate its growing Muslim population in an age of insecurity and Islamophobia. Austrian lawmakers say their aim is to create a democratic, self-sufficient Islam free of radical influence from abroad, thus defusing populist fears about the faith and its minority of extremist followers. To that end, the reform fortifies the legal rights of Muslims, while also banning foreign funding for mosques in an attempt to create what Austria’s foreign minister Sebastian Kurz has dubbed “Islam of the Austrian kind.” These are the same goals shared broadly across Europe, among Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

But Austria’s fast-track approach – coming after Islamist extremist attacks in France and Denmark and amid continued fear of returning European jihadists – is also trou-bling. While it gives Muslims new protections, such as mandating a right to Islamic pastoral care in hospitals and the military, it places limits on the faith in a way that Muslim leaders says is counterproductive at best, and deeply discriminatory at worst. At least two faith-based groups have vowed to challenge it in court. For its part, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party criticizes the law as not going far enough. And, in a recent Austrian newspaper poll, more than half of respondents said they feared the radicalization of Muslims here.

As many in Europe watch how Austria applies its law, they are asking whether the reform may ultimately do more harm than good compared to previous efforts to build bridges with Europe’s Muslim communities. One concern is that by mandating all Muslims to affiliate under a government-sanctioned roof, rather than stick to their own sects, it could prove divisive and hard to enforce, particularly if it fuels the rise of unregistered prayer rooms. Muslims in Austria, a predominantly Catholic nation, are wrestling with these thorny questions. “We should take a chance to create an open-minded society, it shouldn’t be a conflict to be Muslim and European, and to do this we need our own structures and to take away influences from [abroad],” says Efgani Dönmez, an opposition lawmaker who is a Muslim.

Still, Mr. Dönmez, a member of the Green Party in the upper house, voted against the bill because, as a Muslim, he says, the state should take a neutral stance toward religion. Speaking moments after it easily passed his chamber on March 12, he calls it “a good step forward” in principle – but one that spells “a lot of troubles” in practical terms. The lower house passed the bill in February.

Turkish migrants put down roots
Austria’s Muslim minority numbers half a million, or about 6 percent of the population. The new legislation updates a 1912 law that governed Bosnia’s Muslim population under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The empire collapsed in 1918 after defeat in World War I; the law was then incorporated into Austria’s legal code. For decades, it scarcely mattered what laws were on the books since so few Muslims lived here. That began to change in the 1960s with an influx of mostly Turkish migrants who brought their Muslim faith to Austria. It wasn’t until decades later that Austria, along with Germany and others in Europe, woke up to the fact that Muslim migrants were putting down roots. This prompted a debate over how to integrate Islam, a debate that has only gotten louder – and often shriller – in the wake of recent Islamist violence across the continent.

Austria’s legal reform was drafted before January’s attacks in Paris on the office of Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish grocery. Still, its rapid passage speaks to the insecurity felt by many Europeans in the face of an apparent surge in radical Islamist threats. And Austria isn’t alone in trying to stem radicalization among Muslims. France is doubling its training programs for foreign-born imams, who comprise 70 percent of Muslim clerics working in France. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has also urged tighter controls on funding from abroad. “This is a specific period of time when we have to be very careful, we have to know where the money comes from,” says Valentina Colombo, a professor of geopolitics of the Islamic world at the European University in Rome. “It is not a problem with Islam or a problem with Muslims, but a problem with some radical Islamist ideology.”

Who pays the preacher?
Austria’s government says its new law gives Muslims more rights. It also creates a new theological school for imams, which aims to impart European social values, such as gender equality. Perhaps its most controversial feature is a ban on foreign funding of the daily operation of mosques, including imam salaries, with a deadline of next March to comply. An early draft that mandated the use of a single Koran translated into German was dropped from the final bill after it raised hackles. On a piece of land on the last stop of the subway line in Vienna, a prayer room is under construction for the Alevi community, a minority Muslim sect. They hope to have it operating by the fall after six years of construction. Slabs of wood litter the ground floor. “We are building it by ourselves,” says Cengiz Duran, the federal secretary of the Islamic Alevi Faith Community in Austria.

Men sip black tea over games of cards and backgammon at their current prayer room inside a former office building next door. “We don’t want support from Saudi Ara-bia, Turkey, Qatar, or anywhere else,” he says. “Islam in the Western world should develop itself.” Other Muslims in Austria are less convinced. Carla Amina Baghajati, spokeswoman for the Islamic Religious Community in Austria, says the funding ban will have an immediate impact on Turkey, which directly funds nearly one in four imams here, or roughly 60 out of 250. “There is something like multiple identities. It is a misunderstanding to think that if someone feels emotional towards a country of origin this means they feel less loyal towards Austria,” she says. Ms. Baghajati argues that the new law is counterproductive because it conflates security and religion at a time when Muslims are already under a cloud of suspicion. She adds that other countries, such as Germany, are watching the law’s evolution.

A law for one faith
Then there’s the question of why Islam, and not other minority faiths in Austria, is the object of such legal scrutiny. Rüdiger Lohlker, an expert on modern Islam at the University of Vienna, says he fully supports the principles of the law, but that he can't embrace it because it treats Islam differently than other religions. “The principle of treating everyone equally is one of most important principles we have,” says Mr. Lohlker, who sits on the committee to develop a curriculum for Austria’s new theo-logy institute. Jan Jaap de Ruiter, an expert on European Islam at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, says Austria’s law should only protect those groups vulnerable to foreign influence that could seed radicalism.

He says governments in Europe are debating whether to intervene more forcefully in migrant communities to attempt to lessen the influence of such forces. But he recognizes that no law can wall off European Muslims from the ideologies of the Middle East, particularly in an era of social media and viral videos. “You cannot stop ideas. But from the other point of view, Muslims are now forced to consider their positions. This should be seen as a challenge to Austrian Muslims rather than threate-ning them,” Mr. Ruiter says. And this, he believes, will ultimately help Muslims be more accepted by Europe’s non-Muslim majority.

Ideologues in a vacuum
But Jonathan Laurence, author of “The Emancipation of Europe’s Muslims,” says an outright ban on funding, without a backup plan, could backfire. “If you look at where political extremism comes from, it’s not where you have well-trained imams in nicely appointed mosques. It is where you have a vacuum,” he says. Austria’s govern-ment hasn’t spelled out exactly how mosques that depend on overseas donors are to fill their funding gaps. However, under a loophole in the law, Muslim foundations can be set up to handle donations, potentially making it harder, not easier, to follow the money. Since the 1990s, governments across Europe have put great emphasis on setting up Islamic councils as official conduits to the community. But many of these bodies have proven ineffective on key issues.

In France, this initiative has been paralyzed by rivalries between Algerian and Moroccan Muslims, underscoring what Muslim leaders and academics say is the peril of a one-size-fits-all approach to a diverse faith with no central authority like Rome. Mr. Laurence says the debate over Islam in Europe today parallels a similar debate in 19th-century America over the role of the Roman Catholic Church and its foreign origins. And the lesson for Europe may be that fears of such influence are overblown and will eventually fade as immigrants’ children assimilate and bring their new language and culture to bear on their faith. “A transition to locally trained people in strong local institutions – it is exactly what needs to happen,” Mr. Laurence says, but he says “transition” is the key word. "There is no need to deny that the religion they practice has international roots and sources of inspiration."

Danish debate on freedoms
One country on the front line in Europe’s fight with Islamic extremism is Denmark. Last month a Muslim gunman shot dead a filmmaker at a cultural center in Copenha-gen that was holding a free-speech seminar. He killed a security guard outside a synagogue a few hours later. Anders Gadegaard, the dean of the Cathedral of Copen-hagen, says that integration of Islam can happen without such laws. A mosque built with money from Qatar created political controversy when it opened in the Danish capital last summer. But Mr. Gadegaard says it has since become a mainstream voice in society and that it stood with the larger Danish community to denounce terror-ism. The Protestant minister says he fully supports the flourishing of Islam in a European context. But he worries that laws that don’t grant equal rights are a slippery slope to discrimination. “What on earth should Danish Christian churches around the world do if [they are] not supported from Denmark?” he says. “You cannot have that right yourself and not give it to others, it is a very wrong road to take.”
© The Christian Science Monitor

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Austria: Racism report: Spike in anti-Muslim attacks

ZARA, a Vienna-based NGO which works to combat racism and promote civil courage, released its annual Racism Report today - highlighting a spike in racially motivated attacks on Jews, Muslims, Roma and asylum seekers.

20/3/2015- There was a slight increase in the number of reported racist attacks in 2014, 794 compared to 731 in 2013 - but what is more worrying according to ZARA is the significant increase in attacks which targeted certain groups of people, including Muslims and Jews. ZARA’s managing director Claudia Schäfer said the NGO had dealt with 61 cases which were anti-Muslim - almost double the amount of cases reported to them in 2013, and that the number of attacks had increased since August. She told The Local that in her opinion, Austrian media coverage of the atrocities committed by Islamic State (Isis) terrorists, as well as insensitive remarks from some politicians, was the trigger for many of these attacks, which ranged from insulting remarks and physical assaults on the street, to death threats on the internet.

"A lot of political capital has been made by talking about the danger of immigrants who fail to integrate. But sadly this is contributing to increasing prejudices against certain groups and a general suspicion of Muslims,” she said. She criticised media coverage by tabloid papers like the Kronen Zeitung, which she said had launched campaigns against asylum seekers and portrayed Roma people as “beggar gangs”. Schäfer added that the government needed to direct its ‘de-radicalization’ measures not just towards young people with an immigration background, which risked stigmatizing them and perhaps driving them into the arms of radical elements, but also towards right-wing groups, many of whom were responsible for racist attacks.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Jewish man attacked in St. Pölten supermarket

A Jewish man who was wearing a Star of David necklace was attacked in a shopping centre in St. Pölten, Lower Austria, the Kurier newspaper reports.

18/3/2015- The incident happened on Tuesday at a supermarket in St. Polten, when the Jewish man was taunted by a group of young men. He said that he ignored their anti-Semitic insults, but was then attacked by one of the men. "He insulted me and then started kicking me,” the 52-year-old told the Kurier. Police intervened and arres-ted the 21-year-old attacker. According to the report, the victim required medical treatment after the beating. During questioning, the alleged perpetrator admitted to kicking and hitting the man but denied that the attack was motivated by anti-Semitism, and said that he had also been injured and had been forced to defend himself. “I didn’t raise a hand against him,” he told police. The alleged victim told the Heute newspaper that St. Polten is “one of the worst areas in terms of anti-Semitism in Lower Austria,” and said that he was considering moving elsewhere. Last year, the number of anti-Semitic attacks recorded in Austria almost doubled, from 137 the pre-vious year to 255. “This is a development that worries us," Raymond Fastenbauer, Secretary General for Jewish Affairs, told the Kurier.
© The Local - Austria

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Canada: Survey reveals racist leanings

Four in ten Canadians believe “too many” immigrants who come to Canada aren’t white, according to a new poll. Ekos research asked more than 2,000 Canadians: Of the immi-grants who come to Canada, are too few, too many or the right amount visible minorities? Fourty-one percent said “too many.” Here’s what three GTA Canadians, who are immigrants and visible minorities, have to say about that.

15/3/2015- Nav Bhatia often says that if there’s a heaven on earth it’s Canada, the inclusive country he loves. But the poll results make him wonder: What will happen if some of those 41 per cent one day go to heaven? “They might find there are visible minorities and immigrants there. Will they have a problem with that also?” he asked. Bhatia is best known as the “Raptor’s Superfan,” and the team’s official South Asian community ambassador. He’s often seen mugging for photos with Raptors players and Drake. He also runs a successful Hyundai dealership in Mississauga, is actively involved in charity, and gave a talk at the most recent TEDx Toronto about changing racist perceptions. Bhatia wants to change the views of that 41 per cent by asking them to take a look at him. “I’m as visible as any immigrant can be, and I’m employing 159 Canadians and some of them are immi-grants and some of them are visible minorities,” he said. “Many of these immigrant Canadians, these visible minorities, are achieving, they’re taking this country to the next level.”

“My first reaction was, ‘that can’t be right. It must be a mistake,’” Kristyn Wong-Tam, a Toronto city councillor, said about the survey results. For her, it’s hard to believe because her parents chose to immigrate from Hong Kong in the 1970s. One of the big reasons they came, bringing Wong-Tam along as a young child, was for the promise if living in a multi-cultural, pluralistic country. “But when I reflect on tone of the discussions coming out of Ottawa right now, it may not be too surprising,” she said about the results. How politicians speak about immigration and multiculturalism influences the way everyone else sees it, she said. It may be harder for Torontonians to understand the poll result than it is for people in other parts of the country, she said. “I believe the immigration patterns add to the beautiful cacophony of what I know is as Toronto,” she said. “I think that we were welcom-ed to this county. I would hate to think that the attitudes of Canadians are going to change simply because my skin colour is not white and my mother speaks with an accent.”

For York University professor Guida Man, the discourse from on Ottawa on subjects like wearing a niqab in citizenship ceremonies contributes to a racist view of immigration. "One of the reasons it’s such a high number is the rhetoric of our government, of the Conservative government, particularly Stephen Harper,” she said. Ekos pollster Frank Graves found a correlation between Conservative support and the view that too many immigrants are visible minorities. But, Man says, more than just a poll must be done to understand these views. “There is certainly racism in society, but how do we combat it?” she asked. More research should be done with open-ended questions that can’t be tackled in a poll, she said.

At a glance
The Ekos research poll was conducted in early March. Results were released Thursday
.
# Overall, 41 per cent said “too many” immigrants are visible minorities
# That broke down to 51 per cent of Conservative supporters, 35 per cent of NDP supporters and 32 per cent of Liberal supporters.
# The view is more common among older and less-educated people.
# 64 per cent of people said the niqab is offensive and women should not be allowed to wear it during citizenship ceremonies
© Metro News Canada

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Facebook cracks down on hate speech in new community guidelines

Facebook has announced a new set of community guidelines, that reaffirms the ban on homophobic and transphobic hate speech on the social network.

16/3/2015- The changes were announced this week, as the company unveiled new rules to clarify what is and isn’t welcome on the website. Users can now flag hate speech directly through the website’s reporting panel – which previously only had options for “harassment”. The website has come under fire in the past for uneven enforcement of regulations, on occasion removing images of same-sex couples while allowing listed hate groups to promote themselves on Facebook. The new guidelines state: “Facebook removes hate speech, which includes content that directly attacks people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affili-ation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, or gender identity, or serious disabilities or diseases. “Organizations and people dedicated to promoting hatred against these protected groups are not allowed a presence on Facebook. As with all of our standards, we rely on our community to report this content to us.”

Addressing pages such as PinkNews, which regularly draws attention to listed hate groups, it clarified: “People can use Facebook to challenge ideas, institutions, and practices. Such discussion can promote debate and greater understanding. “Sometimes people share content containing someone else’s hate speech for the purpose of raising awareness or educating others about that hate speech. “When this is the case, we expect people to clearly indicate their purpose, which helps us better under-stand why they shared that content.” Monika Bickert, the company’s Head of Global Policy Management, said: “It’s a challenge to maintain one set of standards that meets the needs of a diverse global community.

“For one thing, people from different backgrounds may have different ideas about what’s appropriate to share — a video posted as a joke by one person might be upsetting to someone else, but it may not violate our standards. “This is particularly challenging for issues such as hate speech. “Hate speech has always been banned on Facebook, and in our new Community Standards, we explain our efforts to keep our community free from this kind of abusive language. “We understand that many countries have concerns about hate speech in their communities, so we regularly talk to governments, community members, academics and other experts from around the globe to ensure that we are in the best position possible to recognize and remove such speech from our community. “We know that our policies won’t perfectly address every piece of content, especially where we have limited context, but we evaluate reported content seriously and do our best to get it right.”

However, parts of the new regualtions have attracted criticism from trans activists and the drag community, for reinforcing the use of ‘real names’ on the website. The guidelines state: “People connect on Facebook using their authentic identities. When people stand behind their opinions and actions with their authentic name and reputation, our community is more accountable. “If we discover that you have multiple personal profiles, we may ask you to close the additional profiles. We also re-move any profiles that impersonate other people.”
© Pink News

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Low turnout for Slovak extremist rally

Far-right group marks founding of Slovak wartime state 

14/3/2015-  The gathering of the extremist Slovak Community (Slovenská pospolitos) marking the 76th anniversary of the establishment of the wartime Slovak state, which had been subordinate to Nazi Germany, did not attract very much attention in the center of the capital city today. At the same time, left-wing radicals organi-zed a meeting in protest against neo-Nazis and some of them tried to violate the event marking the founding of the Slovak state. The police arrested one of the leftist activists, Robert Mihály. Former Bratislava mayor Milan Ftáènik was among the participants in the anti-Nazi meeting. Michal Buchta, one of the heads of the Slovak Community, said in his speech addressing a crowd of some one hundred people that "only enemies of the Slovak nation and traitors" can discredit such a significant day as March 14.

Buchta said the wartime state developed economically and he praised then Slovak president Jozef Tiso, arguing that none of the presidents whom Slovakia had after the murder of Tiso "defended the interests of the Slovak people." After World War II a death penalty was imposed on Tiso and he was executed. Slovak Community leader Jakub Škrabák criticized capitalism and warned against an economic occupation of Slovakia. "Our real enemy are not politicians, not even the European Union or the gypsy question or corruption. Our biggest enemy is the capitalist system that has enslaved us through the strongest means for the control of masses, the loan sla-very," Skrabak said. The far-right supporters marched through the city to lay wreaths at Tiso's grave. Most Slovak historians consider the wartime state (1939–45) a dark chapter of Slovak history, during which Jews were persecuted and sent to concentration camps.
© The Prague Post

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Danes of many faiths form human ring around Copenhagen synagogue

Show of unity inspired by similar events elsewhere in Scandinavia in wake of February shootings in Danish capital

14/3/2015- Hundreds of Muslims, Jews and Christians formed a human ring outside the synagogue in Copenhagen where a Jewish security guard was fatally shot last month. Organiser Niddal el-Jabr said on Saturday that the idea behind the show of unity was to send a powerful statement that “Jews should be able to have their religion in peace”. Saturday’s gat-hering was inspired by similar symbolic events in Scandinavia in recent weeks. On 27 February, Copenhagen’s mayor joined a “ring of peace” on the nearby city hall square. Police then had banned any events outside the synagogue, citing security concerns. On 15 February, Omar el-Hussein killed Dan Uzan, the synagogue guard, hours after he fatally shot the Danish filmmaker Finn Nørgaard at a free speech event at another location in the city.
© The Associated Press

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FIFA Questions 2018 Russian World Cup Due To Racism

Racism surrounding football in Russia poses a "huge challenge" to the 2018 World Cup, according to FIFA's Vice President Jeffrey Webb.

14/3/2015- In an interview with ESPN on Thursday, Webb - who is also in charge of FIFA's Anti-Racism and Discrimination Task Force - said that, "We can't have a World Cup there under the current conditions." "Russia poses a huge challenge for FIFA and the World Cup from a racism standpoint," Webb added. There have been multiple racism-related contro-versies during Russian soccer games over recent years that have drawn international attention and have raised the question of whether Russia will still be allowed to hold the tour-nament in 2018. Last year, fans of the Moscow CSKA team chanted racist slurs during a match against Manchester City. A year earlier, fans of Torpedo Moscow threw bananas at player Chris-topher Samba, who is from Congo, during a game against another rival Moscow team. FIFA has addressed the problem of racism in stadiums by forming a committee tasked with educational measures and led by Webb.

"From our task force standpoint, we now have a dedicated staff who works with us on racism, and they're working very closely with Russia to implement and execute education programs," said Webb. "It's a huge opportunity to influence some change and we better influence some change over the next three years," said Webb. Incidents of racism in Russian football games became such an issue that an indepen-dent Russian anti-discrimination organization released a report last month investigating the problem. The report, titled "Time For Action" found more than 200 incidents of discrimina-tory behavior related to Russian fans since 2012. According to the report, racist attacks have been occurring in Russian football for years, largely due to the "high levels of ethnic xenophobia in Russian society in general which have been developing intensively since the early 2000s." The extremist attacks often come from neo-Nazi and other far-right fans targeting minority players who are either black or come from the Caucasus regions.

FIFA's president Sepp Blatter told the Associated Press he was "concerned" with the report's findings. This is not the first time that FIFA has had to address racism ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Last October, following the incident in which Moscow fans yelled racist slurs at Manchester City and Ivory Coast player, Yaya Touré, Blatter pointed towards the education taskforce chaired by Webb to help resolve the issue. "We are dealing now with actual problems," said Blatter last year, according to the Guardian. "We are not dea-ling with the problems that may happen somewhere in the world. It is the question of racism today and I'm dealing with that today. And we will go back to the [FIFA] executive committee with what the situation is actually and what came with the last incidents we have had [in Russia]." Although FIFA has agreed to monitor and potentially sanction teams whose fans engage in racist acts during games, it is unlikely that Russia's ability to host the World Cup will be revoked due to discrimination.

"I have never said they have to take the competition out [of the country] because you cannot take a whole competition out," Blatter added. "I have to insist that racism and discri-mination is in our society," he added. "It's our society that brought it in football and now we have to fight against that in our football. But we can only fight it in our football. We cannot go to any society where something happened and to ask them to stop. This is not the duty or the responsibility or even the right of FIFA to do so."
© Vice News

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Are you a human trafficker?

An understanding of what human trafficking means will help you decipher if you are party to the exploitation. These questions that will help you become aware of your role in trafficking chain.

15/3/2015- Human trafficking is tantamount to slavery, and laws in the GCC – especially the Kafala system – facilitate it to a degree, Employers – both individuals and organizations – need to be aware that many common unethical practices constitute trafficking and forced labor. Few realize that the conditions they impose on their employees, physically harmless as they may be, amount to grave rights violations. For the many citizens who employ domestic help and organizations that employ a large number of low-income migrant workers, the quiz may be useful in identifying and mitigating one’s role in human trafficking. The common denominator in all trafficking scenarios is the use of force, fraud or coercion to exploit a person for commercial sex or for the purpose of subjecting a victim to involuntary servitude, debt bondage, or forced labor. The use of force or coercion can be direct and violent, or psychological. Though we tend to perceive trafficking as related to sex work, and as something that happens only in the most marginalized of communities, much of trafficking today very visibly operates for the purposes of forced labour.

According to the UN Protocol on trafficking:
"[T]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat, use of force or other means of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the receiving or giving of payment… to a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” 

Trafficking can occur at any point in the recruitment or migration cycle. Some employers are unaware that they are hiring a trafficked worker, but this article focuses primarily on the environment under the employer’s control.  Recruitment by deception – can include deception regarding the nature or conditions of work, and be intentionally or unintentio-nally exacted by recruitment agents, family, friends, or employers. Deceptive recruitment also includes the recruitment of individuals for non-existent jobs. For example, domestic workers are often unaware that their responsibilities may include nannying in addition to looking after the house, and are overwhelmed by employers’ unrealistic expectations. The toll taken on workers can be extreme – in December 2013, a domestic worker in Kuwait committed suicide after her sponsor berated her for neglecting her children.

Work and life under duress – can include forced overtime, limited freedom of movement, degrading living and working conditions, denunciation to authorities, physical, psychological threats or violence, confinement, constant surveillance, lack of rest periods, isolation, and restrictions on communication. For example, domestic workers are frequently confined to their employer’s residents, do not enjoy rest days, and work over 10 hours a day. Labourers often endure hazardous living conditions, with several men sharing a single room that lacks basic amenities; In Bahrain, numerous labor camp fires have taken the lives of migrant workers. Unsafe working conditions, particularly with building scaffolding, are also prevalent throughout the region. HRW’s report on the UAE’s ‘Saadiyat’ islands documents the pervasiveness of unsafe or otherwise difficult working conditions even amongst major, conspicuous projects.

Inability to leave employer (due to threat or penalty) – includes consequences and facets of the sponsorship system, such as the inability to change employers, sponsor’s ability to refuse the release of workers or charge high release fees, as well as sponsor’s ability to withhold wages and personal travel documents to prevent workers from running away. Exorbitant and illegal recruitment fees can also prevent indebted migrants from leaving unfavorable employment situations. Individual sponsors and numerous leading firms continue to confiscate employees’ documents to “protect” their investment from leaving the country or escaping to another employer. In a recent case disclosed to Migrant-Rights.org, a sponsor forced her domestic worker to pay 600 dirhams to release her to another employer, and thereafter prevented the worker from obtaining other employment. The worker escaped to her placement agency, but was told to return because her employ was rich, and because her embassy would not intervene on her behalf. The worker remains in limbo in a Dubai-based recruitment agency, with no security for remuneration or for future employment.

GCC and human trafficking
Many GCC states are reluctant to address the severe trafficking of persons across their boarders, even despite establishing several organizations to combat it. They are reluctant to recognize forms of trafficking outside of forced sex work, and even then underreport their occurrences. The GCC countries lashed out against 2013 ILO report on trafficking in the region, claiming that the accounts were anecdotal rather than a prevalent issue. But the Kafala system lends itself to trafficking and forced labour. The sponsorship system gives employers disproportionate power, leeway into the livelihood of domestic workers. The system itself is one factor in forced labour. But it’s precisely for this reason that legisla-tion doesn’t need to change before behavior changes. You can encourage positive change by minding your own practices and those of your community.

Test your human trafficking culpability
1. Were your employees fully informed of all their obligations prior to joining your household?

Do you:
1. Pay your workers for over time?
2. Permit domestic workers to leave the house on days off?
3. Allow workers breaks during the day?

2. Are you providing your employees with decent accommodation and a safe work environment?
Do you:

1. Permit workers to have private access to the phone and internet?
2. Allow workers to lock their door?
3. Have knowledge that a portion of your domestic workers’ salary is going to the recruitment agent you used?

3. Are you forcing your employee to continue working against his or her will?
Do you:
1. Retain your employees’ passports?
2. Charge workers to transfer their sponsorship?
3. Prevent workers from taking trips home?
4. Fail to renew workers visas on time ?
© Migrant Rights

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Malta: A migrant by any other name (opinion)

by Mark Anthony Falzon 

15/3/2015- Last Friday, The Guardian carried a short piece about the language of migration. The drift was that African, Arab, and Indian people who live outside their countries of origin are called ‘migrants’, while Europeans who do the same are called ‘expats’. The writer, himself an African, clearly found the lexical sleight upsetting enough to summon his readers to action: “If you see those ‘expats’ in Africa, call them immigrants like everyone else. If that hurts their white superiority, they can jump in the air and stay there.” The idea is that there are very many different types of migrants and migrations, and that each type carries with it a baggage. That baggage often includes some notion of prestige and desirability, or their opposites. Thus the language.

It is not true that the differences in the kind of language we use to describe migrants can be boiled down to skin colour. It is true that there are specific circumstances in which skin colour matters above all else. Take Malta. For the past 15 years or so, sub-Saharan African migrants have made up by far the biggest chunk of boat people. They are the type associated with destitution, detention centres and such. We would never call them ‘expats’. On a really good day we might honour them with ‘immigranti’ (immigrants). Most of the time they have to make do with ‘klandestini’ (illegals). They also happen to be black.

A friend of mine once told me that she was seeing a black African man. She quickly added that she hadn’t “picked him up off the street” (“ma sibtux barra, ta”). What she meant was that he wasn’t a boat person; rather, they had met at a medical conference at which he was a delegate from an east African country. The reason she felt the need to specify was that, in Malta today, black skin colour does indeed stand for a type of migrant which she wasn’t happy to be associated with. The rest are another matter altogether. ‘Expats’ is largely reserved for British people who retire in Malta and spend their time soaking up the sun or putting balls in holes at the Marsa. People from European countries who live and work here are rarely called immigranti. Most of the time they are simply referred to by their country of origin (‘Russa’, not ‘immigranta Russa’).

Indeed ‘migration’ and its derivatives tend to be limited to formal settings – a report by an NGO, for example, or an academic conference or a newspaper article. Funnily enough, the exceptions to the rule are the Maltese people who moved to Australia and elsewhere in the 20th century. They are commonly referred to as ‘emigranti’ and they are hardly thought to be black. They also provide us with a couple of clues. The first has to do with skin colour. It is not as if people come in either black or white. There are very many different blacks, browns, whites and so on. Besides, not a single one of them is a fixed category. Maltese migrants to Australia may appear white to us but swarthy Mediterranean types (sometimes known as ‘dagos’) to others. Clearly, then, black-white differences alone can hardly be very reliable markers of migrant types.

Second, the language used to describe specific migrant groups can and often does change. ‘Emigranti Maltin’ is itself on the way out, and in the process of being replaced with things like ‘Maltin tal-Awstralja’ or ‘Maltese diaspora’. Only the people involved are as white, black, swarthy or whatever, as they always were. Once again, skin colour turns out to be not all that telling. Take India. The word ‘diaspora’ has been in use for decades now to describe Indians who live outside of India. Within this diaspora, different groups are called different things. The wealthier types are often called ‘NRIs’ (Non-Resident Indians). They are admired as a success story and one which holds much investment promise back in India. Indians who live in the Gulf States and who hold low-paid jobs, on the other hand, are simply known as ‘Gulf workers’. Both NRIs and Gulf workers are Indian. And, if we must, both are non-white.

We can conclude two things. First, that it is true that language often pigeonholes different types of migrants (‘expats’, ‘migrants’ in The Guardian piece). Only that’s as things should be, simply because there are, in fact, different types of migrants. To call the people living in the detention centres ‘expats’ would be silly. It would also banalise the very real and hard-hitting inequalities that exist between these two groups. Second, skin colour (‘race’, according to some renditions) is just one of the many things that can matter. It often does, but that’s not the point. Rather, the language of migration tells us that things like the circumstances of mobility, the economic conditions that migrants live in, class and so on, are equally important. The old story about the Indian maharajah who went to London and had his shoes shined by an Englishman comes to mind.
© The Times of Malta

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What Islamophobia is and is not (opinion)

By Mustafa Akyol

18/3/2015- The term “Islamophobia” entered the global political language in the past decade. The New American Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a hatred or fear of Islam or Mus-lims, especially when feared as a political force.” Yet in fact there are ample reasons to think Islamophobia is now a “political force” in itself, represented by far-right groups in the West, such as “The Freedom Party” in Holland or the Pegida Movement in Germany. Alas, this political force has even had terrorist outcomes; Andrew Breivik, a Norwegian who killed 77 people in a 2011 massacre, and Craig Stephen Hicks, an American who murdered three of his Muslim neighbors in February 2014, were apparently driven by Islamo-phobia.

But what really makes somebody an Islamophobe? Worrying about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Taliban and other extremist groups who kill or oppress people in the name of Islam? No, such worries are justified and they are shared by many Muslims as well. The existence of these groups, along with the oppres-sive “Islamic” states on Earth such as Saudi Arabia, indicates certain interpretations of Islam are really troubling. Islamophobia is to perceive these troubling interpretations as the only way Islam can be understood, and thus to perceive all Muslims as potential threats.

In fact, most Islamophobes would tell you that they are not “against all Muslims,” and that they have no problem with “moderate” ones. But their definition of a “moderate Mus-lim” often comes close to a self-hating Muslim; you have to denounce your own religion, and applaud those who do so, to gain their blessing. Or maybe they don’t go too far, but still take every sign of committed Muslim-ness as a sign of your “radicalness.” Are you a bit too conservative and observant? Are your political views too critical of Western foreign policy? Are you pro-Palestinian? These can easily mark you as a “radical.” The more you explain yourself, the more you become a “closet radical” or even a “Trojan horse.”

