NEWS - Archive February 2008

Headlines 29 February, 2008

Headlines 22 February, 2008

Headlines 15 February, 2008

Headlines 8 February, 2008

Headlines 29 February, 2008


Geert Wilders is angry about the lack of support from his political colleagues in The Hague.

29/2/2008- Geert Wilders is angry about the lack of support from his political colleagues in The Hague. On Wednesday Al Qaeda called for a jihad against the leader of the Freedom Party PVV. "I had expected that Jan-Peter Balkenende would condemn the call from Al Qaeda, but he has done nothing at all. While the threat has been confirmed by the National Coordinator for Anti-terrorism. Where is the prime minister?" Wilders said in an interview with "Reading in the newspaper headlines that a jihad has been called against you, that's something you don't wish even on your worst enemy. I've never experienced a threat like this before." The Telegraaf reported on Wednesday that a posting on an Al Qaeda-affiliated website ( called for the PVV politician to be "slaughtered" for his insults to Islam and the prophet Mohammed. Geert Wilders is outraged at the passive stance taken by Prime Minister Balkenende, who said in January that the Koran film could lead to a "serious crisis situation." "Balkenende announced a crisis while no one knows what the film contains." "As an elected politician I am making use of democratic instruments within the framework of the law, while a group like Al Qaeda calls for undemocratic actions, like murdering people. It is scandalous that so much effort is being made to fight this film, it doesn't befit a prime minister," Wilders said. "The fear of the film's effects has ensured that Balkenende now stands far removed from his democratic values." The PVV leader accuses his colleagues in Parliament of "complete disinterest" regarding the threats to his person. "If this were to happen to an MP like Jan Marijnissen then I would have gone to him. Rita Verdonk was the only one who sent me a text message wishing me strength. For the rest it has been worryingly silent." Wilders says the film should be ready by 1 March. It is not yet known when it will be released however, it could be several weeks after this date.
© Expatica News



29/2/2008- The Netherlands risks economic sanctions and attacks on its citizens and businesses because of a plan by a right-wing politician to broadcast an anti-Islamic film, the Dutch Prime Minister warned on Friday. Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who has called for the Koran to be banned and likened it to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, has made a film in which he presents his views about Islam's holy text. "Dutch products have been rejected at an exhibition, the Taliban (in Afghanistan) announces actions against Dutch soldiers, stewardesses are afraid to work on certain air flights," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende told journalists during a televised briefing. He did not rule out the possibility people could be killed. In 2006 demonstrations and rioting erupted in many Muslim countries after Danish cartoons, one showing the Prophet with a turban resembling a bomb, appeared in a Danish newspaper. At least 50 people were killed and three Danish embassies attacked. Balkenende did not call upon Wilders to stop his broadcast plan but emphasized the Dutch government does not share Wilders' views. He said the cabinet was obliged to point out the risks of transmitting the film and had talked to Wilders. Wilders said on his Web site: "Our Prime Minister is so afraid of the consequences of the film that he seems to give in to Islam instead of defending our democratic values and rights. Let me make one thing clear: the film will be broadcast." Wilders, who is the target of death treats on Islamic militant Web sites, said he had completed the film and was in negotiations with TV stations for its broadcast. Media reported he expected it to air in March or April.

Wilders' party has nine of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament, and has gained support in recent opinion polls. He has warned of a "tsunami of Islamisation" in a country that is home to nearly one million Muslims. Three Dutch employers organizations called upon Wilders to not broadcast the film, saying it would harm trade. "We reject insulting statements and a lack of respect," said the chairman of the VNO-NCW employers' group, Bernard Wientjes. Elsewhere, Turkey has voiced concern about the film, the Iranian government has called it a "provocative and Satanic" act, while Pakistan this week condemned all efforts to denigrate Islam. In 2004 the Netherlands was plunged into turmoil when an Islamic militant killed director Theo Van Gogh over a television film accusing Islam of condoning violence against women. Wilders has called his film "Fitna", an Arabic term used in the Koran and sometimes translated as "strife".
© Reuters



Mariano Rajoy's suggestion that Spanish immigration policy is too weak drew a sharp backlash Thursday from immigrant groups and leftist politicians

29/2/2008- Mariano Rajoy's suggestion that Spanish immigration policy is too weak drew a sharp backlash Thursday from immigrant groups and leftist politicians, who accused the Popular Party (PP) candidate for the 9 March general election of playing the "xenophobia" card. At a political rally on Wednesday, Rajoy had argued that "everyone" should be stopped from entering the country. "There is not enough room for all of us," he said. The comments came days after the PP promised to force immigrants to sign an "integration contract" and ban girls from wearing Muslim headscarves in schools if it wins the election. "Rajoy is positioning himself on the far-right of European politics," the governing Socialist Party said in a statement. Pedro Zerolo, a party spokesman, said the PP's policies "whiff of xenophobia and racism." Former Socialist Prime Minister Felipe González told supporters in Málaga that only an "imbecile" would claim to be more moderate than Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, as Rajoy did in a recent interview.
© Expatica News



29/2/2008- First generation migrant children in the UK are 25% more likely to be bullied at secondary school than non-migrant children, research shows. Nearly half of UK pupils think bullying is a problem in their school, according to a study by the British Council. Adopting religious holidays from other faiths and more discussion of different cultures could remedy the situation, say the children. Researchers polled 3,500 pupils in 47 schools in seven countries. When asked if bullying was a problem in their school, 48% of pupils in England, 43% in Scotland and 32% in Wales said "yes". The reasons given for bullying included language difficulties, skin colour, race and religion. Stephen Roman, British Council regional director for West Europe, said: "Research out earlier this week showed that bullying is endemic in schools. "By working with young people we are finding ways to change this. "They know - as we do - that learning about other people and understanding different cultures is the key to a better school experience for everyone." The children (aged 12-18) were part of a wider European study of 3,500 pupils from 47 schools also taking in Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

European comparisons
The research is part of a project to kick-start a Europe-wide improvement in diversity and integration in schools. Schools taking part were chosen for their mix of children from different backgrounds. In the UK (England, Wales and Scotland for the purposes of this study) 12% of non-migrant children said they had been bullied in the last three months, compared to 15% of first generation migrants. In Italy, the figures were 5% and 7% respectively, Portugal - 4% and 4%, Netherlands - 7% and 5%, Belgium 9% and 21%, Germany - 19% and 20% and Spain - 3% and 4%. Beatbullying chief executive Emma-Jane Cross said: "These pupils are telling us that there is a bullying problem in their schools – we have a duty to respond and run prevention programmes to tackle the issue swiftly and effectively. "The research is not surprising. We know young people are bullied because of their race, religion and cultural background, and Beatbullying is the only charity funded by the Department of Children, Schools and Families to deliver specific prevention programmes around interfaith bullying to reduce the problem." The survey will be repeated next year to measure change across Europe's schools.
© BBC News



29/2/2008- The government has launched the first stage of a new points-based system for migrants from outside the EU. It will initially only apply to highly skilled workers already in the country who want to extend their stay. But by the end of 2008, every graduate with good English, on £40,000 or the local equivalent, will potentially have enough points to seek work in the UK. Skilled workers in shortage occupations will also be able to enter provided they have a job offer. But low skilled workers from outside the EU will be barred from entering for the foreseeable future, as the government believes it can fill all manual work vacancies from within the EU.

'Biggest change'
Migrants from EU countries - with the exception of Romania and Bulgaria - face no restrictions on working in the UK. The government says the points-based system is the biggest change in UK immigration policy "in a generation" and will attract migrants with the right skills to boost Britain's economy while easing pressure on local public services. But the Conservatives say the changes are "over-hyped" and will not make a significant difference to the numbers entering the country. They have called for an annual limit on immigration. Tier One, which is being launched first, will replace the existing highly-skilled migrant programme, which is also based around points. It is designed to attract entrepreneurs with significant sums to invest in British business as well as highly qualified people who the government believe will boost the economy. All applicants will have to pass an English test - unless they have £1m or more to invest.

Labour gaps
Skills and earning potential will also be taken into account - although much will depend on the country in which applicants live. For example, someone applying for entry from a poor country, such as Nigeria or Afghanistan, will have to prove annual earnings of at least £4,000, while somebody applying from a wealthier country will have to have a previous salary of £40,000 or more. Tier two, which will be launched later this year, will focus on filling gaps in the labour market - an independent committee will advise ministers on how many points to award to certain skills to reflect economic conditions. Businesses who want to bring in skilled workers will need licences. Other tiers covering temporary workers, young people and students will be introduced later.

'Skills crisis'
Immigration minister Liam Byrne said the changes, which he says are based on Australia's immigration system, offer enough flexibility to respond to changing economic conditions. "If and when we need to raise the points score that a migrant needs to come to Britain we can do that and do it instantly, rather than setting an arbitrary number," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. He rejected Conservative calls for an annual cap on immigration, which he warned could create "chronic skills crises". Mr Byrne has also said the new system will ease pressure on services and community tensions in parts of the UK experiencing high levels of immigration, even though many of the new arrivals are from Eastern European countries not covered by the points-based system. He told Today: "If you look around the country, in some communities like my own constituency in Birmingham I think the pace of change over the last ten years has been too fast. "But when you look at the national picture actually overall migration has absolutely been good for our economy."

'Over hyping'
Asked repeatedly if he thought there were too many immigrants in Britain, he said "it can't be reduced to such simplicities". Mr Byrne has also introduced new fines for those found to be employing illegal immigrants as part of a move towards more managed migration. But shadow immigration minister Damian Green said the government was "over hyping" the change and a "sensible" policy would include a cap on the number of migrants who can come to the UK. He said: "We've seen real strains in some areas on housing, on police, on hospitals and on school places and the new system makes no attempt to address that at all. "You still don't know whether you're getting the right number of people that the social services, the public services, can absorb." He said the government had got its figures "hopelessly wrong" when calculating how many new EU citizens would come to Britain in 2004, when it said just 13,000 migrants would arrive annually. Mr Green said it was important to control "what you can control" - economic migration from outside the EU - through annual targets.
© BBC News



29/2/2008- One of Britain’s most influential black figures today accused Barack Obama of cynically exploiting America’s racial divide and gave warning that he could prolong, rather than heal the rift. Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, claimed that the Democratic front-runner would ultimately disappoint the African-American community and dismissed the notion that he would be "the harbinger of a post-racial America" if he becomes the country’s first black President. Writing in Prospect, the monthly current affairs magazine, Mr Phillips suggested that guilt over transatlantic slavery was behind Mr Obama’s support from middle class whites. "If Obama can succeed, then maybe they can imagine that [Martin Luther] King's post-racial nirvana has arrived. A vote for Obama is a pain-free negation of their own racism. So long as they don't have to live next door to him; Obama has yet to win convincingly in white districts adjacent to black communities," he wrote. Mr Phillips compared Mr Obama to Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey, prominent black “bargainers” – those who strike a deal with white America not to make an issue of historical racism if their own race is not used against them.

But, in a warning to the Democratic candidate, he added that Cosby now cut a “sad and lonely figure” because he had abandoned the moral weapon used by figures such as Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and Jesse Jackson in insisting that “in the end, salvation for blacks won’t depend on the actions of whites.” "In truth, Obama may be helping to postpone the arrival of a post-racial America and I think he knows it," Mr Phillips wrote. "If he wins, the cynicism may be worth it to him and his party. In the end he is a politician and a very good one: his job is to win elections." He added: "If he fulfils the hopes of whites, he must disappoint blacks – and vice versa." Mr Phillips said that there was no “British Obama” in part because the black British community was much smaller and therefore less likely to produce such high-achievers, and because “Black Britons can't bring centuries of white guilt to bear with the devastating impact that African-Americans have done for two generations”. The equality chief, a former Labour politician and broadcaster said he did not expect Mr Obama ultimately to win the Democratic nomination, although he conceded it was possible. However, if he did come to power, Mr Obama would not emulate JFK, he predicted, but Bill Clinton, with all the "charm, skill and ruthless cynicism" that entailed. Mr Phillips is no stranger to controversy, having drawn criticism for past comments on multiculturalism in British society. Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, once said he was a prime candidate for the far right British National Party and his appointment to the CEHR was bitterly opposed by a number of black organisations.
© The Times Online



29/2/2008- The governing parties are gaining ground on the opposition, but support for the Christian Democrats has dropped to 3 percent according to the latest figures from polling firm Synovate, below the threshold for representation in parliament and on par with support for the far-right Sweden Democrats. Support for the Christian Democrats fell 0.4 percent and the Sweden Democrats gained 0.9 percent compared with figures from January, leaving both parties with equal levels of voter support. Not since January 2005 has support for the Christian Democrats been so low, as measured by Synovate. The February Synovate poll, published in newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN), shows combined support for the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Left Party at 55.3 percent. The four parties making up the Alliance government register support of 40.3 percent. The different between the two blocks has fallen from 20.6 percent to 15 percent since January. All of the other changes since the January survey are within the margin of error. The Social Democrats have lost support in large cities and suburbs, said Synovate analyst Niclas Källebring to DN. With the exception of the Christian Democrats, the governing parties each gained 0.9 percent compared with figures from January. Support for the Moderates is now 22.6 percent, with the Liberal Party at 7.8 percent and the Center Party at 6.8 percent. The Social Democrats lost 3.1 percent, bringing their level of support to 43.7 percent. The Left Party dropped 0.5 percent to land at 5.1 percent, while the Greens gained 0.4 percent, bringing the party to 6.4 percent overall. The number of uncertain voters is also large, at 17 percent of the 1,962 people who were interviewed in the two week spanning February 14-27.
© The Local



26/2/2008- More than 30 Swiss non-governmental organisations have raised concerns about human rights practices in Switzerland in a report addressed to the United Nations. The coalition's comments come as Switzerland prepares the first ever account of its domestic human rights policy for the UN. The NGOs' report, released on Tuesday, pointed in particular to the lack of institutional mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of human rights conventions already ratified by Switzerland. "Switzerland has not yet established a national human rights institution that would accompany the Swiss federal and cantonal authorities in this implementation process," Sandra Imhof, coordinator for the coalition of NGOs, told swissinfo. "The second point is that Switzerland has not yet set up a UN national action plan for ratified human rights conventions," she added. In response to the institution idea, Lars Knuchel, spokesman for the foreign ministry, said that the government had set up a working group in January 2007 to examine the necessity and benefits of the idea as well as possible models. He added that talks on the issue are ongoing. The idea was first mooted by the foreign ministry six years ago and proposals have since been launched in parliament, he explained. Another problem flagged up by the NGOs is federalism and the dividing up of duties between the federal and cantonal authorities. With the 26 cantons each having their own systems, differences ensue, they say.

One area singled out was the treatment of migrant women who had been subject to sexual violence. They were found to face different levels of assistance in cantons and even the threat of being expelled from the country, said Imhof. Another issue was disabled children. Under federal law they should be integrated into non-specialist schools, "but in practice very few cantons have implemented this obligation," she added. The coalition is calling on Switzerland to ratify the UN conventions on migrant workers, enforced disappearances, and disabled people. It also wants the law against discrimination to be tightened, including the strategies against racism and xenophobia. Switzerland has come under criticism in the past by the UN over its asylum policy and allegations of racism.

Human rights review
The NGOs released their comments ahead of the examination of the official Swiss report into domestic human rights by the UN's Geneva-based Human Rights Council in May. This is the first time, according to Imhof, that Switzerland has had to report on this issue. NGOs may also contribute to the Universal Periodic Review, which is being extended to all 192 UN members. On Tuesday representatives from the large coalition of NGOs held talks with Swiss foreign ministry officials on the official report. Imhof said the meeting had been "constructive". "We are of course the first to admit that we live in a country where human rights are widely accepted. Switzerland does a lot at an international level. In its foreign policy human rights play a very important role, but it is not the case in its internal policy," Imhof told swissinfo. "It's a question of credibility in the international arena and it's a question of coherence. To have this coherence ensured within the state is one of the major challenges for Switzerland."
© Swissinfo



Rights commissioner frustrated by politicking

28/2/2008- Louise Arbour is expected to announce in the coming weeks that she will not seek a second four-year term as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The former Canadian Supreme Court justice, a Montrealer, was picked for the job by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan but his successor, Ban Ki-moon, cleared the decks of a number of senior staffers after he took the helm last year. The end of Arbour's term on June 30 provides the first opportunity for Ban to nominate his own pick - the post is officially filled by the UN's 192 member states. Arbour's pending departure also comes as she experiences increasing frustration over attempts by a powerful group of countries in the UN's 47-member Human Rights Council to extend their influence over her officially independent office. Leading that charge have been Algeria, China and Cuba, but all involved have poor human rights records. Their aim, observers say, is to try to gain as much control as possible over who's hired and the work they do. It is part of a wider campaign that has seen them structure the council's rules so that only Israel can easily be singled out for criticism when the body - of which Canada is a member - meets. Arab and Muslim countries lobbied for Israel to be made the exception. Arbour first became well known on the international stage in the 1990s as chief prosecutor of the UN war crimes courts for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Her office's 1999 indictment of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic marked the first time a sitting head of state had been charged with war crimes.
© The Montreal Gazette



28/2/2009- Police in eight German states raided the homes of 23 suspects on Thursday as part of a lengthy probe into the illegal sale of right-wing extremist literature and audio material, the Federal Crime Office (BKA) said. A further 70 suspects had been identified in the investigation, which began in August 2006 after the German unit of U.S. online auction company eBay Inc (EBAY.O: Quote, Profile, Research) reported the sale via the Internet of far-right material, the BKA said. Twenty-four computers, around 50 memory devices and some 3,500 right-wing extremist CDs and LPs had been seized in Thursday's raids, it added. "The measures are a continuation of ... the fight against right-wing extremism on the Internet," the BKA said. "They show that the Internet is not a law-free zone and that online auctions are also checked from incriminating content." German laws ban Nazi emblems like the swastika but grant public funds to the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), whose followers implicitly back racist and some Nazi ideas. The German government follows a so-called "four-pillar" strategy against right-wing extremism that was agreed in 2002. It seeks to educate on human rights, strengthen civil society and promote civil courage, help integrate foreigners and target suspected far-right extremists.
© Reuters



The caricature, featuring the Prophet Mohammed wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse, was one of 12 cartoons published in September 2005 by the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper that sparked bloody riots in the Islamic world.

29/2/2008- French cartoonist Plantu Friday expressed concern over renewed tensions between the West and the Islamic world after controversial cartoons of Prophet Mohammed were reprinted by Danish papers. "If we go on like this, we're heading for war," the caricaturist for French daily Le Monde said at a Vienna meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on freedom of the media. At least 17 Danish newspapers recently printed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, vowing to defend freedom of expression after police foiled a murder plot against the cartoonist. The decision prompted widespread condemnation in the Muslim world, which has denounced the drawing as offensive to Islam. The caricature, featuring the Prophet Mohammed wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse, was one of 12 cartoons published in September 2005 by the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper that sparked bloody riots in the Islamic world. "Our drawings can humiliate people. You can kill with them. I advocate the right to nuance," Plantu said Friday. After the 2006 controversy, he had launched the initiative "Cartooning for peace" with caricaturists from around the world to promote tolerance and mutual understanding between cultures. "We must keep drawing provocative cartoons, but also make believers understand that we're targeting intolerance and not their beliefs," Plantu told AFP. "I don't understand why they (Danish cartoonists) are fixating on Mohammed, the urgent issue is intolerance," he added. On giant screens, he had projected a cartoon by an Israeli colleague, Kichka, that showed a cartoonist thinking aloud: "Freedom of expression means spilling ink, not spilling blood."
© The Tocqueville Connection



28/2/2008- Leading sports figures are uniting to combat racism in French soccer, and want harsher punishments. UEFA president Michel Platini, sports minister Bernard Laporte and French league president Frederic Thiriez all spoke out after racism tarnished the image of French soccer once again last weekend. "The fight against racism is the dossier I want to work the most on, as it is something intolerable," Platini said on French radio Thursday. Thiriez wants the government to crack down on a far-right group of fans from first-division club Metz calling themselves "The Faction" - which includes the even more extreme "Identity Youth" group. "It is without doubt the time to announce such a dissolution for the first time," Thiriez said, adding that he has submitted the matter to the interior ministry. About 10 members of "Youth Identity" made Nazi salutes at the end of last week's match at French leader Lyon, in response to Metz players throwing T-shirts into the crowd emblazoned with an anti-racism logo. Metz stewards present at Stade Gerland on Saturday are working with police to identify the culprits, who could face up to a year in prison and a fine of up to 15,000 euros (C$22,600). "I hope banning orders will be given by the police chief," Thiriez said. "Everyone has to do their job. Football is doing it, public authorities have to do it." In a separate incident, a Metz fan has been banned from attending matches for three months for making racist remarks to Valenciennes captain Abdeslam Ouaddou, who is Moroccan, on Feb. 16. Thiriez believes countries such as England do far more to tackle racism. "Today in France we only have 80 people banned from stadiums," Thiriez said. "In England, there are 3,500. Thus, this law needs to be applied with much more severity, and I assure you that we would solve 90 per cent of violence and racism in stadiums."