One such name-calling was a recent article in the British Daily Telegraph targeting one of the prominent names of the British Muslim community, Mudassar Ahmed, who has done much “to strengthen transatlantic security cooperation and Muslim-Jewish ties,” in the words of British Member of Parliament Yasmin Qureshi. But the writer of the article, Andrew Gilligan, was not impressed with all the reasonable and helpful work Ahmed has done, and rather dug up something in his past: Ahmed’s brief involvement during his youth in the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), which is banned from many universities as a hate group. Gilligan, however, failed to mention Ahmed publicly condemned the MPAC, and is now millions of miles away from this agitated group.

What really impressed me in Mr. Gilligan’s article (titled “Islamic ‘radicals’ at the heart of Whitehall,” Feb. 22) was a term he used, “entryism,” which happens when “a political party or institution is infiltrated by groups with a radically different agenda.” Accordingly, many British Muslims have been guilty of “entryism” for joining British institutions with “a radically different agenda” that Her Majesty’s government has not seen, but extremely sharp people, who are brave enough to be “politically incorrect,” have. As such, “entry-ism” reminded of another –ism: McCarthiysm. That was hype during the Cold War, when communism was indeed a legitimate source of concern for the West. But there were also fear-mongers such as Senator Joseph McCarthy, who made a name and career by pumping paranoia. The West should be wise enough today to not fall into the same trap for the second time.
© The Hurriyet Daily News

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UK, France, Germany & France News Week 12

UK: Far right group plans march against mosque plan in Dudley

20/3/2015- Dudley faces another possible flashpoint after a second far-right group announced plans to march against a new mosque in the town. Britain First said on its Facebook page that it would hold a “disciplined but spectacular” rally on Saturday, May 9. The proposed march follows another by the English Defence League last month, which prompted a counter-demo by Unite Against Fascism. Britain First claimed on Facebook that it would “direct our skilled activist base to the task of holding a disciplined but spectacular public march”. The group said: “Britain First will be holding a public protest march in Dudley, on the outskirts of Birmingham, where the treacherous councillors and local Muslim groups have forced through an application for a new mega mosque. “The locals are furious at this new mosque and thanks to our contacts in the town many of them have pledged to attend and support our protest march.”

Unite Against Fascism, which has accused Britain First of “threats, intimidation and Islamophobia”, said it would hold a counter-protest. Coun Pete Lowe, leader of Dudley Council, said: “We are aware that Britain First has posted a proposed visit to Dudley on Facebook. “We will continue to monitor this with police colleagues over the coming weeks and months and respond appropriately if a protest is held.” Dudley Central Mosque held an open day earlier this month in a bid to dispel myths about planning permission it has gained to build on a new site. Chairman Mohammed Aurangzeb said: “We are surprised to hear about this march. “However, people have a right to peaceful and lawful protest and we believe that the authorities will do their best to ensure the safety and security of local people and that our businesses do not suffer further. “Groups who spread fear, hatred and division in our communities are not wanted.”

Rival groups were kept apart by police during the EDL protest last month, with 30 arrests for public order offences falling short of the extensive violence that had been feared. A West Midlands Police spokeswoman said: “We are aware of talk of a possible event planned in Dudley and officers will continue to make enquiries and will contact the organisers in due course to understand more about the proposed meeting.”
© The Birmingham Mail.

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UK: Anti-racism march against Pegida in Edinburgh

Hundreds of anti-racism campaigners are to take to the streets of the capital in a show of defiance against far-right anti-Muslim group Pegida.

19/3/2015- The organisation - which protests against what it believes to be the “Islamisation” of Europe - is to host its first Scottish rally outside the Scottish Parlia-ment in Edinburgh this Saturday. Pegida originated in Germany and its name is an acronym for “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”. It held a rally in Dresden last month attended by 25,000 people and is now trying to raise support in the UK thorugh an affiliation with the Scottish Defence League. Their first UK rally in Newcastle last month saw a few hundred Pegida supporters outnumbered and faced down by a counter demo with over 2000 supporters. United Against Fascism (UAF) have announced plans to host their own counter demonstration in a bid to show that “right wing racism has no place in Scotland.” Police Scotland will draft in extra officers on the day to ensure there is no conflict between the two opposition groups.

An online advert for the Pegida event asks “all patriot groups” to attend and meet at Waverley Sation for 2.30pm before proceeding to the parliament building at Holyrood. The UAF is also to host an anti-fascism and racism rally through in Glasgow on the same day - UN Anti-Racism Day, March 21. United Against Fascism (UAF) Scotland member Willie Black said: “This is a cycnical attempt on their part to split the number of anti-fascist demonstrators able to attend. “The far right in Scotland namely the Scottish Defence League (SDL) are in disarray at the moment and they see in Pegida a chance to cover themselves with a veneer of respectability. “This German group has attracted alot of support in their home country and have achieved a political platform as a result and that is the motivation behind them now being welcomed by the far right to the UK and Scotland.”

Edinburgh Police Scotland commander chief superintendent Mark Williams said: “There are numerous demonstrations in Edinburgh each year and we have a wealth of experience in dealing with them.” “A key role of the service is to facilitate lawful protest and, alongside our partner organisations, we take appropriate steps to safe-guard the public during all of our detailed planning. “Let me be clear however - where there is unlawful protest or disorder that threatens public safety we will always act swiftly and professionally to prevent it and to target those responsible.” A UAF spokesman said: “The need for an opposition to Scottish Pegida is not a matter of freedom of speech; it is an opposition to the promotion of racist lies and hate. They encourage the hatred of people on the grounds of their race and religion and con-stitute an attempt to foster right wing racism that should have no place in a Scotland that celebrates its diversity and toleration.”
© The Edinburgh Evening News

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UK: Londoners make the least tolerant parents in the country

Those in the North and Scotland are the most accepting of LGBT children

19/3/2015- Londoners significantly less likely to be accepting if their child came out as gay or transgender compared with the rest of the UK, a new study has revealed. A senior member of a charity which supports parents with LGBT children said she is surprised by the findings. A YouGov poll of 1,683 UK adults conducted for PinkNews  showed that residents of the capital are over five times more likely to reject support for a gay child. This figure rose to a fifth when respondents were asked about the prospect of their child being transgender. Unveiling a split in attitudes towards LGBT community across the UK, the poll showed that while those living in the North and Scotland were half as likely as Londoners to reject a child who identified as transgender, only one per cent of northerners would refuse to support a lesbian or gay child, with that figure rising to two per cent for Scots.

Highlighting how people are more tolerant of gay and lesbian people, 88 per cent of people in the UK said they would support a gay child, but only 67 per cent would feel the same about a transgender child. And while only 22 Labour MPs voted against gay marriage in 2013, compared with 136 Tories, the poll found that 7 per cent of Labour voters said they would not support a gay child – compared to 6 per cent from UKIP, 3 per cent of Tory voters, and 1 per cent of Lib Dem voters. Sue Allen, the chair of trustees for Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (Fflag) told The Independent that parents from London who have contacted her are generally "very supportive" of their children.

As young people are increasingly coming out a young age, parents often call Flagg because they want to understand how to support their children, whereas in the past Mrs Allen received calls from people saying they were devastated by their child's sexuality. Mrs Allen added that attitudes have changed, but she understands why parents would be concerned by having a gay or transgender child as hate crime is "rife". "Nobody knows how they’ll react when they’re told. Nobody knows until it's in front of you, those who said it won't bother them, I don’t believe that because to some degree everybody is affected. As a parent, you think of you child's welfare. Homophobia is rife, and you wonder how their life is going to pan out. "Young gay people need to feel validated by their parents. I always say that if your son or daughter says that today he or she feels gay, you have to believe them. What he’s telling you, to him it's real and true and you have to say 'that’s fine I believe you'."

The poll comes hard on the heels of a report released late last year by LGBT rights charity Stonewall, which showed that almost two-thirds of LGBT people in schools have experienced homophobic bullying. These incidents would be regarded as hate crimes had they occured off the playground. The safety of LGBT adults was also put into question last year, when police data revealed that hate crimes motivated by homophobia and transphobia have significantly increased in London over the past year.
© The Independent

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British traditionalist bishop is excommunicated for illicit ordination

A traditionalist bishop who has denied the Holocaust has been automatically excommunicated along with the priest he illicitly ordained a bishop.

19/3/2015- British Bishop Richard Williamson violated church law when he ordained Father Jean-Michel Faure, 73, a bishop without papal approval during a ceremony in Nova Friburgo, Brazil, March 19, the feast of St. Joseph. While the Vatican did not comment immediately, canon law provides automatic excommunication for the newly ordained bishop and for the bishop ordaining him in cases where the ordination goes against the will of the pope. Bishop Williamson had been excommunicated in 1988 when he and three other traditionalist bishops were ordained against papal orders by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X. Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications in 2009 as a first step toward beginning formal talks aimed at reconciliation with the group. However, there was widespread outrage at revelations that Bishop Williamson had denied the gassing of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. The Vatican said the pope had been unaware at the time of the bishop's radical views on the Holocaust.

Bishop Williamson, who opposed the Society of St. Pius X holding reconciliation talks with the Vatican, was ousted from the society in 2012. He and a number of followers did not support reconciliation with Rome because they believe the Vatican had strayed from the Catholic faith since the Second Vatican Council. Father Faure, who was ordained a priest by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1977, was also in opposition to reconciliation and left the society in 2013. In an interview posted on the blog "Non Possumus" March 18, the priest said he was willing to be ordained a bishop despite the penalties because "we cannot leave the resistance without bishops." "As Archbishop Lefebvre said, Catholic bishops are indispen-sible for the conservation of the true doctrine of the faith and the sacraments," he said.

In a commentary emailed to subscribers of his newsletter Feb. 28, Bishop Williamson said the Catholic Church in Rome -- referring to it as "the nightingales' nest" -- was unjustly occupied by "modernist cuckoos." "Wherever the remainder of the true nightingales are visibly gathered, in whatever makeshift nest, they are in the church, they are the true visible church, and their beautiful song testifies to anyone who has ears to hear that the cuckoos are nothing but cuckoos who have stolen the Catholic nest which they presently occupy," he wrote. He criticized the leaders of the SSPX for being "tone deaf" and unable "to distinguish the song of cuckoos from that of nightingales."
© Catholic News Service

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UK: University of Birmingham racist graffiti attack: THIRD incident hits campus

Anger as Islamophobic comments are found scrawled on walls of Edgbaston buildings

17/3/2015- Vile Islamophobic graffiti has been found at the University of Birmingham for the THIRD time this year. Police investigating the latest scrawls, discovered on Saturday morning (March 14), believe they are related to a previous incident of hate-fuelled vandalism at the Edgaston campus in Edgaston in January. These incidents were also linked to racist graffiti found at the nearby Jahalabad Mosque in Selly Oak, also in January. In the latest attacks the words ‘Kill Islam before it kills you’ were discovered sprayed on a storage box near sports pitches at the Edgbaston campus. Another hate message - ‘Islam must die’ - was found on the wall of the Guild building. Shanin Ashraf, who works as a Muslim chaplain the University, said: “I’m shocked and alarmed that this Islamophobic incident has taken place on more than one occasion.

“It’s deeply disturbing and can be very unset-tling for all of us at the university and the wider community. I hope we all come together to have zero tolerance against any bigotry and hatred.” A West Midlands Police spokeswoman said: “A member of university security staff alerted police to racist graffiti on campus at 7.20am this morning (March 14). “This has been classed as a criminal damage hate crime and an investigation is underway to try and find those responsible.” In the first incident, a swastika and the words “Islam must die” were daubed on the psychology block on campus and racist graffiti was also found at the Jahalabad mosque, Dartmouth Road, Selly Oak. Soon after, the toilets at the univer-sity’s arts block were emblazoned with red writing saying ‘kill Islam before it kills you’. A spokeswoman from the university said: “We unreservedly condemn the racist graffiti on campus.

We are determined to find those responsible and have reported it to West Midlands Police and are working with them to identify those involved. “Our University is a community of 150 nations and we are proud to be situated in a vibrant multi-cultural city. “Discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated. We are therefore actively working with a range of groups to bring people together and ensure that our university is a place where diversity is celebrated and everyone plays their part in creating a vibrant and welcoming communi-ty.” More than 150 students demonstrated against racist graffiti attacks at the university following the January spree, with some saying they felt too threatened to attend lectu-res.
© The Birmingham Mail.

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UK: Trevor Phillips condemned by anti-racism groups

Former head of Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said politicians and the media had become “terrified” of discussing race.

16/3/2015- Trevor Phillips has been accused of holding “misguided and dangerous” views about race after suggesting that multiculturalism in the UK has become a “racket” which discourages proper integration. In a newspaper article, the former head of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said politicians and the media had become “terrified” of discussing race issues in case they were accused of bigotry. He cited child sex abuse scandals in several UK towns including Oxford, Rotherham and Rochdale and the murder in 2000 of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie as examples of institutions failing to act for fear of offending minority groups. “The perverse and unintended consequences of our drive to instil respect for diversity is that our political and media classes have become terrified of discussing racial or religious differences,” Mr Phillips wrote in the Daily Mail. “Our desperation to avoid offence is itself beginning to stand in the way of progress. And all too often the losers are minority Britons.”

Anti-racism organisations have suggested that Mr Phillips has “lost touch with reality”. A spokesman for the Show Racism the Red Card campaign said: “It is not multicul-turalism which has created a belief ‘that you can’t say anything’ or the concept of a ‘PC Brigade’ – and it was not the CRE, community groups or charities which came up with the idea of ‘branding people racist’. “The narrative we see in the Daily Mail and by Mr Phillips himself feed into a misguided belief that there are minority communities up and down the county trying to curtail debate and freedom of speech. This diverts our attention, perhaps conveniently, away from having conversations about the daily occurrences of discrimination experienced by minority communities and the complex conditions which create unrest.”

In his article, Mr Phillips said that after spending a year at the CRE – which later became the Equality and Human Rights Commission – he had lost all faith in multicul-turalism. While “beautiful in theory”, he said it had become “a racket in which self-styled community leaders bargained for control over local authority funds that would prop up their own status and authority”. Stand Up To Racism organisers Weyman Bennett and Sabby Dhalu said in a joint statement that multiculturalism in Britain was “under attack”. The group is holding a national demonstration in central London on Saturday, which was last year attended by more than 10,000 people. “All op-pression – racism, homophobia, sexism and misogyny – must be rooted out of society. Failing to challenge racism and other forms of oppression simply makes it worse,” they said. “Now, more than ever, we must challenge racism and other stereotypes. Instead of conceding to racism, Trevor Phillips should be campaigning against it.”
© The Independent

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Germany: Jewish and Muslim councils cooperate

Kramer said Jewish Council cooperates with Islam Council on issues such as circumcision, halal food and hijab.

19/3/2015- The former secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Berlin representative of the American Jewish Congress, Stephan J. Kramer, said on Thursday that Muslims and Jews in Germany work together in many fields. During an event titled “Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany,” organized by the foreign press association in Berlin, Stephan J. Kramer and Ali Kizilkaya, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, expressed their opinions about xenophobia in Germany. Kramer said the Jewish Council cooperates with the Islam Council on issues such as circumcision, halal food and the hijab. “We are ahead of other European countries on cooperation in Germany. Others can learn a lot from us.” He said there is a future for Jews in Europe and that the Jewish Community, which has faced anti-Semitism in the past, should not retreat from society but on the contrary, be more visible.

Saying that he personally gets along well with Kizilkaya, Kramer admitted that many people in his community have prejudices against Muslims. The Jewish community should cooperate with Muslim community to overcome prejudices, he said. Kramer also said that Jews do not have any intention of leaving Germany. Kizilkaya said that statistical data is required for the fight against Islamophobia. “The German government revealed that 45 mosques were attacked last year but to analyze the causes for those attacks we need to separate statistical data. Unfortunately anti-Islam attacks are not recorded separately,” he said. Kizilkaya added that the situation is difficult for Muslims in Germany and the media makes it worse through offensive coverage. He said that there is no anti-Semitism in Islam and that criticizing Israel is not the same thing as anti-Semitism.
© Anadolu Agency

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German reporters with foreign roots fight racism in theater

17/3/2015- Yassin Musharbash, a leading German journalist with Jordanian roots, pulls out some recent "fan mail" and starts reading on the stage. "We want to be informed by know-ledgeable compatriots, not by foreigners," the 39-year-old quotes from a letter-to-the-editor that landed at the prestigious Zeit newspaper. Gasps turned to incredulous laughter as he continues: "Musharbash is an Islamist who is secretively involved in jihad. He is trying to weaken the defensive forces of the West from inside." Musharbash is among a troupe of German journalists with immigrant backgrounds who have been touring with a show called "Hate Poetry" that has sold out across the country. The show explores the growing ran-cor against Muslims in Germany by revealing hate mail filled with clichés and abuse — and seeks to combat it with humor. The journalists, none of them professional actors, con-front prejudice head-on in the show. But they also use irony, poking fun at the stereotypes by appearing on stage dressed like migrant workers from the 1960s or disguised as radi-cal Islamists wearing caftans and face masks.

"We're being abused not for what we are writing, but for who we are or for who these people think we are," Musharbash told The Associated Press in an interview before the show. "Apparently there are some people out there who have a big problem that writers with Middle Eastern names work for serious German newspapers." The attempt to pro-mote tolerance through theater appears to be working. "I would have never expected anybody to write such things ... I guess I was a bit naive," said Ute Grave, a 55-year-old saleswoman who saw the show. "It's is a great way of simply countering the hatred with laughter." There are an estimated four million Muslims living in Germany — a country of 80 million. Most are children or grandchildren of Turkish guest workers who came in the 1960s when Germany recruited foreign workers for the country's booming postwar economy. Most have found a place in society, speak German as their native language and contribute to society in myriad ways. But many ethnic Germans still have problems with the fact that Germany is increasingly diverse — a society where more than 15 million citizens claim foreign roots.

Despite achievements, immigrant communities themselves face problems — adding complexity to the tensions. Children of immigrants fare worse in school than their ethnic Ger-man counterparts, according to government statistics, and the overall unemployment rate is far higher. Immigrants are underrepresented in fields like teaching, academia or jour-nalism. Unlike the United States, Germany does not have affirmative action programs. It is difficult to tell whether poor results are a result of prejudice, underperforming commu-nities or a combination of both. Many Germans say that Muslims simply refuse to integrate. And in the past few months, Germany has seen a backlash against Muslim immigrants, with tens of thousands of Germans marching in weekly rallies through Dresden and other cities protesting the perceived Islamization of Europe, though the numbers have waned recently.
© The Associated Press

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Germany: Neo-Nazi attacks on Jews far outnumber those by Islamists

Only several dozens of 1,275 attacks in 2013 traced to foreigners; right-wing extremists responsible for 1,218

15/3/2015- Amidst fears of radicalization in the Muslim community, recently collected data suggests that 95% of antisemitic attacks in Germany were committed by right-wing extremists. According to figures presented last week to the German parliament, out of 1,275 incidents which occurred in 2013, neo-Nazis were considered responsible for 1,218 of them. The data also revealed a slight decrease in the number of attacks compared to 2012, yet no one is yet ready to declare this as a positive trend. According to official records, only 31 attacks in 2013 were committed by people of a foreign background and the rest (26) were attributed to other offenders. This was the first year in over a decade in which no antisemitic attack was ascribed to left-wing radicals. Also in 2012, during which 1,374 attacks were committed, right-wing extremists were blamed for nearly all incidents, with only 38 cases traced back to foreigners, three to left-wing activists and 19 to other attackers. A similar distribution was found also in the years 2001-2011.

These figures were presented by the government in response to questions from leading Green party MP's. “I was a bit astonished to receive these results,” admitted Volker Beck, one of the MP's. “The feeling in the Jewish community, as well as my feeling, was that there were more Muslim antisemitic attacks, but the statistics doesn't support that. This just proves that we need to research the issue more and to get a better assessment of what threatens the security of Jewish people and Jewish institutions in Germany.” Nevertheless, he emphasized that he data does not disprove the treat of radical Islam. “We've seen what happened in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen, and those attackers were radical funda-mentalists. Luckily that hasn't happened here yet. Although everyday antisemitic acts are more likely to be committed by right-wingers, Islamists still pose an antisemitic threat, even if this isn't reflected in the data yet.”

Public records also showed that 40 people were hurt in the attacks committed in 2013 (compared to 41 the year before), and following those incidents, 873 perpetrators (male and female) were arrested - of which 154 were under the age of 18. According to the data, seven of the arrested were 13-years-old and younger. The data concerning 2013 resembled the figures that were recorded in the beginning of the decade, which marked a significant decline in the number of antisemitic attacks: In the nine years that proceeded it, the number of such incidents circulated an average of 1,635 events per year. More recent numbers also point to a minor decline in antisemitic attacks: A report published this week regarding such acts in Berlin, shows that their number also diminished in 2014.

ReachOut, a Berlin counselling center for victims of right, racist and antisemitic violence, recorded last year 179 attacks, which targeted 266 people. This indicated a slight de-crease compared to the 185 attacks in 2013, when 288 people were threatened or even injured. Yet at the center, the figures aren't seen as encouraging. “This is not a trend,” they insisted. “The number of attacks in 2013 was simply the highest number we ever recorded in Berlin. The previous record was 165 attacks in 2006.” Beck also agreed, referring to official records: “This data is insufficient to determine whether there had been an actual decline recently. Sometimes the numbers go up just because the police was more active in a certain period of time. In my opinion, what better mirrors the situation are the studies concerning attitudes in German society, and those have shown a very slow but steady decrease in antisemitic views among Germans.”

Yet the ReachOut center pointed out a different problem. According to its report most of the attacks took place in public: last year 107 crimes (121 in 2013) occurred in the streets, squares and at bus stops and 37 (42 in 2013) were committed on board public transportation and in railway stations. “In many of the cases the other passengers watched the attack without helping,” noticed Sabine Seyb of the center. “Policy makers should launch a campaign which would encourage witnesses to intervene and thus better protect those who are threatened.”
© i24 News

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Germany: Salafists and PEGIDA in Wuppertal: A perfect storm of protests

The urge to yawn can be contagious, although it's hard to say why. Watching rival protests unfold Saturday in Wuppertal, one could almost say the same about the urge to demonstrate. DW's Gabriel Borrud was there.

15/3/2015- "We're here for justice," said an attendee at the Salafist rally - one of three different public protests on Saturday in the small city of Wuppertal in western Germany. Salafists adhere to a radical sect of Islam that posits being rooted in an original and unadulterated interpretation of the faith. "We're here for our country. Don't mess it up!" urged PEGIDA head Lutz Bachmann at a competing demonstration. The organization he founded, whose name translates to "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occi-dent" (PEGIDA), is now known  well beyond Germany for its anti-Islam demonstrations. Meanwhile, a group of locals came out to oppose extremism and neo-Nazi thinking with a message one demonstrator summed up as, "Our city is colorful." For an outsider, it's hard to see what these statements have to do with each other. They center on a series of debates that have come to the fore in Germany in recent months - about inclusion, tolerance, the character of the nation and the place of Islam - both radical strains and other-wise - within it.

A total of around 3,000 people were expected to participate in the three rallies. In the end, far fewer were on hand: Estimates ranged up to 800 attendees for the PEGIDA rally, while the Salafist event drew just a fraction of that. Clashes among police and protesters were reported at both the Salafist and the PEGIDA protests, but they didn't rise to the level some had feared - and that had been witnessed at an  anti-Salafist rally in Cologne last October or during previous demonstrations by Islamist groups in Cologne and Bonn. The police ultimately stopped the PEGIDA demonstration once fighting broke out. Even before the protests began, it was evident that Wuppertal was bracing for a tense after-noon. About a dozen police vans blocked the entrance to the center of town, where people can board the city's big attraction - a suspension railway. "We've never seen anything like this," said a policeman who had been tasked with answering questions from citizens baffled by the day's events.

Hundreds of those claiming to be defending Germany and the Western world against radical Islam convened less than 150 meters away from the police "Info Team." In an effort to limit violence, the protesting groups were kept far apart in the city's old town. The Salafist group was gathered some two kilometers away, and crossing between the two protests required going through numerous police check points.

'Always to blame'
The topics of justice and blame were a focal point at the Salafist gathering. Blocked on all sides of a tall brick church, those in attendance were addressed by a man in a white robe inside a rental truck. He shouted to the crowd of about 80 people about how the Quran and the Bible alike have violent passages. He addressed Muslims imprisoned around the world and spoke of injustice. "We Muslims are always to blame!" the speaker called out at one point, followed by repeated chants in the crowd of "Allahu Akbar!" Those chants were met with forceful calls in German of "Shut your trap," emanating from a group that had been barricaded off by police in an effort to prevent them from disturbing the Salafist demonstration. Officially affiliated with none of the three groups registered for protests on Saturday, they responded to a question from police by asserting they are just "normal people."

Grudging support
The right to demonstrate in Germany is nearly untouchable. Anchored in the constitution, it can only be denied under exceptional circumstances. "As a policeman, I hate that these demonstrations were allowed," said an acting police spokesman when asked whether Saturday's demonstrations should have been approved. "But as a democrat, I have to support it." Meanwhile, those in Wuppertal who came out to send a message against right-wing and other forms of extremism surpassed attendance estimates. Similar to Saturday's PEGIDA rally, just under 1,000 people turned up. "I was pretty happy that PEGIDA was never popular [ín Wuppertal]. And that's why I'm here," said Marc, one of those who took part in the event organized by the Wuppertal Alliance against Nazis. "[PEGIDA and the Salafists] can go home for all I'm concerned. I want our city to stay colorful," said Jana, another atten-dee.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Greece: Victimhood culture spawns Greek anti-Semitism, study finds

19/3/2015- A large number of Greeks have limited awareness of the Holocaust or even hold anti-Semitic views, according to a new survey which traces the roots of attitudes to a strong sense of victimization among the public. The same study found that prejudice or hatred against the Jews cuts across the country’s left-right political spectrum, which is similarly attributed to the fact that victimhood, the idea that Greeks have suffered without full responsibility for their misfortune, is a universal trait of the country’s political culture. The survey, which was presented Thursday at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Athens under the title “Perceptions about the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism in Greece,” was carried out by researchers at the University of Macedonia, Oxford University and the International Hellenic University with the support of the embassies of the United Kingdom, Canada and Romania.

Asked what the word “Holocaust” brought to mind and presented with a choice of Auschwitz, Distomo, Zalongo/Arkadi and “None of the above,” less than half of respondents opted for Auschwitz. An almost equal percentage chose either the 1944 Nazi massacre at Distomo or the mass suicide of Souli women at Zalongo in 1803 and the 1866 Ottoman raid at Arkadi. All alternatives to Auschwitz are related to Greek history. Almost 15 percent of respondents found no association between the Holocaust and any of the available options. Less than 33 percent of respondents selected the correct answer when asked about the number of Jews estimated to have perished during World War II – 6 million. The Greeks ranked lower than their European peers, with the exception of Germany. Almost 50 percent of French and 55 percent of Swiss came up with the correct answer in similar surveys. “Interestingly, underestimations are a lot more frequent than overestimations among those who pick an incorrect figure,” the study said.

Whereas more than 90 percent of respondents said that subjects such as the 1922 Asia Minor disaster, the 1946-49 Greek Civil War, and the Pontic genocide should be taught at school, less than 60 percent said that Holocaust teaching should be included in the curriculum. “The Holocaust... is perceived as something that does not belong to Greek history and thus its teaching becomes less pivotal in public education,” experts said. The research was carried out between January 10 and 14, when 1,043 Greek adults were surveyed on their perceptions of the Holocaust. Its publication comes on the back of an earlier report conducted by the same team of researchers last summer that indicated high levels of anti-Semitism among the Greek public.

Competitive victimhood
Experts sought to play down partisan and ideological affiliations as a significant factor in influencing attitudes and perceptions about the Holocaust. “Ideology is not a safe guide to explain the phenomenon,” Elias Dinas, a political expert at Oxford, which contributed to the survey, told a press conference, singling out supporters of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and the nationalist, populist Independent Greeks, now junior coalition partners. Findings instead indicated competitive victimhood as a catalyst in fueling anti-Semitic attitudes. “Victimization engenders an ethnocentric view of global history, thus generating biased perceptions about the magnitude of suffering incurred by other groups,” the report said, suggesting that Greeks felt less willing to acknowledge themselves as victim to other communities. It mentioned that high levels of victimization tend to generate indirect competition with established ethnolinguistic or religious groups that have been widely recognized as victims.

“It is outrageous. It shows a lack of moderation. It’s like saying, ‘I can’t be part of another person’s drama, because I have my own drama,’” Dinas said. Asked how it was possible that Greeks were in a position to see themselves as a unique community and, at the same time, victims of outside interference, Dinas said that national self-understanding is not necessarily a rational one. “‘We are unique,’ the argument goes, ‘and this is why we are in everyone’s cross hairs,’” he said. More than 60,000 Greek Jews died in Nazi death camps or were killed during the Nazi occupation of Greece. The Jewish community in Greece currently numbers about 5,500 people. In comments made to the newspaper, Giorgos Antoniou, a historian at the International Hellenic University, said that misguided perceptions about the Holocaust were not just a result of poor schooling in Greece. “What really concerns us is the fact that whereas education is used for the socialization of other painful chapters of Greek history, the Holocaust is not really treated as an issue of national concern,” he said.

“Perception of the Holocaust and of Anti-Semitism in Greece.” Research conducted by Nikos Marantzidis (University of Macedonia), Elias Dinas (Oxford University), Spyros Kosmidis (Oxford University), Leon Saltiel (University of Macedonia), and Giorgos Antoniou (International Hellenic University), with the support of the embassies of the United Kingdom, Canada and Romania.
© The Kathimerini.

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Greece: Two far right party figures released from prison

Prominent Greek far right opposition party figures, including Golden Dawn leader Michaloliakos, imprisoned since 2013, have been released.

20/3/2015- Two prominent Greek far right opposition party figures, imprisoned since 2013, have been released, the local press said late Friday. Nikos Michaloliakos, Golden Dawn’s secretary-general and Yiannis Lagos, the party’s Member of Parliament, who were in custody since September 2013, were both released. Six members of the Golden Dawn, which some critics describe as a Neo Nazi group, had been charged with allegedly leading and participating in a “criminal organization,” a reference to their party, in 2013 and were taken into custody. Another Golden Dawn Member of Parliament, Christos Pappas, is also expected to get a conditional release on March 29, when his 18-month period of imprisonment expires. The fate of the other three members remains unclear. Among them is Golden Dawn’s spokes-person Ilias Kasidiaris, who ran for the post of mayor of Athens in 2014 and won 16.1 percent of the votes.

Michaloliakos’s release comes at the end of his 18-month maximum detention period for holding an individual without trial. However, the Appeals Court Justices' Council ruled that the Golden Dawn leader would remain under house arrest. He would be allowed to attend the parliament's proceedings, but would be banned from leaving the country. The council accepted the Appeals Prosecutor Ioannis Provataris’ recommendation on his release conditions, with the exception of a 125,000 euro bail. Meanwhile, Lagos would be expected to report to a police station twice a month. Michaloliakos is a former member of nationalist youth organization Ethniki Politiki Enosis (National Political Union), led by former military dictator Georgios Papadopoulos, who ruled the country from 1967 to 1974.