Piarra Power, who heads the British-based "Kick Racism Out Of Soccer" anti-racism campaign, said a similar incident in Britain would have been dealt with far more sternly. The perpetrator "would have been given a three-year banning order from all matches in the U.K. and would have been placed on a watch list (to stop him attending games abroad)," Power said. "But banning orders are just one way of dealing with the problem. Another way is encouraging other fans to exert peer pressure so that people know where the line is drawn." On Friday, some Bastia fans at a second-division match against Libourne Saint-Seurin unfurled a racist banner aimed at Boubacar Kebe, who is black and from Burkina Faso. The referee delayed the start by three minutes until the banner was removed. "The Ouaddou affair is very serious," Platini told France Info. "But it concerns an isolated individual. The Kebe affair is even worse, as it is premeditated." Platini has previously called for the creation of a specialized police force dedicated to fighting racism in soccer. Kebe refused to play Friday because he had already been racially insulted by some Bastia supporters on Sept. 14, when he reacted with a gesture that led to him being sent off. Ouaddou was shown a yellow card by referee Damien Ledentu for nonsporting behaviour because he climbed into the stands to confront the perpetrator. The yellow card "makes a bit of a mockery of it," Power said. "In many ways, you applaud the player's restraint." Power said "it is an issue for the disciplinary authorities" whether a player who is racially provoked should be sanctioned at all. Bastia could face a further points deduction but Laporte does not think this is enough, saying clubs should be held financially responsible for the behaviour of its fans.
© The Canadian Press



28/2/2008- French President Nicolas Sarkozy has dropped a proposal for Holocaust remembrance that would have seen 10-year-olds learn the life stories of children killed by the Nazis, Simone Veil, a former minister and Auschwitz survivor, said Wednesday. Sarkozy had set off an outcry from psychologists and leftwing politicians earlier this month when he made the proposal in an address to the French Jewish community umbrella body. The government will explore other avenues to "encourage children in classrooms to look at, not other children in particular, but rather a given situation in a given city," said Veil, who had strongly criticised the proposal Under the original plan, every schoolchild was to be given the name of a Jewish deportee and tasked with investigating the family, surroundings and the circumstances in which the child disappeared. Critics called the proposal misguided, saying it could stir up resentment among other sectors of society and be traumatic for young children. Veil herself had assailed the proposal as "unimaginable, unbearable and unjust," saying 10-year-olds should not have to identify with dead children. She had later agreed to join a task force put together by Education Minister Xavier Darcos to look at the proposal more closely. Following a meeting with the education ministry on Wednesday, Veil said "nothing specific has been decided but we all want to improve on what is already being well done by teachers."

Some 11,500 children died in the Holocaust among the 75,000 Jews who were deported in World War II. Nearly all died in the extermination camps at Auschwitz and elsewhere. A number of French schools today bear plaques at their entrance describing the number of former students sent to concentration camps and where many died. Veil’s announcement came after a meeting called by French Education Minister Xavier Darcos who gathered personalities to work out how best to implement President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan. The rountable eeting was supposed to mark the launch of a pedagogic mission entrusted to Helen Waysbord-Loing, a education general inspector and head of the Home of Izieu. Izieu, a village in central-eastern France, was the site of a Jewish orphanage during WWII. On April 6, 1944, the Nazi Gestapo from Lyon, under its chief Klaus Barbie, sent two vans to the village. 44 Jewish children aged 4 to 13 years, and 7 adult caretakers were then sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp and immediately gassed. Minister Darcos had invited to the meeting all the institutions and personalities involved in the transmission of the memory of the Shoah. Besides Veil, the minister also invited Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, head of the Foundation for the Memory of Shoah, Serge Klarsfeld, president of the Association of Sons and Daughters of Jews deported from France, Richard Prasquier, president of CRIF, both rather in favour of the presidential initiative.

The invitees also included Pierre Besnainou, president of the Unified Jewish Social Fund, Beatrice Rosenberg, chairwoman of Yad Layeled France, Philippe Schmidt, vice-president of the League against racism and anti-Semitism, Raphael Haddad, president of the Union of French Jewish students, Théo Hoffenberg, Board member of the Memorial of Shoah in Paris, Jacques Fredj, director of the Memorial and filmmaker Claude Lanzmann. Speaking after the meeting, Lanzmann, who directed the famous documentary film "Shoah" in 1985, said : "The plan was not feasible because there are 11,500 Jewish children who died in the Holocaust and 650,000 pupils in last year of primary school." "The president’s idea to pair the children came from a sincere emotion," he added.



Sixteen Hungarians received Israel's Righteous Among the Nations award for saving Jews during the Holocaust. But as Stefan Bos reports, the ceremony was overshadowed by concerns over renewed anti-Semitism in Hungary and other parts of Europe.

29/2/2008- Hungarian Jewish youngsters dedicated their music to the relative few Hungarians who saved Jews during World War II, when Hungary was for the most part a close ally of Nazi Germany. About 600,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust, carried out by German Nazis and Hungarian fascists. But at least 16 Hungarians risked their lives to help Jews survive the war. At a ceremony in the Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest Thursday, they received one of Israel's highest honors, The Righteous Among the Nations award. It is given by Israel's Jerusalem-based Holocaust memorial authority, Yad Vashem, to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. In most cases only surviving relatives received medals, but some elderly rescuers managed to attend the ceremony. Trembling of old age and emotion, they stood on the platform, in front of the Hungarian president and other high ranking diplomats. Among those honored Thursday were workers hiding one or more Jews in their basements and a supervisor of a Budapest Hotel who managed to save the lives of 100 Jews by using double lists of guests and false names. And then there was Gizella Csertan, who was a young Christian girl inviting a Jewish family to stay in her village. "One day a family without a man was knocking on the door… They were not wailing, they were not complaining, only their eyes spoke to us… The friendship of these two families, a Jewish and a Christian, brought together by the war, and this good friendship had cemented and is still cultivated.

Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom said in a brief speech that many more Hungarians saved Jews. But that view was not shared by Israeli officials. Yad Vashem Chairman Yosef Lapid, a former Justice Minister, told VOA News that as a Hungarian Holocaust survivor he has mixed feelings about Budapest. He still recalls the Budapest Jewish ghetto and Hungary's controversial role in the war. "I have very hard feelings about the behavior of the Hungarians in the Holocaust. Because most of them kept silent. And when you keep silent, you collaborate with those who do terrible things," he said. Lapid is also concerned about a rise of anti Semitism in Europe, and especially in Hungary. "Yes, unfortunately there are now neo-Nazis very active in Hungary. And we don't have here the law that exists in Germany, for instance, which makes it a crime when someone uses religious or racial hatred to inspire crimes. I hope that the Hungarian authorities will pass such a law, because there have been atrocities [here] which are unthinkable nowadays." While these controversial issues were not solved at Thursday's ceremony, organizers made it clear this event showed that at least some Hungarians risked their lives to save the others during the Holocaust era.
© VoA News



Schools must do more the increase the acceptance of homosexual students, say Parliament and Minister Plasterk.

28/2/2008- Schools must do more to increase the acceptance of homosexual students. Both Minister for Emancipation and Education Ronald Plasterk and a majority in Parliament have said this. Plasterk says a "homo-friendly situation" is very important in the classroom, but that "this is not the case at a great many schools." Christian Democrat CDA, Labour PvdA, Liberal VVD and Democrats D66 all agree that schools do not devote enough attention to the subject of homosexuality.
© Expatica News



29/2/2008- Moscow authorities have announced what they have called a "spring amnesty" for the hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants working in the city. From 1 March, illegal migrants will be able to apply to Russia's Federal Migration Service for registration. On paying the equivalent of around $80 (£40), they will be given permission to search for work or a place to study. If after a month they are still unemployed or not studying, they will be required to leave Moscow. Officials say the amnesty is aimed at curbing the rise in xenophobic sentiment among the young. It comes at a time when the Russian government is trying to bring order to economic migration by making it easier for workers to obtain the correct permissions, and by introducing tough sanctions for employers who take on illegal workers.

Permission to work
Many illegal migrants are likely to suspect the scheme is aimed more at detecting and then expelling them, rather than giving them full, legal status. Moscow's authorities say that more than 1.7 million foreigners are registered in the city, and the numbers of new arrivals are increasing rapidly. While no precise statistics are available, officials say that there may be another million or more illegal migrants working in the capital. As unregistered inhabitants, they have no right to medical or social services, and are extremely vulnerable to both unscrupulous employers and far-right, racist groups.

Migrant workers "necessary"
Earlier this week, the head of the Federal Migration Service said migrant workers were as "necessary as air" to Russia's booming economy. However, he warned, across Russia, there may be between five and seven million illegal migrants, whose position would need to be regularised. The authorities, he pledged, would make it easier for migrants to gain the necessary permits. But he warned employers of punitively large fines, if they take on illegal workers. The largest numbers of foreign workers in Russia currently come from Uzbekistan, in Central Asia, and China.
© BBC News



28/2/2008- Dmitry Medvedev has faced little public criticism as he coasts toward Russia's presidency. But a fringe extremist group is trying to stir up voters to turn against him in Sunday's election with claims the candidate might have Jewish roots. The bid to tap into Russian anti-Semitism is attracting attention but not many backers, as even other nationalist groups distance themselves from it. Medvedev, a deputy prime minister who enjoys the support of the hugely popular President Vladimir Putin, isn't commenting. Nikolai Bondarik, who heads a group calling itself the Russian Party, says Medvedev's mother is Jewish, citing what he calls her Jewish maiden name, Shaposhnikova, and information from unidentified friends of hers. He offers no solid proof, but says voters should be informed. "It has nothing to do with anti-Semitism," he said by telephone Wednesday from St. Petersburg. "I just think Russia's president should be Russian."

Russian nationalists have persecuted Jews for centuries, from pogroms that wiped out whole Jewish villages under the czars to systemic discrimination that pushed many Jews to flee the Soviet Union. There have been occasional but persistent attacks on Jews and Jewish graves in recent years. In a recent magazine interview, Medvedev, 42, talked of his mother's forebears in provincial western Russia. He gave their names and professions — one sewed hats, another was a blacksmith — but said nothing about their ethnic or religious background. His mother's family name could be Jewish or ethnic Russian. She reportedly lives in Moscow, but officials in his campaign refused to provide information for contacting her. His father died in 2004. Medvedev, who has described choosing to be baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church at age 23, in the formally atheist Soviet Union, has spoken out against anti-Semitism, saying the government must stamp out anti-Semitic and other xenophobic propaganda. He met with Jewish leaders during Hanukkah. Russia's Federation of Jewish Communities shrugged off Bondarik's campaign, which spokesman Borukh Gorin called an "attempt to play the Jewish card." He said that despite continued anti-Semitism in Russia, the claim was not denting widespread support for Medvedev, who is expected to handily beat three other candidates in Sunday's ballot.

Bondarik's claims have generated excited slurs on virulent nationalist Web sites, but they have been ignored in the mainstream, state-controlled media that most Russians rely on for information. Larger Russian nationalist movements, including the National Bolshevik Party, apparently wary of incurring charges of violating extremism laws, said they refused to take part in a joint march with Bondarik in St. Petersburg last weekend. "This anti-Semitic 'brand' that he tried to put forward didn't find any support," said Alexander Belov of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, a well-known group whose Web site is rife with xenophobic commentary. "He looks like a clown." Belov and others even suggested the Jewish roots "revelation" was a Kremlin plot — but couldn't agree on whether it was aimed at helping Medvedev or hurting him. One theory is that Medvedev's enemies within the current administration hope to discredit a man viewed by many Russians as too friendly to the West. Russian nationalists have long equated Jews with Western influences they view as dangerous. Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky, however, suggested aides for Medvedev may have leaked questions about his mother's background to burnish the candidate's image in the West, casting him as a tolerant figure bravely resisting attack by extremists. "People (in the West) accuse Putin of being totalitarian and nationalist. To better support Medvedev, they can give this image that he is fighting anti-Semites," Belkovsky said. Bondarik denies any Kremlin involvement in his claims. Similar rumors circulated in the past that Putin and other Russian leaders had Jewish roots, also with little effect. Another presidential candidate, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, is a flamboyant ultranationalist who was once openly anti-Semitic — until he revealed his father was Jewish.
© Associated Press



27/2/2008- Kiev police detained 17 youths in connection with an attack on three foreign students, according to a February 21, 2008 article in the local newspaper Kievskie Vedomosti. The mob of youths was hanging out near the MAUP university, which perhaps coincidentally is the country's leading publisher of antisemitic literature, when they spotted two Iranian and one Chinese student getting off a bus. Police reacted quickly, detaining the attackers, but letting 12 go after establishing that they are under-aged. The other five are in detention pending charges. Kiev's police chief, Vladimir Polishchuk, told the paper that he had no idea why local media was treating the incident as a racist attack (for example, an article the same day in the local paper "15 Minut" reported that one of the suspects claims to be a skinhead). "These are just hooliganistic excesses," he argued. Whatever the truth behind this latest in a series of attacks on ethnic minorities in Ukraine, Mr. Polishchuk then made the completely spurious claim that no racist crimes took place in Kiev over the last year. "By the way, last year there were 113 crimes against citizens of other countries, during which six people died," he asserted. "But not one of them was connected with racist or any other kind of inter-ethnic attitudes. Although there are some kind of minor groups that claim to be skinheads in the capital, there are no real militant organizations. So citizens of other countries, especially African and Asian countries, have nothing to fear."

However, the SBU (the KGB's successor agency) the same day released a report that paints the situation in more alarming terms, according to a February 22, 2008 report in the same newspaper. The SBU's press office reportedly told the local media that they are monitoring several racist skinhead organizations in Kiev, Sevastopol, Yalta, and the regions of Kiev, Kharkov, Kherson, Summi, Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Vinnitsa, Odessa, and Zhitomir. "There are ten such groups in Kiev operating independently of one another who follow the theory of racism," the SBU reported. "They receive ideological literature from abroad" much of it most likely from Russia (though the SBU was not specific), where the neo-Nazi movement is much more developed than in Ukraine. The SBU qualified its assertions by saying that the neo-Nazi movement does not yet present a public threat because it is not well organized, but added that its numbers are growing, and that its leaders are gaining organizational experience. Earlier this month, the Council of Europe's racism monitoring body released a report arguing that Ukrainian police are not doing enough to combat growing racist violence, and UCSJ's Kiev monitor reported a record number of racist attacks in January 2008. In addition, from October 2006 to September 2007, UCSJ recorded 55 likely hate crimes, including seven murders, several of them in Kiev. The victims were primarily Arabs (13 victims), Jews (10 victims), and blacks (10 victims).
© FSU Monitor



27/2/2008- About 1000 policemen will guard the streets of Plzen during a neo-Nazi march through the city centre on Saturday, March 1, police spokeswoman Jana Vaclavova said. She said riot police, traffic police, detectives and investigators, mounted police and dog-handlers will be on alert since there is a real danger of a conflict arising between the neo-Nazis and their opponents. Members of anti-conflict teams will also be available. The police will have water cannons, armoured carriers and a helicopter at their disposal, Vaclavova said adding that the Bavarian and Saxon police forces have also been asked to send their specialists. The march will be held from 14:00 to 19:00 on Saturday. "Since opponents of the march plan to hold unauthorised actions outside the Grand Synagogue and at other places approximately at the time of the march, there is a real danger of a conflict between the groups," Vaclavova said. She said the police have recommended to people to avoid the streets along which the neo-Nazis plan to march. The regional court in Plzen has authorised the march called Protest against limitation of freedom of assembly and limitation of freedom of expression to be held on a substitute date after it upheld the complaint by Vaclav Bures against a ban imposed on the planned march in January.



26/2/2008- Around 100 members of the League of Polish Families (LPR) have staged a demonstation outside the embassy of Serbia in Warsaw. "We are witnessing Serbia's partition,” activists from the League of Polish Families commented about Poland's recognition of Kosovo. Protesters waved Polish and Serbian flags, manifesting their support with chants. Robert Wyrostkiewicz, one of the organizers, explained that the protest is a way of expressing opposition to the EU and the US intereference with the events occuring in Serbia, a sovereign state. Protesters included Miroslaw Orzechowski, former deputy minister of education, who said that recognizing Kosovo may cause the Balkan conflict to flare up anew. The participants in the demonstration made an appeal to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to acknowledge the actions of the Kosovar authorities as illegal and sue them at the UN. At a meeting earlier today, the Polish government recognized Kosovo as an independent state. The League of Polish families was part of the ruling coalition which collapsed last autumn leading to a general election in which they failed to gain 5 percent of the popular vote and no longer have any seats in the Sejm, Polish parliament.
© Polskie Radio


Headlines 22 February, 2008


22/2/2008- The first Moroccan-born member of Italy's far-right Northern League party has complained that there are too many mosques in Italy. Zakaria Najib is an Italian citizen who came to Italy when he was 20 years old. Now aged 50, he lives in the province of Padua in northern Italy. He is now planning to run in Italy's general elections in April as a candidate for the Northern League, an anti-immigrant party that campaigns for autonomy for Italy's wealthy north. Although a member of the Cadoneghe city council in the province of Padua between 1999 and 2003, two months ago he told a local newspaper that he had asked president Giorgio Napoletano to take away his Italian citizenship so he could be Moroccan again. He said being a foreigner in Italy was better because they were "given homes and work, while I only have taxes and difficulties in paying the bills at the end of every month". He criticised in particular the policies of leftist city administrations for helping immigrants and in particular Muslim immigrants. "In a nearby city council, 30,000 euros were given to restructure a mosque," Najib told AKI. "Now they want to give another 800,000 euros to construct another bigger mosque a few kilometres away. It is time to say enough. I am not against mosques but here we really have too many." Najib admitted that he was no longer a practising Muslim and only considered himself culturally linked to Islam having been born in North Africa. "I believe that everyone has the right to have their own beliefs but they must pay for it themselves," he said. "It is not fair that taxpayers' money is being used to build mosques. On top of that I don't like the imams that I have seen inside the mosques and I think these are places that have to be controlled." Najib has said that he is available to run as a candidate for a Senate seat for the Northern League. Party sources in Padua say that the decision depends on the federal and provincial councils of the party. Despite that he says if elected, his first proposal would be to deal with what he called the excessive presence of mosques in the northern Italian region of Veneto.
© Aki



21/2/2008- Ukrainian neo-Nazi thugs in a pair of attacks knifed a Nigerian man, and left a Chinese university student hospitalised, Fakty newspaper reported Thursday. The knifing took place near a metro stop in the working class Shuliavska district of the capital Kiev. The victim, described in the article as a Nigerian man aged 40 having lived years in the former republic, had been waiting for a bus when the assault took place. Three young men with shaved heads and black leather clothing typical of white supremacists singled the Nigerian out from the queue. After a verbal altercation, one of the Ukrainians knifed the Nigerian in the stomach, eyewitnesses said. The Nigerian nonetheless resisted, according to the report, using an axe handle to defend himself effectively. The fight ended quickly after a second attacker sprayed tear gas in the Nigerian's face. The two uninjured Ukrainians ran from the scene, while the Nigerian and one Ukrainian were hospitalised. The second assault occurred after more than one dozen Ukrainian men, all attired in neo-Nazi kit, gathered at Libiska Square, a complex of budget shops and markets in a residential region of the Ukrainian capital. After consuming beer the group walked to the nearby International Academy of Management, a commercial business college popular with foreign students. The Ukrainians assaulted the first foreign men they encountered, as it happened a Chinese and Iranian student, both 23 years in age. An Iranian teenager aged 16 was walking by and became involved in the fight as well. The Ukrainians knocked all three foreigners to the ground, kicking them with army boots. The Chinese required hospitalisation for head concussion injuries, while an ambulance team responding to the scene treated the two Iranians for cuts and bruises. Police later arrested 17 suspects.

Both assaults were likely carried out "on racist grounds," but there was little chance the two attacks were coordinated, said Irnyna Stakhnevich, a city police spokeswoman. The incidents came less than two weeks after the knife murder of a Congolese man in a Kiev street by a group of Ukrainian men "wearing dark leather clothes," according to the article. A gang of skinheads looking for trouble on Kiev's main street the Khreschatyk in mid January attacked Marcus Faison, a US citizen playing on Kiev's professional basketball team. Faison required nine stitches after the street battle, during which the 1.98 metre American threw two of his assailants through a store front window. The worst incident of anti-foreigner violence in recent Ukrainian memory took place in early November, when an estimated 150 Ukrainian neo-Nazi skinheads brawled with a similar number of Indian engineering students in the eastern city Zaporizhia. There were no arrests. Ukraine's government has repeatedly claimed neo-Nazi extremism is rare in the former Soviet republic, and police frequently avoid admitting racist grounds for street violence.



20/2/2008- "Who are you with?" an excited fellow around 20 years old asked a journalist standing by, looking at riot police surrounding the main University of Athens building in downtown Athens. Not receiving an answer he said, "I am from the Golden Dawn, and we keep an eye on journalists, because you are garbage." The Golden Dawn is a neo-Nazi group whose members have been involved in many violent attacks on migrants, leftist activists and anarchists. It is estimated to be a small group, but with many determined members among its ranks. Its publications, which circulate freely, sell paraphernalia and music commemorating fascist regimes and their special military units such as the Nazi Waffen SS, which was a particularly brutal Nazi force. Golden Dawn members had again been involved in clashes around the city centre with anarchists and other groups earlier this month. Many members of the notorious anarchist Black Block had retreated into the university building after hours of violent clashes with police and extreme right radicals.

The police are not allowed to enter university premises in Greece without permission from the rector and the university council. This legal right called 'asylum' is a legacy of the student movement since its 1973 uprising against dictatorship. Many today want that right abolished since demonstrators can find refuge on university premises. Others think it an important right against abuse of power by authorities. Anarchists confront police regularly in the centre of Athens, often destroying banks' ATMs, burning cars, and injuring policemen. Riot police retaliate with teargas and beatings, the brutality of which has at times led to widespread uproar. This time street fighting erupted when a group of anarchists and members of radical leftist organisations attempted to oppose a demonstration called by the Golden Dawn to commemorate the day of Imia (Jan. 31), an islet in the Aegean Sea over which Greece and Turkey almost went to war in 1996. Five people were injured during the clashes; three of them were stabbed. Some hours later, as clashes continued, video footage started circulating of riot policemen collaborating with members of the Golden Dawn, causing serious concern about the relations of police forces with fascist elements. The police officially deny that riot police have joined forces with fascists, and blame the scale of violence on poor preparation on their side. The government says the police did nothing more than "stand between the two fronts."

Petros Tzomakos, a member of the Greek wing of Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE), who broke his hand during the clashes, sees things differently. "If in the past we could talk about police tolerating them, this time they clearly co-operated with the Golden Dawn. They backed them up while they assaulted people," he told IPS. "They worked together with a gang who exists at the expense of society, stabbing migrants and beating up people who look or think differently. We demand that policemen present in the incident are brought to the courts to explain themselves." According to a Greek Ombudsman's special report in July 2004, the majority of abuses by uniformed officials go unpunished. This 'culture of impunity' also seems to apply to extreme right radicals -- very few have faced justice for hate and racially motivated crimes during the last two decades. According to the YRE, fascists are becoming more active. They have been involved in 20 cases of assault over the last six months, attacking or intimidating political activists, damaging their organisations' offices, and brutally beating and stabbing migrants from Pakistan, Morocco and Sudan. "There is a serious boost in extreme right radicals' confidence lately," Tzomakos said. "Their ideological relatives are in the parliament for the first time (the extreme right Popular Orthodox Alarm), and they enjoy more support than before. We ought to face this before it is too late."
© IPS-Inter Press Service



18/2/2008- Kosovo became on Sunday the world's newest state after its parliament overwhelmingly endorsed a declaration of independence from Serbia in an historic session.

Following is the text of the declaration:
Convened in an extraordinary meeting on February 17, 2008, in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo,

Answering the call of the people to build a society that honours human dignity and affirms the pride and purpose of its citizens,
Committed to confront the painful legacy of the recent past in a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness,
Dedicated to protecting, promoting and honoring the diversity of our people,
Reaffirming our wish to become fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic family of democracies,
Observing that Kosovo is a special case arising from Yugoslavia's non-consensual breakup and is not a precedent for any other situation,
Recalling the years of strife and violence in Kosovo, that disturbed the conscience of all civilised people,
Grateful that in 1999 the world intervened, thereby removing Belgrade's governance over Kosovo and placing Kosovo under United Nations interim administration,
Proud that Kosovo has since developed functional, multi-ethnic institutions of democracy that express freely the will of our citizens,
Recalling the years of internationally-sponsored negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina over the question of our future political status,
Regretting that no mutually-acceptable status outcome was possible, in spite of the good-faith engagement of our leaders,
Confirming that the recommendations of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari provide Kosovo with a comprehensive framework for its future development and are in line with the highest European standards of human rights and good governance,
Determined to see our status resolved in order to give our people clarity about their future, move beyond the conflicts of the past and realise the full democratic potential of our society,
Honouring all the men and women who made great sacrifices to build a better future for Kosovo,

1. We, the democratically-elected leaders of our people, hereby declare Kosovo to be an independent and sovereign state. This declaration reflects the will of our people and it is in full accordance with the recommendations of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement.

2. We declare Kosovo to be a democratic, secular and multi-ethnic republic, guided by the principles of non-discrimination and equal protection under the law. We shall protect and promote the rights of all communities in Kosovo and create the conditions necessary for their effective participation in political and decision-making processes.

3. We accept fully the obligations for Kosovo contained in the Ahtisaari Plan, and welcome the framework it proposes to guide Kosovo in the years ahead. We shall implement in full those obligations including through priority adoption of the legislation included in its Annex XII, particularly those that protect and promote the rights of communities and their members.

4. We shall adopt as soon as possible a Constitution that enshrines our commitment to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all our citizens, particularly as defined by the European Convention on Human Rights. The Constitution shall incorporate all relevant principles of the Ahtisaari Plan and be adopted through a democratic and deliberative process.

5. We welcome the international community's continued support of our democratic development through international presences established in Kosovo on the basis of UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). We invite and welcome an international civilian presence to supervise our implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan, and a European Union-led rule of law mission. We also invite and welcome the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to retain the leadership role of the international military presence in Kosovo and to implement responsibilities assigned to it under UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) and the Ahtisaari Plan, until such time as Kosovo institutions are capable of assuming these responsibilities. We shall cooperate fully with these presences to ensure Kosovo's future peace, prosperity and stability.

6. For reasons of culture, geography and history, we believe our future lies with the European family. We therefore declare our intention to take all steps necessary to facilitate full membership in the European Union as soon as feasible and implement the reforms required for European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

7. We express our deep gratitude to the United Nations for the work it has done to help us recover and rebuild from war and build institutions of democracy. We are committed to working constructively with the United Nations as it continues its work in the period ahead.

8. With independence comes the duty of responsible membership in the international community. We accept fully this duty and shall abide by the principles of the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, other acts of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the international legal obligations and principles of international comity that mark the relations among states. Kosovo shall have its international borders as set forth in Annex VIII of the Ahtisaari Plan, and shall fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all our neighbors. Kosovo shall also refrain from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.

9. We hereby undertake the international obligations of Kosovo, including those concluded on our behalf by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and treaty and other obligations of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to which we are bound as a former constituent part, including the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular relations. We shall cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. We intend to seek membership in international organisations, in which Kosovo shall seek to contribute to the pursuit of international peace and stability.

10. Kosovo declares its commitment to peace and stability in our region of southeast Europe. Our independence brings to an end the process of Yugoslavia's violent dissolution. While this process has been a painful one, we shall work tirelessly to contribute to a reconciliation that would allow southeast Europe to move beyond the conflicts of our past and forge new links of regional cooperation. We shall therefore work together with our neighbours to advance a common European future.

11. We express, in particular, our desire to establish good relations with all our neighbours, including the Republic of Serbia with whom we have deep historical, commercial and social ties that we seek to develop further in the near future. We shall continue our efforts to contribute to relations of friendship and cooperation with the Republic of Serbia, while promoting reconciliation among our people.

12. We hereby affirm, clearly, specifically, and irrevocably, that Kosovo shall be legally bound to comply with the provisions contained in this Declaration, including, especially, the obligations for it under the Ahtisaari Plan. In all of these matters, we shall act consistent with principles of international law and resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations, including resolution 1244 (1999). We declare publicly that all states are entitled to rely upon this declaration, and appeal to them to extend to us their support and friendship.
© Novinite



19/2/2008- A growing number of immigrants are living in dangerously overcrowded housing, creating the risk of a major fire disaster, a fire chief has warned. Fire brigades across the UK have reported blazes in packed migrant accommodation, Peter Holland said. It is feared unscrupulous landlords may be putting lives at risk. The chief officer of Lancashire fire brigade says he is "seriously concerned" there is going to be a multiple fire death in such housing.  As many migrant workers from Eastern Europe are on low incomes yet not entitled to social housing, they often end up in the poorest quality private accommodation. The big growth area is so-called houses in multiple occupation - or HMOs - where a number of individuals or families are squeezed into a single property. Local authorities say such properties are often unlicensed and overcrowded. Even when not overcrowded, occupants are six times more likely to die in a HMO fire than average. The BBC has learnt there have already been a number of fires in HMOs housing migrant workers - some fatal. In north London last year, 28 people escaped from a fire in a hotel, while fires in Belfast and Yorkshire killed three Polish workers. Now Mr Holland has gone public for the first time voicing his concerns. "I'm seriously concerned that somewhere in the UK we're going to have a multiple fire death in a house of multiple occupation," he said. "The problem's been exacerbated by the influx of Eastern European migrants, who are moving into the highest risk properties that we have here in the UK, where we're already struggling to maintain fire precautions, and the problem's getting worse because of overcrowded conditions."

'Skimming the surface'
Some local authorities, such as Peterborough, agree they have noticed a sharp rise in the number of problem properties. Peterborough has launched its own licensing scheme to try to force private landlords to meet fire regulations. But housing officers say they are struggling to keep up. An estimated 25,000 Eastern Europeans have arrived in Peterborough in the last few years. Enforcement officer Peter Bezant says he has licensed more than 100 HMOs so far, but has more than 1,000 properties yet to be inspected that may potentially be dangerous. "It's on the increase - and we are only just skimming the surface," he said. "It's across the whole of the city." He added that less scrupulous landlords were sometimes to blame. "There's a big influx of economic migrants in Peterborough and people are getting on the bandwagon - I wouldn't say necessarily exploiting the situation, but they're getting a good return and the biggest risk is fire safety." When we followed Mr Bezant recently as he carried out inspections near the centre of Peterborough, responding to complaints from neighbours, he quickly came across problem properties. One building behind a shop was occupied by a dozen Slovak farm workers who had arrived in the country only a few months before and were living in overcrowded conditions, which Mr Bezant judged to be both dangerous and illegal. Three beds had been squeezed into the living room and even one in the kitchen to fit in more people, while the only fire escape from upstairs was blocked by a mattress. Mr Bezant issued a prohibition notice to the landlord, closing down the property. "If there was a fire here, these people would have no chance of escaping to a place of safety," he said. The workers told us their employer had mistreated them, withholding their pay so they had no choice but to live in the property which was all they could afford. A spokesperson for the Department of Communities and Local Government said it was working with local authorities, and fire and rescue services, to raise fire safety awareness among migrant communities.
© BBC News



Last week hundreds of models strutted before the crowds at London Fashion Week - but very few of them were black or Asian. Why don't the style parades in London, Paris and New York reflect the multiracial nature of the cities where they take place? Elizabeth Day reports

17/2/2008- Katharine Hamnett does not believe the cliché that black never goes out of fashion. In recent years, the designer has seen a resurgence of white on the catwalks. But it is not the colour of the clothes she has noticed, so much as the colour of the models. 'The catwalks are full of white dogs,' she says, with barely concealed irritation. 'Cosmetic companies don't like black models - the racist bitches. I have no idea why when it's obvious that black girls are just so genuinely much more beautiful than Caucasians, who have clearly got the short straw. Black girls have much better body shapes and it's such a shame. I just think there should be a bit more of a balance.' While it is rare for a fashion insider to voice opinions so forcefully, Hamnett is not alone. Vivienne Westwood, the grande dame of British style, has in the past urged glossy magazines to adopt a quota system for ethnic minority models. And agent Carole White, co-founder of Premier Model Management, has admitted that finding work for black clients is harder than for white models. 'Sadly we're in the business where you stock your shelves with what sells. According to the magazines, black models don't sell. We have had casting briefs which say "no ethnics",' she says.

This month, Naomi Campbell said that she felt black models were being 'sidelined by major modelling agencies'. In the run-up to New York Fashion Week, Diane von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, entreated members to stage 'truly multicultural' shows. Then, last Monday, on the first day of London Fashion Week, the 17-year-old model Jourdan Dunn voiced her concerns that Britain's racial make-up was not being fairly represented. 'London's not a white city,' she said, 'so why should our catwalks be so white?' It is a moot point, given that London's ethnic minorities make up 29 per cent of an eight million-strong population. The largest ethnic group, accounting for around 800,000 people, is Afro-Caribbean. And what of the other fashion capitals of the world? In New York, 28 per cent of the city's 19 million inhabitants describe themselves as black. One Parisian in seven is of foreign nationality and the city is home to the majority of France's 1.4 million residents of African origin. Yet these figures are not reflected in the fashion industry. The Jezebel style website found that of New York Fashion Week's 103 runway shows, there were 2,278 opportunities to feature a model on the catwalk and a black model was used only 298 times. Eighteen designers used no black models at all.

It is Thursday morning in London and the ballroom of Claridge's hotel is filled with the staccato clatter of Manolos on parquet floor. At the Luella fashion show the front row seats are filling up with spindly-legged, glossy-haired women wearing good accessories and harassed expressions. Kelly Osbourne is here, Lily Allen is backstage and Sophie Ellis Bextor is giving television interviews. As the lights go up and the models begin their teetering procession, there is not a single black face among them. In fact, the only ones are among the spectators. 'I'm not surprised,' says Reggie Ansah, the editor-in-chief of Luxure magazine. 'Vivienne Westwood is the only designer who really uses them [black models]. I think a lot of blame is to be put on the agencies: they don't promote black girls for the big jobs.'  Last week, Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue insisted that the number of black women featured in the magazine was 'absolutely on a par with the whole population'. Sarah Leon, the head of the women's division at Select model agency, is similarly unequivocal. 'Fashion is a business and these designers are highly competitive,' she says. 'When you're selling a product, you look at your core customer and you use advertising that you think will appeal to them.' She points out that Select has several ethnic minority models on its books and was co-founded by Tandy Anderson, one of the most influential black women in fashion. Recently, the agency conducted a nationwide search for new ethnic faces, sending scouts to Manchester and Blackburn. 'To insist on quotas or positive discrimination, that just exacerbates it for me. It's a token message, rather than just getting on with it,' says Leon.

But according to Masoud Golsorkhi, the Iranian editor-in-chief of Tank fashion magazine, this is largely missing the point. He says it is 'self-evident that the industry as a whole could fairly be described' as racist. 'The major advertising campaigns that decide the commercial value of a girl hardly ever use black models, and that cascades through the industry,' he adds. Golsorkhi cites The Observer's O occasional fashion supplement which he also oversees. From the hundreds of ad campaigns featured in the latest issue, only two - Vivienne Westwood and Ralph Lauren - use black women. 'I would love to change that but I feel constrained. Fashion is a heavily tiered system. A fashion editor of mine was styling a show at London Fashion Week and out of 150 girls sent to the casting, there were only three black models, one of whom made it into the show.'  For some dispassionate observers, there is an uncomfortable, unspoken subtext that black women do not sell as well because the fashion-buying public views beauty as traditionally white. According to Adenike Adenitire, the editor of the female supplement at the black weekly newspaper New Nation: 'White has always been seen as more dominant, more fashionable and more acceptable. There are rumours that covers featuring Naomi Campbell do not sell as well as those with white models ('Although that could simply be because people don't like Naomi,' says one fashion journalist). On Forbes magazine's 2007 list of the top-earning 15 models, only one - the Ethiopian Liya Kebede - was black.

It was not always thus: Yves Saint Laurent famously pioneered the use of black models in his runway shows in the 1970s. The economic resurgence of Marks & Spencer over the past few years has been largely attributed to its highly successful advertising campaign, featuring the black French model Noémie Lenoir. When Harper's Bazaar put Kebede on its cover last year, it proved to be one of their best-selling issues - so much so that they are using her again for the front of their May issue. Part of the problem, it seems, is the inexplicably capricious nature of fashion - the stylistic looks that are deemed by designers to typify a certain era or a specific creative ethos. With the fall of the Iron Curtain and the opening up of the former Soviet states, the current vogue is for extremely skinny Eastern European models, with beanpole legs and anaemic faces. They reflect, perhaps, a new core client: the Russian oligarch's wife, with nouveau money to burn on Sloane Street. Michael Herz, the half-Guyanese, half-British head of design at UK luxury label Aquascutum, says: 'Girls are there because they are beautiful and they are good at what they do. Whether or not they are black has nothing to do with it. I would be a bit pissed off having people telling me who I should use. I hate the idea of positive discrimination.'