Golden Dawn was formed in 1980, but was not registered as a political party until 1993. Its political breakthrough came in the 2012 elections when it received 6.92 percent of the vote, making it Greece's fifth largest political group and enabling it to enter parliament for the first time. It then took 9.4 percent in 2014 European elections, giving it three seats in the European Parliament. Golden Dawn got 6.31 percent of votes in the Jan. 25, national elections, giving them 17 seats in the par-liament. Its rise coincided with the European economic crisis that saw Greece suffer tremendous recession, job losses and budget cuts, which led to a bailout from European Union partners and strict austerity measures.

George Kratsas, a political commentator, told The Anadolu Agency after the Greek elections that Golden Dawn supporters never seemed to be troubled by the party's Neo-Nazi ideology, primarily due to a lack of understanding of the consequences of allowing extremist groups in a country's political life (as opposed to a lack of knowledge of past Nazi crimes). "Their strong appeal, moreover", he reported "does not appear to have faded not even after records of murders committed by Golden Dawn members, nor by the imprisonment of their leaders.”
© Anadolu Agency

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Beware of Greeks bearing threats

This week's outburst by Panos Kammenos, Greece's far right defence minister, that Greece would 'overflow' Europe with migrants, including Islamic militants, if the eurozone countries didn't accept his country's debt renegotiation should not surprise us. Nor should the fact that he is in Government at all, with the Syriza party, from the other end of the spectrum, of the far left.

15/3/2015- This is Greek politics, after all, which is lamentably short of centrist reasonable politics but is high on nationalism and belligerence, and tends to swing from right to left, with little regard for the overall European good. The fact that the EU is only facing up to this now, shows how complacent and unfocussed Brussels has been about its grand European project and its faulty constituent parts. It is the same complacency, incidentally, which has led to the Ukraine conflict and a war with Russia, a fellow Orthodox country for whom incidentally, the Greeks and the Syriza party have been showing a great regard - another dubious aspect of this party's philosophy. But it is the economic crisis that has concentrated EU minds. According to Kammenos, if the EU deals 'a blow to Greece, then they should know that the migrants will receive (travel) documents and head to Berlin' and that if there are members of Islamic State among these refugees that would be 'entirely Europe's fault' for refusing to soften its stance on Greece. This is a wild threat.

Meanwhile, the Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has again threatened that Greece will leave the euro, but at this stage such an exit would probably be the best option, as there simply seems to be no way now that Greece will live up to even the revised terms of their EU bail out. Indeed, the wonder is that Greece has managed to stay in the euro for so long. Even in terms of EU membership, the feeling has always been that Greece was rushed into a club for which it wasn't ready. Greece was the first state admitted to the EU which wasn't already the physical neighbour of an EU country. Its language had a different alphabet. But it was emerging from a military dictatorship in 1981 and the EU, and the West, wanted the Hellenic country brought into the Brussels club to safeguard its democracy. EU money flowed, but it did not go to where it should and corruption, always a Balkan feature, was increased and institutionalised by these new overseas transfers. Compounded with a huge amount of tax evasion, which is only now being addressed, this was a recipe for binge of reckless spending that others had to pay for.

By contrast, when Ireland got massive EU Structural Funds, we built roads and infrastructure. But we also went along with EU policies, and did our bit for the team. This didn't happen with a still fiercely independent and nationalist Greece. The irony is that the Greeks have been the most vociferous opponents of keeping their old enemy Turkey out of the EU and yet there are aspects of modern Turkish society and its robust economy which show up Greece as a sclerotic, over-unionised backwater. Indeed, as soon as Greece joined the EU, it was clear that the country had structural and cultural problems quite different to the rest of the EU. Meanwhile, Greeks have too often ­stymied any attempt to create a meaningful EU foreign policy. They cosied up to the Eastern Bloc countries when they were still communist and on the divisive subject of Cyprus, they have wanted to have it both ways - supporting an independent Cyprus that would unite Greek and Turkish Cypriots, but also at supporting a 'closer' ­relationship with the island and even, at one stage, a political union.

However, the low point of Greek foreign policy was its unwillingness to recognise Macedonia, because it took the old name of one of their ancient regions. Worse still, this meant that the Greeks could also veto the EU's recognition of the name and so still today the EU refers to Macedonia as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' - or FYRM for short. Our Finance Minister Michael Noonan once quipped about 'when was the last time you put a Greek product in your basket - a bit of feta cheese maybe and that's it.' We are of course sympathetic, especially as we see a proud people forced under EU-directed austerity from afar. After all, as we know only too well in Ireland, the lender should also take some of the blame and the EU, and ECB, recklessly leant to Greece in a way that made their problems worse. We also see this week, how a bigger EU member like France, seems to get much more lenient treatment that smaller countries like Greece and Ireland. That is hardly fair.

On this basis, the Greeks might now be better off now going back to their shock absorbers of fishing and tourism, and leaving the euro, so they can be in control of their own destiny - as their finance minister has been threatening (and indeed their volatile defence minister, with his wild threats of 'migrant flooding.') And if Greece did hit a short-term crisis, maybe their Russian friends could help them out!
© The Irish Independent

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Greek PM warns of far-right threat in Europe

14/3/2015- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Saturday said Europe had to decide between democracy and "extreme right populist forces" spearheaded by France's Front National (FN) party in dealing with the economic crisis. "European leadership has to decide either to respect democracy, or take the risk of the increasing of the extreme right populist forces in Europe," Tsipras said in halting English ahead of a meeting with French communist party secretary Pierre Laurent. Tsipras, whose radical left government is engaged in tough nego-tiations with its European creditors over a new reform plan, has repeatedly suggested that conservative forces are trying to undermine Athens. He recently claimed that "an axis of powers led by Spain and Portugal" had tried to scupper the negotiations last month to "avoid internal political risks."

The Greek government has warned that persisting with fiscal austerity in the EU will only increase Euroscepticism and the lure of far-right parties. In Greece itself, the government says that five years of austerity cuts have caused a humanitarian crisis and bolstered support for neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which came third in January's election despite an on-going criminal investigation against its leadership. "Because of these difficulties of the European Union you have the radical increasing of [far-right leader Marine] Le Pen and extreme right wing forces," Tsipras said. "So if we want to be pro-European we have to respect democracy in the European Union, this is the message," he said. The Front National leads opinion polls ahead of local elections in France on March 22 and 29. Marine Le Pen is widely expected to run for the French presidency in 2017.
© AFP

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France: Far-right vandals target immigration museum

The recently inaugurated Museum of the History of Immigration has been vandalised twice by far-right groups, a sign of the rise in hate and extremism in France, according to the museum chief.

17/3/2015- When president François Hollande formally inaugurated the Museum of the History of Immigration in Paris last December, he urged the French not to give in to “scaremongers and prophets of doom” who dream of a “smaller and more spiteful France”. Some of those spiteful prophets of doom appear to have been behind recent vandalism at the museum, which has left one those in charge “wondering what is happening in France right now”. Posters against immigration and multiculturalism were plastered around the building’s entrance on Sunday. They read “multiculturalism is a failure and is leading France into civil war” and “mass immigration threatens our civilisation”.

The incident came just days after a previous incident saw graffiti daubed outside the building. Words like “foreigners out”, “re-migration” and “end all this” were on the walls of the museum. For Benjamin Stora, chairman of the museum’s steering committee, the significance of the incidents should not be played down. “What is happe-ning in France right now is not good. There is a rise in extremism and a rise of the National Front. The museum has been vandalised twice this week," he told Europe1 radio. The responsibility for the vandalism appears to have been claimed by a far-right group “La Dissidence Français”, who posted images to their website. The group claims the museum is “a place dedicated to the cosmopolitan propaganda and a globalist rewriting of history”. A complaint has been lodged with police.
© The Local - France

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France blocks five sites for 'condoning terrorism'

France has blocked five websites accused of condoning terrorism, in the first use of new government powers introduced in February, the interior ministry said on Monday.

16/3/2015- One of the sites -- al-Hayat Media Center -- is accused of links to the Islamic State group, the ministry said. The site "islamic-news.info" has also been blocked since the end of last week. The banning order was given to Internet service providers, who had 24 hours to take "all necessary measures to block the listing of these addresses" under the new rules. They were introduced as part of a package of counter-terrorism measures approved by parliament in November. Critics argued they could breach citizens' rights by bypassing the need for a judge to make the banning orders. Other powers include the right to stop people travelling out of the country if they are suspected of trying to join jihadist groups. France's law allows authorities to block websites that call for or glamorize terrorism. This law against condoning crime and inciting terrorism was introduced in France after January's terror attacks left 17 dead. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve visited the US last month, meeting with heads of major online companies like Facebook and Google in an attempt to prevent "the great area of freedom and growth" from becoming a "space of fanatic indoctrination."
© The Local - France

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France: Lesbians’ goodbye kiss leads to ‘humiliation’ in Paris

Gay couple shocked to hear their fond farewell at Paris’s Gare du Nord ‘could not be tolerated’

14/3/2015- Paris is where people – lovestruck locals and tourists alike – kiss. You can hardly take two steps down a rue or grand boulevard without seeing a couple smooching, often in the middle of the pavement. Carrie and Mr Big chose the Pont des Arts for their kiss in the final episode of Sex and the City and visitors can hire a photographer to capture them recreating Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton’s kiss outside the Hôtel de Ville à la Something’s Gotta Give. Robert Doisneau’s black-and-white photograph of a couple kissing is perhaps the most famous French kiss, even if it was staged. At the main international station, the Gare du Nord, a parting embrace is de rigueur. However, it seems that not all kissers are equal in the land of liberté, égalité, fraternité. A train guard from a major railway company has been suspended after allegedly shouting at a lesbian couple that their farewell embrace “cannot be tolerated”. He went on to tell the astonished and humiliated pair that it would have been fine for heterosexual couples to kiss.

Now campaigners have insisted that the company, Thalys International, a French, Belgian, German and Dutch rail consortium that has featured a same-sex couple in advertising campaigns, apologises and ensures staff receive equality training. One of the women on the receiving end of the homophobic rant, Mirjam, 35, from Amsterdam, a member of the organisation All Out, called for gay rights activists to complain to the company in a massive demonstration of solidarity. “Imagine it. You spent the weekend with your partner in Paris. You say goodbye on the train platform with a hug and a kiss. It’ll be a while until you see each other again. Then an angry train official strides over to stop you kissing – he says it ‘can’t be tolerated’. Humiliating,” she wrote on the All Out site. “My girlfriend and I can’t believe that a Thalys official picked on us just because we’re not a straight couple.” Later, she told Le Nouvel Observateur magazine: “I couldn’t believe someone was telling me what I could and couldn’t do. I was also shocked because he wouldn’t stop talking, from our arrival on the platform around 8am until the train left 15 minutes later. He certainly spoiled our au revoirs.”

In 2013, Thalys launched an advertising campaign showing couples, including a same-sex couple, embracing, having been reunited by Thalys trains. “Just like us! But in reality, they didn’t let me kiss my girlfriend on the platform. And they’re staying silent after one of their staff went on an anti-gay rant,” Mirjam wrote. “This isn’t just about this one person’s anti-gay rant, it’s about pushing the company to turn their marketing messages into action and ensure they treat everyone fairly.” A spokeswoman for Thalys confirmed the homo-phobic incident and said a member of staff had been suspended pending a full investigation. “As soon as we received the complaint we started a preliminary investigation,” Eva Martens, from Thalys, told the Observer. Agnès Ogier, chief executive of Thalys, said: “Let’s be quite clear: no homophobic word or gesture is tolerated by Thalys. Following the reporting of this serious incident we immediately launched an inquiry with the help of our service provider RailRest, for whom the staff member involved works.” RailRest, is a Belgium-based Thalys International partner company that provides passenger services.

Ingrid Nuelant, deputy CEO at Thalys, said staff received regular training on equality issues: “Thalys has always shown open values without any ambiguity through its publicity cam-paigns and in its support of pride marches … This incident profoundly affects us and from now will be used as a case history to make our agents more aware.” On Saturday All Out announced that 60,000 people had signed a petition calling for Thalys to be sanctioned. Guillaume Bonnet of All Out France told Libération: “The object of this campaign is to say to this company that they can’t run a very gay-friendly marketing campaign and at the same time offer a service that does not treat all customers in the same way. Mobilising people is important to combat everyday homophobia.”
© The Guardian

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French far-right plagued by shady candidates

The National Front are expected to storm another election in France, but old demons are returning to haunt the far right's quest to be considered a mainstream party. They come in the form of some controversial candidates and the skeletons in their closet.

18/3/2015- Opinion polls suggest the far-right National Front party will top the polls in the first round of elections in French counties known as "departements", which take place on Sunday. It will mark another significant victory for Marine Le Pen, whose efforts to soften the image of her anti-immigration, anti-EU party, continue to pay off. Le Pen and co have worked hard to "de-demonize" the National Front by rooting out candidates with a shady past or who are liable to the odd racist view or two. Yet her efforts can only go so far as stories once again emerge in the run-up to Sunday's ballot of skeletons emerging from the closets of several far-right candida-tes. Other candidates appear to have simply spoken their views, forcing the party's PR team into overdrive. For the party's founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted of hate speech it's no big deal. "We have 8,157 candidates, I believe. Of course a few of them will be peculiar," he said in an interview with French channel BFM TV.

We'll let you decide for yourselves. Here is a list of five National Front candidates whose faces have been plastered over the press for one reason or another in recent days - and it's a lot more than just racism and bigotry.

1. The armed and racist
Damien Hameau-Brielles, the main candidate for Mayenne in the north west of France, posted a picture of himself on Facebook holding a gun to the head of a puppet version of President François Hollande. While the picture, published in 2012, has long since been deleted, another post was dug out from the past where he made racist jibes about what he considered to be the laziness of "the blacks".

2. The suspected Pedophile?
The candidate for l'Allier, central France, is 23-year-old Arnaud Couture - who has been investigated this month for the possession of child pornography. The politician confirmed the indictment but told local media that he did not wish to discuss it. As it is too late to withdraw his candidacy, he has said that he will immediately resign if he wins the election. 

3. The anti-Muslim
While the National Front doesn't have a candidate of its own in the Charente-Maritime department, western France, it is backing openly anti-Muslim Dominique Droin. The Frenchman has posted documents online about how Muslims have taken over France "without being armed, but through the stomachs of their wives". His paper pointed out that Muslim children "were multiplying much faster than children native to France".

4. Praising a Halal fire
Sophie Touvron is running for Torcy (Seine-et-Marne), east of Paris. She once shared a news story on her Facebook account about an explosion at a Halal butchery, adding the words "TOO GOOD". The L'Express newspaper reported that the explosion and subsequent fire left two people injured, one seriously.

5. Call to suicide
In February, FN candidate in Narbonne, southern France, Fabien Rouquette took his regular Facebook postings a step too far when he shared a text-based image saying "Socialists, Communists, Muslims! Do something for the world and commit suicide." One of his colleagues in the area, Michèle Boisset, liked the post and added the comment "What a beautiful dream!" reported L'Express.

Lastly, another candidate of note is Jeanne Meyniel in Cantal, south-central France. She is 99 years old, a far cry older than the average age of candidates nationwide at 51. A long-time advocate of the National Front, she told the Le Point newspaper that when she was asked to run for deputy councillor she said "why not? And if I am elected, then I will do it. I have things to say." Incidentally, the National Front has one of the youngest average ages when it comes to councillor candidates at 49.4 years. This year's revelations about party members echo similar findings in recent years. In 2013, local election candidate Anne-Sophie Leclère was expelled after saying she would prefer to see black minister Christiane Taubira minister "swinging from the branches rather than in government". She was jailed for nine months last year.
© The Local - France

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Far-right Front National: from protest vote to 'first party in France'?

Marine Le Pen’s party gets warm welcome in provinces as it is expected to come top in the first round of this weekend’s local elections

19/3/2015- In the picturesque Picardy town of Villers-Cotterêts, Sylvie Delpierre, an estate agency manager, is smiling with pride. Since the election of a far-right Front National mayor last year, she feels many homebuyers leaving the edgy Paris suburbs in search of semi-rural calm are often “happy and relieved” to hear who is running the town. “It seems more serene: there’s less tension, we see more police patrols and local taxes have gone down,” she said. Delpierre, 50, once felt voting Front National was “taboo and utterly frowned upon”. It had been “inconceivable” to tell her parents that she always secretly voted for Jean-Marie Le Pen, the gruff ex-paratrooper and founder of the party, who, she said had been historically “attacked on all sides” – his party criticised for neo-Nazi links and antisemitism, and he himself convicted for contesting crimes against humanity after saying the Nazi occupation of France was not “particularly inhumane”.

But now she believes Marine Le Pen, the founder’s daughter and new far-right leader, has mass appeal. “Only the Front National can fix the economy and restore Fran-ce’s image on the world stage,” she said. “Marine Le Pen has presence – she’s our Angela Merkel, a woman who can impose things.” As France votes in the first round of local elections this weekend, the government has expressed concern at the seemingly unstoppable rise of the FN. The nationalist, anti-immigration, anti-Europe par-ty – which wants to leave the euro, restore the death penalty, curb immigration and favour French people over immigrants when giving out benefits – is expected to come top in the first round, taking around 30% of the national vote, ahead of the rightwing UMP and far ahead of the governing Socialists. This marks a significant chan-ge. Traditionally, the FN represented a national protest vote that has very little grassroots presence or local organisation. Now it is becoming rooted across the country. And its new local bases are the foundation stones of Le Pen’s bid for the presidency in 2017.

The FN already bills itself as the “first party of France” after it topped the poll in the European elections last year. After municipal elections last year, it now has 11 mayors and over 1,500 municipal councillors – higher than its former glory days in the 1990s when it had four mayors. Polls show Le Pen could knock out a rightwing or leftwing rival and get to the final round of 2017’s presidential race – repeating the shock success of her father in 2002. But although most maintain she could never gain enough support to reach the Elysée palace, the prime minister, Manuel Valls, recently said: “I fear for my country.” Le Pen, he warned, could actually win the next pre-sidential election. This department of L’Aisne in Picardy has come to symbolise Le Pen’s rise and is likely to see FN’s highest vote this weekend. It has all the ingredi-ents for a large far-right turnout: 14% unemployment that is far higher than the national average, factory closures, people struggling to make ends meet and a substantial working-class population who are not very politicised.

This corner of northern France is semi-rural, with cereal and beetroot fields stretching across the plains, but one third of industrial jobs have disappeared in the past 15 years and many workers commute to jobs around Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport. The party calls it “the France of the forgotten”. It was here in the forest surrounding Villers-Cotterêts that the Kouachi brothers, the terrorist gunmen who attacked the magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, went on the run and disappeared for a night before re-emerging to take a hostage at a printing firm nearby. Picardy also recently hit the news for the arrests of members of a violent criminal gang of extreme-right skinheads.

Franck Briffaut, the FN mayor of Villers-Cotterêts and a candidate for a council seat in this weekend’s local elections, said his party’s mayors were the “avant garde” of a new grassroots movement. The former soldier, who once served with French UN troops in Lebanon, joined the party in 1977 and was elected mayor last year: “People were distrustful at first, but now they see we’re credible and as competent as any other party to run a town.” He said his party’s progress towards power was “inexorable on all levels: local, parliament and the presidency”. One of Briffaut’s controversial early measures was to cancel the town’s commemorations of the abo-lition of slavery. This caused consternation, including from the president, François Hollande, because Villers-Cotterêts was home to the revolutionary General Dumas, born to a French nobleman and an African slave, and father to the writer Alexandre Dumas. Briffaut said he was glad slavery had been abolished but opposed the “per-manent self-blame” that had overtaken France.

Other FN mayors elected last year – most of whom lowered local taxes and cut grants to organisations such as human rights groups – have also sparked controversy. Ro-bert Ménard, former head of the journalism group Reporters Sans Frontières and now mayor of Béziers in the south, introduced a curfew for under-13s, banned laundry from balconies and armed the police. But a poll this month showed that 73% of people in towns with FN mayors were satisfied with them, higher than the national ra-te. Nonetheless, around 58% feel their FN mayors are “sectarian”. Also, the Front National’s scrabble to find thousands of candidates to stand as councillors in the local departmental elections this weekend has prompted criticism that the party has sometimes opted for un-vetted, geriatric or questionable representatives. Scrutiny of social media accounts reveals allegations of blatant racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and antisemitism, at odds with Le Pen’s drive to “detoxify” and rebrand the party. Last month a candidate in the south-west was struck off the party list for posting antisemitic comments on Facebook.

The party said candidates would face disciplinary procedures over any wrongdoing. In Villers-Cotterêts, a retired butcher said: “The Front National vote is a protest against the traditional left and right who are seen as aloof and ineffective. I’m not tempted, but I understand life is hard and people are fed-up.” On a housing estate, one unemployed mother of two said she would vote FN because “there are too many foreigners and they get too many benefits”. Nonna Mayer, an expert on the far right and professor at Paris’s Institute of Political Studies, said: “Those most inclined to vote Le Pen are people just above the threshold of precariousness: they have a job, some skills, may own their house or are paying for it, and are afraid to lose what they worked hard to earn – afraid to fall down the social ladder.”

Emilie, 32, another Villers-Cotterêts estate agent, said: “It’s too easy for other political parties to say the Front National is a party of fascists and racists, but that is totally wrong. We didn’t say we didn’t like foreigners, we just want people to play the game and integrate in France. Respect French law, don’t impose headscarves on us, don’t spit on the national anthem. We’re patriots.”
© The Guardian

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France's National Front seen leading local election run-up: poll

15/3/2015- France's far-right National Front is set to win more votes than any other party in the first round of local elections next Sunday, a poll showed, with the governing Socialist party coming a very distant third. The survey by pollster Ifop for Le Figaro daily sees the National Front (FN) scoring 30 percent of the votes. It puts the mainstream conservative UMP - led by ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy - and its center-right UDI ally just behind with 29 percent. Francois Hollande's Socialists are forecast to win only 19 percent of the vote. The normally low-key elections in France's departments will this time be scrutinized for signs that Marine Le Pen's FN has gained enough momentum to reach a runoff round in the 2017 presidential election. It came first in French elections to the European Parliament last year. While the FN is unlikely to get large numbers of its officials elected in the local March 30 runoff, leading in the first round would build on its previous successes.

Hollande's Socialists feared they would lose in the second round but that could happen as early as the first round, Ifop's Jerome Fourquet said, adding that mainstream right-wing parties had been better at crafting pre-election deals. Adding the scores of smaller right-wing parties would give conservatives another five percent in the first round, ahead of the FN. But while other left-wing and far-left parties would bring the left-wing camp a total score of 33 percent, they would individually score be-low 10 percent and so are unlikely to make it to the second round, Fourquet said in a note. The poll carried out March 11-13 suggested a 54 percent abstention rate, as is usual at this election. Less than a third of those surveyed said they could still change their mind.
© Reuters

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France: The resistible rise of Marine Le Pen

France’s mainstream parties must do more to counter the far-right National Front

14/3/2015- Almost 13 years have passed since the then leader of the Front National (FN), Jean-Marie Le Pen, shocked the world by reaching the run-off in the presidential election of 2002. The far-right party, now led by his daughter, Marine, came first in last year’s European elections. It is expected to be top again in the first round of local elections on March 22nd, with perhaps 30% of the vote. Back in 2002 Le Pen père was so widely loathed that the left and the right rallied around Jacques Chirac, who won the run-off easily. Today, by contrast, there is no such united front. Instead, mainstream politicians openly speculate about Ms Le Pen reaching the second round in the 2017 presidential election—and, just con-ceivably, winning it. Ms Le Pen is a more appealing political leader than her father. To detoxify the FN’s brand she has shed much of the neo-fascism, racism and anti-Semitism it once embodied. She is working hard to strengthen the party’s foundations, so that it is acquiring not only more voters but also more members and greater political experience. The party has 1,500 councillors and two deputies in the National Assembly. The transformation of the FN’s image is striking: even among young people, to be a supporter is no longer ta-boo. Indeed, voting FN has become semi-respectable (see article).

The Marine blues
That is deeply worrying. For all the softening of its image, the FN remains an extremist party. It is fiercely anti-immigrant. The overt anti-Semitism has been toned down, but its xenophobia continues under the theme of warnings against Islamism. That is one reason why the FN continued to gain ground after the Charlie Hebdo murders in January. The par-ty’s wrong-headed economic policies still smack of its far-right origins. It is not just anti-immigrant but anti-globalisation. It opposes free trade and free markets, displaying a strong protectionist streak. Ms Le Pen rails against France’s membership of the euro and is hostile to the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour that lie at the heart of the European single market. She is anti-American and an admirer of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, backing his annexation of Crimea and his actions in Ukraine. It is no coincidence that the FN has taken a big loan from a Kremlin-linked bank.

It is possible that Ms Le Pen intends to carry her party to the conservative mainstream. But it would be rash to bank on that. Rather than speculating about the odds of her reaching the Elysée, France’s mainstream politicians need to work far harder to head off Ms Le Pen and her party. The best answer is for them to deal with the malaise that grips so many of France’s morose voters. An economy that is barely growing, with unemployment at a 16-year high of 10.4% and youth unemployment close to 25%, offers fertile ground for the FN. The Socialist government of François Hollande, France’s president since May 2012, has belatedly embarked on reforms to make France more competitive and growth-friendly—but only after wasting its first 30 months. Time is therefore short. The fruits of reform may not be evident by 2017.

That is why both the centre-left and the centre-right need to train more of their firepower on the FN. They must not only expose its financing and its links to Russia but also attack its misguided policies head on. The country that is the world’s sixth-biggest merchandise exporter and home to its fourth-biggest stock of foreign direct investment cannot afford to turn its back on free trade, free markets and foreigners. A Le Pen presidency—however unlikely—would be a catastrophe for France, Europe and the world. That is a message mainstream French politicians cannot repeat too often.
© The Economist

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Headlines 13 March, 2015

Turkish coastguards open fire to stop Syrian migrant ship

Turkish coastguards opened fire to stop a cargo vessel carrying 337 mainly Syrian migrants heading towards European Union waters and arrested the suspected traffickers, a local official has said.

13/3/2015- Coastguards launched an operation on Thursday evening to chase down the 59–metre Dogan Kartal as it headed through the Dardanelles strait in north-west Turkey. The vessel initially ignored calls to stop, including warning shots, but was forced to halt when the guards fired on the engines, the official Anatolia news agency reported. “It stopped when the engines were fired on and then came to a complete halt when the steering wheel was locked,” Ahmet Cinar, the head of the western Canakkale province where the straits are located, told the agency. He did not give further details on how the vessel was halted. Anatolia said 337 mainly Syrian migrants were on board the ship, including 85 children and 68 women. It said two Turkish crew members identified as YY and NK, along with three suspected foreign organisers of the trafficking, were arrested. Traffic in the Dardanelles – one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes – was temporarily halted during the operation. The Syrian refugees were taken off the ship and housed in a sports hall in the nearby town of Gelibolu. Where the ship had been heading was not immediately clear. Turkey, which is hosting some 1.7 million refugees who have fled the Syrian civil war, has become a key transit point for migrants seeking a better life in Europe. Many pay traffickers thousands of dollars to take perilous journeys in small boats which often end in disaster.
© The Guardian

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Poland: Far-right party's protest marred by case of mistaken identity

11/3/2015- As a far-right party planned protests against alleged wrongful arrest of an activist, Marek Marecki for attacking the president, the police said the arrestee was a wanted man of a different name. The man known to his party colleagues as Marek Marecki was arrested on Sunday for allegedly shouting abuse at President Bronis³aw Komorowski, then attempting to throw a chair at him. The activists of KORWiN, a small far-right outfit named after Member of European Parliament Janusz Korwin-Mikke, claimed he was merely hol-ding up the chair as a happening. The chair was an allusion to President Komorowski’s recent faux pas of standing on the chair of the speaker of the Japanese parliament. “It seems the activists know neither the real name of their colleague nor that he was wanted for another crime,” a police spokesperson said.
© The News - Poland

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Poland: Dark secrets of a Polish tourist mecca

Antisemitic graffiti is sadly a common sight on Polish streets. Some of the language is directed at football teams; in other cases, it is aimed at Jews.
By Nissan Tzur


10/3/2015- However, in the past few weeks in Krakow, the problem has moved up a gear. Walls and houses across the city have been hit with a wave of antisemitic daubings, and the messages, such as “Jews to the oven”, have been particularly vicious. In attempt to find what the Polish authorities are doing about it, I sent a series of questions — in English — to Krakow’s police force, the city civil guard, the local municipality and the general prosecutor’s office. The police spokesman responded in Polish. He wrote: “Dear Sir, we would like to inform you that the official language in Poland is Polish. Therefore, you are required to send your inquiry in Polish.” The municipality, the civil guard and the Polish prosecutor’s office did not respond. None found the issue important enough, and were not even interested in finding out where the words “Jews to the oven” was sprayed so that they could delete it.

Paulina Sawicka is one of the heads of the Open Republic association that fights antisemitism and xenophobia. “I consider the Kraków’s police spokesman’s answer ridiculous,” she said. However, she said it did not surprise her. “When the law is broken, we notify the prosecutor’s office. Unfortunately, all too often, here too we do not get support. Some-times the reactions of prosecutors raise eyebrows.” Ms Sawicka gave further examples of the way the Polish authorities treat antisemitism. “A Court in Opole discontinued pro-ceedings against a law school graduate accused of profiting from fascist publications and gadgets, because a sentence would harm his legal career. The prosecutor’s office in Wro-claw allowed the publication of the Polish translation of Mein Kampf, accepting the explanation of the publisher that selling the book served a ‘scientific purpose’. The slogan ‘we will chase the Jews out of Poland’ was not considered incitement because it did not use the form ‘let’s’. And a swastika was allowed because it was characterised as an ancient Indian symbol.”

Rafal Pankowski, from the Polish anti-racism organisation Never again, agrees that the Polish authorities have still a long way to go in the fight against antisemitism. “The autho-rities have made some good efforts to prosecute hate crime in the last years, but they have often been half-baked. A much more thorough and concerted effort is needed. In many cases, the perpetrators go unpunished. We think the Polish legal provisions are more or less satisfactory. The problem has been the implementation of these provisions, which is often disappointing.”
© The Jewish Chronicle

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Police drop Swedish mosque blaze probe

Swedish police have dropped an investigation into a fire at a mosque in central Sweden on Christmas Day, ruling out criminal activity.

13/3/2015- How the mosque blaze in Eskilstuna, some 90 kilometres west of Stockholm, started is still unclear, but police have ruled out that the fire was suspicious. "There is not-hing that indicates that anybody from outside the mosque wanted to cause any harm," Fredrik Wallén, a regional police spokesman, said in a statement on Friday. Around 70 people were in the mosque when the fire took hold on Christmas Day and many of them fled through windows to escape. Anti-racism rallies attracted thousands of people in the days fol-lowing the fire which took place around the same time as two similar incidents at Swedish mosques in Eslöv and Uppsala. Wallén dismissed initial reports which suggested that the fire started after someone threw a burning object into the building, leading to much speculation that the alleged attack was an anti-Islamic hate crime.