Last week's Aquascutum catwalk show, incidentally, opened with Liya Kebede, and there are designers, such as the Lanvin artistic director Alber Elbaz, who make a point of using ethnic minority faces on the catwalk. But the majority of black models who have made it to the top of their profession - Campbell, Tyra Banks, Iman - embody a westernised ideal of beauty. Although the Sudanese model Alek Wek is a notable exception, many agree with the comments made a few months ago by J. Alexander, a judge on the reality television programme America's Next Top Model. He complained in the New York Times that 'some people are not interested in the vision of the black girl unless they're doing a jungle theme and they can put her in a grass skirt and diamonds and hand her a spear.' This season, it seems that white is indisputably the new black.
© The Observer



20/2/2008- The news that Chelsea manager Avraham Grant received anti-Semitic death threats in the mail has been met with shock amongst his friends and the Jewish community in England. However, communal leaders are cautioning that at this point in time it should only be taken as an isolated incident and not as symptomatic of a wider rise in anti-Semitism in British soccer. Police in the English county of Surrey confirmed on Wednesday that a package containing a "mysterious powder" had been sent to the Chelsea FC training ground in Cobham on Tuesday. A note inside the package alleged that the substance was lethal and was accompanied by an anti-Semitic letter. However, after the training ground was initially sealed off, Surrey Police confirmed that the powder was in fact harmless. The letter called Grant a "back-stabbing Jewish bastard‚" and promised him a "slow and painful death" while also threatening sexual assault against his wife, Tzofit. Grant and the Chelsea first team were not present at the Chelsea training ground at the time, having flown to Athens to play Olympiakos in the Champions League knockout stages, a match which ended 0-0. Surrey police say that the investigation is ongoing. "I was surprised to hear about it, because in the last few years we have hardly heard about anti-Semitism [in soccer], then suddenly [Grant] received this letter," former Liverpool player and long-time friend of Grant‚ Avi Cohen, told The Jerusalem Post. Cohen spoke of how anti-Semitism had virtually disappeared from the game since his own playing days in the 1980s. "It was hard in the '80s because of the political situation [in England]. Sometimes I could hear shouts from the crowd, such as "yid" but it was nothing too serious. Now you don't hear from any of the players who play abroad about this problem. Not from Turkey, Belgium or Spain," he said.
Cohen added that he felt this was an isolated incident, saying that Grant had never spoken to him of suffering anti-Semitic abuse from crowds in the past.

A spokesman for the CST, an organization which aims to protect the Jewish community in Britain, said: "There was a spate of disturbing white powder incidents in 2001, but for now this appears to be an isolated case against a high profile individual. "We are, however, concerned at the generally high levels of anti-Semitic incidents that are faced by the Jewish community." A CSTspokesman added: "In a football context, this is often concentrated around Tottenham Hotspur, and also in lower level football against actual Jewish teams. We have discussed these issues with the Football Association and Police, and have their support in challenging it." When Grant first took on the job of Chelsea coach, sections of the Stamford Bridge support, who felt that he had helped push out the former manager Jose Mourinho, were accused of being anti Semitic. At the time Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck told the Agence France Presse: "We welcome all constructive points of view. But there have been a few which could be viewed as racist and anti-Semitic and that must stop immediately. "This is one thing we will not tolerate, whether in written correspondence, on the chat pages, on posters or banners, or through singing and chanting." However, Chelsea has denied that fans of the club were to blame for the death threat Grant received on Tuesday. "There is absolutely no evidence that Chelsea fans were in any way connected to this incident," a Chelsea source told the Post. "I think we have taken great steps to stamp out all forms of discrimination at Stamford Bridge," the source added. Israeli sports Web site reported on Wednesday that Grant issued a statement reassuring his fans that he is ok, although this has not been confirmed officially. Meanwhile, in response to his team's drab 0-0 draw with Olympiakos, Grant was disappointed but looked forward to the return tie in two week's time. "This was a game that we played less well than previous games," he said. "We only created a couple of chances so it's a little disappointing. The performance could have been better but the result was good." Grant drew criticism for his decision to rest key players Frank Lampard and John Terry with one eye on Sunday's League Cup final against Tottenham. "In football, I never gamble and we put a strong team out," was Grant‚ response. "Anything I do is questioned, I'm ok with this. They are not easy decisions but it is my job."
© The Jerusalem Post



21/2/2008- The sponsors who subsidised Czech Romany leader Emil Scuka's project of a private high school for Romanies ten years ago, are annoyed now as Scuka runs his "school" building as a hostel instead of organising school lessons, the daily Lidove noviny (LN) wrote Wednesday. The Scuka school story is a model case of "ethno-business" in the Czech Republic, the paper says. When Scuka, International Romany Union president, came up with the school project, it was welcomed and generously subsidised by sponsors including the British and Canadian embassies, the Transgas company, the Good Will committee of Olga Havlova. The largest sum, some 3 million crowns, was provided by the U.S. financer George Soros via his Open Society Fund, Lidove noviny writes. The only condition Soros set was that the three-storey building Scuka would run in Kolin, central Bohemia, should serve educational purposes for twenty years at least. The condition has not been fulfilled, however, LN writes. "Mr Scuka uses the building to accommodate workers from the local car-making company," Zdenka Almerova from the Open Society Fund's Czech organisation is quoted as saying. Scuka asserts he uses the collected rent to operate another six branches of his school that have been established in the meantime. Nevertheless, he has not submitted any documents to prove this. "We don't know how much he earns by renting the rooms, nor do we know whether he invests the proceeds in the school project," Almerova said.

Apart from an initial subsidy, the Open Society Fund later lent another 1.5 million crowns to Scuka, who, however, has returned only 80,000 crowns and halted contacts with the foundation. The foundation is still reluctant to sue Scuka. "We don't want to be criticised for barring Romany children's education," Almerova is quoted as saying. The Scuka school story reflects the way "ethno-business" is run in the Czech Republic. When gathering money for his projects, Scuka points to the unfavourable situation of his ethnic group, Romanies. When his projects fail, he gives similar arguments, pointing to specific features of Romanies. Dissatisfied sponsors keep silent, fearing that criticism could backfire at them, LN writes, citing Tomas Hirt, an anthropologist from the university of Plzen, west Bohemia. It is in Plzen where a branch of Scuka's Romany school failed some time ago. More than 40 of its extramural students gradually gave up the studies, discouraged by what they called unbearable conditions. They received no text-books, teachers often failed to turn up at lessons as they had not received their pay, the classrooms were unheated, LN writes. Nevertheless, Scuka's high school continues to draw regular state subsidies, which reached more than 8 million crowns last year, besides the tuition fees the students had to pay simultaneously. The Education Ministry recently found out that the school also accepted subsidies for certain students who had ceased to attend it before. Scuka defends himself saying the school worked smoothly but it was the students who failed. "They make up excuses as they gave up studies and refuse to admit it," LN quotes him as saying.
© Prague Daily Monitor



21/2/2008- Ultra right-wingers can hold their planned march through Plzen, west Bohemia, on March 1, as the Supreme Administrative Court has rejected the city's complaint against a Regional Court verdict that ruled that the ban of a previous similar march by Mayor Pavel Roedl was unauthorised. The neo-Nazis originally planned to march through Plzen on January 19. The event's organiser, Vaclav Bures, said it would be held in support of freedom of speech. Observers challenged this as the date coincided with the anniversary of a wartime transport of local Jews to the Terezin (Theresienstadt) ghetto. Roedl banned the march, but the court eventually decided Bures has the right to convoke a new march within a certain deadline. Bures has convoked it for March 1. The NSS disclosed its verdict on its official notice board Thursday. Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) judge Vojtech Simicek told CTK that the Regional Court had assessed the problem correctly. It was neither up to the city hall nor the mayor to decide on whether the march can be held, but up to the Plzen 3 district hall to which Bures had announced his plan to organise the march on January 19, Simicek said. Moreover, the district hall officials should have decided on a possible ban in three days. Roedl's ban was issued far later, Simicek pointed out. Simicek said the NSS had assessed whether the Regional Court's procedure was correct, but did not assess the planned march's political subtext. The verdict has nothing to do with the NSS's attitude to the march organisers, whom the court is far from favouring, Simicek said.

Nevertheless, the valid rules have to apply equally to all. When deciding on extremist demonstrations, officials and courts must apply the same principles as when deciding on rock concerts and fairs, for example, Simicek said. Roedl said he respects the court verdict. He said the only authority that can dissolve the march is the Plzen 3 district hall, which can do so if the law were violated during the event. Jiri Loewy, deputy head of the Plzen Jewish Community, called the NSS verdict alibi-seeking. The NSS probably did not want it to be criticised as undemocratic. Besides, it may have wanted to avoid accusations saying that its staff include judges with Jewish ancestors, Loewy said. Now there exists no institution to ban the neo-Nazi march, he said, praising Roedl's previous decision to issue the ban instead of the inactive district hall. Loewy said various groups, including extremists, use the law on assembly to raise their publicity. The Jewish Community has therefore booked the three sites in Plzen where rallies are held most frequently for every day in the next six months. It has booked them for March 1 as well and wants to hold a meeting this day. The district hall, however, banned the meeting arguing that Bures had booked this date earlier. Loewy said the Jewish Community would appeal this decision.
© Prague Daily Monitor



18/2/2008- The Plzeò Town Hall seeks to frustrate a neo-Nazi march through the town scheduled for March 1 and it will file a complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court against the Plzeò Regional Court's decision to allow the march Friday, Mayor Pavel Rödl told CTK. He said that though more information could be added to the complaint later, the town wanted to submit it to the court as quickly as possible so that it start dealing with it. The deadline for the submission of the complaint expires on February 20. Originally, the neo-Nazis announced their march for January 19, the anniversary of the first transport of Plzeò Jews to the Terezín (Theresienstadt) ghetto in 1942, but Rödl banned it two days before it was to take place. On February 1 the court decided that the ban had been unjustified. The court upheld the complaint of Václav Bureš, the march organiser, pointing out that it found no reasons for the ban. It thus gave Bures a chance to organise another meeting that was announced for March 1.
© The Prague Daily Monitor



15/2/2008- A district hall in Plzen Thursday banned a meeting a local resident planned to stage outside the Grand Synagogue in protest against anti-Semitism on March 1, when a neo-Nazis march is to pass by, Mayor Jiri Strobach said Thursday. The hall has banned the meeting in fear of a possible conflict between the neo-Nazis and their opponents, he said. Strobach said no other events have been scheduled for March 1. In recent days, the district hall banned a meeting the Plzen Jewish Community wanted to hold on March 1. The Jewish Community previously announced to the authorities it plans to hold everyday meetings from February 12 to July 31 this year outside both of Plzen's synagogues and also in the park where Jews gathered during World War Two before being transported to the Terezin (Theresienstadt) ghetto. Plzen Jewish Community head Eva Stixova said the long-term blockading of the selected sites was a way to prevent any further march of right-wing extremists. The district hall nodded to the community's plan but only banned it from holding its meeting on March 1. "On Friday we will discuss whether to challenge the ban in court," said Stixova. Strobach said such an extent of booking of sites for everyday meetings is unusual. The law does not reckon with similar situations. Not even if the Jewish Community failed to hold any of the announced meetings, the law does not allow the hall to cancel the other dates they had booked, he said. The neo-Nazis originally announced their march for January 19, the anniversary of the first transport of Plzen Jews to Terezin in 1942. Plzen Mayor Pavel Roedl banned the march two days before it was to be held. Later, on February 1, the court decided that the ban had been unjustified. The court recognised the complaint by the march organiser, Vaclav Bures, that there were no legal reasons to ban the event. Bures was therefore given a chance to organise another meeting, which he announced for March 1.
© The Prague Daily Monitor



By Iman Kurdi

18?2/2008- “I don’t hate Muslims. I hate Islam.” Of course, these are not my words and certainly not my sentiments. They are the words of a Dutch politician. I will not reveal his name, nor talk about the film he is allegedly making, because I do not wish to pander to his need for media attention, and I certainly do not wish to give his film free publicity. Besides, how can I have a meaningful view about a film that no one has seen? But his words exist; they are in the public sphere. In a newspaper interview this week, he calls Islam “the ideology of a retarded culture” and goes on to say that “Islam is something we can’t afford any more in the Netherlands. That means no more mosques, no more Islamic schools, no more imams...Not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslims.” I suspect this is hitting many readers like a red rag to a bull, but I am keeping my calm for the moment, aware that the man’s intention is to provoke me. Are his words offensive? Yes. Are they insulting? Yes. Are they lies? Yes. His words anger me, but what strikes me most about them is how familiar they seem. They are words we don’t normally hear from politicians or people in the public sphere, but they are words you hear if you listen carefully on European streets, and elsewhere too, I imagine.

So the first question I ask myself is this: If these views — as offensive as they are — exist, should they be aired in public so that Muslims can at least have a chance to counter them, or should they be outlawed? A second question is could a politician have uttered the same words about another religion, say Christianity or Judaism? And finally, could anyone seriously make a distinction between hating a religion and hating the people who profess its faith? There is a fine line between expressing a view in order to open up a debate, and giving credibility to a view by making it part of public discourse. The sentence “I hate Islam” is one that will shock regardless of whether or not you are a Muslim. I suspect most Dutch people, even those who feel threatened by immigration or who hold negative views about Islam, will respond negatively to the strong emotive nature of the words used. It is not acceptable to hate a religion. If anything, the politician has scored something of an own goal by using these words. Far more worrying in terms of impact is the rest of his discourse, in particular the sentence: “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslims”. It is of concern because it is fast becoming a mainstream view.

So is it true? I say no without hesitating because in my mind those who commit murder in the name of Islam are not Muslims, but I concede that this is a facile argument. The academic answer I am assured is also no. If you do a head count of terrorists on the planet past and present, you will find that Muslims do not make up the majority. I have not done a head count and nor do I wish to. It is sadly a reality that we regularly see terrorist acts committed by people born Muslims and it is also sadly a reality that in the eyes of many, violence is becoming a significant part of what defines Islam. I may see Islam as a religion of peace but that is no longer a majority view in the West. So, to return to the question in hand, I prefer to see a sentence like this one out in the public domain, as it refers to an issue that needs to be debated and refuted. Do I think an intelligent debate is forthcoming? Possibly not, certainly not if we focus on being offended instead of focusing on explaining why such comments are offensive.

Could a European politician have made these comments about another religion? As a rule of thumb, laws are tough against racism and relatively more lenient toward attacking religious beliefs. Hence the politician would not only have committed political suicide if he had said he hated Jews, but would also have opened himself up to being prosecuted. Since Islam, and Christianity too for that matter, are religions but not races, offending Muslims or Christians does not carry the same weight as offending Sikhs or Jews. Add the current political equation to the mix and it seems evident that it would be unthinkable to see this kind of language used about any religion other than Islam in today’s political climate. Criticizing Islam is not the same as attacking Muslims. The first may be offensive to most Muslims but is acceptable to most Westerners. It may be unacceptable to many Muslims reading this piece but in countries where freedom of speech is a fundamental value, criticizing a religion is considered healthy. Frankly, I sometimes find it hard to understand the knee-jerk reaction I often see at any hint of disagreement. Islam is far too great a religion to be damaged by a little debate. Reading points of view I disagree with does not cause even a hairline fracture in my religious beliefs. Quite the contrary. The more I challenge my beliefs, the more convincing they become and surely that is how faith should be.

But the Dutch politician was careful with his words. He did not say he hated Muslims, he said he hated Islam. In his view, he is merely criticizing an ideology, not attacking a people. But when I read his words I felt personally attacked. He is not criticizing my religion; he is expressing hate in the set of beliefs that makes me a Muslim. He is very clearly expressing hatred for Muslims and his affirming the contrary only makes it all the more offensive to Muslims. His words not only offend me but more importantly threaten me. I accept being offended. I do not accept being hated for what I believe in.
© Arab News



Geert Wilders, the popular MP whose film on Islam has fuelled the debate on race in Holland, wants an end to mosque building and Muslim immigration. Ian Traynor met him in The Hague

17/2/2008- A TV addict with bleached hair who adores Maggie Thatcher and prefers kebabs to hamburgers, Geert Wilders has got nothing against Muslims. He just hates Islam. Or so he says. 'Islam is not a religion, it's an ideology,' says Wilders, a lanky Roman Catholic right-winger, 'the ideology of a retarded culture.' The Dutch politician, who sees himself as heir to a recent string of assassinated or hounded mavericks who have turned Holland upside down, has been doing a crash course in Koranic study. Likening the Islamic sacred text to Hitler's Mein Kampf, he wants the 'fascist Koran' outlawed in Holland, the constitution rewritten to make that possible, all immigration from Muslim countries halted, Muslim immigrants paid to leave and all Muslim 'criminals' stripped of Dutch citizenship and deported 'back where they came from'. But he has nothing against Muslims. 'I have a problem with Islamic tradition, culture, ideology. Not with Muslim people.'

Wilders has been immersing himself in the suras and verse of seventh-century Arabia. The outcome of his scholarship, a short film, has Holland in a panic. He is just putting the finishing touches to the 10-minute film, he says, and talking to four TV channels about screening it. 'It's like a walk through the Koran,' he explains in a sterile conference room in the Dutch parliament in The Hague, security chaps hovering outside. 'My intention is to show the real face of Islam. I see it as a threat. I'm trying to use images to show that what's written in the Koran is giving incentives to people all over the world. On a daily basis Moroccan youths are beating up homosexuals on the streets of Amsterdam.' Wilders is lucid and shrewd and the provactive soundbites trip easily off his tongue. He was recently voted Holland's most effective politician. If 18 months ago he sat alone in the second chamber or lower house in The Hague, his People's Party now has nine of 150 seats and is running at about 15 per cent in the polls. His Islam-bashing seems to be paying off. And not only in Holland. All across Europe, the new breed of right-wing populists are trying to revive their political fortunes by appealing to anti-Muslim prejudice. A few months ago the Swiss People's Party of the pugnacious billionaire Christoph Blocher won a general election while simultaneously running a campaign to change the Swiss constitution to ban the building of minarets on mosques. Last month in Antwerp, far-right leaders from 15 European cities and from political parties in Belgium, Germany and Austria got together to launch a charter 'against the Islamisation of western European cities', reiterating the call for a mosque-building moratorium.

'We already have more than 6,000 mosques in Europe, which are not only a place to worship but also a symbol of radicalisation, some financed by extreme groups in Saudi Arabia or Iran,' argued Filip Dewinter, leader of Belgium's Flemish separatist party, the Vlaams Belang, who organised the Antwerp get-together. 'Its minarets are six floors high, higher than the floodlights of the Feyenoord soccer stadium,' he said of a new mosque being built in Rotterdam. 'These kinds of symbols have to stop.' Where a few years ago the far right in Europe concentrated its fire on immigration, these days Islam is fast becoming the most popular target. It is a campaign that is having mixed results. In Switzerland, the Blocher party has been highly successful. In Holland, Wilders is thriving by constantly poking sticks in the eyes of the politically correct Dutch establishment. But when Susanne Winter ran for a seat on the local council in the Austrian city of Graz last month by branding the Prophet Muhammad a child molester, she lost her far-right Freedom Party votes. For the mainstream centre-right in Europe, foreigner-bashing is also backfiring. Roland Koch, the German Christian Democrat once tipped as a future Chancellor, wrecked his chances a fortnight ago by forfeiting a 12-point lead in a state election after a campaign that denounced Muslim ritual slaughter practices and called for the deportation of young immigrant criminals.

Wilders echoes some of the arguments against multiculturalism that have convulsed Germany in recent years. Like many on the traditional German right, he wants the European Judaeo-Christian tradition to be formally recognised as the dominating culture, or Leitkultur. 'There is no equality between our culture and the retarded Islamic culture. Look at their views on homosexuality or women,' he says. But if Wilders shares positions and aims with others on the far right in Europe, he is also a very specific Dutch phenomenon, viewing himself as a libertarian provocateur like the late Pim Fortuyn or Theo van Gogh, railing against 'Islamisation' as a threat to what used to be the easy-going Dutch model of tolerance. 'My allies are not Le Pen or Haider,' he emphasises. 'We'll never join up with the fascists and Mussolinis of Italy. I'm very afraid of being linked with the wrong rightist fascist groups.' Dutch iconoclasm, Scandinavian insistence on free expression, the right to provoke are what drive him, he says. He shrugs off anxieties that his film will trigger a fresh bout of violence of the kind that left Van Gogh stabbed to death on an Amsterdam street and his estranged colleague Ayaan Hirsi Ali in hiding, or the murderous furore over the Danish cartoons in 2005.

The Dutch government is planning emergency evacuation of its nationals and diplomats from the Middle East should the Wilders film be shown. It is alarmed about the impact on Dutch business. 'Our Prime Minister is a big coward. The government is weak,' says Wilders. 'They hate my guts and I don't like them either.' And if people are murdered as a result of his film? 'They say that if there's bloodshed it would be the responsibility of this strange politician. It's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. They're creating an atmosphere. I'm not responsible for using democratic means and acting within the law. I don't want Dutch people or Dutch interests to be hurt.' But he does want to create a stir. 'Islam is something we can't afford any more in the Netherlands. I want the fascist Koran banned. We need to stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands. That means no more mosques, no more Islamic schools, no more imams... Not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslims.' Free speech or hate speech? 'I don't create hate. I want to be honest. I don't hate people. I don't hate Muslims. I hate their book and their ideology.'