"Information that someone or some people would have thrown something into the mosque can be dismissed. There is nothing in our investigation that confirms that that is about any-thing other than completely unfounded rumours among spectators at the scene," said Wallén. Forensic teams said on Friday that the fire started in a pile of clothes in a room next to the prayer room, used as a coat room. Visitors to the mosque, including children, are believed to have been in the room at the time. "We don't know why the fire started, but it could have by accident or by children playing with fire," Wallén said. Rumours emerging last week that the blaze was started by an overheated deep fryer have been com-pletely dismissed and were never part of the investigation, according to Swedish police and fire services. David Hultman, who has been leading the fire service's investigation, told The Local earlier this week: "As far as I understand, this 'information' about the fire did not come from police in Eskilstuna who have been working on this case. I am not really sure who came up with this."
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden: Fire service raps mosque fire ‘fat fryer’ claims

The lead investigator looking into the fire at a mosque in central Sweden on Christmas Day has told The Local it is ‘very unlikely’ the damage was caused by an overheated deep fat fryer, despite contradictory comments from a police source on Monday.

10/3/2015- David Hultman, who has been leading the fire service's investigation since December said: “We have been looking at different possibilities but a deep fryer has never been a theory that we have been working on”. “A deep fryer would probably be located in the kitchen and yet this is the only place with just secondary [less severe] damage from the fire…so it is very unlikely given what we have seen from looking at the soot and particles on the walls,” he added. The investigator’s comments come after a police source told local newspaper Eskilstuna-Kuriren on Monday that an overheated deep fat fryer was the source of the blaze. Initial reports suggested that the fire started after someone threw a burning object into the building in the city of Eskilstuna, some 90 kilometres west of Stockholm, leading to much speculation that the alleged attack was an anti-Islamic hate crime.

Around 70 people were in the mosque when the fire took hold and many of them fled through windows to escape the fire. Anti-racism rallies attracted thousands of people in the days following the fire which took place around the same time as two similar alleged attacks on Swedish mosques in Eslöv and Uppsala. Some campaigners used the rallies to blame the rise of the nationalist Sweden Democrat party for increasing Islamphobia in Sweden. Police in Eskilstuna would not confirm the deep fat fryer claims on Monday and said the investigation was still ongoing. Local media reports on Tuesday suggested that Eskilstuna police were blaming police in neighbouring Västmanland for the leak. “As far as I understand, this ‘information’ about the fire did not come from police in this town who have been working on this case. I am not really sure who came up with this,” Hultman told The Local from Eskilstuna.

But he said that while arson was still being considered by investigators, they had now ruled out the possibility that a bottle or object containing a flammable liquid had been thrown into the building. “We have not found evidence of burnable liquids in the mosque so we have eliminated this…but it is possible that vandalism was the cause,” he said The fire service's full report on the fire is set to be released before the end of the month. “The point where we are right now is that we have been collecting documentation and pictures and we are pretty well informed about the evidence. In this specific case the fire developed over a long period of time so the cause was not immediately obvious. In our report we will be eliminating what did not cause the fire and will present a number of possibilities…including arson,” added Hultman.
© The Local - Sweden

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Kazakh Opponent Of Russian Rockets Charged With Inciting Hatred

10/3/2015- A Kazakh activist and blogger who has protested against launches of Russian Proton rockets from the Baikonur Cosmodrome has been detained and charged with a hate crime. An Astana City Court spokeswoman told RFE/RL on March 10 that Saken Baikenov was sent to pretrial detention for two months late on March 9. He was charged with inciting social hatred. Proton rockets have exploded several times in recent years during failed launches from the Russian-leased facility in central Kazakhstan, contaminating the area with toxic hepthyl fuel. Baikenov is a prominent opponent of Proton launches and has taken part in several anti-Proton protests in Almaty and the capital, Astana, in recent months. His wife, Qarlyghash Myrzadilova, told RFE/RL that police had taken Baikenov from their Almaty apartment on March 7. Baikenov's lawyer, Tolegen Shaiqov, told RFE/RL that he was not at the court hearing on March 9 and had not yet been able to read the case documents.
© RFE/RL

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Denmark: new app will reveal true extent discrimination

The days of brushing off complaints of racism are over as Stemplet will enable victims to draw a map of where hate crimes occur most

13/3/2015- The bouncer was forthright. “Sorry, no blacks allowed inside tonight,” he told Zimbabwean national Tendai Tagarira, a former columnist of the Copenhagen Post, at the door of an Aarhus nightclub in 2012. “A Somali is suspected of stealing a credit card from a Dane and about 30,000 kroner is missing from that account,” the bouncer further explai-ned. But did Tagarira’s experience really surprise anyone? After all, Danish nightclubs have a well-documented track record of racism at their doors.

A land fit for Danes only
Fast-forward three years, and a new form of discrimination is developing. Widely reported xenophobia on display at the Hornsleth Bar nightclub in central Copenhagen last month (see page 5) might sound like a step down from racism, but paradoxically, it hints at a more widespread problem facing foreigners in Denmark. “This club is only for Danish citi-zens,” a Portuguese man was told as he was turned away and Danes were admitted (see page 5). Is this the future internationals can expect to face: a Denmark for Danes only? It is a sentiment that was confirmed by one of the country’s leading tour operators, which told the Weekly Post in 2013 that it did not target international because, once again a little paradoxically, its Danish customers did not want to go on holiday abroad with foreigners.

Muslims taking no chances
Meanwhile, Muslim groups are increasingly depending on one another to cope with the unprovoked violence that followed the Charlie Hebdo attacks and Copenhagen shootings. For example, one group consisting of several hundred men, ‘Beskyt dine søstre’ (protect your sisters), has since January stood poised and ready to move at all times should it re-ceive a distress call. It sounds bizarre – like something out of the world of Batman – and illegal. Which is unfortunate, as in matters of discrimination and hate crimes, the law is now firmly on the victim’s side, or at least the law in the capital.

Starting at the schools
In October 2014, the department of employment and integration at Copenhagen Municipality launched a campaign, ‘Stemplet’ (labelled), in a bid to intensify its efforts to combat the growing problem of discrimination and hate crimes within the city. “Copenhagen should be a city where everyone feels equal in society,” the municipality explained on its website. “That is why Copenhagen Municipality is actively working towards combating discrimination and hate crimes.” Several initiatives will be introduced this year, including activities at upper-secondary schools aimed at making students and teachers reflect on prejudice and discrimination.

App to report discrimination
Of particular interest to Muslims – along with other vulnerable groups such as the homeless, the Jewish community and many foreigners – is the Stemplet app, which enables users to anonymously report discriminatory behaviour (in English as well as Danish). Since its launch in October 2014, it has been downloaded 1,800 times and there have been 225 re-gistered cases – but how many more would there be if more people knew about it, and if it applied to the whole country? “It takes time for people to embrace something new – that’s why we recently teamed up with Arriva to run adverts on buses throughout the city,” spokesperson Eline Feldman told the Weekly Post. “Looking ahead, our plan is to roll out the app nationwide in two months’ time.” According to Feldman, it will be introdcued in conjunction with the Ministry of Children, Gender Equality, Integration and Social Affairs.

Measuring trends
Using the data from the app, the municipality can build a database that not only catalogues the extent of discriminatory behaviour, but also a map of where it is taking place. If a pattern emerges, the information is relayed to a relevant authority, such as the police, who can then take appropriate action. “The idea is not to act on individual cases, but rather on tendencies,” explained Feldman, who said the municipality was wary of how individuals with a personal vendetta could make a false report. “Although anonymous, each report carries its own unique identification number. That way we can tell if someone is being genuine or if a report is personally or politically motivated.”
Reports can also be submitted via the website: srvblaiseprod1.dst.dk/IMR

_______________________________________________________________________

Discrimination in Denmark: at the door of a city nightclub
A club in central Copenhagen has been labelled “racist” by a number of internationals turned away at its doors. In some cases, the rejected foreigners claim the nightclub’s security told them it was because they were not European and, in some cases, not Danish. Founded by provocative conceptual artist Kristian von Hornsleth nearly six years ago, Hornsleth Bar is a new breed of nightclub creeping into the city’s scene that takes pride in turning away customers for vague reasons like being able to “contribute to the atmosphere and party”.

Schengen: Yes; Hornsleth: No
The incidents reported at the door of Hornsleth, both via social media and directly to the Weekly Post, follow a similar pattern: internationals wait in line for up to an hour (while numerous other, Scandinavian-looking guests are admitted) and are then refused entry by the security for dubious reasons – in most cases because of their “lack of valid identifica-tion” to get into the over-23s club. When pressed for an explanation, the Hornsleth security revealed the true reason for the refusal. “‘This club is only for Europeans – you are not welcome here,’ we were told,” Vinny Sagar, an Indian who lives and works in Denmark, recalled to the Weekly Post. “We were a mix of different nationalities from India, Brazil, China – an equal amount of boys and girls. After waiting for almost an hour – during which time the bouncer ignored us and let others pass in front – we were told we needed our passports as ID to get in.” This led to a confrontation, at which point the bouncer let slip the European ‘door policy’. “I have never experienced such discrimination before,” con-cluded Sagar.

Danes recognise racism
The reports of mistreatment and racial discrimination at Hornsleth are far from limited to its international clientele. A young Danish woman, Adriana Sava, wrote on Facebook: “I am embarrassed and disappointed by your treatment of internationals at Hornsleth. I have never seen discrimination so upfront before.” She recounted the story of two “sober” Italians who she estimated to be 28-30. They were first told their Italian IDs weren’t valid, and then that their driving licences weren’t sufficient because of “problems with people from Italy with fake ID”. Another Danish patron, Stine Felice Helles, also shared the experience she had with her Portuguese boyfriend at the club. “I was allowed in, but my boyfriend was not,” she revealed on Facebook. “He was told ‘this club is only for Danish citizens’.”

Staff suspended
Hornsleth’s manager, Frederik Mygind, acknowledges the negative reviews, many of which can be found on the nightclub’s own Facebook page. “We are aware of this, and we take it very seriously. Hornsleth Bar does in no way support any form of discrimination, and the security staff [involved] have been suspended,” he said. In defence of the club’s strict door policy, Mygind explained that Hornsleth “only allows guests entry if we deem them able to contribute to the atmosphere and party in a positive manner."
© The Copenhagen Post.

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Danish Muslims get OK to form peace ring around Copenhagen synagogue

10/3/2015- Danish Muslims can create a peace ring around a Copenhagen synagogue that came under a deadly attack, the city’s police said after originally refusing the request. The peace ring is scheduled to take place on Saturday at the central Copenhagen shul, or Krystalgade Synagogue. On Feb. 14, a volunteer Jewish security guard, Dan Uzan, was shot and killed there 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 cap-ital. Police had cited security concerns for rejecting the original request, which was made a week after the shootings. The Copenhagen organizers are planning to dupl-icate a similar initiative that took place last month 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. A separate Danish Muslim group held a peace vigil in Copenhagen’s City Hall Square on Feb. 27 that was attended by an estima-ted 300 people, the local.dk news website reported.
© JTA News

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Denmark: Terrorism’s effects on the Muslim communities

After the 16th Feb 2015 terrorism attacks in Copenhagen, many among Muslim communities felt the public anger, piercing gazes as well as many snatching of head-scarves and few physical assaults. I had also a very nasty experience with the Danish police at the Copenhagen airport that left me perplexed and angry.
By Bashy Quraishy

10/3/2015- In the morning of 2nd March 2015, I came by Metro to the airport. It was rush hour and lots of people were hurring to catch their flights. While I was walking towards the downward escalator to the terminal 3, I noticed three burly police officers in full uniforms walking towards the metro. When they passed me, one policeman looked at me with stern eyes, waged a finger in a threatening gesture and said; Hey, you. In normal circumstances, I would have stopped and asked the policeman, why he was addressing me in such a rude manner but I also knew that under the terrorism Act, police has powers to detain a person on suspicion charges. I looked at my watch and noted the time as 09.55. I was flying to Brussels to take part in few meetings and an expert meeting on Islamophobia against Muslim women and if I had made a loud protest at the airport, I could have been detained and missed my plane.

Since most ethnic minorities do not report such incidents, because of missing trust towards Danish police and lack of on the spot evidence, such incidents go unnoticed and I also did not report the incident after my return to Copenhagen on 6th March. I however told about the incident to my friend Veysel Filiz and narrated it at a conference on Islamophobia in the city of Gent, the same evening. I am still thinking to complain to the Danish Police Chief through a lawyer even if I know, nothing will come out of it. I am at a loss as to why this policeman barked at me. I did not do anything out of extra ordinary.

I still have a very bitter taste in my mouth and a question in my mind; Is this the way to be in a democratic land? Was it my colour, my perceived religion or just because the policeman in question wanted to show his powers? But one thing is certain: The life of Muslim communities in Denmark and Europe is going to get difficult if not miserable.

Read the Open Society Foundations' Institute for Strategic Dialogue "Impact of Counter-Terrorism on Communities: Denmark Background Report" (Edit I CARE)
© Bashy Quraishy

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Anniversary of prevention of deportation of Bulgarian Jews to Nazi death camps marked in Sofia

10/3/2015- Bulgaria marked on March 10 2015 the 72nd anniversary of the prevention of the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to Holocaust death camps, while honouring the memory of Jews from northern Greece and the former Yugoslavia who died at Nazi hands. Speaking at a ceremony at a memorial plaque outside Parliament, Israeli ambassador Shaul Kami-sa-Raz said that the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews was an expression of solidarity, tolerance and friendship between the two peoples. In 1943, resistance by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, civil society and a number of politicians to the deportation of Bulgarian Jews led to the cancellation of planned deportations. This meant that about 50 000 Bulgarian Jews did not share the fate of the six million who died in the Holocaust. “We are here for an event that left a lasting mark in the history not only of the Jewish people, but of the whole world,” the Israeli ambassador said, adding that those who had died in the Holocaust also were being remembered.

Prayers and a minute of silence honoured the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and all genocides in the world. Wreaths and flowers were placed at the memorial plaque. Participants included pupils from the Dimcho Debelyanov School in Sofia, popularly known as the “Jewish School”. Earlier on March 10, a service was held at St Sofia church in the Bulgarian capital in honour of those who prevented the deportation of the Bulgarian Jews and in memory of those deported from northern Greece and Yugoslavia. Those areas handed been placed under Bulgarian administration at the time by the country’s World War 2 German ally, but the deportations went ahead, a fact for which Bulgaria has declared a formal apology in recent years. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Tsetska Tsacheva, said that Bulgaria was the only country in the world where the number of Jews was larger at the end of World War 2 than when the war began.

The rescue of Bulgarian Jews in World War 2 was an inspiring example of behaviour, she said. In one of the darkest moments of human history, the Bulgarian people had not com-plied with Nazi orders for the killing of all Bulgarian Jews, a history that must be remembered, Tsacheva said. Separately, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, speaking during a mee-ting on March 10 with American Jewish Committee executive director David Harris, said that the rescue of Bulgarian Jews was an unprecedented fact in the history of the world. “Not one Jew from Bulgaria was sent to the death camps. We are proud of this fact,” Borissov said. Borissov said that to this day, “Bulgaria continues to fight against all manifes-tations of intolerance, xenophobia and hate speech, including in conditions of intense migration pressure on our country”. He said that the Bulgarian government closely monitored issues related to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. Borissov cited as examples the ban on the so-called “Lukov March” in Sofia and the fact that he had taken part in the solidarity march in Paris following the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
© The Sofia Globe

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How Reddit Became a Worse Black Hole of Violent Racism than Stormfront

By Keegan Hankes, SPLC Research Analyst

10/3/2015- One section of the Web forum is dedicated to watching black men die, while another is called "CoonTown" and features users wondering if there are any states left that are "nigger free." One conversation focuses on the state of being "Negro Free," while another is about how best to bring attention to the assertion that black people are more pro-ne to commit sexual assaults than whites. But these discussions aren't happening on Stormfront, which since its founding in 1995 by a former Alabama Klan leader has been the lar-gest hate forum on the Web. They're taking place on Reddit, a huge online bulletin board. Reddit was recently spun off into its own independent entity from Advance Publications, the parent company of mass media giant Condé Nast, which also owns Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and 20 other print and online publications that reach an estimated 95 million consumers. (Advance Publications is still a majority shareholder in Reddit.) Reddit has been hailed as the last bastion of free speech on the Internet, an unregulated and vibrant community of users who post whatever they want and rely on the community around them to police their content.

The world of online hate, long dominated by website forums like Stormfront and its smaller neo-Nazi rival Vanguard News Network (VNN), has found a new — and wildly popular — home on the Internet. Reddit boasts the 9th highest Alexa Internet traffic ranking in the United States and the 36th worldwide. Many of Reddit's racist subreddits are among its most popular. Reddit is a news site that hosts user-submitted links and discussion, organized into specific communities of interest comprised of "subreddits," which are ranked by votes from users. If a reader believes content is a constructive contribution, he or she can "upvote" it, pushing the content further up the page. Conversely, if a user thinks that content is either off-topic or is not constructive, it can be "downvoted," causing it to sink further down the page. Content on Reddit is "moderated based on quality, not opinion," according to the working document that dictates community guidelines, called "Reddiquette." This idea of user-policed communities that contain high-quality, diverse content is part of the ethos Reddit has worked hard to project. "We power awesome communities," reads the graphic atop its "about" page. But awesome communities for whom?

The 'Chimpire'
Along with countless others with entirely different interests, Reddit increasingly is providing a home for anti-black racists — and some of the most virulent and violent propaganda around. In November 2013, a hyper-racist subreddit called "GreatApes" was formed. Users posted epithet-strewn links to "news" stories of dubious origin that riffed on long esta-blished stereotypes about the black community. GreatApes was wildly popular and grew quickly, expanding into a much larger Reddit network called "the Chimpire," which was organized by a user known only by his or her posting name of "Jewish_NeoCon2." "We feel it's time to expand our sphere of influence and lebensraum [the Nazi term for "living space"] on reddit. Thus we have decided to create 'the Chimpire,' a network of nigger related subreddits," Jewish_NeoCon2 wrote at the time. "Want to read people's experiences with niggers? There now is an affiliated subreddit for it. Want to watch chimp nature documentaries? We got it. Nigger hate facts? IT'S THERE. … Oh yes you bet we got videos of ghetto niggers fighting each other. Nigger drama on reddit? There's a sub. Sheboons? Gibsmedat."

Within a year, the Chimpire network had grown to include 46 active subreddits spanning an alarming range of racist topics, including "Teenapers," "ApeWrangling," "Detoilet," and "Chicongo," along with subreddits for both "TrayvonMartin" and "ferguson," each of them dealing with the controversial and highly publicized shooting deaths of unarmed black teenagers. Then, last November, Reddit's most racist community evolved once again, adding the subreddit called CoonTown in the aftermath of a dispute between several top moderators at GreatApes. In just four days, CoonTown had reached 1,000 subscribers. And its popularity continues to grow. According to Reddit Metrics, as of Jan. 6, there were 552,829 subreddits. CoonTown, with its 3,287 subscribers, ranked 6,279th, placing it in the top 2% of subreddits. It is the 680th fastest-growing subreddit on the site despite — or because of — violently racist material including a large number of threads dedicated to videos of black-on-black violence.

These gruesome videos show black men being hit in the head repeatedly with a hammer, burned alive, and killed in a variety of other ways. The subreddit's banner features a cartoon of a black man hanging, complete with a Klansman in the background. One fairly typical user, "Bustatruggalo" applauded the graphic violence as "[v]ery educational and entertaining." He or she continued on a separate thread: "I almost feel bad for letting an image like this fill me with an overwhelming amount of joy. Almost…." Others, like user "natchil," were looking for still more. "Where is watchjewsdie?" this user wondered.

'Remember the Human'
There are some limits. "No calls for violence," the CoonTown subreddit's description reads. "It's prohibited by Reddit's site-wide rules." Everything up to violence , however, is very much there, including the horrific content found on other Chimpire subreddits like "WatchNiggersDie" — content which is rarely, if ever, matched on forums like Stormfront and VNN, which worry about being shut down or driving off potential allies. That's despite the Reddiquette section's first rule, which implores Reddit users to "Remember the hu-man." "When you communicate online, all you see is a computer screen," it says. "When talking to someone you might want to ask yourself 'Would I say it to the person's face?' or 'Would I get jumped if I said this to a buddy?'" If Reddit's rules seem relaxed, that's because they are meant to be. Still, although users are asked to "remember the human," there is little humanity in the way the subjects of subreddits like CoonTown are treated.

In June 2013, however, after an extended, public controversy, Reddit did ban the subreddit "Niggers" when large numbers of its denizens began overrunning another subreddit, "BlackGirls," with racist posts that were apparently not being policed by its moderators. "Brigading" — when large groups of people from one subreddit gang up to downvote com-ments on another subreddit that they don't normally visit — is prohibited by Reddit. Users of the Niggers subreddit also engaged in "vote manipulation," which falsely raises the popularity of a post by soliciting like-minded users to blindly upvote it. After repeated warnings and "shadow-banning," or making a user's posts invisible to everyone but the author, the subreddit was finally banned. According to Jewish_NeoCon2, more than a few former members of the Niggers subreddit have now taken up residence at CoonTown.
A Reluctance to Intervene

Condé Nast, one of the largest mass media companies in the United States, acquired Reddit in 2006, although the Internet company still operates independently. The stability of such a well-established and respected media firm, as well as the funding of many high-profile investors, including a $50 million investment from the rapper Snoop Lion this Octo-ber, appears to guarantee Reddit's future. A request for comment on the Chimpire was directed to Patricia Rockenwagner, a member of Condé Nast's public relations department, but she referred it to Victoria Taylor, Reddit's head of communications. Taylor did not respond to requests for comment. Last year, however, Yishan Wong, Reddit's former CEO, took to the subreddit "TheoryofReddit," to explain that Reddit was in the red. He revealed that in exchange for its relative operational independence from Condé Nast, the site was responsible for its own bills. The site's goal, according to Wong, is to pay its own way and its primary engine for accomplishing that is through ads, a premium subscription option, and the Reddit gift exchange.

Racist websites and organizations do sometimes benefit from racist subreddits like the Chimpire. That's because subreddit users often post links to other racist sites, and those links drive traffic to those other sites, which in turn typically sell merchandise in addition to pushing racist ideology and recruiting. It's hard to dispute that Reddit does offer a venue for remarkably lively and unbridled conversation, and that dissident commentary that might not be tolerated elsewhere finds a welcome home there. Richard Spencer, a racist ideologue who heads the National Policy Institute, held an "AMA" (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit last November, and although his views are widely regarded as loathsome, he was calm and understated in his discussion of far-right European politics. Unlike in WatchNiggersDie, there were no links to videos of brutal killings or other visual images meant to degrade the humanity of minorities.

Reddit is often hailed as one of the last bastions of truly free speech, and its owners' hesitance to jeopardize that status is understandable given the loyal following it has inspired. Reddit has removed content that has been illegally appropriated from commercial interests, such as the revelations that emerged from the November hack of Sony Pictures Enter-tainment. The Internet is awash in racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic and other hateful content, but much of it is relatively tame. Subreddits such the Chimpire offer a window on to just how awful some of the darkest corners of the Web really are.

Update: This post has been updated to correct and clarify Reddit's relationship to Condé Nast and Advance Publications.
Keegan Hankes is a Research Analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project. The article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of the Intelligence Report.
© Gawker

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Greece: Extreme Right Golden Dawn Trial to Begin on April 20

9/3/2015- In a specially designed room of Greece’s largest prison, Korydallos, is expected to begin the trial of extreme right Golden Dawn party members and supporters on April 20. Among the 70 charged of running and belonging to the neo-Nazi criminal organization are its imprisoned leader Nikos Michaloliakos and also imprisoned MPs Ilias Kasidiaris, Christos Papas, Ioannis Lagos, Giorgos Germenis, Nikos Kouzoulos, Panagiotis Iliopoulos as well as ex member Stathis Mpoukouras and one underaged person that will be tried separately.



The above defendants have spent almost one and a half years in detention waiting for their trial. Although, the party leader as well as MPs Pappas and Lagos will be released on March 27, 24 days ahead of their trial, as the maximum 18-month period in pre-trial custody expires. Michaloliakos and Pappas will remain under house arrest as they face additional charges of weapons possession.



In his 700-page argument, the prosecutor handling the criminal investigation of Golden Dawn, proposed that a total of 70 party members should appear before the judge. According to his recommendation, every current or ex MP belonged to the criminal organization’s “hard core” that operated under the party’s cloak.



- See more at: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/03/09/extreme-right-golden-dawn-trial-to-begin-on-april-20/#sthash.i9Z7DGvV.dpuf




The above defendants have spent almost one and a half years in detention waiting for their trial. Although, the party leader as well as MPs Pappas and Lagos will be released on March 27, 24 days ahead of their trial, as the maximum 18-month period in pre-trial custody expires. Michaloliakos and Pappas will remain under house arrest as they face additional charges of weapons possession.



In his 700-page argument, the prosecutor handling the criminal investigation of Golden Dawn, proposed that a total of 70 party members should appear before the judge. According to his recommendation, every current or ex MP belonged to the criminal organization’s “hard core” that operated under the party’s cloak.



- See more at: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/03/09/extreme-right-golden-dawn-trial-to-begin-on-april-20/#sthash.i9Z7DGvV.dpuf


The above defendants have spent almost one and a half years in detention waiting for their trial. Although, the party leader as well as MPs Pappas and Lagos will be released on March 27, 24 days ahead of their trial, as the maximum 18-month period in pre-trial custody expires. Michaloliakos and Pappas will remain under house arrest as they face additional charges of weapons possession.

In his 700-page argument, the prosecutor handling the criminal investigation of Golden Dawn, proposed that a total of 70 party members should appear before the judge. According to his recommendation, every current or ex MP belonged to the criminal organization’s “hard core” that operated under the party’s cloak. The prose-cutor recited all the charges being brought against xenophobic Golden Dawn, underlining the murders of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas (a.k.a. Killah P) in September 2013 and Pakistani immigrant Luqman Shahzad in January 2013, as well as several individual assaults on foreign nationals and leftist activists, including the attack against PAME members in Piraeus, just a few days before Fyssas’ murder. It should be noted that all of the 16 MPs Golden Dawn had in the previous Parliament, which was dissol-ved for the January 25 general elections, will appear before the judge. Thirteen of the MPs were re-elected along with four new members, making Golden Dawn the third largest party currently represented in Greek Parliament. Currently, a total of 26 members -including the MPs- are behind bars.



The above defendants have spent almost one and a half years in detention waiting for their trial. Although, the party leader as well as MPs Pappas and Lagos will be released on March 27, 24 days ahead of their trial, as the maximum 18-month period in pre-trial custody expires. Michaloliakos and Pappas will remain under house arrest as they face additional charges of weapons possession.



In his 700-page argument, the prosecutor handling the criminal investigation of Golden Dawn, proposed that a total of 70 party members should appear before the judge. According to his recommendation, every current or ex MP belonged to the criminal organization’s “hard core” that operated under the party’s cloak.



- See more at: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/03/09/extreme-right-golden-dawn-trial-to-begin-on-april-20/#sthash.i9Z7DGvV.dpuf

© The Greek Reporter
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Spain hosts first march of far-right movement PEGIDA

The far-right movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, also known as PEGIDA, held its first march in Catalonia, Spain, on Wednesday.

12/3/2015- The protest was organized by the Spanish branch of the German far-right movement established in 2014. PEGIDA Spain selected Catalonia, the region which is home to about 450,000 of the 1.8 million Muslims living in Spain, to host its march. Many security forces were deployed in the L'Hospitalet region in Catalonia, where the protest was held with the permit of the Catalonia autonomous region's interior ministry. About 100 PEGIDA supporters marched for one hour on the 11th anniversary of March 11, 2004 terror attacks that targeted four trains in Spain and left 192 dead. The Mayor of L'Hospitalet region Nuria Marin said in a Facebook post that she was against the PEGIDA march, saying L'Hospitalet is a welcoming and pluralistic region. Anti-racism organizations called SOS Racismo and UCFIR staged an anti-racism and anti-PEGIDA march one hour before the PEGIDA march. In a statement, the organizations said that PEGIDA does not defend the secularism of the state, but is a racist and Nazi movement. PEGIDA organized protests in Norway, Denmark and Sweden and Britain in January and February 2015, with low turnouts. Hundreds of people also took part in counter-demonstrations against the protests.
© The Daily Sabah

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Spanish soccer star cited for condemning racism in sports

A prominent European group promoting tolerance honored one of Spain’s leading soccer stars for his efforts to curb racism in sports.

9/3/2015- The European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation said it was giving its third European Medal of Tolerance to Samuel Eto’o Fils, a Cameroon-born player and three-time Champions League winner. Eto’o received Spanish citizenship in 2007. Eto’o, who has condemned racism in sports publicly, was scheduled to receive the honor at a ceremony on Monday in London’s Kensington Palace, the council said in a statement. Moshe Kantor, president of the council and of the European Jewish Congress, said Eto’o was selected for his “personal leadership and devotion to combating manifestations of racism and intolerance. Personally a victim of many racist incidents, he has found the courage and will to stand against the racists, building awareness and inspiring fellow footballers and millions of football fans.” Sharing the honor with Eto’o is the FARE Network, an anti-discrimination and social inclusion network focusing on combating soccer-related xenophobia.

Tensions between ethnic groups in Europe, where many countries are seeing a rising far right and radical Islam, in recent years have led to increased efforts by Euro-pean organizations and governments to combat manifestations of racism and other forms of exclusion in soccer stadiums, where derogatory chants about Jews and blacks are commonplace. That effort featured prominently on the agenda of the March 3 conference in Brussels of Facing Facts, a project set up in 2011 by CEJI: A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe and other groups to help anti-racism watchdogs become more effective. At the event, Joanna Perry, the hate crime officer at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, referred to recent incidents last month in which fans of Britain’s Chelsea soccer team prevented a black man from getting on a Metro in Paris, and another in which fans were seen singing anti-Semitic songs in the London Underground.

“Hate crimes persist, but what is changing is the response,” Perry said in reference to strong and immediate condemnation of the fans by Chelsea’s management. ”They know now they need to respond quickly, and this is another sign that the response has become much stronger to these things.”
© JTA News

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Spain: Leader of Spain's Podemos: stop austerity to halt far-right's rise

8/3/2015- Europe must stop its austerity policies or watch far-right movements continue to grow and pose a real danger to democracy, said Pablo Iglesias, leader of Spain's Podemos party that like Greece's Syriza aims to offer a leftist alternative. In an interview with Reuters, the 36-year-old whose Podemos ('We Can') party is lea-ding some election polls, also said any coalition between Spain's centre-right and centre-left would only prolong what he called the country's economic disaster. Spain is emerging from a seven-year economic slump as one of the euro zone's fastest growing nations. But the exit from recession has yet to ease the hardship for millions of households and nearly one in four of the workforce is still out of a job. A weariness with austerity has made voters across Europe susceptible to the rhetoric of anti-immigrant right-wing parties that are playing to their discontent with suggestions that the European Union has let them down.

While the far-right has made little ground in Spain - public unhappiness has translated instead into anti-capitalist and anti-establishment movements - Iglesias said he was concerned about the increased attraction for some voters of movements like Greece's Golden Dawn and France's National Front. "It is very important to accept the hand outstretched by those like us who are pro-European, those who defend the European project," said Iglesias, a university professor, from his office overlooking the Square of Spain in central Madrid. Otherwise, he warned: "Perhaps in one year's time (France's far-right leader) Marine Le Pen will have a seat at the Eurogroup. One should ask (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel if she'd rather sit down with Marine Le Pen or with me."