For more than three years, Wilders has been paying for his 'honesty' by living under permanent police guard as the internet bristles with threats on his life. He has lived in army barracks, in prisons, under guard at home. 'There's no freedom, no privacy. If I said I was not afraid, I would be lying.' There is little doubt that if Wilders's film exists - and it's shrouded in secrecy - and is broadcast, it will be construed as blasphemy in large parts of the world and may spark a new bloody crisis in relations between the West and the Muslim world. He does not seem to care. 'People ask why don't you moderate your voice and not make this movie. If I do that and not say what I think, then the extremists who threaten me would win.'
© The Observer



18/2/2008- Airline KLM refused to take Geert Wilders on a flight to Moscow on Monday morning because of problems with the Freedom Party (PVV) leader's security. After consultation the delegation of which Wilders was a part departed for Russia without him. KLM says that the MP had "specific requests regarding his security." Since these requests had not been submitted to the airline in advance, they could not be met, a spokesperson said. Wilders denies this vehemently. "There were absolutely no extra requests made. This trip was prepared and they knew I was coming." The parliamentary foreign affairs committee travelled to Moscow on Monday for a working visit. Wilders serves on this committee but had to return home after being refused for the flight. "Unbelievable," the politician said. Wilders will most likely be able to travel to Moscow sometime later today. Speaker of Parliament Gerdi Verbeet said on Monday she regretted that Wilders had been restricted in his work as MP because of security measures. Verbeet said everything would be done to make sure Wilders was able to visit Moscow.
© Expatica



Asylum applications hit lowest point in almost ten years.

18/2/2008- Fewer asylum applications were submitted in the Netherlands in 2007 than in any other year since 1998. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reported this on Monday. Approximately half of the asylum applications last year came from Iraqis (2,500 applications) and Somalis (2,000). The number of asylum applications per nationality decreased in almost all cases, except for Somalis. Just over a third more Somalis applied for asylum in 2007 compared to the previous year. There was a significant number of applications from Somalis in 2006 as well. There have been strong fluctuations in the number of asylum applications since 1988. In the mid 1990s the number of asylum seekers increased strongly, partly due to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the war in former Yugoslavia. From 1994 the influx of applications declined for a short period, but started growing once again in 1996 as a result of unrest in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. After the turn of the century there was a decrease because the number of asylum seekers from Afghanistan and former Yugoslavia fell sharply. 9,700 people applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 2007. For 7,100 applicants this was their first application.
© Expatica



By Soli Ozel, teacher international relations at Bilgi University. 

16/2/2008- These are tumultuous times for Turkey. Even in a land accustomed to turmoil, the head-spinning developments of the past few weeks are phenomenal -- and, for some, unsettling. On the line are Turkey's credentials as a secular, liberal-democratic country with a majority Muslim population. Foremost among these developments was the move to allow women to cover their heads in universities. The change engendered fierce opposition, including from hard-core secularists whose commitment to liberal democracy is at best suspect. The judiciary, most university rectors and many academics predicted catastrophe and a return to dark ages for women, as uncovered students may feel pressure to toe the line. Some opponents argued that the freedom to wear the headscarf would be extended to secondary education, de facto if not de jure, in due time. More interesting was the impact of the move on secular circles, including academics who have a deep commitment to liberal values and democracy and who supported the lifting of the headscarf ban in principle. Over the last five years, these groups have supported every major effort by the ruling party to expand the space of individual freedoms and deepen Turkish democracy.

Yet some of these secular democrats expressed concern at the way the ruling party, the religiously conservative AKP, pushed the matter through the parliament as a constitutional amendment. They argued that the draft of a new more liberal constitution that would end all infringements on fundamental rights was already at hand. And there were other long-pending laws to change -- notably the notorious Article 301 of the penal code against "insulting Turkishness" -- that were also directly related to fundamental rights and liberties. As if to underline these secular democrats' point, the AKP is acting as if it has run out of breath for further reform, even EU-related changes, despite its overwhelming electoral victory in last July's elections. Instead, AKP leaders seem more interested in promoting their own idea of piety. Together, these impressions have bolstered secularists' assessment that the AKP cares only about religious freedoms. The unconditional supporters of the headscarf move in the secular-democrat camp accused their former comrades-in arms, who opposed the singling-out of the turban issue, of not being true liberals. For them, a true democrat would rejoice whenever and wherever liberties flourished. To suggest otherwise would mean that there is a hierarchy among different causes. In their minds, this attitude would betray a residual Kemalism among the protagonists, with all the authoritarian-secularist and modernist implications of the term in today's Turkey.

The story is more complicated still. "Lifting the ban" is actually a misnomer: The "ban" stemmed from constitutional court decisions in 1989 and 1991 that struck down a law permitting the headscarf in universities. However, there is no statute that specifically outlaws the wearing of the headscarf at universities. In fact, Atatürk's much-celebrated efforts to modernize Turks by governing their attire were limited to men. Out went the fez and in came the top hat -- but the father of the Republic imposed nothing on women. That said, women were expected to go along with the Westernization. In time, "looking Western" became as much a sign of the elite as it was a symbol of modernity. And here lies the crux of the headscarf controversy. As Turkey modernized, traditional segments of the population began to partake of urban life and created their own forms of integration. The modern headscarf, or turban, which exposes no hair and unlike other scarves covers part of the face, facilitated the appearance of women in public spaces. They attended universities and became professionals, public intellectuals, journalists. In time, a wide variety of dressing styles and colorful outfits, including tight blue jeans, flourished among them. Modernity for them no longer meant looking like a Westerner. Equally, to be pious did not negate modernity. This fundamental shift in Turkey's social composition and understanding of modernity must be understood in order to make sense of what is happening now in the country. Ultimately, such a confrontation is necessary if there is to be a liberal-secular-democratic synthesis in a Muslim society.

Obviously, lifting the ban is a case of fundamental freedoms: The state should have no right to prohibit students from wearing a particular outfit. Many observers also saw the matter as a clear case of religious freedom against coercive secularism. This part of the argument is incontrovertible. Yet there is also no doubt that the ruling party mishandled the issue, generating much unnecessary tension. This is why it is highly likely that the political storm will continue. President Abdullah Gül has yet to sign the changes into law, and the courts are eagerly waiting to rule on the new statute's compatibility with the principle of secularism. Because of the government's carelessness, students who don headscarves may remain in a limbo for a while longer. Turkey is trying hard to deepen its democracy and liberalize its secularism. The political class must rise to the occasion -- particularly the AKP, whose fate is much more tightly linked to political liberalization and the EU membership process than its leadership realizes. Keep watching.
© The Wall Street Journal



16/2/2008- Six people were arrested in Copenhagen overnight after small groups of youths torched cars and dumpsters across the city for the sixth night in a row, police said on Saturday. Up to eight others were arrested in towns across the country, media reported. "In Copenhagen there were 28 cars set on fire, 35 dumpsters and 14 garbage fires in the streets," Copenhagen police chief inspector Lau Thytesen told AFP. Of the six people arrested in the capital, five were to be charged with arson while the sixth had been released, he said. Other violence was reported in Denmark's second biggest city Aarhus, as well as Odense and North Zealand. The cause of the troubles was not known. The youths, who have acted in small groups with no apparent organisation, have not spoken out about their motive. One of the organisers of a peaceful anti-racism demonstration held in Copenhagen on Friday, Rasmus Lingnau Amossen, told daily Politiken that many youngsters felt harassed by police and believed the police were racist. New regulations allow police to search people at random for weapons, even without suspicion, in certain areas of Copenhagen, including the heavily immigrant areas of Noerrebro and Vesterbro where the troubles began last weekend. "I've spoken with some of them and asked them why they're doing it (rioting). And they said it was because of the harassment they're subjected to in connection with the searches," Amossen said. "When police choose to stop everyone with Arab features or the wrong skin colour while they let other people pass by, it's not about a specific effort anymore. It's about racism," he said.



16/2/2008- President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped an intellectual bombshell this week, surprising the nation and touching off waves of protest with his revision of the school curriculum: beginning next fall, he said, every fifth grader will have to learn the life story of one of the 11,000 French children killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust. “Nothing is more moving, for a child, than the story of a child his own age, who has the same games, the same joys and the same hopes as he, but who, in the dawn of the 1940s, had the bad fortune to be defined as a Jew,” Mr. Sarkozy said at the end of a dinner speech to France’s Jewish community on Wednesday night. He added that every French child should be “entrusted with the memory of a French child-victim of the Holocaust.” Adding to the national fracas over the announcement, Mr. Sarkozy wrapped his plan in the cloak of religion, placing blame for the wars and violence of the last century on an “absence of God” and calling the Nazi belief in a hierarchy of races “radically incompatible with Judeo-Christian monotheism.”  Education Minister Xavier Darcos explained later that the aim of the plan was to “create an identification between a child of today and one of the same age who was deported and gassed.” The Holocaust is already taught in French schools, but some psychiatrists and educators predicted that requiring students to identify with a specific victim would traumatize them. Secularists accused Mr. Sarkozy, who is already under fire for his frequent praise of God and religion, of subverting both the country’s iron-clad separation of church and state and the national ideal of a single, nonreligious identity for all.

Political opponents dismissed the plan as his latest misguided idea, unveiled without reflection or consultation. Some historians argued that the focus on victims could steer attention away from the Vichy government’s collaboration with the Nazis. Still others warned that the plan could backfire, creating resentment among France’s ethnic Arab and African populations if they felt their own histories were getting short shrift. “Every day the president throws out a new unhappy idea with no coherence,” said Pascal Bruckner, the philosopher. “But this last one is truly obscene, the very opposite of spirituality. Let’s judge it for what it is: a crazy proposal of the president, not the word of the Gospel.” The initiative has also pitted some Jews against one another. “It is unimaginable, unbearable, tragic and above all, unjust,” Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor and honorary president of the Foundation for the Memory of the Holocaust, told the Web site of the magazine L’Express. “You cannot inflict this on little ones of 10 years old! You cannot ask a child to identify with a dead child. The weight of this memory is much too heavy to bear.” Ms. Veil was in the audience when Mr. Sarkozy spoke, and said that when she heard his words, “My blood turned to ice.” But Serge Klarsfeld, a Jewish historian who has devoted his life to recording the list and biographies of France’s Holocaust victims, praised the president for his “courage.” “This is the crowning glory of long and arduous work,” he said. “To those who say it’s too difficult for young children — that’s not true. What they see on television or in a horror film is much worse. This is not a morbid mission.” Mr. Klarsfeld likened the plan to a practice by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., which gives visitors small booklets describing the experiences of Holocaust victims and survivors.

On one level, Mr. Sarkozy’s plan is a logical extension of his sometimes sentimental and pedagogical approach to governing. Last year, he enraged politicians on the left, the biggest union for high school teachers and some historians and teachers when he ordered all high schools in France to read a handwritten letter of a 17-year-old student who was executed by the Nazis for his resistance activities. On another level, it reflects his oft-stated declaration that as president, he is also a “friend” as he calls himself, of Israel. By extension, he is also a friend of France’s Jews. He is, for example, the first French president to address the annual dinner of France’s Jewish community.

But there is something else. Mr. Sarkozy is shattering another barrier in French intellectual life: religion. His public statements on the subject seem to reflect a deeply held belief that religious values have an important place in everyday French society — an iconoclastic position for a French politician. When Mr. Sarkozy was made an Honorary Canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome last December, he proposed a “positive secularism” that “does not consider religions a danger, but an asset.” He was even more provocative in declaring that “the schoolteacher will never be able to replace the priest or the pastor” in teaching the difference between good and evil. In Saudi Arabia last month, he infused his speech with more than a dozen references to God, who, he said, “liberates” man. He also said last month that it was a mistake to delete the reference to “Europe’s Christian roots” from the European Constitution. In France, a country where one’s religion is typically kept private, Mr. Sarkozy heralds his religious identity, referring publicly to his Jewish grandfather and wearing his Roman Catholicism on his sleeve. “I am of Catholic culture, Catholic tradition, Catholic belief, even if my religious practice is episodic,” he wrote in a book of essays in 2004. “I consider myself as a member of the Catholic Church.” Still, Mr. Sarkozy’s conduct in his personal life seems to contradict the image of Catholic spirituality. Twice divorced, three times married, he has alienated the country to the point that there is widespread disapproval of his behavior in his personal life. That level of disapproval seems to have made Mr. Sarkozy vulnerable in almost anything he does these days, including his Holocaust initiative.

Teachers defended the current approach to the Holocaust in French schools. Since 2002, fifth-graders have studied the Nazis’ systematic destruction of six million Jews as a crime against humanity. Older children watch films on the Holocaust, visit Holocaust museums and memorials and take field trips to concentration camps. Schools where students were taken away for deportation hang plaques in their memory. “The Holocaust has to be put in the context of the rise of the Nazis and the war, not just emotion and dramatic spectacle,” said Gilles Moindrot, secretary-general of the largest union for primary school teachers. “If you do this with the memory of individual Jews, you’d have to do it with the victims of slavery or the wars of religion. We can’t have this approach.” Some of Mr. Sarkozy’s other political foes accuse him of trying to put his personal stamp everywhere. “One day he is giving us sermons about God,” said Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a Socialist senator on LCI television on Friday, adding, “Now he has suddenly turned himself into a teacher.” Other analysts blamed the confessional approach of the United States for infecting Mr. Sarkozy’s thinking. “Listen, it’s in the air of the times,” said Régis Debray, the philosopher and author, on France Inter radio Friday. “There is a religious sentimentality, a pretty vague religiousness, let’s say, in the world of show business, in the world of business, that comes from America. It’s the neoconservative wave of the born-agains.” MRAP, an organization that campaigns against racism, accused Mr. Sarkozy of chauvinism by singling out French victims of the Holocaust for study and excluding other groups, like the Gypsies. Mr. Sarkozy’s advisers acknowledged that he came up with his Holocaust plan for schoolchildren without any formal consultation. In the face of the criticism, however, Mr. Sarkozy vowed to proceed. “It is ignorance — not knowledge — that leads to the repetition of abominable situations,” he said during a visit to Périgueux in central France on Friday, adding, “You do not traumatize children by giving them the gift of the memory of a country.”
© The New York Times



The list of legal problems for the far-right party NPD just keeps getting longer. Next week, party chairman Udo Voigt will face charges for racist propaganda he distributed during the 2006 World Cup in Germany -- aimed at one of Germany's own players.

22/2/2008- By all accounts, the 2006 World Cup soccer championships in Germany were a rousing success. Millions from around the world got to know the country as a fun place to party rather than the dull, orderly place of cliché. This week, though, it is becoming clear that the event's glow didn't rub off on everyone. Indeed, the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) is landing in court as a result. According to a report in the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel, Udo Voigt, head the NPD, and two further senior party members -- press spokesman Klaus Beier and board member Frank Schwerdt -- are to be charged next week by Berlin's public prosecutor for incitement and defamation, stemming from World Cup propaganda distributed by the party. Ahead of the World Cup, the NPD published and circulated a brochure entitled "White! Not just the jersey color! For a real national team." The German national team traditionally wears white, but the jersey used to decorate the brochure was number 25 -- the number of national-team player Patrick Owomoyela. The Hamburg-born defensive back is the son Nigerian and German parents. At the time, Owomoyela obtained a preliminary injunction and 70,000 copies of the flyer were confiscated. He and the German Bundesliga also pressed charges. The NPD then published a second World Cup guide which, according to investigators was equally insulting to Owomoyela. Among the racist material to be presented to the court next week is an image in which the player is called "Kunta Kinte" in reference to the slave character in Alex Haley's novel "Roots." This is the most recent in a series of charges against Germany's biggest far right party. Two weeks ago, party treasurer Erwin Kemna was arrested for the embezzlement of €627,000 ($930,000), and last September, Hamburg party chair Jürgen Rieger was charged with Holocaust denial. And although NPD chairman Jens Pühse, who had been distributing extreme right CDs, was acquitted of incitement of hatred charges last March, the Federal Court of Justice indicated on Thursday that the decision may be reversed. Last week, the district court of Neuruppin also filed charges against three right-wing extremists for racist propaganda they produced leading up to the World Cup, in which national-team player Gerald Asamoah, who is also black, was defamed.
© Spiegel Online



A recent proposal to set up Turkish-medium schools in Germany was strongly criticized by politicians. The response ignores the fact that one immigrant group in Germany, the Greeks, has for decades had its own schools.

16/2/2008- Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan ruffled feathers on a recent trip to Germany when he proposed setting up Turkish-language schools and universities in the country. Germany is home to Western Europe's biggest population of Turks -- some 2.5 million. Turkey could also send over teachers to Germany, Erdogan suggested. While his comments triggered criticism by Germany's politicians and rekindled a debate on integrating immigrants into society, sending children of immigrant background to a school that teaches in their mother tongue is not as unusual as the row suggests. Germany's Greek immigrant community has for decades had the option of sending their children to Greek schools where the curriculum is set by the Greek state and where Greek is the language of instruction. Every fifth of an estimated 47,000 students of Greek origin attends one of 35 Greek schools in Germany. Most students switch to the Greek school system after secondary school with the aim of getting a Greek high school diploma and thus securing a place at a Greek university.

Serving a practical purpose
Michael Damanakis of the University of Crete in Greece, a former teacher in a Greek school in Germany in the 1970s, said the schools had little to do with preserving the national identity of Germany's Greek immigrants, many of whom came to the country in the 1960s to fill a demand for cheap labor. "They [the schools] serve a practical purpose," Damanakis said. "The parents simply want to make use of the easier conditions of the Greek school system to get a place at a university for their children, something that the German school system doesn't allow because of its structure." Germany's three-tiered school system, each tailored to specific education abilities and skills, has been widely criticized by educational experts. A slew of international studies have found fault with the system which they say discriminates in particular against children from immigrant backgrounds. Damanakis however pointed out those Greek schools in Germany couldn't be the answer. "Greek schools in Germany have no credible legitimacy from an education viewpoint," he said. "These schools separate Greek children from Germans and other nationalities and you shouldn't forget that the segregation of minorities, whether ethnic or social, leads to marginalization and unequal opportunities in the long-term."

"A more complex situation today"
The first Greek schools in Germany were founded in the 1960s. Over a million Greeks came to Germany between 1959 and 1990, according to statistics. Around 800,000 returned to Greece after a short or long-term stay in Germany. "The situation today is much more complex," said Konstantin Dimitriou, chairman of the Association of Greek Communities in Germany. Dimitriou said that Greece's entry into the European Union had significantly changed the migration patterns of Greeks, making them much more mobile. "Thousands of temporary Greek migrants came and still come to Germany with their children, work for two or three years, largely in Greek-owned businesses, and then they return home," Dimitriou said. "The Greek schools cater to this mobility. It allows the children of temporary migrant workers to integrate without problems in a Greek school when they return home." At the same time, many Greek immigrants in Germany are here to stay and have no plans of returning. Dimitriou pointed to the above average number of jobless and professionally unqualified students who complete Greek schools in Germany. On account of their curriculum, the schools aren't geared towards Greek children who live permanently in Germany, Dimitriou said.

Greek schools in need of reform
The view is echoed by Wasilios Fthenakis, a famous Greek educational expert and consultant for several state governments in Germany. Fthenakis said the Greek school system could not be generally written off but underlined that it needed reform. "We need a program that doesn't stick to the national curriculum of the country of origin but rather one that can meet the specific needs of these children," he said. "That has to include culture and mother tongue but also take account of the demands of the German school system." Experts say there aren't any easy answers to the dilemma of Greek immigrants. "Usually, Greek families have high expectations of their children in education," said Dimitriou, who added he would like to send his son to a bilingual Greek-German school. "The fact that the German educational system is not very open to immigrant children led Greek parents and communities to look for alternatives," he said. "The Greek schools are one, but not the only alternative."

German schools' the best?
Many parents invest a lot of money in tuition and special lessons for their children within the German system, Dimitriou pointed out. The Greek community in Berlin, with the help of the local government, has established two bilingual schools. For the past 40 years, the Greek community and educational experts have debated the pros and cons of Greek schools in Germany. But the most telling fact is reflected in statistics: They show that 80 percent of all students of Greek origin in Germany attend a German school.
© Deutsche Welle


Headlines 15 February, 2008


Norway has stopped returning asylum seekers to Greece, following reports that they've have been abused and deported to their countries of origin without due process. Some of Norway's biggest law firms, meanwhile, are offering to help refugees whose appeals have been rejected by Norwegian officials.

15/2/2008- Immigration officials have told police in charge of initial deportations from Norway not to send any refugees back to Greece, if that's the country from which they came to Norway. Under terms of a European agreement signed in Dublin, asylum seekers can be returned to the European country where they first applied for refugee status. Norway sent 74 asylum seekers back to Greece last year, on the basis of that agreement. Norwegian officials are now concerned, however, over reports from a Greek attorneys' association that suggest systematic violations of international refugee- and human rights. Asylum seekers detained by police in Greece have complained of being beaten, abused with electric rods and threatened. "For us, this is first and foremost about ensuring asylum seekers' rights," said Terje Sjeggestad, head of the agency in charge of refugee cases and appeals, UNE (Utlendingsnemda), "We have obligations to fulfill through several international conventions." Norway has earlier stopped return of refugees to Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon and Ethiopia, but Greece is the first European country that's caused concern. Sjeggestad said he couldn't say how long the ban on returns would last.

Attorneys' advocacy effort
Several of Norway's largest law firms, meanwhile, have started offering free legal help to refugees whose cases have been considered and rejected by UNE. Around 10 cases are now being challenged in court. Firms including Wikborg Rein, Hjort and Thommessen have engaged themselves in what's likely the first voluntary efforts by attorneys to appeal cases on behalf of rejected refugees, newspaper Aftenposten reported this week. An attorney's association has gone through 123 asylum cases involving refugees whose applications were turned down by Norwegian authorities. Twelve cases were chosen as appeal candidates, with member attorneys taking them to court. "Too many of UNE's decisions are wrong," claimed attorney Arild Humlen. "We think it's high time UNE's decisions are subjected to court review." Sjeggestad said he welcomed the effort, claiming in turn that it would strengthen asylum seekers' rights.
© Aftenpost



Germany has confused integration with assimilation for too long, says DW's Peter Philipp. Germans should stop expecting immigrants to become like them.

14/2/2008- Both the United States and Canada are immigrant countries with professed immigration policies, but with entirely different methods of taking in new residents. The US has fostered the "melting pot" principle for a long time -- perhaps too long. Immigrants should adapt to the majority and adopt their supposedly shared way of life, while leaving behind the culture that had shaped them thus far. The "American way of life" has become a model to strive for. Canada, on the other hand, consciously conducts a policy of multiculturalism. Immigrants are encouraged to preserve their cultural heritage and introduce it into Canadian society. This means that Canada is constantly in a state of development and change. These are just two examples of many. In both cases, the immigrants are integrated and take on a role in society. In the US, they also undergo a process of adaptation, while in Canada they help to form the society.

Avoiding the reality
In Germany, the situation is different. Here, people pretended Germany is not a country of immigration, even though the recruitment of guest workers created the basis to become one. Even when guest workers started to settle in Germany, raise children and acquire German citizenship, the majority population still neglected to integrate these people into society. Instead, they accuse the immigrants of preferring to live in a parallel society rather than integrate. But this attitude has more to do with assimilation than with integration. The latter involves two elements: the person who wants to integrate and take on a role in society and the society that is ready to accept the person. Without coming out and saying it, people have expected immigrants to assimilate rather than integrate. This has brought into being the term "deutsche Leitkultur," which roughly translates to "mainstream German culture." "If immigrants want a place in our society, then they should become just like us." It's impossible to reason with an argument like that. The factory worker from Anatolia, the doctor from Iran or the asylum-seeker from Africa won't suddenly start reading German literature or cooking German food. It's unrealistic to assume even "the Germans" do that themselves.

Forced assimilation doesn't work
Integration means that everyone in a given country has a part in the whole, no matter where they come from or which religion they believe in. Assimilation, however, is an individual decision to adapt. Problems arise when states try to force minorities to adapt -- as the Turks have done to the Kurds. Even complete assimilation doesn't protect minorities from hostility or persecution -- as experienced by Jews in Nazi Germany.
© Deutsche Welle



14/2/2008- German police arrested 20 people during clashes between left- and right-wing demonstrators in the eastern city of Dresden, officials said Thursday. But some 1,600 police helped keep to a minimum the violence that had been anticipated as the city marked the 63rd anniversary of the deadly Allied firebombing in 1945, authorities said. «Through the ... police effort, neither the right nor the left were able to misuse the day for their purposes,» Saxony state interior minister Albrecht Buttolo said. The detentions happened Wednesday night as some 750 far-right demonstrators were confronted by some 150 leftists. Police managed largely to keep the groups apart, but were investigating two of those taken into custody on charges of causing bodily harm. Meanwhile, 3,000 people attended an evening memorial ceremony at the city's restored baroque Church of Our Lady cathedral, capping the day's commemorations. Three successive waves of British and U.S. bombers on Feb. 13-14, 1945, set off firestorms and destroyed the centuries-old city center. An estimated 35,000 people were killed, though the total is disputed. Far right leaders have in the past caused outrage by comparing the bombing of Dresden to the Holocaust.
© The Associated Press


THE UGLY FACE OF RACISM (Iceland, editorial)

14/2/2008- “Mother, you should not have looked at him like that. And then you pointed at him! It was really rude of you.” “Well, maybe I shouldn’t, but I’ve never seen a negro in Vatnsmýri before.” It was the word “negro” that caught my attention. Vatnsmýri is a neighborhood in central Reykjavík. I had gone for a walk along Reykjavík’s seaside and stopped at a red light to cross a street near to my home. Close to where I stood a woman was helping an elderly lady out of a car. The younger women raised her voice and I could hear that they were quarrelling about something. The mother, I would estimate, was well into her eighties and of the generation that was born into a society that was totally homogenous. Such was Iceland when I was growing up in the relatively large town of Ísafjördur in the West Fjords (just over 3,000 people). I swear I had never seen a colored person of any race, except on TV, until I traveled to London with my mom the summer I got confirmed in 1976. I still remember how remarkable it was for me to see people of other origins. It was probably the thing that I found most interesting when I first went overseas visiting the great metropolis. Not Big Ben, not the Zoo which I had particularly looked forward to seeing, but the throngs of people from all the corners of the world.

The homogenous nature of Icelandic society didn’t change much until Iceland joined the European Economic Area, EEA, and the free flow of workers was established within the EU. Thousands of people have been coming to this country to work in the last few years. Foreign workers practically keep the economy going. There were well over 20,000 of them working in this country last year. But surely Iceland is still a pretty homogenous society. Unemployment was one percent in January this year which amounts to no unemployment at all. The booming Icelandic economy has benefited greatly from this. It is foreign labor that keeps the supermarkets, hospitals, nursing homes and construction industry up and running. The majority of Icelanders agrees with this and respects the help we are getting from immigrant workers from all over the world. As a result of this Iceland has become more colorful and spicy. There are new shops that sell exotic food and products, restaurants that bring us the taste of Asia and people that wander the streets who give Reykjavík and other townships perhaps a little more international aura than we had before.

Of course when a great many people move from one place to another in a span of just a few years, problems arise. There has been much talk of the bad accommodation that many workers are forced to live in. In fact there has been a housing crisis in Reykjavík which needs to be solved. There have naturally been incidents where foreigners are involved in crime in this country because black sheep can always be found within any given group of people. There is the hearsay of organized crime being established in Iceland originating in this or that country. Many Icelanders feel that we have now lost the safety that we had in abundance perhaps only ten years ago. In most places you could easily leave your door unlocked all of the time. In many small towns people even left the keys in their cars. Not anymore. But are the foreigners to blame? Not really. Narcotics and alcohol are more likely to be the cause of most crimes committed in this country—as in any western country today.

The most serious results of these changes are to be found among the young Icelanders who obviously fear for their future. Last week there were reports of a 14-year-old who had established a web page that had the sole purpose of slagging off Polish workers with some really nasty racist remarks. Many young Icelandic people have myopic attitudes toward the hard working people that have come here looking for opportunities. They seem to think that these people are somehow inferior to “us” the Icelanders and should not be respected. How mistaken they are. There is certainly need for some education here. We should of course be proud of who we are and know our origin and culture. People with self respect take good care of new family members and treat their guests well. The ancient Icelandic verse Hávamál explains how guests should be welcomed. Here is W.H. Auden’s translation:

Water too, that he may wash before eating
Handcloths and a hearty welcome
Courteous words, then courteous silence
That he may tell his tale

Who travels widely needs his wits about him.
The stupid should stay at home.

© Iceland Review



Norway’s major newspapers have no plans to publish the controversial "Mohammad Cartoons", following the decision by Denmark's leading newspapers to reprint them today

13/2/2008- The cartoons depict the Prophet Mohammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, a move that irritated Muslim leaders. The Danish papers said they wanted to show their firm commitment to freedom of speech after Tuesday's arrest in Denmark of three people accused of plotting to kill the man who drew the cartoon. The drawing, by Kurt Westergaard, and 11 other cartoons depicting Mohammad, enraged Muslims two years ago when they appeared in a range of Western newspapers. A Swedish cartoonist was also apparently a target of terrorist action for having portrayed Muhammad as a dog in his work. Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which first published the 12 drawings on September 30, 2005, reprinted Westergaard's cartoon in its paper edition Wednesday. A total of 11 major Danish dailies, including Politiken and Berlingske Tidende, also reprinted the drawing, which shows Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse. "We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper will always defend," said the Copenhagen-based Berlingske Tidende. Tabloid Ekstra Bladet reprinted all 12 drawings. "We have always been cautious about our use of text, pictures, and photos," said Norway’s Aftenposten editor-in-chief Hans Erik Matre. "But we will, of course, cover the issue in a newsworthy way," he added.

Shortly after the cartoons were originally printed in 2005, Norwegian Christian publication "Magazinet" also chose to publish facsimiles of the 12 Mohammad-caricatures. Vebjørn Selbekk was the editor of Magazinet at the time. He thinks it is a good thing that Danish newspapers are now re-printing the cartoons in solidarity with the threatened Westergaard. Selbekk is of the opinion that Norwegian newspapers that have not printed them previously should also print the cartoons to show solidarity with their colleagues in other lands. Today's Danish actions came in response to Tuesday's news that Danish intelligence police had arrested two Tunisians and a Danish citizen of Moroccan origin for plotting to kill Westergaard. Intelligence police chief Jakob Scharf said the Danish suspect would likely be released after questioning, but could still face charges of violating a Danish terror law. The two Tunisians are to be expelled from Denmark because they are considered threats to national security, he said. Danish Muslim leaders condemned the alleged murder plot, but also said reprinting Westergaard's cartoon was the wrong way to protest. "There could have been other ways to do it without the drawing, which I personally do not like," Abdul Wahid Petersen, a moderate imam, told The Associated Press (AP). Imam Mostafa Chendid, the leader of the Islamic Faith Community, said his group was considering staging a rally in front of Parliament. The Copenhagen-based group spearheaded protests against the cartoons.

"We are so unhappy about the cartoon being reprinted," Chendid told the AP. "No blood was ever shed in Denmark because of this, and no blood will be shed. We are trying to calm down people, but let's see what happens. Let's open a dialogue." Massive protests swept the Muslim world in early 2006 following the publishing of the cartoons. Angry mobs burned theDanish flag and attacked the country's embassies in Muslim countries, including Syria, Iran and Lebanon. Danish products were boycotted in several Muslim countries.
© Aftenpost



11/2/2008- The vast majority of Swiss want young foreigners convicted of serious crimes to be forced to leave the country, according to an opinion poll. But experts question whether this "kneejerk" reaction, which has growing political support in Switzerland, can really prevent crime. Instead they call for better integration of young foreigners and their parents, especially in urban areas. A survey published in three Swiss newspapers on Sunday revealed that 69 per cent of the 913 people polled were in favour of expelling violent young criminals. The poll comes just over a week after three foreign-born men from the Balkans, aged between 19 and 21 - two with Swiss nationality, beat a young carnival reveller to death in Locarno. Two rightwing parties – the Swiss People's Party and the Lega dei Ticinesi – called on the cantonal parliament to expel the men and revoke their Swiss nationality. "I was surprised by such a harsh public reaction. There is a hard line against young foreigners in general throughout the poll," Werner Reinmann, the report's author, told swissinfo. But psychologist Allan Guggenbühl, a professor at Zurich University who works with violent youngsters, said he was not so surprised, "as the terrible incident in Locarno arouses a lot of fear and anxiety". "We are abhorred by these incidents and want to get rid of the problem as soon as possible," he said. "The easiest solution is expulsion. It's natural to think this way but it's not the solution."
Unhelpful measure

The revised Swiss law on foreigners has strengthened the cantons' hand to expel foreign criminals. Currently, those who have completed a sentence of at least two years behind bars can be expelled. While the measure has sizeable political support, it has only been applied very unevenly. The People's Party, meanwhile, wants to make the expulsion of foreign criminals for serious crimes automatic and this month is due to hand in its initiative to try and force a nationwide vote. But the question of expelling minors, and possibly their parents too, remains a sensitive political issue. For Guggenbühl, even though Swiss citizens and foreigners are calling for tougher measures, the expulsion of minors is "unhelpful" when preventing crime, as "it doesn't impress young people". In Switzerland, formalities and procedures mean that young criminals often wait one or two years between being charged for a violent crime and eventually being convicted, he said, which is too long, as they "somehow distance themselves from what they have done".

Mirror of society?
"Young men are impressed when their liberties are taken away," said Guggenbühl. "The convictions should be much quicker and simple. At the same time, we need to build a relationship with them." While the majority of foreign youths are very well integrated, especially in the countryside, there are groups in urban areas that need help, he said. "It's difficult to say if these kind of polls are a mirror of society," said Simone Prodolliet, director of the Federal Commission for Foreigners. "But I think there's a clear split between those in favour expelling people and those against." Prodolliet said if the Swiss wanted an effective long-term integration policy, they had to recognise that most of the young criminals in such incidents had grown up here. What we are seeing, she said, are the effects of not properly integrating first-generation immigrants, who pass on all their problems to their children, she explained. "It's a long-term battle. We should do more prevention, give perspectives to young people and create more places, like youth clubs, where they can communicate with others and adults can share advice and set them limits," she added. "Those who don't feel at home here need to feel as that they are being taken seriously," she added.
© Swissinfo



By Vladimir Shlapentokh, professor of sociology at Michigan State University.

12/2/2008- Josef Stalin and President Vladimir Putin epitomize the type of leader who is ready to sacrifice the country’s interests to maintain his power. Of course, Stalin and Putin used ideologies extensively for propagandistic purposes and for the legitimization of their personal power. But given the fact that they were concerned only about personal power, these two leaders were extremely flexible and open to the idea of changing the country’s ideological course in any direction. Though Putin respects Stalin as a great leader, he has condemned Stalinist repression. For example, many took note of Putin’s October visit to Butovo, in the south of Moscow, where more than 20,000 people were killed during the peak years of Stalin’s terror in 1937 and 1938.

Another area where Putin differs from Stalin is his policy toward Jews. If Putin were a dogmatic leader, he would have included anti-Semitism in his public ideology. Anti-Semitism was introduced as official Soviet state ideology during Stalin’s reign in the late 1930s. Jews were barred from high positions in virtually all spheres. In the media, literature and films, they were almost never shown in a positive light. The open propaganda against Jews ran counter to Lenin’s heritage and internationalism. For this reason, the Soviet authorities replaced the term “Jews” with “Zionists.” Since Zionism was a “legitimate” enemy of socialism, it was easy to carry out an anti-Semitic campaign under the guise of the fight against this movement. Soviet propaganda tended to describe Zionism as a greater evil than the United States, suggesting that U.S. imperialism was merely a tool used by the Jews to conquer the world. The anti-Zionist campaign continued until the last days of the Soviet Union. Traditional anti-Semitism, honed by Stalin over many years, was seen by his successors as a fundamental element of the Russian psyche. In Nikita Khrushchev’s four-volume memoir, “Time, People, Power,” he wrote a lot about Stalin’s anti-Semitism. He did not, however, risk even indirectly mentioning Stalin’s anti-Semitic policy in his public reports to the Party congresses in 1956 and 1961, when he harshly denounced his former boss.

The same was true about Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. From the beginning of glasnost to the end of his rule, he was almost never critical of his predecessors’ state policy toward Jews. Gorbachev continued to keep his distance from any involvement in the “Jewish question” and did not appoint Jews to any significant position in his administration, continuing the old Party tradition. When Putin came to power and declared his affinity for certain elements of the Soviet empire and traditions, it was only natural to expect a gradual restoration of state anti-Semitism. During the Soviet period, there was a strong link between anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, and Putin started his harsh anti-U.S. campaign in earnest in 2005. Furthermore, Putin’s professional background strengthened the pessimistic expectations about the revival of a state anti-Semitic policy; since the late 1930s, the KGB was indeed a bastion of anti-Semitism.

But, contrary to what many expected, Putin has been very supportive of Jewish issues and concerns. Hence, his so-called Jewish anomaly. Taking into account all of Putin’s publications, meetings and speeches since 2000, he has said more positive words about Jews than all the Russian leaders before him except Lenin. In his memoir, Putin did something that no other Russian or Soviet leader had done. With a high degree of warmth, he described a Jewish family that shared a communal apartment with his family in Leningrad. He talked about his Jewish wrestling coach, Anatoly Rakhlin, as a person who “probably played a crucial role in my life.” In a meeting with Russia’s chief rabbi in June 2007, he promised to donate a month’s salary for the construction of a Jewish museum of tolerance. Speaking in Krakow on Jan. 27, 2005, in connection with the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Putin urged other nations to consider the lessons learned from the Holocaust and warned against anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia worldwide. What’s more, he also acknowledged the existence of anti-Semitism in Russia ­ a statement that none of the Soviet leaders after Lenin dared to make. No Russian leader after 1945, including Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, even indirectly mentioned the Holocaust. Such a reference was forbidden in Soviet media. Moreover, Putin was also the first Russian leader to visit Israel.

Anti-Semitism in Russia today is lower than it has been in the past seven decades. Jews in Russia are much less inclined to hide their ethnic origin or their interest in Jewish culture and religion. Although Jews in Russia continue to feel some hostility, the government has never treated Jews as well as they treat them today. In fact, state anti-Semitism ­ as opposed to popular anti-Semitism ­ has almost completely disappeared from the political scene. Jews or so-called half Jews hold a large number of prominent positions in the state apparatus, including the government and leading state corporations. To be fair, however, Putin has not fully risen to the level of a Western leader on the Jewish question with regard to one issue: Unlike Western leaders, he did not openly take a position against the two most outspoken anti-Semites of our time when he met them ­ Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the end, Putin’s refusal to incorporate anti-Semitism into his domestic and foreign policy reveals his inordinate flexibility as a politician, despite his poor record on democracy and human rights and as supporter of several heinous regimes in the world.