He told Reuters that while Podemos was cautious of opinion polls that put the party ahead of the ruling's People's Party (PP) and the opposition Socialist Party, it is nonetheless aiming to win an absolute majority in the general election that is expected to take place by the end of the year. "I have the impression that if it doesn't happen there could be in this country a grand coalition like those which have ruled in so many other European countries," Iglesias said. "They would continue the poli-cies that have taken us to disaster."

"Do Things Better"
Spain's one trillion-euro debt is nearly 100 percent of GDP and interest payments are becoming one of the biggest parts of the country's national budget. Podemos has called for a restructuring of the debt and while Iglesias acknowledged this and other economic steps could face resistance - Greece's new Syriza government is strug-gling to wrest control of economic policy from international creditors - he said the EU would have to listen "seriously" to its fourth-biggest economy. "The austerity policies are taking us closer to chaos and we can do things better than what has been done," he said. Podemos, which produced a major shock by winning five seats in elections for the European Parliament in May last year, plans to achieve economic growth by boosting public spending and internal demand. It has said in its election manifesto it would reform the tax system to shift the burden from labour to capital, hike tax rates for the wealthiest and give tax inspectors greater powers to fight tax evasion and increase the government's revenues.

The party came under fire for pledging to default on the national debt and nationalize the country's main utilities. Since then it has rowed back on those pledges in a move that analysts say demonstrates its ambition to capture centre-left votes too. In addition to now saying it would talk to creditors about debt restructuring, Pode-mos says it would discuss with energy and water companies how to provide a cheaper service for those who are in a situation of poverty. Iglesias said he would also make a priority of stopping house evictions. A recent poll showed one in four who voted for the socialists in 2011 would cast their ballot for Podemos if the election was held today. In the case of the former communists of Izquierda Unida, the ratio would be closer to one in two.

Pony-tailed Iglesias, who was known for his frequent appearances on political TV shows before founding Podemos a year ago, said last month the party was now the only real opposition to the centre-right government of Rajoy. A Metroscopia poll released by Spanish newspaper El Pais on Sunday showed Podemos would win a gene-ral election if it was held today, ahead of the socialists, the PP and other anti-establishment party Ciudadanos, for which support has also surged in recent months.
© Reuters

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Belgium: Club Brugge take stance against racism

"Racism has no place in football, or in the world," said Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo, with Club Brugge KV proud to be wearing 'No To Racism' on their shirts this week.

11/3/2015- UEFA President Michel Platini has congratulated Club Brugge KV after the Belgian team decided to wear a 'No To Racism'-branded shirt in their UEFA Europa League round of 16 opener against Beºiktaº JK on Thursday. "We applaud this initiative by Club Brugge," said Mr Platini. "UEFA has a zero-tolerance policy towards all kinds of discrimina-tion and we are working diligently in order to make sure the world of football is more tolerant and inclusive. UEFA is proud of its 'No To Racism' campaign and it is great to see our stakeholders engaging with it." Club Brugge coach Michel Preud'homme is right behind the initiative too, explaining: "Football is the best example of how to build a society. I have played and worked in several nations and continents myself. We speak all languages in training sessions. Inside football things are perfect. The problems always come from the out-side. Inside teams there are never problems."

Congolese defender Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo is pleased to say he has never had any problems with racism during his playing career, though the 19-year-old recognises the importance of Club Brugge's gesture. "Racism has no place in football, or in the world," he stressed. "So I really appreciate that my own club are doing this now." The club's general manager Vin-cent Mannaert added: "Club Brugge are completely behind UEFA's 'No To Racism' campaign. As the most popular football club in Belgium, Club Brugge want to lead the way in terms of zero tolerance against racism. We did that recently already, giving stadium bans to so-called supporters who were guilty of such despicable behaviour. With this gesture, we are underlining our commitment on the European stage." Since 2001, UEFA and FARE have cooperated on the 'No To Racism' project, but Club Brugge will be the first club to wear the slogan on their shirts in a European game.
© UEFA

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Italy seeks to block regional 'anti-mosque law'

13/3/2015- The Italian government has moved to block new building regulations for Lombardy which would make it virtually impossible to build any new mosques in the northern region, officials said Friday. The regulations, which have become known as the "anti-mosque" law, were approved by the right-wing dominated regional council at the end of January. Amid an outcry over what critics see as a blatantly discriminatory move, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's center-left government has decided to refer the new rules to the Constitutional Court for review. Under the regulations, anyone seeking to build a new place of worship for a religion not officially recognized by the state would be subject to an extensive list of special restrictions ranging from the size of associated parking facilities to the outward appearance of the buildings, as well as having to clear a string of new bureaucratic hurdles.

Since Islam is the only major religion not recognized by the Italian state, the new rules have been seen as being specifically targeted at Italy's one million plus Muslims. Critics say the legislation breaches Italy's constitution on several grounds and is bound to be overturned by the Constitutional Court. Issues judges will consider are expected to include whether the new measures breach guarantees of religious freedom, whether the region has exceeded its power by redrawing the relationship between state and religion, and whether the new law leaves too much to the discretion of local mayors. Under one provision of the Lombardy law, local mayors who were unhappy about the construction of a new mosque could seek to organize a local referendum before granting or refusing permission.

It also stipulates that the dimensions and architectural proportions of any new place of worship should be in keeping with Lombardy's landscape - a requirement that appears custom-written to block any plans involving minarets. The Renzi government's decision to block Lombardy's plans prompted a scathing response from Matteo Salvini, the overtly anti-Islam leader of the far-right Northern League. "Renzi and (Interior Minister) Alfano - here are the new Imams," Salvini wrote on his Facebook page. The League is the dominant force in the coalition that runs the Lombardy region. Purpose-built mosques are rare in Italy, although Rome is home to the largest one in Europe. Generally, most Muslims living or visiting Italy pray in adapted buildings rented from local authorities or private landlords.
© AFP

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Italy: MEP indulges in anti-Roma rhetoric during Italian TV show

10/3/2015- The Support Team of the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe for Roma issues rejects without reservation comments made earlier this month by Lega Nord MEP Gianluca Buonanno, during the Italian TV show Piazza pulita broadcasted on La7. MEP Buonanno indulged in hate speech against Roma and their repre-sentative during the programme, Ms Dijana Pavlovic, President of the Roma and Sinti Federation and National Project Officer for ROMED and ROMACT Joint Programmes of the Euro-pean Commission and the Council of Europe. Statements that he made including “Gypsies are the dregs of the society” hardly contribute to fostering useful dialogue in addressing Roma issues. The Council of Europe often draws attention to biased rhetoric and reporting in the public domain. Negative portrayals of Roma are widespread in today’s Europe, and such preju-dices fuel discrimination and intolerance towards Roma. The power of persuasion of those who have access to the public domain should instead be used to counter hate speech and to encourage the inclusion of all citizens. All public discourse which publicly incites direct or indirect discrimination, hatred or violence against Roma should be condemned.
© Romed

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Italy: Open letter regarding racist statement against Cecile Kyenge MEP

9/3/2015- The Italian Senate recently decided not to sanction Roberto Calderoli, Deputy President of the Senate, for his 2013 statement describing Cecile Kyenge, Italy’s former Integration Minister and current Member of the European Parliament, as an ‘orangutan’.

Open letter to:
- Matteo Renzi, Italian Prime Minister,
- Pietro Grasso, President of the Senate,
- Laura Boldrini, President of the Chamber of Deputies,
- Sandro Gozi, Under
- Secretary of State for European Affairs,
- Gian Marco Centinaio, Andrea Cioffi, Mario Ferrara, Paolo Romani, Renato Schifani, Luigi Zanda and Karl Zeller, Presidents of groups in the Senate.

Brussels, 9 March 2015,

Honourable Prime Minister, President of the Senate, President of the Chamber of Deputies, Members of the Senate,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our deep concern regarding the recent decision of an Italian Senate Committee not to sanction Roberto Calderoli, Italy’s Deputy President of the Senate, for his 2013 statement describing former Italian Integration Minister Ms. Cecile Kyenge as an ‘orang - utan’. M. Calderoli has remained in office and has defended his racist statements ever since. We urge you to authorise appropriate criminal procedures against M. Calderoli and to sanction racist and xenophobic rhetoric by politicians in the future.

Calderoli’s statement –which was made outside of the exercise of his parliamentary functions– is a clear manifestation of Afrophobic hate speech, dehumanising Ms
Kyenge in comparing her physical appearance to the one of an animal and inciting to racial hatred. This occurrence is not an isolated case, clearly indicating the lack of
political will to recognise and to condemn Afrophobia and political hate speech. During the European Parliament election campaign in 2014, ENAR documented cases
of hate speech . Eight incidents were recorded in Italy, of which four were committed by politicians of Calderoli’s Lega Nord. This development further underlines this alarming trend. The decision not to authorise prosecution is in breach of both Italian Legislative Decree n. 122 of 26 April 1993 (1) and of the EU Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law. (2)

This racist insult affects People of African descent in Italy and across Europe. As the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights already noted –including as regards to Italy- racially inflammatory political discourse has devastating effects on the groups targeted and encourage hostility, discrimination and violence against them. Politicians as opinion shapers have a significant impact on social cohesion. Hence, they have a special responsibility not to use a language that contributes to fuelling discrimination and dehumanising minorities. They must act responsibly and be held accountable for their statements.

The Italian Senate’s decision not to allow prosecution following this incident gives an alarming signal for Italy and Europe and contributes to spreading impunity and
normalising racism.
Therefore we ask that:
-­] The Senate’s plenary overturns the Committee on Elections and Parliamentary Immunity ’s decision to reject M. Crimi’s report of and allows prosecution of M. Calde-roli in this case.
-­] Authorities take steps to establish an obligation to suppress public financing of organisations which promote racism, including public financing of political parties, as recommended in ECRI’s General Policy recommendation N. 7. Such obligation already exists in the Netherlands and in Belgium.
-­] Both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies commit to revise their rules of procedures to ensure unpartisan and serious examination of cases of hate speech, in order to provide for internal sanctions and, where relevant, waive immunity and authorise criminal proceedings.
-­] A debate on hate speech , xenophobic and sexist comments – including online - and its consequences is held in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.
-­] Political parties adopt effective self-regulatory measures in order to counter and sanction racist and xenophobic rhetoric by their elected members, as recommended by the Council of Europe Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)’s declaration on the use of racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic elements in political discour-se.

We trust that we can start a constructive dialogue in order to address the issues highlighted in this letter, and we remain available to provide any support in this
process.
We look forward to receiving your reply.
Sincerely yours,
The signatories:
1. European Network Against Racism (ENAR)
2. CIE Piemonte – Italy
3. Coalizione Italiana Libertà e Diritti Civili (CILD) – Italy
4. A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe (CEJI)
5. Africa Centre Ireland – Ireland
6. African Empowerment Centre – Denmark
7. Apna Haq – UK
8. Associations de Juristes Arabo - Musulmans d'Europe (AJAME) – France
9. Associazione 21 luglio ONLUS – Italy
10. Associazione per gli studi giuridici sull’immigrazione (ASGI) – Italy
11. Centre Against Racism (CMR) – Sweden
12. Collectif Contre le Contrôle au faciès - France
13. Committee for Legal Rights for Foreigners (KUR) – Denmark
14. Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires (CRAN) – France
15. Coordinamento Iniziative Popolari di Solidarietà Internazionale (CIPSI) - Italy
16. COSPE Onlus – Italy
17. Discrimination Law Association – UK
18. ENAR Ireland - Ireland
19. Estonian Human Rights Centre - Estonia
20. European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH) – Germany
21. Faith Matters – UK
22. Fight Racism Now – Sweden
23. Guatemalan Association of Lund – Svezia Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities – UK
24. Initiative Schwarze Menschen (ISD Bund) – Germany
25. John XXIII Peace Laboratory – Malta
26. JUST West Yorkshire – UK
27. KISA Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism – Cyprus
28. Latvian Human Rights Committee – Latvia
29. Les Indivisibles – France
30. Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights – Lituania
31. Lunaria – Italy
32. New Urban Collective – The Netherlands
33. Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Councils – UK
34. Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities – UK
35. Naga Associazione Volontaria di Assistenza Socio - Sanitaria e per i Diritti di Cittadini Stranieri, Rom e Sinti - Italy
36. Overlegorgaan Caribische Nederlanders (OCAN) – The Netherlands
37. Pan-African Movement for Justice - Sweden
38. Plate-forme Migrants et Citoyen neté européenne (PMC) – France
39. Tell Mama – UK
40. UK Race and Europe Network (UKREN) – UK
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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EU considers migrant centers in Africa to deal with influx

Italy urged its European Union partners Thursday to set up migrant reception centers in northern Africa as efforts to beef up the EU's borders agency falter amid an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers.

12/3/2015- At a meeting of EU interior ministers, France, Germany and Austria voiced support for the proposal which could see would-be migrants screened in Niger, Tunisia, Morocco or perhaps Egypt. "It's about a humanitarian mission which would allow Europe to do screening and to dismantle a huge human trafficking market," Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told reporters in Brussels. More than 276,000 migrants entered the EU illegally last year, and conflict-torn Libya is the major jumping off point for people aiming to reach southern Europe. Italy takes the brunt of the migration wave and its government is concerned that extremists might be slipping into the country along with migrants. The EU is planning to send immigration officers to some countries outside Europe to establish whether people need urgent help and study what kind of legal migration avenues might be open to them.

A test phase is planned in Niger, where mainly young men from Senegal, Gambia and Mali transit on their way north to escape poverty, according to the International Organization for Migration. EU migration chief Dimitris Avramopoulos said he would travel soon to Tunisia and Egypt, and later Morocco, "in order to create a zone in this area, to engage these coun-tries." During the talks, EU presidency nation Latvia urged its 27 partner countries to provide more funds and resources for the border agency Frontex, given broad opposition to creating an EU border guard system. "The capacity of Frontex needs to be beefed up, and not just in the Mediterranean because the Western Balkans now faces high migration pres-sure as well," said Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis, referring to the increasing number of poor people from Kosovo crossing into Hungary. But while ministers supported these calls, no commitment of funds or resources was announced Thursday.
© The Associated Press

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EU should enforce 'zero tolerance' against racial discrimination (opinion)

Claude Moraes outlines why racial discrimination has been exacerbated by the recent economic crisis and calls on the EU to put an end to it.

9/3/2015- Respect and tolerance are at the core of European values as well as being essential components to tackling racial discrimination. The international day for the elimination of racial discrimination serves as a pressing reminder that more has to be done at EU level to address the problem. Failure to do so risks the normalisation of particular groups in society being marginalised. The increased presence of the far-right across Europe has drawn attention to failures in effectively tackling racial discri-mination and the worrying trend of hate speech being aired at all levels, not least at EU level. The racial incident in the Paris metro involving football fans and a pas-senger highlights the dangers of being complacent when addressing the issue of racism.

Austerity driven policies have also contributed to targeted hostility towards ethnic minorities, as highlighted in studies which have drawn attention to discrimination in the labour market as mentioned by many NGOs. We should resist scapegoating particular groups with hate speech and focus our attention on improving a wide range of socioeconomic factors which have exacerbated problems for societies in Europe. Racial discrimination is a violation of fundamental rights and dignity and there should be zero tolerance of it in all settings.

Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs (LIBE) committee has general competence with regards to discrimination and the protection within the union of fundamental rights, including the protection of minorities; this has been a core of our work. The racial equality directive, published in 2000, was a ground-breaking piece of legislation for the committee as well as the EU, as it outlined the principle of equal treatment between people irrespective of racial or ethnic origin. As well as being involved in the legislative negotiations for the directive, I also campaigned for proper implementation with the assistance of NGOs such as the European net-work against racism (ENAR). Working alongside civil society helped to strengthen the legal framework concerning racial and ethnic equality in Europe.

As chair of the LIBE committee, I will continue to apply pressure for negotiations to begin with the council on the horizontal anti-discrimination directive. It is unac-ceptable that the EU is still lacking a horizontal anti-discrimination instrument, which results in serious gaps and asymmetries in protection from one member state to another. It is essential that the EU comes together and is more proactive as opposed to reactive with regards to eliminating xenophobia and racial discrimination in our continent. 2015 marks 50 years since the introduction of the UK race relations act. Later this year, I will join a number of key figures from academia, the legal profes-sion, civil society and government to reflect on the first piece of anti-discrimination statute in Britain. It will also offer a chance to discuss ways to strengthen legis-lation on anti-discrimination measures. It is essential that we apply a multilayer approach to bridge the gap between policy and implementation with regards to raising awareness of racial discrimination.

As a Labour MEP for London, I am proud to represent a region that is home to a wide-range of ethnic minorities. We should celebrate the diversity of our continent and continue to promote inclusivity and respect for others. It is essential that the EU closely measures racial discrimination and xenophobia and its effects in order to recognise the issue and implement laws to discourage racist behaviour.
Claude Moraes (S&D, UK) is chair of parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee
© The Parliament Magazine

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Sen. Ben Cardin named anti-Semitism watchdog for OSCE

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) has appointed U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin to serve as the PA’s first Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance.

9/3/2015- The newly established position will help focus and strengthen the Assembly’s work on countering these challenges across the OSCE area. “Senator Cardin has long been one of the leading voices in both the U.S. Congress and the OSCE PA on the need to tackle anti-Semitism, racism and the other forms of intolerance that continue to leave their ugly mark on our societies. It is high time that we boost our collective efforts to combat these threats to our human security. I am confident that Senator Cardin’s leadership will help the Assembly to do just that and I look forward to working with him,” Kanerva said.

In accepting the appointment, Cardin said:
“No longer content to simmer below the surface, the recent heinous attacks in Paris and Copenhagen have demonstrated the severity and pervasiveness of antisemitism and prejudice in the world today. Intolerance, expressed by anti-Semitic violence, racism or xenophobia, takes many forms and wears many faces. I have long fought to shine a spotlight on such activity and supported efforts to address the root causes fueling hate crimes and other forms of discrimination. I am humbled to take on this new and important responsibility within the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. I will use every tool available to raise awareness of this grave issue and push for strong ac-tions to fight back against such gross intolerance.”

The mandate of the OSCE PA Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance is to:
• Raise awareness in and report to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on the persisting problem of prejudice and discrimination in the OSCE area, including anti-Semitism, other religion- and race-based intolerance and other forms of intolerance;
• Raise awareness in and report to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on the track records of OSCE participating States in combating these problems;
• Advise the Assembly on the implementation of its agreed policies in these matters as well as on the development of new policies and strategies, including on how to protect the individuals and communities affected;
• Seek to promote dialogue and exchange of best practices within the Assembly on combating these problems; and
• Communicate with relevant actors within the OSCE who work on combating prejudice and discrimination in the OSCE area, including anti-Semitism, other religion- and race-based intolerance and other forms of intolerance.

Cardin has served for more than a decade in the OSCE PA, holding the positions of Vice-President and Chairperson of the Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment. He was also previously Deputy Head of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE PA. Within the U.S. Congress he is a senior Commissioner and former Chairperson of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. There are currently nine other OSCE PA Special Representatives. Each holds a mandate pertaining to a specific issue within the Assembly’s work or to a specific geographical area within, or of particular importance to, the Assembly.
© The OSCE

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Germany, Austria & UK News Week 11

Germany: Muslim teachers may wear headscarves in class, German court rules

Reversal of constitutional court’s 2003 ruling hailed as ‘good day for religious freedom’

13/3/2015- Female Muslim teachers in Germany may wear headscarves in class as long as it does not cause disruption in the school, Germany’s top court has said in a ruling that may fuel debate about what some nationalist groups see as creeping “Islamisation”. The constitutional court reversed its initial 2003 ban on headscarves for teachers, which had led some German states to forbid Muslim headscarves in schools while permitting the wearing of Christian symbols such as crucifixes and nuns’ habits. The court in Karlsruhe, ruling on a case brought by a Muslim woman blocked from a teaching job because of her headscarf, said religious symbols could only be banned when they posed “not just an abstract but a concrete risk of disruption in schools”. “This is a good day for religious freedom,” said Volker Beck, a lawmaker from the opposition Greens. He argued that headgear worn by Muslim, Jewish and Christian women and men was less of a threat to German society than that posed by “opponents of diversity” such as the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD), neo-Nazis and extremist Muslim Salafists.

Christine Lueders, head of the federal anti-discrimination agency, welcomed the ruling for “reinforcing religious freedom in Germany”. With education administered by Germany’s 16 states, she called on local authorities to review the relevant rules. But the Berlin daily TTaz warned that the anti-Islam protest group Pegida, which began by staging small marches in Dresden and soon spawned imitation rallies across Germany and elsewhere, would seize on the ruling to argue that Europe was being taken over by Islam. “Pegida will celebrate,” said Taz on its front page, beneath a photo of coloured headscarves in a shop window in Berlin. Enthusiasm for Pegida, which stands for ”Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the west”, has waned after its members began to be outnumbered by anti-racist demonstrators and the the Pegida founder, Lutz Bachmann, posed with a Hitler moustache in a photograph.

But there are widespread misgivings in Germany about the influence of its 4 million-strong Muslim community. One survey carried out in late 2014, before the blacklash caused by the Islamist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, showed 57% of Germans thought Islam posed a threat to their society. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has accused the Pegida organisers of spreading hatred against immigrants, whom she says Germany, with its shrinking workforce and ageing population, badly needs.
© Reuters

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German court fines relatives for abducting gay Muslim

12/3/2015- A German court fined the father and two uncles of an 18-year-old Muslim citizen for depriving him of his personal freedom when he was a minor in an attempt, the victim says, to force him into marriage with a woman despite his homosexuality. In a case highlighting the problems Germany faces in integrating its four-million-strong Muslim community, Nasser El-Ahmad, who has a Lebanese background, has also told German media that his family tortured him for being gay. Found in a car at the Romanian-Bulgarian border two days after he went missing in December 2012, prompting an Interpol alert, El-Ahmad says he was kidnapped by his family in order to arrange his marriage to a Lebanese girl. After a five-minute hearing on Thursday, the judge handed the three accused men, who were not present, fines of 1,350 euros ($1,436) each for detaining him and taking him abroad.

El-Ahmad, wearing a black shirt and trousers, black earrings and a "STOP HOMOPHOBIA" badge, said the court had done what it deemed right. "I did what I have the strength to do. At least this came to court, I'm happy about that," he said, adding he had not expected his relatives to turn up. "I'm not someone who hides. I don't want to suppress my sexuality."
El-Ahmad has told German media his father vowed to slit his throat and his uncle threatened to burn him after dousing him with petrol because they could not allow him to be gay. The court did not deal with allegations of torture or forced marriage but the abduction happened after he was put into care.

While Germany has long struggled to stop the practice of forced marriage, the case has exposed risks faced by gay men. Some estimates put the number of forced marriages in Berlin at about 450 a year, with only a few dozen affecting men. "It was a very brave step as a homosexual .. to question a religious society that is very conservative and lives in the Middle Ages," said film director and gay rights activist Rosa von Praunheim. "Gays and young women are in the same boat." The case also feeds into a debate about the role of Islam in Germany, brought to a head by the anti-immigration PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) group which won support with warnings about being overrun by Muslims. Although its popularity is waning, the grassroots movement put the question of Islam's role in Germany on the political agenda and its weekly marches in Dres-den were at their height when Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned them and declared: "Islam belongs to Germany".
© Reuters

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Germany: Row between Muslim leaders amid push for higher status for mosques

Fractures are showing between the different major Muslim organizations in Germany after one leader attended a rally against anti-Semitism alone. He is making the other groups look intolerant, his critics say.

12/3/2015- Shortly after the violent attacks at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher super market in Paris at the hands of Islamist terrorists in January, Aiman Mazyek stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate next to Chancellor Angela Merkel, condemning anti-Semitism and calling on Germans to be tolerant and embrace diversity. Mazyek is head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), one of the organizations represented by the national umbrella group Coordination Council of Muslims (KRM). The other groups in the KRM are now accusing Mazyek of not only going against the decision of the group at the last minute by attending a separate anti-Semitism event last September 14, but also of giving the false impression that the other groups in the KRM do not care about fighting the hatred of Jews.

Critics say Mazyek perpetuating false impression
The most serious criticism comes the Cologne-based group Ditib - a Tukish acronym standing for "Turkish Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion". Their leader, Bekir Alboga, told reporters that Mazyek was making it seem like the Muslim community, with the exception of the ZMD, was "uncritical of and insensitive to the issues of anti-Semitism." Yet Alboga also said: "This is not a fight, just a clarification, so that there is no false impression." The umbrella organization has made it clear in the meantime that is against all forms of hate and anti-Semitism. Ditib further criticized Mazyek for posting a link on his Facebook to an article from the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau which claimed that he participated in the September 14 rally for religious tolerance against the wishes of the KRM, as if to say they did not want him to attend because they did not support the cause. According to Ditib, the members of KRM had discussed attending an the anti-Semitism event in the fall, but as there was no way for the groups to attend in a united position, they declined the invitation. Ditib claims that Mazyek then called the KRM members merely an hour before the event to say he would participate on his own, as he happened to be in Berlin.

Push for equal status amongst religious institutions
The row comes at a crucial time for the German Muslim community as the push for mosques to gain equal status with churches and synagogues gains momentum. Raed Saleh, the Social Democrats' parliamentary floor leader in the regional parliament of the city state of Berlin, renewed the call on Tuesday for Germany's church tax law to apply for mosques as well. Currently, Germans who indicate their faith as Jewish or a major Christian denomination automatically pay a tax to that institution, unless they specify they do not wish to, or are not religious. Austria recently forbade foreign financing of certain Muslim organizations, fearing too close ties to foreign governments or the promotion of radicaliza-tion by foreign preachers.

Saleh said that something similar was necessary in Germany, because "when money flows in from abroad, that means influence is flowing with it. We don't want that." Even the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan had words of warning about radicalization happening in German mosques during Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel's recent trip the United Arab Emirates. "He asked us not to look away," Gabriel told the press, "because in the end it affects us all." Gabriel said the German community needed to be aware of what was being preached in the mosques, and that mosques needed the opportunity to train their own German imams - rather than being forced to recruit foreign preachers.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Schwarz-Rot-Gold: A nation's history in colour

On March 9th 1848, the Federal Convention in Frankfurt made black, red and gold the German national colours. Like their French predecessors of 1789, the Germans now had a tricolour to symbolise nation and revolution.

12/3/2015- Black, red and gold all featured previously in German history. Red was the colour of the Hanseatic cities, black and gold those of the Holy Roman Empire. But, it was only during the nineteenth century that they were combined in one flag. The combination emerged at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 - Napoleon's first major defeat in battle, and the moment which the German speaking world has always seen as its liberation from French occupation. Uniforms worn by a Prussian brigade, the Lützow Free Corps, were black, red and gold for purely practical reasons. But the Corps represented German unity, because it drew its recruits from the wider German-speaking world. In the aftermath of the victory the colours began to symbolize liberation from Napoleon and a desire for German unity.

In 1815 the German Confederation was created. It was a replacement of sorts for the Holy Roman Empire that united the various different German speaking states. The next 30 years or so were dominated by the question of German unity and the colours became an important part of the push for a German nation. The Hambacher Fest of 1832, a gathering in support of liberalism and nationalism, and against conservatism and censorship, adopted the tricolour of black, red and gold as symbolic of these values. On March 9th 1848, the Federal Convention declared black, red and gold as the national colours. Today the flag's link to the German nation is not in doubt - especially after its prevalence at historic events such as German reunification in 1990. But when the revolution collapsed in 1850, the tricolour also failed and was replaced by a black, white and red flag. These colours symbolized the North German Federation, and were adopted by Bismarck during German unification in 1871.

It was not until 1919 that black, red and gold were readopted as the national flag. The constitution of the Weimar Republic wanted to reference the anti-autocratic movement of the 19th century and embrace values of democracy, republicanism and liberalism in a new era. The three main parties of the period, the Social Democratic Party, the Centre Party (precursor to the modern day Christian Democratic Union), and the Democratic Party formed an organisation called the Black, Red, Gold Banner of the Reich. This shows the im-portance of the colours as a symbol of parliamentary democracy but also of resistance to political extremism. In contrast the black, white and red colours then began to symbolize the values of imperialism and nationalism that the Weimar Republic rejected. This is why right-wing groups and eventually the Nazis used these colours to oppose the Weimar Republic and call for a return to the period of the German Reich.

After the horrors of the Third Reich which adopted black, red and white as its colours along with the swastika symbol, the black, red and gold flag has been used throughout the post-war period. Because of the ban on Nazi symbols in Germany, right wing and neo-Nazi groups have adopted the black, white, and red tricolour as their flag. Even the GDR used the black,red and gold tricolour, just adding a coat of arms to their version of the flag.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: 'Neo-Nazis' attack journalist after demo

A journalist who has previously received death threats from the far right was attacked in Dortmund on Monday evening after covering a demonstration by a neo-Nazi group, police said on Tuesday.

11/3/2015- Marcus Arndt, 43, was on his way home from the U-Bahn after photographing 30 neo-Nazis demonstrating against a refugee accommodation block, despite a counter-demo by 300 people. He suddenly realized that he was being pelted with stones from behind. “I had already had a strange feeling in the U-Bahn,” the freelance journalist told Ruhrbarone. “I had noticed several people in typical clothing for the far-right scene.” When he turned around, he saw two attackers. They threw more stones, hitting him on the head and upper body. Both of them were making death threats against him as they continued to attack. Ardnt was able to scare the pair off using a blank-firing pistol before calling the police and his friends using his mobile phone. He was taken to hospital in an ambulance for a brief examination but was able to leave soon afterwards. “Dortmund has the big-gest neo-Nazi scene in Germany,” Ruhrbarone journalist Sebastian Weiermann, who accompanied Arndt to the hospital, told The Local. “Recently I've noticed a whole bunch of younger Nazis, it might be a sort of dare for them [to attack us].” Weiermann added that while they would be taking precautions and avoid travelling alone, the reporters would not allow themselves to be scared off and would look more closely into the people who might be behind the attacks.

Police respond aggressively
“We've just set up a special squad investigating the far-right,” Dortmund police chief Gregor Lange said on Tuesday, adding that 12 new members would be added to the team and that the crime would be given the highest priority. Police officers will also be assigned to protect Arndt, he said. A police spokesman told broadcaster WDR on Tuesday that “some clues point towards” the attack being linked to the death threats Arndt and other journalists in the region had already received.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Borussia Dortmund start 'no beer for racists' campaign with 1m beermats

10/3/2015- Borussia Dortmund have started a "no beer for racists" campaign, with the club's fan department supplying local pubs with a total of one million beermats to be used throughout the city of Dortmund. The Ruhr city has one of the biggest right-wing political scenes in Germany. Only recently death threats made to several journalists covering the problem were made public, with one journalist attacked in the city centre on Monday. Borussia Dortmund have also been in the headlines for several far-right incidents, with one fan liaison officer recently being verbally attacked. BVB have imposed bans on people who have given Nazi salutes and shouted "Sieg Heil" as part of a zero-tolerance policy on far-right elements at the Westfalenstadion. On Tuesday, BVB's fan department kicked off the "No Beer For Racists" campaign, with a statement on the official homepage reading: "Borussia, beer -- and Nazis? It does not fit!" To accompany the campaign in Dortmund pubs, the club also published a website with "hard facts against dull statements." "Borussia Dort-mund, the fan department and all BVB fans bear responsibility to take a clear stand against xenophobic and inhumane slogans rather than not listening to them," BVB president Rein-hard Rauball said. "For tolerance and a colourful BVB, against racism and xenophobia."
© ESPN FC

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Germans outraged after far-right rally forces mayor's resignation

10/3/2015- Senior German politicians warned on Tuesday that basic freedoms were threatened after a mayor in an eastern town resigned saying local authorities had failed to stop a far-right protest outside his house. Markus Nierth, the elected and unpaid mayor of Troeglitz, said on Monday he feared for his family's safety after the National Democratic Party (NPD) announced the rally against his plans to house asylum seekers. "If an elected mayor does not feel protected from a brown mob in our democracy, all alarm bells must be rin-ging," Greens co-leader Cem Oezdemir told the Berliner Zeitung daily, using a phrase referring to the brown uniforms of Hitler's followers. The incident has underlined concerns that the far-right could gain support amid a debate on rising numbers of asylum seekers in Germany. Numbers increased by about 60 percent last year, according to the Federal Statistics Office.