At the same time, however, we can only speculate about Putin’s motivation on this Jewish issue. Putin’s foreign policy combines deep hostility toward the West with a willingness to maintain a bridge with the United States and the European Union. His positive attitude toward Jews represents another part of his dualism. By maintaining the image of a civilized ruler, Putin enhances his connection with the West and keeps many opportunities open for his future career. If, however, the danger to Putin’s elites from Russian nationalists increases, Putin could very well play the Jewish card. In this case, the Kremlin, without any compunction, could deprive its opponents of their powerful weapon, anti-Semitism, and resort to moving the regime even closer to that of Stalin. In any case, the West is dealing with a very flexible and pragmatic Russian leader.
© The St. Petersburg Times



11/2/2008- Budapest City Hall's General Assembly has approved a proposal to condemn the extreme right wing Magyar Gárda (Hungarian Guard) group and proclaim the organization "non grata," excluding it from public buildings within the city borders. The proposal, initiated by the city’s liberal Alliance of Free Democrats mayor Gábor Demszky before the Gárda’s anti-Roma rally in Pest’s District VI in Jan, was approved in spite of the fact that members of the right of center opposition Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) stayed away from the vote.István Tarlós, chairman of the Fidesz-KDNP faction and former mayor of Buda’s District III did, however, speak out against every form of extremist expression and expressed concern about the increase in public violence, but declined to specifically name the Gárda as an organization to be condemned. Fidesz and the extreme right wing Jobbik party (founder of Magyar Gárda) cooperate in several local governments.
© The Budapest Sun



9/2/2008- An estimated 2,000 members of Hungarian and international neo-Nazi groups gathered in downtown Budapest Saturday, February 9, to commemorate that German and Hungarian troops attempted to break out of the besieged Hungarian capital during the lasts days of World War Two. Neo-Nazi skinheads from Hungary, Germany, and other European countries lined up in a military-style formation inside a metal cordon built around Budapest's Heroes Square and erected a wooden cross with the words "Blood and Virtue" written on it. They commemorated an attempt by the fascist Hungarian Arrow Cross party on February 11, 1945, to break out Budapest's Castle District, which was surrounded by Soviet troops. Hungary was a close ally of Nazi Germany during the war, when an estimated 600,000 Hungarian Jews were massacred. Hundreds of people demonstrated against the event. They putting their hands on their necks as "silent victims" when the neo-Nazis, wearing black leather coats and boots, sang the Hungarian anthem.

Youngsters detained
Sunday's protest came just days after police detained two youngsters, who admitted of desecrating Jewish tombs in south-western Hungary last week. Representatives of the Jewish community in the town of Kaposvar reported to police that anti-Semitic symbols were spray-painted on 24 tombstones in the local cemetery. The perpetrators used silver-colored paint to spell out "our country is not for sale" as well as painting a swastika, an Arrow Cross and a Star of David, which was crossed out, news reports said. In addition the far-right paramilitary Magyar Garda, or Hungarian Garda, has held demonstrations in areas where many Gypsies, or Roma, are living. Far rights groups have also supported anti-government demonstrations and there has been concern they are involved in several patrol bomb attacks against parliamentarians of the ruling Hungarian Socialist Party. On Saturday, February 9, Hungary's Justice Minister Albert Takacs said unknown attackers threw petrol bombs into the houses of five Socialist Parliamentarians. Several other Socialist politicians reportedly received envelopes containing white powder in the post that turned out to be harmless. National Police Chief Jozsef Bencze said police offers would provide personal protection as well as patrols of areas surrounding homes of threatened parliamentarians. "In the current situation all MPs are, thankfully, okay," Hungarian News Agency MTI quoted Bencze as saying.



9/2/2008- Over 120 skinheads today marched through the town of Krnov in order to commemorate two young rightist militants who burnt to death in Bohumin, North Moravia, two years ago. The march, staged by the extremist National Resistance movement, ended without any conflicts at around 6:00 p.m. The skinheads set out through the city with mourning wreaths and black flags. Organisers delivered a speech remembering the dead skinheads. Then they proceeded to the Krnov cemetery where they laid wreaths at the grave of one of the dead skinheads. "There were no problems during the march. They walked through the city without chanting any slogans," local police spokeswoman Pavla Tuskova told. The National Resistance is an unregistered neo-Nazi organisation with independent regional branches.



9/2/2008- A member of the Swedish Security Service says the country's three largest neo-Nazi organizations have become more likely to use violence. Johan Olson told The Local the parties also appear to be better armed. He said the groups have not become more active but the nature of their activities has changed. "This is a result of disagreements within the white power movement," he said. "There has therefore been a need to raise their respective profiles." The magazine Expo surveyed the activities of the National Socialist Front, the Swedish Resistance Movement and Info-14. During 2007, the three groups were active in 19 of the country's 21 provinces -- with Stockholm, the Gothenburg area on the west coast and the southern province of Skane seeing the most activity. One SMR member was convicted of attempted manslaughter in Stockholm. Expo said more than 60 percent of the groups' visible work was propaganda, with vandalism accounting for about 30 percent. Other activities included open meetings and concerts and public demonstrations.
© United Press International



11/2/2008- Lesbians cannot be prevented from purchasing puppies in Sweden, according to a Stockholm appeals court. The court confirmed an earlier district court ruling in favor of a lesbian who had sought damages from a kennel owner who refused to sell her a puppy because of her sexual preference. The kennel owner must now pay the woman 20,000 kronor ($3,000) in damages for subjecting her to discrimination and harassment. The incident began when the woman called the kennel, based in the Stockholm suburb of Värmdö, to inquire about an advertisement for a puppy. The woman told the kennel owner, who is also a woman, that she liked animals and that she and her partner would have plenty of time to care for the dog since they were both students. But when the kennel owner learned that the woman’s partner was also a woman, she put a stop to the sale. In her explanation for denying the woman her puppy, the kennel owner made reference to earlier contacts she’d had with transvestite couples, saying she’d read that transvestites are connected to animal pornography. The kennel owner made it clear to the woman that she would not be allowed to buy the puppy because she didn’t trust homosexuals. The woman reported the incident to the Ombudsman against Discrimination on grounds of Sexual Orientation (HomO), which recommended the case to the courts. Both the district court and appeals court rulings were unanimous. As part of the judgment, the kennel owner must also pay HomO’s approximately 45,000 kronor in legal fees.
© The Local



Immigrant, leftist groups deride "integration contract" plan

8/2/2008- The Popular Party would restrict the wearing of Muslim headscarves if it wins the general election on 9 March, adding to the plan to make immigrants sign a so-called "integration contract" announced earlier in the week, the party's security spokesman announced Thursday. Ignacio Astarloa said the PP will soon make public proposals to prevent the Muslim headscarf from being an "element of discrimination." "We want to defend equality between men and women and stop it from being an element of discrimination in schools or any other place in society," he said. "Practices cannot be allowed to develop that break the central principle of equality between men and women." The PP's proposal echoes French legislation introduced in 2004 banning the wearing of the Islamic headscarf and other "overt" religious symbols in public schools. That law was widely seen as intolerant of religious freedom in a country that maintains a strong secular tradition. In Spain, where Catholicism was once the only permitted religion, the proposal is likely to be viewed not just as intolerant but openly racist, especially after the PP argued on Wednesday that immigrants should be made to sign a contract in which they would pledge to "learn the language and adhere to local customs." "For the PP there is no integration only assimilation... these proposals are reactionary and comparable to those of the far right in Central Europe," United Left leader Gaspar Llamazares charged. "Are they going to expect us to watch bullfighting and take siestas?" quipped Miguel Fonda Stefanescu, the head of Fredom, an association of Romanian immigrants. Many see the PP's proposals as an effort to appeal to white low-income voters ahead of the elections, particularly in working-class suburbs of major cities, traditionally happy hunting grounds for the Socialist Party, but which have experienced high levels of immigration in recent years.
© Expatica News



9/2/2008- The noise is infernal on the roof of this home - a bridge where tens of thousands of cars pass every day. Floran Rostas and Trandafir Musca show the newest camp set up by Roma from Romania. It is located underneath a bridge in the east of Helsinki. "The paradise of the Rostas family", Floran Rostas says with a smirk on his face. He says that the dwelling is almost as fancy as the one built in Bucharest by Romania's ruling couple, Nicolae and Elena Ceaucescu, who were executed in 1989. Three tents have been set up underneath the bridge. The area is surrounded by small trees and bushes typical of such areas. The tents contain the necessary mattresses and blankets, and not much else. There are no cooking equipment - food is eaten cold. Where is the toilet of this palace? "Over there", Floran Rostas and Tradafir Musca say, pointing to the surrounding bushes. At the moment, it is snowing in the toilet. Eleven Roma live in the three tents. One of the group, whose tent has disappeared, has to sleep rough. The others also had to get new tents, after the previous ones disappeared. "Trash collectors took them",Floran Rostas says. Who the trash men were is not specified. The police also visited the camp. "They didn't do anything to us. They just told us to collect enough money so we could get back to our home country. But we cannot afford to travel", Rostas says. There is a round hole in the bottom of the bridge, with water coming out of it. When Rostas talks, his breath is visible. Trandafir Musca lights a cigarette. Cold? "Oh, yes", the man says shaking himself underneath the hooded coat. It is in the coat where he wakes up each morning. Trandafir Musca shows his own tent. He lives in it with a couple of his relatives. Musca says that his wife Mariana Moldovan and their two-year-old daughter Angelica live in a cabin in a campground. The pram that is parked under the bridge is that of a visiting family.

Child welfare authorities took issue with the lot of Mariana and Angelica Moldovan by showing them a place to sleep indoors. Musca says that they pay for their place at the campground. Helsinki's social services have not offered housing or other assistance for the Romanian beggars - information that is confirmed by the authorities themselves. Nor do the Roma want assistance, as repeated use of welfare services is a legal grounds for the deportation of an EU citizen - alongside committing serious crimes. This group insists that they have not committed crimes. By way of assuring this, Floran Rostas digs out a Bible. "I am not a thief. I am a Jehovah's Witness!" There is a pile of trash on the ground with the container and cans of processed food. On the outskirts of the camp, a few sooty charred pieces of wood can be seen - remnants of a fire that is used to warm the hands in the mornings and evenings. The group get up at seven in the morning to go begging, returning to the camp at eight in the evening. The Roma were forced into tents three weeks ago after being evicted from an apartment in nearby Kontula. The 11 Roma in the camp all lived in an apartment comprising two rooms and a kitchen. According to Rustas, the rent was EUR 5 a day per person. "We could not afford it." The eviction was bad news for Suras Moldovan, a young woman in late pregnancy. A tent is not a good place to have a baby. The Roma say that they are ashamed of begging, but that they have no alternatives. They say that they want to go home as soon as they get the money they need to travel. Two families have already left. "I don't recommend Finland to anyone. It is cold here, you don't get anything on the streets, and nobody gets work", Trandafir Musca says.
The streets are not always safe, either. "We have been kicked and spat on. One passer-by grabbed the coin cup and spat in it.
© Helsingin Sanomat



13/2/2008- Racially motivated attacks continue to take place in Ukraine while police and courts do little to intervene, the Council of Europe said in a critical report made public Tuesday in Strasbourg, AFP reported. Discrimination against the Roma community, continuing anti-Semitism, violence in Crimea and other acts of intolerance against various ethnic groups in Ukraine were singled out in the report by the Council of Europe's racism-monitoring body, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). "However, criminal legislation against racially-motivated crimes has not been strengthened and the authorities have not yet adopted a comprehensive body of civil and administrative anti-discrimination laws," the body said. "There have been very few prosecutions against people who make anti-Semitic statements or publish anti-Semitic literature." According to ECRI, the Roma face discrimination in matters of education, employment and housing. High infections and cardiovascular diseases, along with malnutrition, are other problems, with only half of Romas having the means to eat daily, added ECRI, which also revealed a rise in the rate of infectious and cardiovascular diseases among its members. One ray of hope in the current situation, according to ECRI, is that several Roma are pursuing studies in journalism -- an evolution it said reinforced diversity in the profession. ECRI also expressed concern about attacks against rabbis and Jewish students, as well as the vandalism of synagogues, cemeteries and cultural centres. Tensions between Crimean Tartars and ethnic Russians in Ukraine -- mainly based on disagreements about land and historic monuments -- were another source of concern, the report said. Skinhead violence against Tartars and Jews is also frequent and police have offered little protection to the different communities, it said. And ECRI asked Ukrainian authorities to step up efforts to fight violence by skinheads against Africans, Asians, and people from the Caucasus and the Middle East. Composed of independent members, ECRI periodically analyses racism and intolerance in the 47 member States of the Council of Europe.



* Reports Muslims being ‘disproportionately targeted’ by security policies * ‘Jew’ being used as an insult

11/2/2008- Islamophobia is gaining ground in the Netherlands, with Muslim minorities facing rising violence and discrimination, a pan-European anti-racism commission said in a report released on Tuesday. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) found Islamophobia in the country to have “increased dramatically” since 2000, reporting that Muslims were “disproportionately targeted” by security policies and were facing racist violence and discrimination. The ECRI studies and makes recommendations on the problems of racism and intolerance in the 47 states of the Council of Europe. Tensions have been fuelled by national and international events, such as 9/11 attacks in the United States and the murder of outspoken columnist and filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a radical Muslim in 2004, the report said. “The tone of Dutch political and public debate around integration and other issues relevant to ethnic minorities has experienced a dramatic deterioration,” it said, warning of a “worrying polarisation between majority and minority communities”. It found that the country’s Muslims – a community of one million people, or six percent of the population – had faced “stereotyping, stigmatising, outright racist political discourse and biased media portrayal”. The Moroccan and Turkish communities were especially hard hit, it said. Community tensions had also led to a rise in anti-Semitism, the report found.

The report also found that anti-Semitic insults and expressions had “tended to become a feature of everyday life, reflecting in part a similar trend in Holocaust denial, notably among the younger generations”. Insult: According to the report, the word “Jew” is increasingly used as an insult and different aspects of the Holocaust are reportedly questioned in everyday situations, including in schools. The Dutch government, in an annex to the report, replied that it had adopted anti-racism legislation, opened anti-discrimination offices around the country and taken steps to fight discrimination in the job market. But a Dutch minister said on Friday the government wanted schools, public bodies and public transport companies to forbid clothing that covers the face – although it would not explicitly ban the burqa. European Union ministers and Dutch Muslim groups have also expressed serious concern about plans by far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders to make a potentially inflammatory film about the Quran. Wilders, who has been under round-the-clock protection since the filmmaker Van Gogh was murdered for making a film critical of Islam in 2004, said this weekend his film would be aired in March.



9/2/2008- Dutch far-right deputy Geert Wilders said in an interview published Saturday that his controversial anti-Islam film will be called "Fitna" , arabic for ordeal, and will be aired in March. The leader of the Freedom party (PVV), which has nine of 150 seats in parliament, said in November that he planned to make a short film showing that Islam's holy book, the Koran, is "a fascist book" that "incites people to murder". According to the interview with Dutch GPD news agency, Wilders' 15-minute film is almost done, and he hopes it will be shown on Dutch television in March. He had initially said it would air at the end of January. Wilders said he has called the film Fitna, an arabic word that in Islam is used to describe all things that can test the faith and is sometimes synonymous to evil. "I use the term in an inverse sense because for me Islam ... is fitna," he said. Wilders also gave some more details about what would be shown in the film, which for months has been causing concern in the Netherlands. It would lead viewers through the Koran, Islam's holy book, he said, and show texts illustrated by documentary video images to show the Koran is not a symbolic text "but that Islam can take away our freedom unless we act against it". In the end the film returns to the situation in the Netherlands and finishes with a picture of the prophet Mohammed, he explained. Muslims consider images of their religion's founder to be blasphemous. "Something will happen to that picture but I won't say what," Wilders said. There has been media speculation in the Netherlands that Wilders will tear up or burn the Koran in his film. The Hague fears a repeat of the 2005 riots when thousands took to the streets in Muslim countries to protest cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that appeared in Danish newspapers. Wilders has been under heavy police protection since the 2004 murder of Dutch director and columnist Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh was killed by a radical Muslim after he directed a film criticising women's position in Islam.



9/2/2008- Turkey's parliament has approved two constitutional amendments easing the ban on women wearing Islamic headscarves in universities. The issue is deeply divisive in Turkey, where the state is strictly secular, and protests are expected. The government said the ban meant many girls were being denied an education. But the secular establishment, including generals and academics, see this as a first step to allowing Islam to figure more largely in public life.

Burka ban
Parliament voted 403-107 in favour of a first amendment, which will insert a paragraph into the constitution stating that everyone has the right to equal treatment from state institutions, Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan was quoted by AP as saying. MPs then backed by 403-108 votes a second amendment stating "no-one can be deprived of [his or her] right to higher education", AP said. Opposition parties said in advance of the vote that they would challenge the changes in the constitutional court if they were passed. A strict headscarf ban had been in force in Turkish universities since 1997. The ban came after the staunchly secularist military had exerted pressure to oust a government it saw as too Islamist. The changes state that only traditional scarves will be permitted in universities, tied loosely under the chin. Headscarves that cover the neck are still banned, as is the chador and the all-enveloping burka. Ural Akbulut, rector of the Middle East Technical University, in Ankara, says the changes represent the imposition of religious beliefs into the constitution. "We say it will damage secularity," he told the BBC. "Once you do that - we believe you damage democracy."

Missing out
The BBC's Sarah Rainsford says those who wear the headscarf dismiss that as paranoia. They say the scarf is simply an expression of their personal religious belief. As Turkey's population is predominantly Muslim, two-thirds of all Turkish women cover their heads, meaning thousands have been missing out on the opportunity to attend college. Many Turks argue that is unfair and there has been widespread public support for the move. But tens of thousands of people who were against lifting the ban are expected to join protest rallies in the capital on Saturday.
© BBC News



14/2/2008- A £10m architectural centre built as a memorial to Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racist attack 15 years ago, has been vandalised just a week after it opened, can reveal. Eight windows each worth £15,000 and designed by the Turner prizewinning artist Chris Ofili on the front of the new building in Deptford, south-east London, were destroyed overnight. A Metropolitan police spokeswoman confirmed the attack was being treated as a racist incident. "A number of windows had been broken and police were informed at 5.46am today. The hate crime unit at Lewisham CID are investigating the incident," she said. No arrests have been made and inquiries are continuing. Attackers threw bricks at the windows from behind a 2.5m high metal fence surrounding the complex, said Karin Woodley, the chief executive of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. "It is a very sad day for the trust as a whole, and for Stephen's family," said Woodley. "Stephen's mother is as distressed as all of us." She said it was the fourth time the centre had been attacked, but this was by far the worst. She added that the centre had CCTV and 24-hour on-site security, and that security measures would be reviewed. "I think this is awful and just shows there are still people out there who have a problem with racism and with those who value diversity," said Imran Khan, a lawyer for Stephen's mother, Doreen Lawrence. The three-storey building, designed by the award-winning architect David Adjaye, aims to offer thousands of young people from deprived backgrounds the chance to break into architecture, urban design and building.

Richard Stone, an advisor to Sir William Macpherson in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, said he was "horrified" by the attack. "The killers of Stephen are still at large in south-east London. They hate black people getting on in life. I feel devastated for Doreen and Neville [Stephen's father] who put so much into the building which has become a target. It just suggests there are people out there who are filled with hate." He called for a review of the 1999 Lawrence report, which concluded that institutional racism within the Metropolitan police had hampered attempts to catch the killers, to investigate whether racism in institutions and British society was being reduced. Last night's incident indicated racism was still entrenched in parts of British life, he said. "Racism must not be allowed to drop down the agenda." The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, and Doreen Lawrence attended the building's opening ceremony last week. "I am disgusted by this racist attack," the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, said today. "This latest outrageous act of racism follows several others over the past few months on the centre. "It also comes on the anniversary of the inquest that confirmed Stephen's death to be an unprovoked racist murder, and will be even more distressing for his mother Doreen, who has fought to establish this cultural landmark for the whole community." He said the London Development Agency, which helped fund the centre, would offer any assistance needed. Before the opening ceremony, Doreen Lawrence said her son, who dreamed of being an architect from the age of seven, would have been "so excited" the centre was built in his name.