Nierth wrote on Facebook he was "stunned and disappointed" that civil servants in the district administrator's office had decided against banning the march, and had not consulted him. "It's about my children and my wife fearing the arrival of truck loads of neo-Nazis ... their kind, peaceful faces looking through our windows and ... letting us hear their loving slogans," Nierth wrote on Facebook. Polls show most Germans think Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is paying too little attention to worries about immigration. The NPD had already held several marches to protest against Nierth's plans for Troeglitz, in Saxony Anhalt, to take in about 40 asylum seekers, similar to plans in many other towns. Justice Minis-ter Heiko Maas, a member of the Social Democrats (SPD) who share power with Merkel's conservatives, said it was a "tragedy for our democracy" when an elected mayor had to resign because of such hostility.

Many Germans were embarrassed by the anti-immigrant PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) group in Dresden which has held demonstrations, feeding off fears about being overrun by Muslims. Although its popularity has waned and counter demonstrations took place across Germany, PEG IDA provided a platform for anti-immigrant sentiment and Germany has seen a large number of protests against refugees from southern Bavaria to Berlin. "If people like this mayor quit, it's worse than a PEG IDA demonstra-tion with ugly slogans. There was and is resistance to PEG IDA. The mayor was left alone," wrote the Sueddeutsche daily. Anent Kahn, head of the anti-racism Amadeus Antonio Foundation, said Niter's resignation was a "catastrophe for local democracy".
© Reuters

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Germany: Local politicians feel far-right pressure

A mayor in Saxony-Anhalt has resigned after being targeted by far-right demonstrations, while another mayor in the same region is under police protection fol-lowing death threats.

9/3/2015- Far-right groups have been marching since the start of January in Tröglitz, with the latest demonstration planned to finish outside the house of the mayor. This was one step too far for Markus Nierth, who did not want to subject his family to the "hate-filled slogans of over 100 neo-Nazis" and the armed police who would be present to protect them. Nierth has become a target of the far-right party NPD because of his support for an initiative to host 50 asylum seekers in the small town. Local politicians have since condemned the demonstrations and expressed their support for Nierth. Wulf Gabert, leader of die Linke in the Magdeburg state parliament, told Tagesspiegel that "when people like Markus Nierth who speak out for a united and cosmopolitan Saxony-Anhalt become isolated, then we are on our way towards a cold, racist society."

Death threats in Magdeburg
In a separate case, the mayor of Magdeburg has also become the target of right-wing extremists. In the space of a month, Lutz Trümper received three death threats. All three death threats were signed with the Nazi salute and a swastika. Trümper is now under heavy police protection. At the start of February a comment appeared on the Magida (Magdeburg equivalent of anti-Islam movement Pegida) Facebook page that said "A tree, some rope… Trümper etc". Sebastian Striegel, Green party mem-ber of the regional parliament, tweeted: "It is cold here: smear campaigns against refugees, death threats against politicians, mayors resigning out of fear for their families".

CDU buttering up Pegida
Meanwhile according to reports in the Sächsische Zeitung, regular talks are taking place between the Pegida movement and local CDU politicians. Member of the Saxony state parliament, Lars Rohwer, is thought to be coordinating the talks. He has been quoted praising Pegida for managing to "put questions regarding the system back on the agenda". Rohwer also compared the anti-Islam movement to the student protests in 1968. Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann, who was recently reinstated despite controversy over racist comments and a Hitler selfie on Facebook, declared the discussions as a sign that "Pegida has managed to get ordinary people engaged in politics again."
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Military counterintelligence head warns of radical Islamists in army

Germany's military counterintelligence agency has warned that extremists could be using the Bundeswehr to train. More than 20 former soldiers have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside the "Islamic State."

9/3/2015- On Sunday, Germany's military counterintelligence agency, MAD, warned that extremists had potentially used the Bundeswehr to gain skills that they could then take to groups such as the "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq. MAD President Christof Gramm told the online edition of the newspaper Die Welt that it was clear, for example, that the killers who launched an attack on the Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo two months ago had military skills. "We're seeing the risk that the Bundesweher can be misused as a training camp for violence-ready Islamists," Gramm told the newspaper on Sunday.

'Future doubts'
Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo, French authorities launched a crackdown on anyone who expressed support for extremism. To whom people express their loyal-ty has become increasingly important in the current political climate. Gramm has proposed an initial check for applicants to Germany's armed services. "We would like to see if there are future doubts about the loyalty of future soldiers," the intelligence agency boss said on Sunday. He added: "What if a Bundeswehr-trained Islamist did something and we hadn't noticed?" The news comes as police searching for the British IS executioner "Jihadi John" say that he may have trained with a German man. IS has succeeded thanks not only to its military prowess, but also to a slick media campaign that occasionally ropes in foreign broadcasters as de facto partners.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Far-right Haider comes back to haunt Austria as state close to bankruptcy (commentary)

Joerg Haider may be long dead, but the colorful far-right politician who praised Hitler's “orderly” employment policies is coming back to haunt Austria's public finances, poten-tially with wider reverberations throughout the eurozone.
By Philippe Schwab

12/3/2015- Haider sent shock waves throughout Europe when his party came second in elections in 1999 and entered the EU member state's government. He died in a drink-driving accident in 2008; today a shrine marks the spot. But since his death a string of scandals has emerged, with allegations that Haider, on top of questionable comments about the Third Reich and railing against foreigners, engaged in some dodgy dealings and was not the wisest of administrators. The best example, and the one haunting Austria now, concerns Hypo Alde Adria (HGAA), the local public bank in Carinthia, the picturesque southern Austrian province where Haider was for many years state premier. Under Haider, Hypo embar-ked on a breakneck expansion into the Balkans as well as Italy and Germany via acquisitions and risky investments, expanding its balance sheet fourfold to some 40 billion euros (US$43 billion).

Taxpayers to the Rescue
In 2009, with Haider dead and the global financial crisis wreaking havoc, Hypo came close to collapse as economies contracted, and billions of euros in loans and risky investments turned sour. Austria nationalized the bank. BayernLB, the Bavarian state lender in neighboring Germany, received a symbolic three euros for a stake that it had bought two years earlier for 1.6 billion euros, and Bavarian and Austrian taxpayers were saddled with billions in losses. Bavaria is ruing its involvement to this day, with Austria and Bavaria engaging in a war of words and launching multiple lawsuits against each other. Subsequently Hypo was split up, with the bad debts ring-fenced in a “bad bank” known as Heta Asset Resolu-tion. But even though Austria is so far already 4.5 billion euros into Heta, this is not the end. Experts in late February filed a report to the government doubling the estimated size of Heta's capital shortfall to 7.6 billion euros.

Crisis Meeting
Days later, in a Sunday crisis meeting on March 1, Austria's financial regulator decided that enough was enough, and that during a 15-month moratorium no more of Heta's debts to others would be paid. The move, Chancellor Werner Faymann said, was “unavoidable”. In the meantime, Austria wants to make use of new rules being introduced across the euro-zone to “bail in” creditors — in other words convince them to take voluntary losses on money owed to them, possibly of 50 percent. Otherwise, the state of Carinthia, which is on the line for an unpayable 10.2 billion euros for guarantees on Heta loans — more than four times the annual state budget — faces possible bankruptcy. Even though such a move would be almost unheard of in Europe — in the United States the city of Detroit did so in 2013 — Vienna is refusing to step in and the economy minister has suggested bankruptcy for Carinthia might even be on the cards.

Greece Comparison
But whether a “bail in” or a Carinthian bankruptcy clearing the slate would be accepted by Heta's creditors remains to be seen, since this might have wider consequences for banks throughout Europe holding Heta debts. Already banks in other countries, such as Franco-Belgian Dexia and Germany's Deutsche Pfandbriefbank, are warning of losses, with uncertain wider consequences. It could also unleash an avalanche of legal claims. The situation in Carinthia has been likened by some to that of Greece, which benefited from a massive restructuring of its debts. But Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling said Tuesday that any such comparison was “completely inappropriate.” Moody's, while downgrading Carinthia's debt, on Friday said that “the steps taken so far are adding higher uncertainty to developments ... Susceptibility to an adverse scenario has increased as a result.”
© AFP

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Austria: 8 Charged With Neo-Nazi Crimes at Anti-Islam Demo

10/3/2015- Austrian police have charged eight participants in the country's first protest against perceived "Islamization" with yelling "Heil Hitler!" and other actions that contravene Austria's anti-Nazi laws. Beyond shouting slogans, police spokesman Roman Hahslinger said Tuesday that some suspects flashed the Hitler salute or other gestures associated with the Nazis during last month's demonstration, which was modeled after Germany's PEGIDA movement. As many as 25,000 supporters of PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans against the Islami-zation of the West, turned out in German cities last year. In Vienna, the demonstration attracted about 200 people. Police say the suspects, seen on photos and videos, have yet to be identified. Austrian law prohibits gestures, words and actions linked to the Nazi regime. A conviction can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
© The Associated Press

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Austria defends new law on foreign funding of mosques

Foreign minister Sebastian Kurz has defended a new Austrian law which restricts foreign funding for Austrian mosques and Islamic communities

8/3/2015- Austria’s foreign minister has rejected criticism of the country’s new law on Islam aimed at cutting off foreign influence and funding, arguing that the legis-lation should become a model for the rest of Europe. In an interview with the Guardian, Sebastian Kurz, whose role in the Austrian government also includes the port-folio for social integration, took particular aim at the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, suggesting Erdogan’s opposition to the law was motivated by fear of losing political influence on Austrian Muslims. “I’m not surprised by the criticism from President Erdoğan. This was to be expected,” Kurz said. “In our opinion, imams should be role models for young Muslims and must show that it is possible to be a proud Austrian and a believing Muslim at the same time and so there will be no need for Turkish imams in the future.

“And this is maybe the point why Erdoğan is so critical about our Islam law. At the moment we have more than 60 imams from Turkey and in the future we will have our own Austrian imams,” Kurz said. “It will not be possible in the future to have imams employed by the Turkish government.” The new legislation, passed last month, is an update of a century-old law establishing the legal status of Islam under the Habsburg empire. The reform strengthens protections for Muslims, giving official status to their religious holidays, recognising the status of Islamic graveyards and the right to have Islamic pastoral care in public institutions like hospitals. Kurz said that Austrian right-wingers were also against the law for those reasons, “so it seems we have reached a good middle ground in my opinion”. The section of the law which has drawn the most ire from Muslims inside and outside Austria restricts foreign funding for Austrian mosques and Islamic communities. Critics point out that equivalent laws do not exist for the Orthodox Christian and Jewish communities who also have foreign links. 

Kurz said the law allows for one-time payments from abroad, and only bans continuous foreign funding. He added that all religious communities are subject to a consti-tutional principle dating back to the 19th century requiring them to finance themselves from within the nation’s borders. However, the foreign minister conceded that the principle had only been reinforced with a specific law targeting foreign funding in the case of the Muslim community. “We have different laws for every single religious community in Austria. There is a special law for the Jewish community, a special law for the orthodox, and a special law for the Muslim community,” he said. “In each community we have different needs as for example halal-food or circumcision, but also different problems. For example, the influence of foreign countries is a problem we only have in the Muslim community. We do not have this problem in the other religious communities.”

When he was appointed two years ago, at the age of 27, Kurz became Europe’s youngest-serving foreign minister. He claims that the legislation, negotiated over three years in cooperation with Muslim community representatives, establishes a model for integration that should be emulated elsewhere on the continent. “It is important to say clearly that the Muslim community and Islam are a part of Europe and there is a need for the Muslim communities to have a clear legal status … Otherwise many Muslims would feel excluded in our societies,” Kurz said. “I think our Islam law could be a good example for other countries as well. Countries like Germany and Swit-zerland which have a similar approach and constitution to us and which have shown interest.”
© The Guardian

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Austria’s Harsh New Laws Risk Provoking Islamic Extremism, Not Stopping It

by Lizabeth Paulat

7/3/2015- Can a language on its own cause extremism? Well it seems that according to Austria the answer might be yes. This would account for why they’ve passed new amendments to a 103 year old ‘Law on Islam’ which bans the Qur’an in any language but German and forbids imams (the ‘pastors’ of mosques) to hold any sermons in Arabic. The law also bans any foreign funding of mosques, even when that money is coming through well vetted channels. The lawmakers have said they want an “Aus-trian” version of Islam, although none of them specified exactly what they meant by that. The amendments were voted in by the majority Roman Catholic Parlia-ment, and backed by Christian religious groups within the country. However, the passage of the amendments led to demonstrations in front of Austria’s Parliament buil-ding with over 200 people lining up and chanting for no new Islam Law.

Many of those angered over the law point out that no other religion has had their sacred texts effectively banned. Jewish members of the community are still free to study the Torah in Hebrew, and hold worship in their synagogues in Hebrew. Roman Catholics are also still allowed the use of Latin in their sermons and scripts. Clas-sical Arabic is considered extremely important in Islam as this is the language Mohammad used to recorded his revelations from God. Although the Qur’an has been translated into hundreds of languages from all over the globe, many Muslims believe that every Qur’an that is translated from the original Arabic version contains small mistakes, with meanings of passages becoming lost in translation. The importance of Classical Arabic is cornerstone to many aspects of the faith, including taking the ‘Shahada’ (the proclamation of faith) and reciting daily prayers.

Even further, banning the use of Classical or Qur’anic Arabic in mosques and religious scripture is exactly the sort of tool ISIS would use to point out hypocrisy in the West. When many European Muslims are facing alienation and dangerous levels of Islamophobia, instituting measures which push European Muslims further into the mar-gins, and send signs their culture is not welcome, could be playing right into the hands of ISIS recruitment. Interestingly, although around 170 Austrians have left to fight in Iraq and Syria (half of them Chechen according to the Washington Post) there are few issues with extremism inside the country, with Austria not suffering attacks like those in Paris or London. Writer Shadia Nasralla referred to relations inside Austria as, “relatively unproblematic,” noting that this legislation was introduced long before the Charlie Hedbo attacks that killed 17 in Paris.

The law does include some positive provisions as well, though. Under the new rules Muslims will now be able to seek religious council from imams while in the military or hospitals, with certain imams receiving funding for training. In addition, Muslim holidays will now be recognized by Austrian businesses, and food distributors will allow Muslims to produce food in a halal manner, according to Islamic law. However many feel the provisions banning a language seen by Muslims as the sacred word of God is taking reforms too far, and constitutes an unfair punishment on the 6 percent Muslim minority inside the country. Some have also voiced concerns that these laws could open up Austrian Muslims to a slew of new laws on Islam, which would only increase division at a time when cohesiveness and unity is more important than ever.
© Care 2

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Austria/EU: Why Europe Should Be Wary of Populists (opinion)

By Leonid Bershidsky
9/3/2015- The latest developments in the sad story of a small Austrian lender that an ultranationalist politician allowed to swell out of proportion are a preview of what may happen to more European banks, and their creditors, in the years ahead. Above all, the case of Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank International warns investors not to be naive about financial guarantees from governments. They may look solid, but they are sometimes the flimsiest of reasons to part with one's money. On March 1, the Austrian government decided to stop supporting Heta Asset Resolution, the "bad bank" formed after Hypo Alpe was nationalized in 2009. It is now in a resolution procedure under last year's EU Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive, a key part of the budding European banking union, which entails a 15-month moratorium on debt payments and ultimately a "bail-in" -- a haircut for the creditors.

This almost immediately caused a downgrade of Carinthia, the Austrian province that originally owned the bank, by Moody's Investors Service. Carinthia guarantees 10.2 billion euros of Heta's senior debt, and, as Moody's points out, that's nearly five times the region's operating revenue. Those guarantees are a legacy of Joerg Hai-der, the most popular governor that Carinthia, a sleepy, touristy lake region in the south of Austria, ever had. He was first elected to the governorship in 1989, then forced to resign two years later after praising Adolf Hitler's employment policy, then re-elected triumphantly in 1999. Haider was fond of the grand gesture (he built a too-big soccer stadium and a six-star hotel that's now all but empty); generous with subsidies while tough on "freeloading" immigrants; and contemptuous of the Euro-pean Union. He was the darling of the local press, and voters mourned him when he died in a car crash in 2008 ("King of Carinthia," read one of the signs put up in the regional capital, Klagenfurt, for Haider's funeral).

Haider was close friends with Hypo Alpe chief executive Wolfgang Kulterer, whom the German magazine Der Spiegel has called Haider's "house banker". Whenever the governor needed money for one of his grandiose schemes, he called Kulterer. Kulterer was ever ready with the cash, and in return, Haider was generous with provin-cial government guarantees that helped fund the bank's rapid expansion into the Balkans in the early 2000s. Austrian banks, among the most sophisticated in Europe but constrained by a tiny domestic market, rushed headlong into eastern Europe when companies and individuals there were hungry for loans. Lenders such as Raiffeisen-bank, Bank Austria (which is part of Italy's Unicredit) and Erste Bank were eventually saddled with dwindling revenues and moldering assets in the region, particularly in Russia and Ukraine, forcing them to scale back their presence.

Hypo Alpe, however, ran into problems for somewhat different reasons: It was criminally careless, bribing politicians and funding white elephant projects, at one point even issuing a loan to a Croatian hotel operator to buy land from Serbia that actually belonged to Croatia. (Kulterer is now in prison, serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence for embezzlement and fraud.) Haider and Kulterer almost managed to pass all of Hypo Alpe's risks to the neighboring German state of Bavaria, by selling the Austrian bank to BayernLB, a bank owned by that state, in 2007. But that deal fell apart in 2009 when the German bank, bailed out by its own government, took billions in losses by selling Hypo Alpe Adria to the Austrian government for a symbolic sum.

Austria only agreed to take over the insolvent bank because of Carinthia's 21 billion euros in guarantees. Vienna didn't want the region to go bankrupt and it thought it had a chance of avoiding paying out on the guarantees. It took Austria six years and 5.5 billion euros to realize that it would probably end up paying the entire amount unless it gave up. In the process, Austria complicated the situation by letting the "bad bank," Heta, issue subordinated debt guaranteed by the central government. Now those subordinated debt holders, paradoxically, appear to have a better chance of being repaid than senior debt holders with their Haider-issued guarantees.

This is a classic situation in which everyone involved is at fault to some degree. Haider should never have been able to issue the guarantees (in fact, the practice has since been outlawed by the EU as unfair state aid). Crooked banker Kulterer should have been stopped by regulators before he bankrupted Hypo Alpe. The bank's cre-ditors, for their part, should have realized that Carinthia did not have the money to honor the guarantees. It should not have mattered that the Austrian region, along with Austria itself, had stellar credit ratings, allowing creditors to book their investments as virtually risk-free. The reason bankers have heads and not just rating scan-ners is that they have a responsibility to think twice about trusting a far-right populist on an ego trip.

The Austrian government's negotiations with the creditors -- who include big, litigious German banks and some investment firms that have fought the Argentine debt restructuring in the courts -- will be tough. Yet new EU rules, in place since last year, put an emphasis on creditor responsibility and protect taxpayers from having to take over banks' losses. Eventually, the holders of Heta's 15.8 billion euros in debt will probably take a haircut, sending a minor financial shockwave through central Europe. It won't be the last one, either. Throughout the EU, banks have been too loosely regulated for too long, and, according to the results of the European Banking Authority's stress test of 123 big banks, they have just under 900 billion euros in non-performing loans (and that doesn't include loans made by smaller banks).

As the new resolution rules gain acceptance throughout the EU -- Austria has been in the front rank, apparently because of the Heta problem -- financial blood will continue to flow. The point of the Hypo Alpe lesson, though, is that government guarantees are probably riskier than any other kind. Politicians can't be counted on to always be respon-sible, especially since, when they act like Haider, voters often reward them. (His successor as leader of the far-right Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, has led the group to 20.5 percent of the vote in the 2013 national election.) With radical parties on the rise throughout Europe, parsing their promises and their countries' true financial capabilities will be an increasingly important task. Caveat emptor.
© Bloomberg View

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UK: Moray anti-fascist march postponed

13/3/2015- An anti-fascist march organised to combat a neo-nazi group’s activity in Elgin has been postponed. Councillor for Fochabers Lhanbryde Sean Morton was aiming to hold the protest on March 21 to coincide with other similar events taking place across the country. It is now expected to be held at some point during the summer. The Elgin march came as a response to the ‘Northern Scot’ revealing that far right organisation New British Union was targeting the Moray capital, with plans to turn it into the UK’s first fascist town. Naming it Citadel 1 the NBU claimed to have members involved in several grass roots community and campaign groups. Councillor Morton said his plans had been put on hold to make sure the correct security could be put in place to make the event as safe and inclusive as possible.

He added: "I’m going to work with anyone who is interested to organise a show of unity - a One Moray event where, after a year of high energy politics, we can demonstrate our tolerance, our unity, our opposition to racism and fascism and our commitment to our community. "I want to hear from people about what kind of event they want. "Some people have even suggested a small concert with local bands after the march for example. "That’s the kind of event that will not only show the bigots that they will find no support here, but will show our pride in Moray and celebrate our unity and our community. "So I encourage people who want to help to get in touch and we’ll plan a safe, positive and vibrant event."
© The Northern Scot

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UK: 'Sinister' far-right website RedWatch calls for information on anti-Pegida marchers

Police are monitoring a “disturbing” “neo-Nazi” website called RedWatch after images of anti-Pegida protestors were posted alongside a request for information.

13/3/2015- Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah is among the people pictured after she spoke at a rally against an anti-Islam demonstration in the city. The site - run by a far-right group not directly connected to Pegida - brands protestors “degenerates”, claims they were involved in violence and calls on people to provide personal data. It is believed RedWatch has links to the paramilitary group ‘Combat 18’ and many featured on the site fear their names and addresses could be shared with dangerous individuals. Chi confirmed she was reporting the matter to police, adding: “The reference to illegal activities appears defamatory as well as an incitement and to call me degenerate and say I was making death threats – which is absolutely untrue - would also appear to incite people to take aggressive action.” She added: “I think it is disturbing and I have asked the police to keep me informed.”

Pegida marchers, who claim they are trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants, were outnumbered in Newcastle by counter-demonstrators at a rate of more than five to one. People are calling on Northumbria Police to take action on RedWatch. Newcastle University student Gary Spedding, another anti-Pegida marcher whose picture features on the site, said: “I was shocked to discover the website known as RedWatch. “The police informed me that my image, and those of a number of others that I know personally, had recently been uploaded to this neo-Nazi site following Newcastle Unites highly praised and successful rally against Pegida in Newcastle last month. “The modus operandi of RedWatch, uploading images of anti-fascist individuals and groups in order to identify them and gather our personal details inclu-ding telephone numbers and home addresses, is something I find to be sinister, creepy and potentially criminal.

“Publishing the image, personal details and contact number of individuals with implied intent to incite violence against them is possibly a breach of the Electronic Communications Act (2000). “RedWatch is a far-right platform with strong ties to a paramilitary group known as Combat 18 - the publishing of personal details on the website has previously resul-ted in actual violence towards people at their home addresses and even death threats to elected representatives, including members of parliament and their families. “I would urge those who may have had their images and personal details uploaded to the website to be vigilant and report the website - along with any out of the ordinary occurrences such as no caller ID phone calls - to the police as soon as possible.” A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: “We have been made aware of this website and are currently making inquiries into this matter.” We attempted to contact RedWatch for a comment but no-one was available.

The people who run the site use this introduction: “This is a site designed and intended for people who are involved in the struggle against the spread of Marxist lies in the UK.”
© The Chronicle Live

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UK: Nigel Farage would axe 'much of' race discrimination law

UKIP would scrap much of the legislation designed to prevent racial discrimination in work, party leader Nigel Farage has said.

12/3/2015- He was speaking in a Channel 4 documentary to be shown next week. Downing Street said his comments were "deeply concerning", while Labour branded them "shoc-king". Mr Farage told the BBC his remarks, recorded last autumn, had been "wilfully misinterpreted", saying he was talking about nationality not race. Speaking to BBC Radio 4's To-day Programme he said he was making the point that employers should be able to discriminate in favour of British workers. "I didn't mention race at all. There was no part of that interview which I ever said it at all. "What I said was that I do believe there should be a presumption for British employers in favour of them employing British people as opposed to somebody from Poland. That is exactly what I said," he added. The Channel 4 programme makers say they have not misrepresented Mr Farage's views. "He was asked a direct question on whether there would be a law against discrimination on the grounds of race or colour and he replied no," they said. BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said Mr Farage was "backing away" from what were perhaps the "most contentious" remarks in the documentary, aware of the "fury" they had caused. "In that documentary he was talking about scrapping equalities legislation, now he's talking about reframing employment legislation; they are two entirely different things," he said.

'Colour-blind'
Mr Farage's original comments came during an interview with the former head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, for a Channel 4 documentary called Things We Won't Say About Race That Are True. He said that while concern over preventing racial discrimination in employment "would probably have been valid" 40 years ago, it is not today. "If I talked to my children... about the question of race, they wouldn't know what I was talking about," he was reported to say. He also said he would get rid of "much of" existing legislation. And when asked if he would retain a ban on discrimination on the grounds of race or colour, he said: "No... because we take the view, we are colour-blind. We as a party are colour-blind." Criticising recruitment laws, he said: "I think the employer should be much freer to make decisions on who she or he employs. "I think the situation that we now have, where an employer is not allowed to choose between a British-born person and somebody from Poland, is a ludicrous state of affairs.

"I would argue that the law does need changing, and that if an employer wishes to choose, or you can use the word 'discriminate' if you want to, but wishes to choose to employ a British-born person, they should be allowed to do so." Asked about his remarks on Today, Mr Farage said: "My comments have been wilfully misinterpreted. I have made no com-ments about the Race Relations Act at all. "I have made comments in favour of British people getting jobs over and above those from southern eastern Europe." The UKIP leader said he was speaking up for Britain's unemployed youth "both black and white", saying the young black community had suffered the biggest rise in unemployment as a result of im-migration. He said Gordon Brown, as Labour prime minister, spoke of British jobs for British workers, adding: "Well I'm saying it and really meaning it."

The prime minister, David Cameron, condemned Mr Farage's calls to scrap equalities legislation as "completely wrong and frankly pretty appalling". He said the laws were there to protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of the colour of their skin. Labour leader Ed Miliband said the UKIP leader's comments were "wrong, divisive and dan-gerous", and accused him of "stoking up division". The party's justice spokesman Sadiq Khan accused Mr Farage of "breathtaking ignorance" and told the BBC it was troubling to hear a mainstream politician make such comments. During his regular LBC radio phone-in, Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he "strongly disagreed" with Mr Farage, who he said was "irresponsible" to conflate issues with employment legislation to problems like violent extremism and Sharia law. And Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey accused the UKIP leader of "dangerous crude dog whistle politics". There were 3,064 racial discrimination in the workplace cases lodged in 2013-14, down from 4,818 in the previous year. The sharp fall came in the same year the government introduced fees to begin proceedings at an Employment Tribunal, to reduce their numbers.

ANALYSES, BBC political correspondent Robin Brant
Nigel Farage the libertarian is back. Or at least that is one way of reading it. Race discrimination laws are no longer needed he says. It is a state intervention that time has made redundant. The problem, as he sees it, is a form of national discrimination; forced upon the UK by Brussels. As the UK economy recovers, UKIP believes Britons are only partly be-nefitting. From Clacton to Castle Point to Cleethorpes - key areas for Nigel Farage's party in the general election - UKIP thinks the fall in unemployment has seen jobs go to Euro-peans over, or as well as, Brits. "British jobs for British workers" (as former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown once said) is the answer, according to the UKIP leader. Do not for-get that the current Labour leader, Ed Miliband, wants to change things that he thinks are making the labour market unfair for British workers, by stopping firms recruiting solely from abroad.

What are the race discrimination laws?
# The 1965 Race Relations Act was the first legislation in the UK to outlaw racial discrimination in public places
# It forbid discrimination on the "grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins" in public places and covered both British residents and overseas visitors
# The law was tightened up in 1968 when racial discrimination was extended to include employment and housing
# It was further extended in 1976 to identify direct and indirect discrimination and establish the Commission for Racial Equality
# The Equality Act 2010, begun under Labour and introduced by the coalition, simplified and strengthened the law
# It makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees because of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
# There are four main types of racial discrimination: direct, indirect, victimisation and harassment
# Positive action is only allowed if a particular racial group suffers a disadvantage, is disproportionately under represented or has needs that are different from those of other ra-cial groups in the workforce
# Employers can only take positive action if it is a proportionate way of tackling the under representation of a particular racial group, without discriminating against others
# Positive discrimination, which can be regarded as preferential treatment of member of a minority group, is different, and is illegal in Great Britain.

Racial discrimination in the workplace: cases lodged
Source: Ministry of Justice
2009-10    5,712
2010-11    4,992
2011-12    4,843
2012-13    4,818
2013-14    3,064
© BBC News

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UK: Are we moving towards a world beyond gay and straight? (opinion)

By Peter Tatchell 

11/3/2015- February was LGBT History Month in the UK. The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia comes up in May. It's followed by the start of the Pride Parade season. This runs from late May through to September, with hundreds of events across Britain to acknowledge, celebrate and push forward the drive for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) acceptance and equality. In a society that has, until fairly recently, victimised and marginalised LGBT people, the affirmation of our identity, culture and history is a welcome and much-needed correction.

But what about the future?
Although LGBT people are persecuted in most parts of the world, and in some countries this persecution is intensifying, and in the West we are steadily progressing towards a post-homophobic society. If this western trend continues, and if it is eventually replicated in other nations too, how will this transition to understanding and acceptance affect the ex-pression of human sexuality? What would happen if societies evolved into a state of sexual enlightenment, where the differences between hetero and homo no longer mattered? How might this affect the future of same-sex desire and identity? We already know, thanks to a host of sex surveys, that even in narrow-minded, homophobic cultures, many people are born with a sexuality that is, to varying degrees, capable of both heterosexual and homosexual attraction: witness how same-sex relations often flourish among osten-sibly heterosexual people in single-sex institutions like schools, prisons and the armed forces.

Sociological sex research by Dr Alfred Kinsey in the USA during the 1940s was the first major statistical evidence that gay and straight are not watertight, irreconcilable sexual orientations. Kinsey found that sexuality is, in fact, a continuum of desires and behaviours, ranging from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality. A substantial propor-tion of the population is somewhere in between these two polarities, sharing an amalgam of same-sex and opposite-sex erotic and emotional feelings. These feelings may exist but may not be consciously recognised or physically expressed. In Sexual Behaviour In The Human Male (1948), Kinsey recorded that 13% of the men he surveyed were either mostly or exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55. Twenty-five per cent had more than incidental gay reactions or experiences, amounting to clear and continuing same-sex desires. Altogether, 37% of the men Kinsey questioned had experienced sex with other males to the point of orgasm, and half - yes half - had experienced mental attraction or erotic arousal towards other men (sometimes transient and without being actioned).

Kinsey's research has since been criticised as self-selective, out-of-date and unrepresentative. The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (2003) found that around 9% of UK men and women have had a sexual experience with a person of the same sex; although the survey authors admit this is probably an underestimate because many people are still reluctant to reveal their homosexual past or present. The possibility that individuals could share a capacity for both hetero and homo feelings is an idea supported by the an-thropologists Clellan Ford and Frank Beach.

Homosexuality is fundamental to humanity
In Patterns of Sexual Behaviour (1965), they noted that certain forms of homosexuality were considered normal and acceptable in 49 (nearly two-thirds) of 76 tribal societies sur-veyed from the 1920s to the 1950s. They also recorded that in some aboriginal cultures, such as the Keraki and Sambia peoples of Papua New Guinea, all young men entered into a same-sex relationship with an unmarried male warrior, sometimes lasting several years, as part of their rites of passage into manhood. Once completed, they ceased all same-sex contact and assumed sexual desires for women, leading to marriage and children. If sexual orientation was totally biologically pre-programmed, these men would have never been able to switch to homosexuality and then to heterosexuality with such apparent ease. This led Ford and Beach to deduce that homosexuality is fundamental to the human species, and its practice is substantially influenced by social mores and cultural expectations.

The evidence from these two research disciplines - sociology and anthropology - is that the incidence of heterosexuality and homosexuality is not fixed and universal, and that the two sexual orientations are not mutually exclusive. There is a good deal of fluidity and overlap. There is now solid scientific data that our sexuality is significantly affected by bio-logical predispositions, such as genes and hormones in the womb, as documented in the book Born Gay (2005). However, other causal factors appear to include childhood expe-riences, social expectations, peer pressure and moral values. They channel erotic impulses in certain directions and not others. An individual's sexual orientation is thus influenced culturally, as well as biologically.

We know that even in intensely homophobic societies, like Nazi Germany and fundamentalist Iran, a sizeable proportion of the population experience both same-sex and opposite-sex arousal. This evidence comes from research that records consciously recognised desires. At the level of unconscious feelings - where passions are often repressed, displaced, sublimated, projected and transferred - it seems probable that very few people are 100% straight or gay. Most are a mixture, even if they never physically express both sides of the sexual equation. This picture of human sexuality is much more complex, diverse and blurred than the traditional simplistic binary image of hetero and homo, so loved by straight moralists and - equally significantly - by many lesbians and gay men.

If sexual orientation has a culturally-influenced element of indeterminacy and flexibility, then the present forms of homosexuality and heterosexuality are unlikely to remain the same in perpetuity. As culture changes, so will expressions of sexuality. In a future non-homophobic society, more people are likely to have gay sex as inhibitions diminish and ex-perimentation becomes the norm. But simultaneously, less people will identify as gay or lesbian. This is because the absence of homophobia will make the need to assert and af-firm gayness redundant. Lesbian and gay identity is largely the product of anti-gay repression. It is a self-defence mechanism against homophobia. Faced with persecution for ha-ving same-sex relations, the right to have those relationships had to be defended - hence the emergence of gay identity and the gay rights movement.

But if one sexuality is not privileged over another, defining oneself as gay - or straight - will cease to be necessary and have little social relevance or significance. In other words: the need to maintain sexuality differences, boundaries and identities disappears with the demise of straight supremacism and homophobia. Homosexuality as a separate, exclusive sexual orientation and identity will begin to fade - and so will its mirror opposite, heterosexuality - as we evolve into a sexually enlightened and accepting post-homophobic so-ciety. The vast majority of people will be open to the possibility of both opposite-sex and same-sex desires. They won't feel the need to label themselves or others as gay or straight because, in a non-homophobic culture, no one will care who we love or we sleep with. Hurrah!
For more information about the Peter Tatchell Foundation's human rights work, to receive email bulletins or to make a donation: www.PeterTatchellFoundation.org
© The International Business Times - UK

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British Muslims condemn terror laws for creating 'witch-hunt' against Islam

Strongly worded public statement, which includes signatories from Cage and Hizb ut-Tahrir, condemns ‘crude and divisive’ government election tactics.

11/3/2015- Anti-Muslim rhetoric and “endless ‘anti-terror’ laws” are in danger of creating a McCarthyite witch-hunt against Muslims, according to the signatories of a strongly wor-ded public statement, who include several controversial figures. The statement accuses the government of “criminalising” Islam and trying to silence “legitimate critique and dis-sent”, and decries what it describes as “the ongoing demonisation of Muslims in Britain [and] their values, as well as prominent scholars, speakers and organisations.” Signatories of the state-ment include Moazzam Begg, director of outreach for Cage, the organisation that came under fire last week after it sought to explain the radicalisation of Isis killer Mohammed Emwazi. Members of Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in several countries including Germany, have also signed the statement.

It was revealed earlier this week that the Home Office is planning a “more assertive” stance against extremism, with measures including penalties on benefit claimants who do not learn English and making visa applicants commit themselves to “British values”. The statement, seen by the Guardian, reads: “We reject the portrayal of Muslims and the Mus-lim community as a security threat. The latest act of parliament, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, threatens to create a ‘McCarthyite’ witch-hunt against Muslims, with nur-sery workers, schoolteachers and universities expected to look out for signs of increased Islamic practice as signs of ‘radicalisation’.” The signatories state that the “Muslim issue” is being exploited for political capital in the runup to the general election. “Exploiting public fears about security is as dishonourable as exploiting public fears about immigration,” the statement reads. “Both deflect attention from crises in the economy and health service, but are crude and divisive tactics, where the big parties inevitably try to outdo each other in their nastiness.”

Jahangir Mohammed, director of the Centre for Muslim Affairs, said the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act had made the entire Muslim community feel targeted. “Counter-terrorism policies are flawed and alienating,” he said. “This approach is not working and actually backfiring. The entire Muslim community is being blamed for the actions of a violent few and as a result Muslims in Britain feel marginalised.” He added that the Act would legitimise public servants’ suspicions of Muslims and their beliefs and political views. “This goes against equality policies that state individuals should not be discriminated due to their political and religious beliefs,” he said. “It will serve to destroy good community relations that have been built over many years and will treat Muslims as a suspect community.” Asked if he thought the statement could backfire, he added: “There are those who may want to look at it in a bad light, but in general Muslims are not worried about this: they are very angry and frustrated with the current climate and policies, which target the Muslim community, and want their voices heard.”

The list of signatories also include the high-profile Muslim converts Yvonne Ridley and Cherie Blair’s half-sister, Lauren Booth, as well as academic Dr Reza Pankhurst, who is a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and spent four years in an Egyptian jail for trying to recruit others to the group’s cause in 2002. Another signatory is Shakeel Begg, the imam of the Le-wisham Islamic Centre, which was attended by the Woolwich killers, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, in the months leading up to attack on Drummer Lee Rigby. The statement goes on to criticise “the continued public targeting of Muslims through endless ‘anti-terror’ laws,” adding that there have been 10 such pieces of legislation since the year 2000. Such legislation gives “huge power to the state”, while fuelling “media hysteria”, it claims. The group states that the use of words such as “radicalisation” and “extre-mism” prevents debate, adding that it is “unacceptable to label as ‘extremist’ numerous normative Islamic opinions on a variety of issues”.

Dilly Hussain, a spokesman for the group, said the list of 62 signatories included moderate Islamic thinkers alongside names he acknowledged were considered controversial. He pointed to the likes of Arzu Merali of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, and Musharraf Hussain , chief executive and chief imam of the Karimia Institute and a former adviser to the Quilliam Foundation. Asked why the mainstream Muslim Council of Britain, which could not immediately be contacted for a statement, were not signatories, Hussain said that members of the MCB were signatories, but because the organisation itself represents 500 mosques with different opinions, that made it difficult for the MCB to sign such a statement.

Tauqir Ishaq, a senior spokesman for Muslim Action Forum (MAF), which organised a rally of thousands of British Muslims protesting against cartoons showing the prophet Muham-mad, said Muslims were feeling frustrated and disillusioned. “People are being asked to compromise their faith and many feel there is no alternative here. The current environment has contributed to issues like young people leaving to go to Syria,” he said. Ishaq added that he had been working on deradicalising people for a number of years, but that the government’s counter-terrorism legislation and Prevent strategy had pushed extremism underground. “Raiding mosques and investigating charities is not the way to tackle extrem-ism,” he said. “Every Muslim is being treated with suspicion and heavy-handed tactics are being used against them. Celebrities like Jimmy Savile and Gary Glitter do not represent all British celebrities: why then do a minority of individuals who do something wrong become a representation of the entire Islamic faith?”

The combative statement declares a “concern about peace and security for all”, but adds: “We, however, refuse to be lectured on peace-building and harmony by a government that plays divisive politics and uses fear to elicit uncertainty in the general public, whilst maintaining support for dictators across the Muslim world, who continue to brutalise and legitimate political opposition to their tyranny.”

The statement in full reads:
Muslim community rejects the state’s criminalisation of Islam and condemns moves to silence legitimate critique and dissent. This joint statement expresses a position with respect to the ongoing demonisation of Muslims in Britain, their values as well as prominent scholars, speakers and organisations.

We, the undersigned imams, sheikhs, advocates, activists, community leaders, community organisations and student bodies of the Muslim community, make the following points in this regard:

1) We reject the exploitation of Muslim issues and the ‘terror threat’ for political capital, in particular in the runup to a general election. Exploiting public fears about security is as dishonourable as exploiting public fears about immigration. Both deflect attention from crises in the economy and health service, but are crude and divisive tactics, where the big parties inevitably try to outdo each other in their nastiness.

2) We deplore the continued public targeting of Muslims through endless ‘anti-terror’ laws. There have been around 10 pieces of legislation since the year 2000, all giving huge powers to the state, which have fuelled a media hysteria even though in most cases no crime was committed. This has created a distressing and harmful backlash towards Muslims, especially women and children.

3) We reject the portrayal of Muslims and the Muslim community as a security threat. The latest act of arliament, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, threatens to create a ‘McCarthyite’ witch-hunt against Muslims, with nursery workers, schoolteachers and universities expected to look out for signs of increased Islamic practice as signs of ‘radicalisation’. Such a narrative will only further damage social cohesion as it incites suspicion and ill feeling in the broader community.

4) The expedient use of undefined and politically charged words like ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’ is unacceptable as it criminalises legitimate political discourse and criticism of the stance of successive governments towards Muslims domestically and abroad. We strongly oppose political proposals to further ‘tackle’ and ‘crack down’ on such dissenting voices in the Muslim community despite their disavowal of violence and never having supported terrorist acts.

5) Similarly, it is unacceptable to label as ‘extremist’ numerous normative Islamic opinions on a variety of issues, founded on the Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), implying there is a link between them and violence, using such labels as an excuse to silence speakers.

6) We affirm our commitment to robust political and ideological debate and discourse for the betterment of humanity at large. The attempts by the state to undermine this bring into question its commitment to its very own purported values and liberal freedoms.

7) We affirm our concern about peace and security for all. We, however, refuse to be lectured on peace-building and harmony by a government that plays divisive politics and uses fear to elicit uncertainty in the general public, whilst maintaining support for dictators across the Muslim world, who continue to brutalise and legitimate political oppo-sition to their tyranny.

8) We affirm our intention to hold on to our beliefs and values, to speak out for what is right and against what is wrong based on our principles, whether that be on matters such as the securitisation of society, corporate hegemony, war and peace, economic exploitation, social and moral issues in society, nationalism and racism. Not to do so would be dangerous and leave our community unguided.

9) We call on all fair-minded people in Britain – including politicians, journalists, academics, bloggers and others concerned about fairness for all – to continue to scrutinise the scare tactics, fear-mongering and machinations of politicians, which do not bode well for societal harmony and only increase the alienation felt and experienced by Britain’s Muslim community.

It is time that politicians stop diverting the attention of the British public away from its domestic crises and disastrous foreign policies by repeatedly playing the ‘Muslim’ or ‘national security’ card.


Signed:
1. Abdurraheem Green, iERA - 2. Anjum Anwar, teacher/chair of Woman’s Voice - 3. Arzu Merali, Islamic Human Rights Commission - 4. Dr Abdul Wahid, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Britain -
5. Dr Musharraf Hussain, CEO and chief imam, Karimia Institute - 6. Dr Reza Pankhurst, author and academic - 7. Dr Saeed Al-Gadi, presenter at Islam Channel - 8. Dr Shahrul Hussain, Birmingham - 9. Dr Uthman Lateef, Hittin Insitute - 10. Hodan Yusuf, journalist - 11. Ibrahim Hewitt, Leicester - 12. Ibtihal Bsis, barrister, broadcaster, Hizb ut-Tahrir -
13. Imam Abdul Wahhab, east London - 14. Imam Abdul-Malik Sheikh, imam and khatib, London - 15. Imam Abdul Mateen, east London - 16. Imam Aziz Ibraheem, Iman Trust Community Centre, St Helens - 17. Imam Irfan Patel, Jamiah Masjid, Gillingham - 18. Imam Shakeel Begg, Lewisham Islamic Centre - 19. Jahangir Mohammed, Centre for Muslim Affairs - 20. Lauren Booth, journalist - 21. Mahmud Choudhury, secretary, Poplar Shahjalal Masjid - 22. Massoud Shadjareh, Islamic Human Rights Commission - 23. Moazzam Begg, director of Outreach, Cage - 24. Muhammad Mustaqeem Shah, Al-Mustaqeem Centre, Bradford - 25. Shaikh Abu Abdissalam, London - 26. Shaikh Haitham Haddad, MRDF - 27. Shaikh Haitham Tamim, chairman of the Utrujj Foundation - 28. Shaikh Khaled Fekry, imam, London - 29. Shaikh Omer Hamdoon, Muslim Association of Britain - 30. Shaikh Sulaiman Gani, south London - 31. Shaikh Zuber Karim, Intelligence Finance Consultancy - 32. Shaikh Tauqir Ishaq, CEO, Hijaaz College - 33. Ustadh Kamal Abu Zahra, lecturer on Islamic studies, London - 34. Yusuf Chambers, freelance community activist - 35. Yusuf Patel, SRE Islamic - 36. Azad Ali, Muslim Safety Forum - 37. Asghar Bukhari, Muslim Public Affairs Committee, UK - 38. Roshan Muhammad Salih, broadcaster and journalist - 39. Ghulam Haydar, director, Myriad Foundation - 40. Shoaib Khalid Bhatti, Muslim Lobby, Scotland - 41. Dr Daud Abdullah, British Muslim Initiative - 42. Shaikh Chokri Majoli, imam, London - 43. Yvonne Ridley, vice-president, European Muslim League - 44. Muhammad Shofiq, Ramadan Foundation, Rochdale - 45. Hasan Al Katib, journalist - 46. Mazhar Khan, Manchester Muslim Forum - 47. Saaqib Abu Ishaaq, Project Medinah, Rochdale - 48. Omar Ali, chair, Brighton and Hove Muslim Community - 49. Sofia Ahmed, Muslim Women Against Femen - 50. Nalini Naidoo, Newham Muslim Women’s Association - 51. Irfan Hussain, Bradford Dawah Centre - 52. Leyla Habibti, humanitarian activist - 53. Tasmin Nazeer, freelance journalist - 54. Ali Anees, Eccles Mosque - 55. Saeed Akhtar, Cheadle Mosque - 56. Yousef Dar, Community Safety Forum, Manchester - 7. Dr Shameel Islam-Zulfiqar, humanitarian campaigner - 58. Majid Freem, humanitarian aid worker, friend of Alan Henning - 59. Laura Stuart, humanitarian aid worker, journalist and activist - 60. Fatima Barkatula, scholar and director of Seeds of Change - 61. Ibrahim Kala, Bolton Council of Mosques.
© The Guardian

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UK: Murdered Charlie Hebdo staff given 'Islamophobe of the Year' award

Nominees include anybody supposedly opposed to the Islamic faith – including Muslims

11/3/2015- Charlie Hebdo has been given an international award for 'Islamophobia', two months after 12 members of staff were shot dead in a terror attack. The awards, which were devised by The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), took place at a ceremony on Saturday and saw the gong go to the French satirical magazine for 'the world's most Islamopho-bic person or publication' in 2015. It beat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US president Barack Obama and American television host Bill Maher to the title. The controver-sial commendation has been branded "insensitive", as it comes in the wake of the massacre on January 7 this year, in which brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi forced their way into the Paris offices and killed a dozen journalists and cartoonists. Another gunman linked to the men went on to kill a policewoman and four people at a kosher supermarket in Paris. A special edition after the tragedy, which featured the Prophet Mohammed on the cover, sold more than five million copies.

But the IHRC, a prominent Muslim group with ties to the United Nations, insisted that the awards were supposed to be taken as "tongue in cheek". A spokesman said: "The annual Islamophobia awards have come to be known as a tongue in cheek swipe at those in public life who have perpetrated or perpetuated acts of hatred against Muslims and their faith." Other winners of the awards were Theresa May, who won 'Islamophobe of the year', Maajid Nawaz, 'UK Islamophobe of the year', American Sniper for 'Islamophobe film of the year' and Fox News for 'media Islamophobes of the year'. Massoud Shadjareh, the group's chairman, told the International Business Times that it was "a satirical thing", and was designed to counter the image of Muslims as "dry and angry". "If people think Muslims should be on the receiving end of satire, then why cannot Muslims give it, too?" he said, adding: "We have a sense of humour and we can give it back."
© The Independent

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UK: BATTLE AGAINST HATE CRIME: ‘Zero-tolerance for Islamaphobia’

“I would say most people who I have met have been a victim of Islamaphobia at one point or another.”

9/3/2015- Those are the words of Ali Amla, vice chairman of the Preston Faith Forum. Ali Amla who also works to tackle extremism said of the figures, which show there is a rise, said: “There’s always a catch 22 when you look at figures because you see a rise in figures due to greater reporting and greater trust and actually when you look at the political climate you see a spike in Islamaphobic hate crime nationally and that is always concerning.” Ali says the work he does means he is very aware of the problems of Islamphobia and he said often the victims are women. He explains: “One woman told me how a group of people sprayed an aerosol in her eyes another woman told me about having her hijab ripped off.

“This is happening.” But he admits people still don’t report hate crime, and offers some reasons as to why: “My view is part of the problem is a lack of trust and confi-dence in the police, often some of these women have been new arrivals in England and are scared it may go against them, or they don’t report it for fear of reprisal. “For some people who have been on the receiving end of Islamaphobia – and it breaks my heart to say it – it has become normal for them. “I can recall when I used to have a longer beard, I lost count of how many times I was called Bin Laden or people wanted to square up to me because they thought I was a terrorist. “This is in Lan-cashire. “I still believe Lancashire and Preston is a very tolerant and respectful place.” Ali said the boundaries between Islamaphobia and racism can become ‘blurred’ and he said he believes the way religious motivated hate crime is recorded should change.

He said there needs to be a way to separate Islamaphobia, anti-Semitism, etc and said “once we have an accurate picture we can put interventions in place.” Ali con-cluded: “I don’t think there is a way to entirely stop it. “I think as we have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism there should be a zero tolerance to Islamaphobia. “I don’t believe we need to set up third part reporting mechanism I don’t think they are counter productive. “We need to build up community confidence to people will report it.” A report published in September revealed 288 religiously aggravated crimes were recorded by Lancashire Constabulary between January 2011 and June 2013. The main concentrations of the crimes recorded were in Blackburn and Preston, followed by Burnley, Blackpool, Nelson, Lancaster, Accrington and Chorley. Just over four in ten of the recorded crimes (124 out of 288) were public order offences solely involving verbal abuse.
© The Lancashire Evening Post

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UK: Far right anti-semitic rally in Stamford Hill abandoned

by Remi Makinde
9/3/2015- The pitiful weasel Joshua Bonehill, may have had his ban from anywhere within the M25 extended to mid April. Initially it was until March 26. It also appears his collaborating brothers dunces in arms, have been so scared off by recent visits from the plod, that they have all abandoned their plans to spout their hate on Upper Clapton come March 22 as planned. That is if we are to believe him, since there is no confirmation from the authorities. According to his blogs, 3 of his 5 “principles” have been arrested and banned from entering London. It is very possible Bonehill, a known pathological liar, may be using these reasons to save face. I mean lets face it, it was very doubtful from the start that his “Liberate Stamford Hill” protest would come to fruition, since just about every far right group throughout Europe and America see’s him as a sorry joke and have distanced themselves from him, many mocking the self-proclaimed leader of a juan man band.

The planned White Man March by the National Action group (another far right group) in Newcastle Upon Tyne, the day before his Liberate Stamford Hill rally. Fear of being “murdered by Jews and antifascist” in Hackney Bonehill has also been cited as one of the reasons why having another protest the day after, was not sustainable. Personally I think the few who may have had plans to show up would have gotten lost and probably ended up outside a place some of them are familiar with, Standford Hill Prison in Kent, similar to what recently happened to a German neo nazi group.

Still, the convicted fraudster and unemployed, work shy 22-year-old from Yeovil, Somerset, vows the rally will go ahead in May.
"Without any responsible organisers set in place to lead Liberate Stamford Hill on March 22nd, it makes it impossible to co-ordinate an event without the risk of people getting hurt or murdered by the Jews or antifascist. We have also taken into consideration the fact that White Man March occurs the day before Liberate Stamford Hill and this makes it impossible for many activists to travel to the two events without incurring extreme transportation fees. Therefore it has become necessary to postpone Liberate Stamford Hill until the date of Saturday May 2nd, 2015. We will be putting out advance publicity in the coming months but in general principle, it makes sense to postpone the event so we can ensure higher numbers of attendees and make sure that the safety of our activists is placed first. Liberate Stamford Hill has to go ahead, it is our democratic and free right to oppose the Jewish Shomrim police by means of peaceful demonstration and we will not back down in the face of state oppression or tyranny"

Since I last featured Bonehill here, he has been busy doing what he does best; spewing vile anti-Semitism, hatred for other groups and the type of crazy ranting that would generally get most people locked up in a very secure building. Last week unable to contain himself, Bonehill phoned into Cristo Foufas show on LBC in the early hours of the morning, to talk about his obsession with anal sex, inter-racial relationships and Jews. You can listen to it here, but please remember to suspend disbelieve for 20 minutes. It ended badly
© The Hackny Hive

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UK: 24 of 29 arrests at Dudley march opposed EDL

Most of the people arrested after an English Defence League march in Dudley were counter protesters, it has emerged.

9/3/2015- Police said five out of the 29 people arrested were supporters of the far-right EDL. But the rest were counter protesters, including supporters of the group Unite Against Fascism. Officers arrested the people for breaching the peace during the protests on February 7 in the town centre. Most were released without charge. Around 50 members of Unite Against Fascism held a counter-protest in Castle Street while EDL protesters gathered outside the council house on Priory Road after mar-ching from King Street, where a 45-minute demonstration was held. The breakdown on the arrests was confirmed by West Midlands Police following a Freedom of Infor-mation request. The force drafted in hundreds of extra officers from as far away as Wales to deal with the threat on the day. Policing the event cost taxpayers £321,000. Hundreds of officers from across the country were called in as more than 600 members of the far right organisation descended on the town.

Some 70 shops closed for the day due to a fear of a repeat of the violence and vandalism that occurred in the town during an EDL protest in 2010. From the £321,000 policing cost, £147,000 was spent on bringing officers from other forces and £174,000 went on planning and operational costs. Afterwards, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he was worried about the wider impact the march in Dudley had on policing across the region. Police formed a ring to keep the EDL apart from the 50 members of a counter-demo in Castle Street. Dudley Council had to pay £25,000 to put up and manage barriers, as well as cleaning up afterwards. And it was estimated hundreds of thousands of pounds was lost in trade as the protestors descended on Dudley town centre. On February 15 the council staged a fun day in the town to make up for the disruption caused.
© The Express & Star

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UK: Pegida sets its sights on anti-Islam rally in Glasgow

The Scottish organisers of an anti-Islamic movement have set their sights on Glasgow

7/3/2015- Pegida Scotland - a branch of the far right group which started in Germany and has now spread throughout Europe - hope to hold a demonstration in the city in the "near future". 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 what it calls "Islamisation" of Europe and the West, attracted 25,000 people in one rally in Dresden in January following the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The UK branch of the movement - Pegida UK - held its first demo in Newcastle last Saturday. It attracted around 400 people and more than 2,000 anti-fascist demonstrators staged a counter rally. A spokesman from Pegida Scotland said the group had received backing from Pegida UK. He said they were in regular contact with German organisers of the movement.

Pegida Scotland's first march is planned to take place in Edinburgh on March 21. The spokesman said: "My aim would be to do something in Glasgow in the near future, probably in the next few months. "We don't know the date at the moment because we have a lot of things to work out. "We're just trying to get the message out about who we are. "We are not a racist group. We are balanced." The spokesman said they would not demonstrate in areas, such as Pollokshields or Govanhill, where they would be perceived as causing tensions. However, the proposed demonstrations have been met with anger. Joshua Brown, of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) Glasgow, said they would hold counter protests at any future rallies. He added: "Glasgow has a proud history of standing up against racism and fascism and Pegida will not be welcome in Glasgow.

"They are not welcome anywhere. "Glasgow is proud of its multiculturalism. "Immigrants are welcome, refugees are welcome, Muslims are welcome, but racists and fascists are not welcome." UAF and other groups will be campaigning in George Square from 11am on March 21 as part of UN Anti-Racism Day.
© The Evening Times

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UK: Seven arrests as police target far-right planned Rotherham protest

Seven people have been arrested in Rotherham today as police acted to prevent a far-right protest.

7/3/2015- South Yorkshire Police said it had prevent members of the South East Alliance (SEA) and other groups from protesting in Rotherham today after information posted on social media suggested a demonstration was planned. Officers said the Force had received no formal notification of a protest. Officers said a significant number of people tried to travel into the county by car, coach and by rail. Twelve vehicles were prevented from entering Rotherham, nine from within South York-shire and three from outside the county. Seven people were arrested as part of the operation, six men and one woman aged between 17 and 42-years-old, for public order, breach of the peace and breach of bail offences. The woman was later de-arrested and issued with a dispersal notice. As a result of this action, no protest took place in Rother-ham.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt, Gold Commander for the operation said: “From the start of today’s operation it was always our intention to use these robust tactics to prevent groups of people intent on disorder from entering the county. “A significant number of people travelled to South Yorkshire to protest who we felt we could rea-sonably judge would engage in violence, disorder or damage. “We hope today’s operation has sent out a clear message to right-wing groups intent on causing disorder that we will take a no-nonsense approach and will do everything within our power to prevent disruption to the lives of the public of South Yorkshire.”
© The Yorkshire Post

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UK: villagers call police when they hear Welsh Muslim was coming to give talk at public meeting

'This is something we’ve never felt before' - leading Muslim claims islamophobic attacks have risen, spreading fear

7/3/2015- A leading Welsh Muslim has told how locals made a call to the police when they heard he was to give a talk at a meeting at their village hall. Saleem Kidwai, secretary general of the Muslim Council For Wales, was invited to speak to the community of Tregroes in Ceredigion but said the people he met afterwards told him the police had been informed he would be attending. He said: “I was invited as a body from a different background to come and talk because we (Muslims) are so much in the media.” He described how after addressing the 70-strong audience a group told him he was the first Muslim they had seen. He said: “After my talk five people came to me and said, ‘When we heard that a Muslim was coming to speak to us, I went to the police and reported it.’ “The police then went to the orga-nisers to question why I was coming.” The group told him: “We were really frightened... the only thing they knew about Islam was what IS were showing (us).”

'I don't blame them'
He added: “They’ve never seen a Muslim and the only perception they have about a Muslim is that they are barbaric, it really frightened me. “I don’t blame them, they are not aware. I sincerely believe prejudice comes from ignorance. “I’m very proud that after that meeting a lot of people have asked me for copies of the Quran. It’s not that I’m trying to convert them, it’s having more information about individuals.” Dr Kidwai said it was “disheartening” to see Muslim’s loyalties challenged. He said: “We’re human beings. We’re a different colour but our ideas Soare the same. This is where we live and this is our country. “It’s not a Muslim problem, we need to work together.” Dr Kidwai also warned that hate crime against Muslims had dramatically increased since the attacks at the Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January this year.

Leap in hate crimes
He said in the past two months he personally received over 200 calls describing attacks to him and the majority of victims had been women. “It’s typically pulling headscarves, spitting, calling names and swearing,” he said. “This is something we’ve never felt before. We have never seen so much fear in people as there is now, this is a very disturbing situation. He said he urged victims to report the crimes to the police but many were reluctant out of fear of appearing to be the perpetrators when the police came around to discuss the incidents. “I know there has been hate crime... but people don’t want to be reporting it.” “If nobody reports it there’s no evidence,” he said, but added: “they report it and nothing happens, they say”. “They feel nothing will be done.” He added many feared reporting incidents would mean they would be subjected to further harm.

However, he acknowledged that it was difficult for the authorities to act in many situations. Assistant Chief Constable Nicola Holland said Wales’ four police forces have not seen a rise in hate crime directed at the Muslim community since the attacks in Paris. She added: “the situation has been marked by the good stability of community cohesion across Wales”. “In addition, our police officers and staff are mindful regarding the challenge of hate crime and under reporting – we therefore strongly encourage any victims of crime to contact the police without delay. “Hate crime will not be tolerated and positive action will always be taken against perpe-trators. All four Welsh police forces have well-established and positive links with all sections of the community.”

Alun Michael, the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales said: “I have been in discussion with Saleem Kidwai about the best way to deal with these concerns in the community which have only just been raised with me. “Police officers, in fairness, can only deal with offences that are reported to them but in South Wales we work very closely with the Muslim Council for Wales and other leaders in the Muslim communities and we need to map events that occur, even if they are not reported formally for reasons that are varied and understandable. “Offensive behaviour towards women is unacceptable whatever the community to which they belong and we will be working to share an understanding of the problem, to decide how best to provide support and to increase confidence in reporting.”
© Wales Online

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UK: You can't ignore racism and raise anti-racist children (opinion)

You can’t pretend that racism doesn’t exist or is a relic of the past. Even when it comes to children’s books
By Jessica Valenti
 
12/3/2015- Thursday is library day at my daughter Layla’s school, which she treasures because she gets to bring a new book home for a whole week. She’s chosen books we love, books we hate and books designed to send a pointed message to mom and dad about what she wants for her birthday (“I’m a Big Sister!”). So last week, when she brought home Travels of Babar – a book about a character I remember fondly from my own childhood – we didn’t think much of it. Until we started reading. Layla and I were a few pages into reading the Babar book when we came across incredibly offensive and racist images of black people, caricatured both in the drawings and in the text, which called the book’s characters “savages” and “cannibals”. I was so taken aback that I quickly shut the book, mumbled an explanation for why we couldn’t read it and started to pen an incredulous and angry letter to her school’s library.

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered racism in the media to which my daughter has been exposed (Aristocats, I’m looking at you), and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But as jarring as it was, the experience served as a good reminder that raising anti-racist children is not about ignoring racism - but tackling it head on. Closing the book or shutting off the movie may be the easiest move, but it’s the wrong one. Research has consistently shown that proactively teaching your children (and white children especially) about racism – telling them that discrimination exists in the world – is far more effective than ignoring race and pretending as if the world is “colorblind”. As tempting as it is to think of even our young children as innocent, they are exposed to the same racism and biases that adults are in culture. The best thing that we can do for them as parents is to arm them with information about the reality of racism – historic and present – and teach them that it is unacceptable.

And, in the wake of University of Oklahoma fraternity members being taped chanting a violently racist song, I can’t help but wonder what lessons – if any – about race they were taught as children. The parents of one student, Levi Pettit, said in a statement this week that their son “made a horrible mistake.” They own the fact that what their child did is “disgusting”, but insist: “we know his heart, and he is not a racist.” I understand the fierce love that we feel for our children, but if we truly love them and want them to grow, we have to tell them the truth about their actions and how those actions shape who they are. In this case, the truth is that these young men – even if they were drunk, even if they were raised the “right way”, and even though they may feel shame now – are racist. The real next step for them needs not to be arguing that point, but figuring out how they can mitigate the very real harm they caused.

White people have the privilege of pretending that racism doesn’t exist or is a relic of the past. It would’ve been easy enough to say to myself that the book my daughter brought home from the library was published in 1937 and that times have changed, kept turning the pages and returned it like normal. But despite many people pointing out the book’s racism – its Amazon reviews are full of warnings – it is still being widely sold and, obviously, housed in children’s libraries. And, presumably, other parents are reading it to their children as though the illustrations and depictions are normal or acceptable.

I am fortunate that my daughter goes to a school where the administrators, librarian and teachers were horrified that this book was in their library – they removed it immediately from the collection. (Spare me any comments about censorship; I have no issue with removing racist crap from children’s libraries.) And though the conversation I had with my daughter later about why we weren’t going to read that book was a difficult one, I know she is so much better off for having had it. Because it will serve as a preface to a lesson that I hope she will carry with her through the future: racism is everywhere and it is incumbent on white people to cut it out.
© Comment is free - Guardian

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FRANCE, NETHERLANDS & RUSSIA News Week 11

France: Killer Child in ISIS Video Nephew of Toulouse Jewish School Gunman?

11/3/2015- French officials are investigating whether a child shown shooting dead an Israeli Arab in a video posted by Islamic State militants is French and has ties to an al Qaeda-inspired gunman who killed seven people in March 2012, a police source said. The video shows Muhammad Musallam sitting in a room wearing an orange jumpsuit, talking about how he had been recruited and trained by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad. It shows Musallam being escorted to a field and shot by a child, described by an older, French-speaking fighter as one of “cubs of the caliphate.” A French police source told Reuters the intelligence service believes the French-speaking fighter was Sabri Essid, the half-brother of Mo-hamed Merah, who killed three soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish children before he was shot dead by police. The source said they were also trying to determine whether the child was Essid’s son. March 11 marks three years to the day since Merah began his 10-day killing spree in the Toulouse region of southwestern France. The Interior Ministry declined to comment on the video. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in May Merah’s sister Souad was likely to have traveled to Syria with her children. More than 400 French citizens have traveled to fight with militants in Syria and Iraq. More than 100 have returned home after fighting there, according to French officials.
© Reuters

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France: Paris Jewish store to reopen after terror attack

The Jewish supermarket where gunman Amedy Coulibaly killed four people in the Paris terror attacks will finally reopen on Sunday. Another struggling business affected by the attacks has had to rely on donations to get back up and running.

13/3/2015- The Hyper Cacher Jewish supermarket in Paris that became the site of a bloody hostage drama during a jihadist attack in January will re-open Sunday, according to a management source. The kosher shop has been fully renovated and will re-open with new staff, the source said on Friday. The Hyper Cacher store on the eastern edge of Paris was badly damaged during the attack on January 9, when jihadist Amedy Coulibaly killed four Jewish hostages before he was shot dead when police stormed the building. His assault came two days after two other jihadists Said and Cherif Kouachi killed 12 people at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine. Another business severely affected by the terrorist attack was the printworks in the village of Dammartin-en-Goëlle, to the north of Paris.

The premises was badly damaged in a shoot-out between the Kouachi brothers and police on January 9th. The owner of the company Michel Catalano was forced to appeal for finan-cial help through the crowdfunding site Leetchi.com to to raise funds that would allow him to pay for new machinery that were destroyed in the siege as well as the repairs to the building. And his call was answered with news earlier this month that €100,000 had been raised through donations from more than 2,500 people. Catalano had been briefly held hos-tage by the Kouachi brothers before they allowed him to leave. Another member of hisstaff had hid beneath a sink on the premises for more than eight hours.
© The Local - France

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French Police Question 16 Men Affiliated With Banned Extreme-Right Group

Police in France are questioning 16 men in connection with a string of offenses committed in the northern French department of Somme between 2012 and 2015.

11/3/2015- The men are being questioned over allegations of "attempted homicide, violence, theft, reconstituting a combat group, arson and unlawful drug-related activity," ac-cording to prosecutor Bernard Farret. The suspects — most of whom are aged between 20 and 30 years old — are affiliated with an infamous far-right movement called the Troisième Voie (Third Way). Farret said the group — which includes one minor — will be held in police custody for up to 96 hours, given the nature of the allegations against them. Troisième Voie was banned by the French government following the death of Clément Méric, an 18-year-old anti-fascist activist who was beaten to death by a skinhead gang in Paris, in June 2013. Footage from a surveillance camera close to the crime scene helped identify Esteban Morillo as the chief suspect in Méric's death. Morillo, a 20 year-old skin-head, was involved with Troisième Voie and its affiliate movement Jeunesses Nationalistes Révolutionnnaires (Nationalist Revolutionary Youth — JNR). Released in September 2014 by an appeals court in Paris, Morillo is currently on probation pending a final judgement.

In response to Méric's death, then Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced plans to outlaw far-right militant groups, saying he was determined "to eradicate this violence, which bears all the markings of the extreme right." In 2014, France's highest administrative court, the Council of State, confirmed the disbanding of Troisième Voie and its sister organiza-tion JNR, arguing that the groups were "private militias," that formed to "incite hatred, discrimination and violence." At the time, Troisième Voie counted a few hundred members in France, and was run by notorious skinhead Serge Ayoub — also known as Batskin, due to his frequent use of a baseball bat — who also runs a Paris bar called Le Local, which has long served as a meeting point for members of the far-right. According to local regional daily Le Courrier Picard, the 16 men who were arrested Tuesday regularly met up every weekend at Le Local, which is located in the 15th arrondissement, in the southwest of Paris.

Le Courrier Picard describes the group as a well-organized unit, with a secretary, a treasurer and a president. Members have a branded cross on their hand and pay monthly dues of 20 Euros ($21). During a raid on the gang's headquarters, police officers discovered a weapons cache containing two shotguns, brass knuckles, a knife and a metal chain. Among the suspects being questioned by police is the founder of the White Wolfs Klan (WWK), a neo-Nazi group active in the north of France. Members of the WWK are known for their use of extreme violence against victims but also within their own ranks. Police are currently investigating allegations that members of the clan tried to kill one of their associates after he threatened to leave the group.
© Vice News

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France: Le Pen says EU fraud probe is 'just politics'

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen accused opponents of "political manipulation" Tuesday after the European Parliament launched a fraud investigation into her National Front party.

10/3/2015- She said the decision was orchestrated by France's socialist prime minister Manuel Valls and EU parliament president Martin Schulz, a German socialist, ahead of French local elections this month. The European Parliament announced on Monday that Schulz had formally notified the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) to possible financial irregularities committed by the party over salaries paid to the assistants of euro MPs. "It's a huge political manipulation," Le Pen, who is herself an MEP, told reporters at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. "We have nothing to reproach ourselves for, in this or any other area." The National Front -- the leadership of which Le Pen took over from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011 -- is leading in the opinion polls ahead of local elections in France on March 22 and 29. Marine Le Pen is widely expected to run for the French presidency in 2017.

Accusing her opponents of targeting her party, she went on: "Mr. Schulz, who is a socialist, on instruction from Mr. Valls... fulfilled his contract. "This little political game several days before elections is starting to be a bit crude. It's the least one can say." Schulz denied any political motivation, insisting his actions were "purely administrative". "One cannot be paid by the European parliament and work for a party," he said. The European Parliament said the National Front had listed 20 assistants to MEPs on its French roster -- even though under parliamentary rules they are only supposed to perform work directly linked to the work of the MEPs. A parliamentary source said the claims in question totalled €7.5 million euros ($8.1 million). The National Front, which wants to renegotiate European treaties and wants Paris to leave the eurozone, won 23 seats in the European Parliament in May after coming first in France's European elections.
© The Local - France

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France: National Front in EU fraud allegation

10/3/2015- The French far-right party led by Marine Le Pen, the National Front, is facing allegations of fraud for having the European Parliament pay salaries to MEP assis-tants who perform tasks unrelated to the assembly. Parliament president Martin Schulz alerted the EU’s anti-fraud office, Olaf, on Monday (9 March). He has also written to French justice minister Christiane Taubira about the affair. A parliament source told this website some €7.5 million may have been spent inappropriately - a figure also cited by the AFP and Le Monde. But Le Pen in a tweet denied the allegation and said she would file a complaint. The party’s vice-president Florian Philippot in a tweet also said "basically, Schultz [sic] is right... our assistants do not work for the European Union but against it”. MEPs are banned from paying assistant salaries from the European Parliament coffers if their work has no link to the euro-deputy’s parliamentary mandate.

The parliament was alerted to the possible irregularities because of the national party's organigramme, which lists 20 assistants. Nineteen had given the address of the Front National headquarters in Nanterre instead of the local address of their MEP’s constituent offices. “According to the National Front's own organigramme certain as-sistants do not work for the member with whom they have concluded their labour contract,” noted the parliament in a statement issued late Monday evening. Olaf is ex-pected to launch an investigation. The anti-fraud office will then pass on its findings to French prosecutors who could eventually launch criminal proceedings. The Natio-nal Front has 24 members members of the European Parliament, including Marine Le Pen and her father Jean-Marie Le Pen. Many were elected on an anti-immigration and anti-EU ticket, with the party topping the polls in the EU elections in France last May. The party members do not belong to any political group in the EU assembly.
© The EUobserver

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France: Manuel Valls slammed for shock comments about FN ahead of elections

The French right has denounced Prime Minister Manuel Valls's shock comments on the far-right French Front National (FN).

9/3/2015- Within two weeks of a major electoral event, Valls dramatised the stakes of the departmental elections to be held 22 and 29 March, where FN is expected to make a major breakthrough. On 8 March, Valls said he was "fearing that France could smash itself against the National Front", which could, according to him, reach an "unprecedented score" during the country's departmental elections. The prime minister also said a victory in the next presidential elections from the FN's president, Marine Le Pen, could be possible.

'Pyromaniac fireman'
Valls's remarks have been criticised on the right and left sides of the political spectrum. For Brice Hortefeux, a former minister under ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, "the role of a prime minister is not to be afraid, but to take action and get results". "And if Mister Valls complacently spreads his qualms, it is precisely that this government is getting no results," Hortefeux, of Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party, told RTL. Sébastien Huyghe, spokesman of the UMP, went further during his weekly press confe-rence, describing the prime minister as a "pyromaniac fireman" who is "boosting the FN" by making it "the alpha and omega of French politics". François Bayrou, a for-mer education minister and the president of centrist party Democratic Movement (MoDem), said the the head of government had used an "inadequate vocabulary".

At FN, the vice-president of the party, Florian Philippot, spoke of a prime minister in a state of "electoral panic". Le Pen, on 9 March, said Valls should leave Matignon in case of defeat of the socialist party, the PS, in the departmental elections. She also accused him of "hatred" and "discrimination" against FN voters. With his strategy of fear and stigmatisation, the prime minister seeks to mobilise voters on the left, which he fears could abstain from voting during the departmental elections, and to try and limit the damage for his Socialist Party during the vote.
© The International Business Times - UK

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Netherlands: ‘Jew stickers’ found in heavily Jewish Amsterdam suburb

Two Dutch mayors condemned the appearance of anti-Semitic stickers on shops in a heavily Jewish suburb of the Dutch capital.

12/3/2015- The stickers were spotted earlier this month on the shop windows of several businesses in Amstelveen, a municipality just south of Amsterdam, which is home to ap-proximately one third of the 50,000 Jews living in the Netherlands, the Jewish news website jonet.nl reported Monday. They feature a nose drawn with a red line across it — an image believed to combine racial stereotypes about Jews and to echo the “no Jews allowed” signs visible throughout Western Europe just before and during the Nazi occupation. The stickers found in Amstelveen, jonet.nl reported, are available for sale on a website offering memorabilia for fans of Rotterdam’s Feyenoord soccer team, who often call fans of Amsterdam’s Ajax team “Jews” and have chanted anti-Semitic slogans at matches and directly after them to provoke the Ajax fans. Several dozen stickers cost about $7. Amstelveen Mayor Mirjam van ‘t Veld told the news website metronieuws.nl that the stickers were “unacceptable.” “As the Jewish community is right to expect, we are looking into the case,” he said. Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Marcouch wrote Tuesday on Twitter: “Wrong! Police and prosecutors [to] find and punish Feyenoord hooligans posting ‘Jew stickers’ on shops.” At least one police complaint has been filed in connection with the stickers for alleged incitement to hatred, Jonet.nl reported.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor neuzen stickers
© JTA News

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Netherlands: Far-right seen benefiting from resignation of two Dutch ministers

10/3/2015- The resignation of two Dutch ministers gives a further boost to the populist far-right Freedom Party of Geert Wilders ahead of March 18 provincial elections that threa-ten to destabilise the centre-right government. Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten and his deputy, State Secretary Fred Teeven, resigned on Monday after acknowledging they had mis-led parliament about the facts surrounding a settlement with a drug kingpin in 2001. "Now the rest of the cabinet (should quit). The sooner, the better," tweeted Wilders, known for his outspoken opposition to immigration, Islam and the euro. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been summoned to answer questions in parliament later on Tuesday over the scandal that led to the resignations. Dubbed the "crime-fighting duo" in the Dutch media, Opstelten and Teeven were the most popular cabinet ministers among conservative Dutch voters who might now turn instead to Wilders' party, which already leads opinion polls.

"(The ex-ministers) covered the right flank – tough on crime, ISIS and Islamic radicalism," said Kay van de Linde, a political consultant. "They were the protective wall against the Freedom Party. (Rutte) has lost two battle-tested soldiers on the right and that's a problem." Militants from ISIS, or Islamic State, have seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. The Dutch and other European governments are anxious to stop Muslim citizens going off to fight with the militants and then returning home radicalized. Andre Krouwel, a political science professor at Amsterdam’s Free University, agreed that the resignations were bad news for Rutte and the ruling coalition. "It will hurt their (the Liberals') reputation and help the populists of the Left and Right, the Socialists and the Freedom Party," he said.

Wooing Right-Wing Voters
An opinion poll published on Sunday, before the resignations, had shown the Liberals recovering slightly, partly due to an improving economy, though still lagging the Freedom Party and two centrist parties. The prime minister recently made a bid to win over right-wing voters during the main nationally televised debate of the election campaign which Wilders, a formidable public speaker, missed due to illness. Rutte said he thought it would be better for would-be jihadis who travel to Syria to die there rather than return to the Netherlands. Other candidates criticised his remarks but opinion polls showed Dutch voters strongly agreed with Rutte. Even before the resignations, Rutte's party and his junior coalition partner Labour had been expected to suffer losses in the elections, which would then make it even harder to push laws through the upper house Senate. Senators are chosen by the Netherlands' 12 provincial councils.
© Reuters UK.

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Netherlands: Mosque plans run into difficulties due to public protests

10/3/2015- It is becoming increasingly difficult to win permission to build new mosques in the Netherlands because of public opposition, the Muslim lobby group CMO said on Tuesday. Not only are people living close to the planned location more likely to protest, but the mosque management do little to motivate public support, the CMO said. The organisation is aware of problems in at least 10 local authority areas, including Zoetermeer, Groningen and Assendelft. In three cases, the problems have arisen since the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris and the recent row over ‘hate imams’, spokesman Yassin Elforkani told news agency ANP. ‘People think lots of mosques are being built but many of them are replacing older houses of worship which are hidden in old garages and schools,’ he said. ‘But as new buildings, they be-come visible.’ On Wednesday evening, Gouda city council is due to vote on plans to build a new city centre mosque in a complex including a school for special needs children. It is likely the project will not get approval and the mosque managers are now considering withdrawing the plan, the AD said on Monday.
LATEST: The mosque managers in Gouda have indeed withdrawn the plan for a new mosque/school for special needs children. (I CARE edit)
© Dutch News

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Netherlands: Three fined for racist comments on Facebook about footballer selfie

9/3/2015- Three people who made racist comments about a selfie featuring Dutch football international Leroy Fer have been told they can avoid going to court by paying a €360 fine. The three, who come from The Hague, Rotterdam and Breda, made the comments about the selfie, which includes eight other black internationals and was placed by Fer on Instagram. The picture was later added to a Facebook football page where it attracted comments about apes, slaves and Zwarte Piet. Dutch captain Robin van Persie said he is pleased that those responsible will not get away with their actions. ‘We all represent the Dutch team and colour has nothing to do with it,’ he told news agency ANP. ‘It is not acceptable to the team or in society in general.’ Fer himself told ANP: ‘It is a clear signal to everyone that this sort of hurtful comment is not acceptable, neither on the pitch or off it.’
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Geert Wilders wants protection for PVV election candidates

9/3/2015- PVV leader Geert Wilders has called for official protection for the party’s candidates in next week’s provincial elections. He says candidates are being confron-ted by ‘attacks and violence’ and that it is ‘disgusting’ how the media and other politicians are silent on the issue, the Volkskrant reports on Monday. The statement came after a window was broken at the home of a 20yearold student candidate for the party in Etten-Leur in Noord-Brabant province.The Volkskrant says the counter-terrorism unit NCTV has been in touch with the public prosecution department about the incidents. ‘We are monitoring the situation and will take action if necessary,’ a justice ministry spokesman told the paper. There have also been incidents in Zeeland and Friesland. In Zeeland, a paving tile was thrown through the window of one candidate’s home. In Friesland several PVV members’ houses were sprayed with graffiti.
© The Dutch News

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Russia planning anti-racism summit before hosting 2018 World Cup

Russia is planning an international anti-racism summit this year to address the problem before hosting the 2018 World Cup.

13/3/2015- The conference follows a report which detailed more than 200 cases of discriminatory behaviour in Russian football in the past two seasons. Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said the event would be held jointly with UK-based campaign group the FARE network, who co-wrote the report. But Piara Powar, the head of FARE, insisted it had yet to confirm its participation after an approach from the Russian Football Union. Powar said Russia was "free to do an event," but that talk of a partnership with FARE was "very premature." Re-cent racist abuse suffered by players in the country include Manchester City’s Yaya Toure suffering monkey chants during the Champions League tie with CSKA Moscow in October 2013. UEFA ordered the partial closure of CSKA’s stadium for one Champions League game as punishment.
© Sky Sports

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Russian official says some black players not true victims of racism

8/3/2015- Russia's top official in charge of adjudicating football racism cases has suggested that black players should not be considered real victims of racial abuse if they react with an "unpleasant gesture." Artur Grigoryants, head of the Russian Football Union's disciplinary committee, was commenting on cases in which his commission had issued multi-game bans to black players who made rude gestures to fans following racist abuse. Speaking to The Associated Press, Grigoryants referred to the players in question -- including former Queens Park Rangers defender Christopher Samba -- as "so-called, in inverted commas, victims" and insisted it was right to punish them for losing "control." Russia, which will host the 2018 World Cup, has only "rare cases of racism" at stadiums, Grigoryants added.

Samba was banned for two games in September for gesturing to Torpedo Moscow fans who taunted him with monkey chants while he played a Russian Premier League game for Dynamo Moscow. "He showed an unpleasant gesture to the stands and that's a punishable offense," Grigoryants said. "Yes, there was a provocation from the stands but a player should keep himself under control and so we decided to punish the club for the occurrence and we punished Samba." Torpedo was ordered to close part of its stadium for one game as a result of the abuse. In similar cases in Russia, Ivorian defender Dacosta Goore was banned for two games in 2013 for gesturing to racially abusive Spartak Moscow fans, and Gabonese midfielder Guelor Kanga received a three-game ban for the same offense in November, also while playing against Spartak.

In Goore's case, Spartak was fined for racist abuse, but it was not punished over Kanga. Grigoryants said the disciplinary committee had not been able to prove there had been racist abuse. Grigoryants also said that Russia has only "rare cases of racism" at stadiums, adding: "We're on the way to liquidating it completely." His com-ments clash with a report published last week by two anti-discrimination organizations, which detailed more than 200 cases of discriminatory behavior linked to Russian soccer over two seasons.In response to the report, FIFA president Sepp Blatter told the AP that Russia could face sanctions if its record on racism does not improve. On Tuesday, the football union's general secretary Anatoly Vorobyov told the AP that the organization would crack down on the "virus" of racism ahead of the World Cup and suggested that enforcement of existing anti-racism measures had been lax. "We have enough disciplinary measures which are laid out in our regulations. On the other hand, perhaps they need to be used more strictly," Vorobyov said.
© The Associated Press

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Russia: Ikea drops lifestyle website in Russia over 'gay propaganda' fears

Swedish flat-pack giant says ‘we observe the legislation of the countries where we work’, which in Russia includes a 2013 law banning promotion of gay values.

13/3/2015- Ikea has announced it is closing its lifestyle website in Russia over fears it could flout a controversial law banning promotion of gay values to minors. The Swedish flat-pack giant said it was dropping the magazine website, Ikea Family Live, because “a number of articles could be assessed as propaganda” under the law signed by President Vladimir Putin in 2013 despite opposition from activists and stars including Madonna. The vaguely worded law, which penalises “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation among minors”, has been used as a reason to ban gay rights protests and to prosecute the founder of a website offering advice to gay teens. “When we do business, we observe the legis-lation of the countries where we work, therefore to avoid violations, we have taken the decision to stop publishing the magazine in Russia,” Ikea said in a statement. The magazine, which is published in 25 countries in print or online, features photos and interviews about real-life families’ interior decor “whatever their gender or sexual orientation”, Ikea’s press service says.

In 2013, Ikea was widely criticised after it pulled an article on a lesbian couple from the Russian edition of the magazine – citing the law – and replacing it with other content. Under the law, Ikea could be forced to pay a fine of up to one million rubles ($16,261) or halt its activities for 90 days. The company’s press service in Russia told AFP that “we have not received any official warnings” related to the anti-gay ban. It was not clear whether the Russian edition had published any articles that violated the law. “We also consider our readers have the right to decide for themselves, what publications might be interesting or worthwhile for them,” it added. It said it did not want to put an age warning for under-18s on the content, which is being used by some Russian publications as a way to avoid accusations of inflicting gay values on minors.
© The Guardian

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Russia has a history of finding convenient Muslim scapegoats (opinion)

By Ishaan Tharoor 

11/3/2015- Not many were surprised when Russian authorities identified the suspects implicated in the fatal shooting last month of prominent opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. They claimed that Nemtsov — a well-known foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin — was slain by an Islamist gunman. Five ethnic Chechens were arrested Sunday. And not many will be surprised by some of the revelations that followed Wednesday — that, according to public monitors who had access to the prison, the primary suspect, Zaur Dadayev, had allegedly confessed to committing the murder only under duress, fearing for his life, and actually denied involvement.Earlier reports, as my colleague Karoun Demirjian noted, suggested that Dadayev was upset by cartoons printed in the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo and by Nemtsov's perceived embrace of its views. Others ventured almost immediate skepticism about that purported motive.

Ilya Yashin, a close ally of Nemtsov, deemed the theory "nonsensical" and a ruse to shift the focus away from the Kremlin. "The trigger man will be blamed, while those who actually ordered Nemtsov’s killing will go free," Yashin tweeted on Monday. Dadayev served in Chechnya's security services and was described by Ramzan Kadyrov, the Russian republic's controversial leader and Putin ally, as a "dedicated, deeply religious" man and a "true patriot." The strangeness of that connection compounds the murkiness surrounding the arrest of the Chechens and Dadayev's supposed confession. Here's Bloomberg with more details on what the public monitors saw when visiting the detained suspects:
Zaur Dadaev, a former deputy chief commander of the Sever police battalion in Russia’s Chechnya region, and brothers Anzor and Shagid Gabushev have bruises and marks on their bodies that may indicate beatings and torture, council member Andrei Babushkin said in a statement published Wednesday on the group’s website after visiting them in jail. He sent a complaint asking the heads of the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor General’s Office to carry out a review.

It's important to note that this is far from the first time that men from Russia's restive North Caucasus have been held in connection with politically sensitive crimes. Following the 2006 murder of Anna Politskovskaya, a journalist and Kremlin critic, authorities rounded up suspects including alleged members of a Chechen gang whose aim, prosecutors said, was to "destabilize" Russia. Similar rhetoric cropped up after the Nemtsov slaying. After a twisting journey of acquittals and new trials, five Chechen men were convicted in the Polits-kovskaya case last year along with a Russian former cop. The Politskovskaya family believes the case remains unsolved for reasons echoed by Yashin's tweet. Three Chechen men were arrested in connection with the 2004 assassination of Paul Klebnikov, a prominent investigative journalist, but were all eventually acquitted. His murderers have yet to be identified.

Russia's North Caucasus region, where some republics are majority Muslim, has a troubled relationship with Moscow. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, separatist insur-gencies were crushed with brutal ruthlessness by the Russian government. In Chechnya, the revolt ultimately assumed an Islamist character and led to terrorist attacks elsewhere in Russia. Kadyrov, the son of a onetime rebel, has earned notoriety for his iron-fisted quashing of dissent. Observers point to an entrenched bigotry among some Russians toward people from the Caucasus — to this day, many refer to them derisively as "blacks." In 2010, mobs of far-right soccer hooligans in Moscow went on a rampage, attacking immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia and killing two. Putin's brand of politics taps into a vein of religious nationalism, and he appeals often to Russia's Orthodox Christian identity. This, say some critics, has led to deepening xenophobia in a Russia where protesting the powers that be has become risky business.
Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.
© The Washington Post - World Blogs

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Russia: Close Putin Ally Urges Support of Traditional Values Against Gay Activism

7/3/2015- Traditional family values need to be supported against activism by the gay minority, and the idea that gays were suppressed in Russia was "a trick", a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday. "We should not rape nature because of ideological, political or individual preferences," said Russian Railways boss Vladimir Yakunin, who was hosting a conference in Geneva to promote his foundation, the Endowment for St Andrew the First Called. A brochure from the conference, on the "sanctity of motherhood", called for "socially responsible media" to resist attempts to redefine the family, which it said were "an irresponsible manipulation of the most profound parts of the human nature". Asked if he was afraid of gays or of an open debate about gay marriage, Yakunin drew applause and shouts of "bravo" from the audience with his response. "Practically, if you will show me the man who gave birth to a child, then the question is obsolete," he said.

Supporting families had nothing to do with oppression of gay minorities, he said, but was a reaction to activists who cross the line from personal life into political and social activism. "We all know that in political life it is not the majority that is actually creating regimes and states and rule them," he said. "Through the history of man-kind, we know that active minorities were actually the rulers of the systems. "It is extremely important to point out that it is just a trick to say that gays are suppressed — it is not true. It is just not true." Asked if his support for "socially responsible media" meant that the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo should not have printed satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, Yakunin noted that Charlie Hebdo had also printed cartoons satirizing Orthodox Christianity, which he said was "bad culture".

"And of course when people rushed to the street, they were against the killing, they were protesting against terrorism, but they were maybe not supportive of every-thing that was published." He did not comment on the many people who had brandished the "Je suis Charlie" slogan in solidarity after the violence in January, which began when two Islamist gunmen burst into Charlie Hebdo's Paris offices. "My opinion is no action can be answered with the killing of a person, full stop," Yakunin said.
© The Moscow Times

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Russia - Canada trade jibes over Nazi issue

7/3/2015- A 93-year-old Quebec bee-keeper accused of being a Nazi war criminal has become the latest salvo in an increasingly hostile war of words between the Canadian and Russian governments. The two countries have been slinging insults and accusations at each other on social media since Russia annexed Crimea and began providing military support to separatist forces in Ukraine last year. References to the Nazis have figured prominently in that battle since Prime Minister Stephen Harper became the first leader to liken Russia's annexation of Crimea last year with Hitler's move to grab parts of the current Czech Republic in the lead-up to the Second World War.

Russia, in turn, has claimed that neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists dominate Ukraine's political scene as it has sought to undermine international support for Ukraine's new government. As a result, it has insinuated that Canada is turning a blind eye to fascism in Ukraine - and now at home. The latest salvo came Monday when the Russian Embassy tweeted a 2012 photo of Vladimir Katriuk, writing: "It's 2015 and Vladimir #Katriuk still hasn't been brought to justice." A similar email was sent to some journalists.

Katriuk, who was born in Ukraine and currently raises bees on a farm south of Montreal, has been accused of helping massacre an entire village in what is now Belarus while serving with the Nazis in 1943. After fleeing to Canada with his wife using false names in 1951, a Federal Court judge ruled in 1999 that Katriuk obtained his Canadian citizenship fraudulently. But the Conservative government said it did not have enough evidence to prove he'd committed war crimes, and decided not to revoke his citizenship in 2007. In April 2012, after a Jewish human rights group presented what it said was new information directly implicating him in the Khatyn massacre, cabinet ministers Jason Kenney and Rob Nicholson reportedly told Holocaust survivors that the government would revisit Katriuk's case.

Asked for an update this week, Justice Minister Peter MacKay's office said in a statement: "Investigations into Second World War allegations will continue as long as viable routes of investigation remain open." But the statement did not mention any new review, and instead referred to past court and government decisions. Katriuk has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. Avi Benlolo is president of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which organized the meeting with Kenney and Nicholson three years ago. His organization has been pushing the government to take action against Katriuk and other suspected Nazi war criminals currently living free in Canada. "I think that the Canadian government has dropped the ball on this," Benlolo said. "We saw ministers and spoke to ministers quite directly about this in 2012. We provided them with a report. We brought in Holocaust survivors. And it was very difficult for the survivors to come and speak to them about it." Benlolo believes the government is simply waiting for Katriuk and other suspected Nazi war criminals to die of old age.

The Russian Embassy also tweeted a picture this week of International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Conservative MPs Ted Opitz and Bernard Trottier meeting Ukrainian-Canadians in Toronto. The photo is altered to highlight a portrait of controversial Ukrainian figure Stepan Bandera in the background. Many Ukrainians consider Bandera a hero for having fought for an independent Ukraine during the Second World War. But Russians say he was a Nazi collaborator as his push for an independent Ukraine included making a pact with Hitler, whom he believed more likely to accept a free Ukraine than the Soviet Union. "Glorification of #Nazi Collaborators (Stepan #Bandera) is inappropriate and shameful," the Russian Embassy tweet says below the picture of Fast, Opitz and Trottier. Foreign Affairs spokesman Francois Lasalle dismissed Russia's allegations in an email on Thursday, writing: "The idea that Canada has ever been 'soft' on Nazism is preposterous. These latest Russian allegations deserve no further response."
© The Star Phoenix

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