Stephen , 18, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a gang at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993. Many of the suspects continue to live in the area. The case was the subject of three separate investigations, an internal Scotland Yard review and a re-examination by Kent police, as well as the 1999 Macpherson inquiry. Last November, police confirmed they were investigating new forensic evidence in the case. The Lawrence centre offers courses, training and mentoring in engineering, architecture and building facilities for people between 14 and 25. It is linked to several leading firms and universities. Woodley said last week the centre was a "laboratory for looking at new ways of working with young people to improve their attainment and skills". "Stephen was tragically denied the chance to realise his dream of becoming an architect, but we hope to offer young people who are living in poverty the opportunity to realise their aspirations," she said. In 1999 Stephen's memorial was defiled by paint. It was attacked again the following year, despite 24-hour camera surveillance.
© The Guardian



14/2/2008- The National Assembly Against Racism, an Advisor to the Lawrence Inquiry and the NUS Black Students Campaign have condemned the vandalism against the Stephen Lawrence Memorial Centre. It has been reported that the Centre's signature windows, designed by Turner Prize Winner Chris Ofili, were destroyed by vandals. The building was opened only last week.

Dr Richard Stone, Advisor to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry said:
"This seems to have been a premeditated, planned attack aimed at causing distress to the Lawrence family because they are black; it is the fourth attack in one week. This is a sad day for people committed to equality of human beings and is a reminder of the injustice faced by the Lawrences; that those who murdered Stephen continue to walk free on the streets today."

Denis Fernando, Co-ordinator, National Assembly Against Racism said:
"These cowardly acts of vandalism on the Stephen Lawrence Memorial Centre is an attack against the Lawrence family, who are a beacon to all those who seek to oppose racist injustice. As a Black British man, Stephen's body could not even be buried in Britain as his family feared attacks on his grave; their fears were confirmed, as the memorial plaque marking the place he was murdered has been repeatedly vandalised over the years. We call on the police to ensure that the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice and offer all our support to Stephen's family."

Ruqayyah Collector, NUS Black Students Officer said:
"The Stephen Lawrence Memorial Centre is a commemoration of the potential contribution that young black people like Stephen Lawrence, who aspired to be an architect, can make to society. In Stephen's case, this contribution was fatally destroyed. Racism continues to be a constant blight on the opportunities for many young black people to realise their potential. The Memorial Centre is a testament to Stephen's family who fought against the injustice they faced, having seen their son and brother murdered for being black. This latest attack will only cause further injury to a family that have never seen justice served against the racist murder of their son and is a reminder to us all that the fight against racism must be prioritised now as it did at the time of Stephen murder."

Stephen Lawrence Centre attacked ( statement by Ken Livingstone the Mayor of London )
14/2/2008- Following the vandalism of the Stephen Lawrence Centre today, the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said:
'I am disgusted by this racist attack on the Stephen Lawrence Centre, which comes only one week after it officially opened. This latest outrageous act of racism follows several others over the past few months on the centre. 'It also comes on the anniversary of the inquest that confirmed Stephen's death to be an unprovoked racist murder, and will be even more distressing for his mother Doreen, who has fought to establish this cultural landmark for the whole community. I would urge anyone to come forward immediately if they can assist the police investigation. 'The London Development Agency, which helped fund the centre, will offer any assistance if this is required.'
© The National Assembly Against Racism



13/2/2008- Car giant 'Honda' has been ordered to pay 64,000 pounds to an Indian worker who was forced to quit after suffering racial abuse at work. Kalmesh Shah, 30, moved to the UK from Gujarat in April 2004, and joined Honda in October that year. Shah, who worked at the factory for nearly two years, was allegedly moved randomly between production line jobs without training, bullied and refused toilet breaks by his supervisor. His poor treatment led to a deterioration in his physical and mental health following which he quit. Shah took Honda to a tribunal that finally ruled in his favour despite an attempt by managers to falsify documents and training records in a bid to dispute his claims. "This was never about the money, it was about standing up to a company that treated me like a third-class citizen because of my race. I was persecuted for speaking out and blowing the whistle," Shah told reporters. He was awarded 15,000 pounds for injury to his feelings, including 10,000 pounds for psychiatric damage, 18,496.21 pounds for loss of earnings since he resigned, two-and-half years future loss of earnings of 28,356 plus interest, totalling around 64,000 pounds. A Honda spokeswoman said: "We have accepted the findings of the Employment Tribunal, some nine months ago, and consider this case to be a very unfortunate 'one-off' and deeply regret the offence to Shah caused by an individual associate." The tribunal hearing, held in Bristol in June last year, gave its final ruling in October, but has only recently awarded the financial settlement. The tribunal ruled: "We consider that there is evidence of a 'cover-up' on the shop floor, of the fact that untrained employees were being used to avoid having to stop the line."
© The Hindu



Violent anti-semitic assaults rose to the highest level on record, according to new statistics released today.

14/2/2008- Although figures from the Community Security Trust’s annual Anti-semitic Incidents Report showed a slight drop in anti-Jewish incidents overall from 594 to 547 during 2007, it also revealed there had been a record 114 assaults, a slight increase on the previous high of last year. In at least six cases, the victims required hospital treatment. And in the one case classed as involving extreme violence, defined as the victims life was endangered, an elderly rabbi in the north east of England was walking along a pavement when a car driver mounted the pavement at speed, knocked him over, then reversed and tried to run him over again. The rabbi required hospital treatment for injuries to his head, arms and legs. The driver of the car has so far not been identified. In another assault, a visibly Jewish student was walking through east London at night when a group of attackers shouted anti-semitic abuse at him. They called him “kyke” and threw a glass bottle which hit him on the head. A piece of glass was later removed from his scalp and he was given stitches. Of the total 114 incidents, the report claimed 78 targeted people who were visibly Jewish, 22 attacks were on congregants who were on their way to or from synagogue and 14 were on Jewish schoolchildren. The vast majority of the total were random, opportunistic attacks on Jewish people in public places. The CST also recorded 62 cases of ‘Damage & Desecration’ of Jewish property, 24 ‘Threats’, 328 reports of ‘Abusive Behaviour’ and 19 cases of mass produced anti-semitic ‘Literature’. Those figures all represent a fall of up to 11 percent compared to 2006.

Mark Gardner, the CST’s Director of Communications, said: “The fall in the number of anti-semitic incidents is very welcome, but is less than we had hoped for. 2007 was still the second worst year on record and the worst ever for violent assaults. Over the past decade there has been a significant rise in the basic level of anti-semitic incidents in our society, and it is affecting the lives of far too many British Jews.” A Spokesperson from the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "While we welcome the fall in the overall number of antisemitic incidents in 2007, the wider findings from the Community Security Trust's report are of concern to the Government and serve as a reminder to us all that we still have more to do to eradicate anti-semitism from our society. Anti-semitism must be understood for what it is – and condemned. It should be dealt with promptly and effectively through the law. “A Home Office spokesperson said: “We will not tolerate racially motivated crime of any kind. We understand the concerns of Jewish communities and support the police and prosecuting authorities in taking a tough line to stamp out anti-semitism wherever it occurs. “We have one of the strongest legal frameworks in the world to protect people from discrimination or persecution on the grounds of their faith or race, and this was strengthened by the introduction of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act last year.” The spokesperson added: “This is underpinned by Government strategies and multi-million pound funding to increase racial equality, understanding and dispelling the myths that may provoke attacks.”
© Totally Jewish



11/2/2008- Supporters of the British National Party taunted North-East MPs as they spoke against racism. Labour MPs Phil Wilson and Helen Goodman were shouted at as they arrived at the Hope not Hate conference, at the Riverside Cricket Ground, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, on Saturday. About 20 followers of the far right BNP held up placards and yelled slogans outside the meeting, organised by the Northern Trades Union Congress (TUC). They also took photographs of many of the people who attended. A police presence at the gates was required to keep them out. The Northern Echo was told one man claimed he was a delegate, before joining the BNP ranks when he was denied entry. In an effort to avoid the protest, the Northern TUC asked delegates to arrive up to two hours early. It is understood that a British Asian cricketer who was due to train at the Riverside Ground on Saturday morning stayed away because of the protest. MP Jon Cruddas, vice-chairman of the anti-racism Labour Friends of Searchlight group, was the target for much of the shouting. He said the work of the far right was "worrying". "This is an issue everywhere now. We've got to remain vigilant and organised and mobilise against them in every community. "We've also got to deal with the issues people feel unhappy about. In my area, it's housing, in others, it's anti-social behaviour. "We've not just got to talk about these things, but deal with them." Asked about the protest, Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield, said: "They have the right to protest, but only the BNP would protest against a conference called Hope not Hate." Conference delegates were told of work being done to fight racism and prejudice. MPs Phil Wilson and Jon Cruddas and Stephen Hughes MEP spoke about how to oppose the far right, and Helen Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland, led a workshop on building local campaigns to counter far right parties. Kevin Rowan, the Northern TUC regional secretary who opened the half-day conference, said: "The North-East is famous for its sense of community and for a historic capacity to work together, collectively, to try to improve its fortunes. "People are increasingly realising that the BNP and other far right parties run against these instinctive and distinctive North-East values."
© The Northern Echo



9/2/2008- The first sign that something was wrong inside the large tanker parked under a flyover came at 8.15am yesterday when Pete Hobbs and his colleagues heard a faint banging. Then as they approached the lorry, the plaintive cries from inside became audible. They said: "Help us. We're dying." Within minutes the full paraphernalia of a major emergency had descended on the underpass in a scruffy corner of south-east London where early yesterday Mr Hobbs and his workmates fitting a new water main unwittingly stumbled upon a new example of the desperate and dangerous lengths that illegal immigrants are prepared to go to in order to reach Britain. Covered from head to foot in the black charcoal dust that they had hidden in for at least 12 hours, eight migrants – including a 12-year-old boy – emerged from the sealed hatches of the German-registered lorry, gasping for air. The men, confirmed last night as two Eritreans, three Iraqi Kurds and three Iranians, collapsed on to the pavement on the edge of a housing estate in Abbey Wood, near Woolwich, in front of astonished emergency workers and locals. Mr Hobbs, 19, from Chatham, Kent, a contract worker, said: "We'd just started working and we noticed this big lorry parked up under a flyover. At first all we could hear was this frantic banging from inside the tanker. We rushed over and we could hear men's voices shouting 'help us' and 'we're dying'. We banged on the cab door and got the driver out. He was wearing ear plugs so he couldn't hear anything. He said to call the police and soon afterwards these guys started climbing out. They were totally black from whatever was inside. It was a weird sight. They were coughing and wheezing and the ambulancemen laid some of them out on the ground to help them. They were wrapped in blankets and looked in a bad way."

An air ambulance, a chemical response team and about a dozen police, fire service and ambulance vehicles were called to the scene amid concern that the tanker was carrying a hazardous substance. In reality, it was carrying about 15 tonnes of charcoal powder for use in the Crossness sewage treatment works, less than a mile from the underpass. It is understood the migrants were lying on top of the cargo but had sunk into powder and run short of oxygen after breathing all the air in the sealed tank. While many thousands have risked their lives – and unknown numbers been killed – by clinging on to lorry axles or huddling under the wind deflectors above drivers' cabs, anti-trafficking campaigners said it was the first time that illegal immigrants have been found inside a fully loaded chemical tanker. The 55-year-old driver of the lorry, owned by a German freight company called H Freund, was last night being held at a police station in south London on suspicion of people trafficking. Scotland Yard said the lorry had begun its journey at the company's headquarters in Cologne, but it was not known where or how the migrants had got inside. H Freund declined to comment on the incident and said it was co-operating with the authorities. It is understood the vehicle made its journey via Calais, where hundreds of asylum-seekers attempt to board lorries every night. Lorraine Johnson, 57, who lives opposite the flyover, said: "The ambulancemen and police were pulling these people out. I thought they were all dead, they were just limp. It took four of the emergency guys to pull one up out of the hatch." The men were taken to hospital and treated for breathing problems before being discharged into the custody of the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA). Migrants pay between £2,000 and £20,000 to trafficking gangs who smuggle them across Europe into the UK. The BIA said last month that about 18,000 potential illegal immigrants had been stopped trying to enter Britain last year, of whom 13,000 had been found hidden on vehicles travelling through ports. Nick Kinsella, head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which highlights the plight of such people, said: "This is about criminals selling people in the same way that they sell any other commodity and there is good money to be made."

A perilous journey 
The worst human trafficking tragedy in Britain was in June 2000 when 58 Chinese illegal immigrants were found suffocated in a lorry at Dover docks. Perry Wacker, 41, a haulier from Rotterdam, closed the only air vent on the container of his lorry to prevent customs officials from discovering his illicit cargo, each of whom had paid thousands of pounds to a criminal gang to be brought to Europe. Officials found the bodies of 54 men and four women hidden behind a consignment of tomatoes. Wacker was jailed for 14 years. * In December 2001, eight bodies were found in a sea container in Waterford in the Irish Republic. The victims, thought to be from Turkey, Romania and Albania, had suffocated inside a consignment of office furniture from Italy. It is thought they had spent four days at sea on the journey from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge and died after the voyage was delayed for 48 hours by bad weather. A lorry driver taking the container to nearby Wexford was alerted by the banging of five survivors on the sides. * A tragedy was narrowly averted in October 2003 when 26 Sri Lankan refugees were found suffering the effects of breathing in engine fumes in a van travelling through Dover. Officials said they would have lapsed into unconsciousness after another hour in the vehicle.
© Independent Digital



9/2/2008- The number of complaints about homophobia within the police has risen by almost a quarter, according to the Gay Police Association. The association said it received 350 calls to its helpline last year, compared with 260 the year before. It estimated that there were about 7,000 homophobic incidents among police last year, but intimidated officers were reluctant to report them. The police said "any form of homophobia has no place in the police". The Gay Police Association said it was aware of colleagues refusing to serve with gay officers and quoting sections of the Bible at them on parade grounds. Some officers have used legislation designed to protect religious freedoms to justify their actions, saying that they found homosexuality incompatible with their beliefs. The Association of Chief Police Officers said it was aware of the concerns and has drawn up new guidance for senior officers to make it clear that discrimination cannot be justified on religious grounds.

Freedom of expression
Chairman of the Gay Police Association Paul Cahill said: "We've had officers refusing to work with gay officers but also slightly more sinister expressions of homophobia. "We had situations where colleagues would come in to work and on parade would openly state their religious opposition to homosexuality and would even quote sections of the Bible. [This was] completely out of context with being at work and on parade. "Many gay officers quite rightly felt that was an attempt to intimidate or harass them. "But the officers behaving in that way would say 'we were asserting our right to freedom of religious expression' - albeit that it was questionable in the context in which it was raised, the timing and the manner in which it was raised." Mr Cahill said some officers were using legislation promoting tolerance to be "openly homophobic and get away with it on the grounds they are entitled to under law - albeit that the law doesn't go that far."

'Crossing the line'
ACPO's lead officer on sexual orientation, Lancashire Police deputy chief constable Mike Cunningham, said he was aware of the concerns raised by the Gay Police Association. "We are actively encouraging people to report racism, homophobia, anything to do with any particular minority with vulnerability. "One of the problems with that is that sometimes the number of complaints actually goes up. That's not a cause for comfort and I'm not sitting here in anyway complacent," he said. "Any form of homophobia has no place in the police. People with all religious beliefs also have a right to hold a religious belief. Where that crosses the line is when it infringes on the rights of other individuals with whom they are working. "That sometimes is a complicated matter for managers to deal with and I'm seeking to provide guidance to help them work through that," he added.
© BBC News



By Fatma Yilmaz, USAK/ISRO Researcher Center for EU Studies

13/2/2008- News on rise of the far-right based on racism and xenophobia in the EU and its member states has recently become a usual agenda. Extreme nationalist speeches and racist posters taken place during provincial elections in Germany, a step for the formation of new far-right group in the European Parliament are just some of them. The one about the Ludwinghafen fire, because of which nine Turkish people lost their lives in a four-storey apartment building in southwest Germany, has become the last point causing an increase in tense xenophobic environment (even though there has been no official data yet about reason of the fire). Aforementioned increase in far-right parties is possibly explained by socio-economic crisis and damage in legitimacy of the political-system, albeit differs from state to state. The issues on which the far-right in Europe accuses the previous parties of neglecting are socio-economic risks, social desperate, economic ghettoization, globalization, weaknesses of particularly European economic integration, perception of cultural threat due to loss of national identity and blurriness of sense of belonging. In that sense, it is possible for far-right parties to propose aggressive solutions towards the foreigners and to encourage radicalization via anti-democratic proposals.

Lack of proper integration of the foreigners in Europe, owing to reasons unique to them and also differences in integration policies of the member states, could be one of the most important cards for the far-right to put forward anti-democratic proposals defiantly. The number of people claiming that third-country nationals in Europe, particularly migrants, are the important obstacles in front of the EU integration is no less than assumed. The foreigners, who are seen as the potential cause to share the economic welfare due to the migration wave in the integration process, signifies one side of reactions against the EU enlargements. Since a large part of xenophobic concerns is about loss of welfare standards, there has naturally occurred a process in which the far-right finds a ground to play. However, it is possible to read this process in reverse. Then, the European integration via both deepening and enlarging process could stimulate either directly or indirectly racist and xenophobic explanations. In other words, whereas deepening-enlarging process on one side means dynamism for the EU; on the other hand it turns into nationalist expression in both the societal and political terms mainly because it paradoxically bring a halt on nation-state and welfare society structure. Nationalist populism and increase in present stereotypes towards outsiders in the integrated EU due to several social and economic reasons after eastern enlargement lay the ground for racist and xenophobic feelings.

EU deepening process, which means giving more competence to the supranational structure since late 1950s, could reversely signify decrease in sovereignty fields of nation-states and therefore could be considered as loss of authority. A gradual dissolution of nation-state power on financial and monetary policies together with acceleration of economic integration and clarification of differences more than before due to removal of internal border control are the issues which has made contribution to the rhetoric of far-right in Europe. Above all, together with an increase in unemployment in many member states, it could be hard to absorb European integration whose fundamental values are based on the main free movements. As long as the integration process let gradually more people be involved in and be affected, it has become more usual to hear the opposite sounds against the European integration. It then unsurprisingly brings the far-right parties to the arena and makes them use societal opposition as an election tool. Actually, even though the striking part of this process has more potential in economic terms to be abused, integration in cultural term could cause some people concern. Since European integration led to multi-culturalism, the extremist or nationalist group and political parties abuse the issue by building up their rhetoric on dilution of traditional identity structure of nation-state. The Front National (FN) campaigns in France during 1990s can be an example of this case. The concept of ‘other’ comes out more evidently in this process. As mentioned above, integration problems of the foreigners could find an easy ground in radical political rhetoric.

Enlargement, the other step of European integration, also needs to be pointed out in terms of its effects on the rise of far-right. Similar to deepening process, enlargement is also supported by the European society generally as long as it suits their welfare project. For instance, it was the case for the eastern enlargement of the EU. Concerns about a possible decrease in welfare standards and increase in xenophobia due to such decrease in welfare were mostly expressed. In this sense, enlargement process could lead an increase in stereotypes and prejudices of the member states against the candidate ones. Fear of being unemployed due to enlargement could make outsiders exclude in Europe once again. However, contrary to concerns and fears, in the case of Spain and Portugal enlargement, there experienced a migration wave towards backwards. But since the far-right uses this process in favor of itself, European society and decision-makers generally act in a manner as if migration would take place. Moreover, it seems that general parameters of the European integration are tried to be explained by cost-benefit analysis. In the end, this effort could create an efficient factor on racist perception simply because it is mostly based on individual economic interests. In order to make the integration process attractive for the society, it is explained through ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ and economic gains such as new market chance has become one of the most important figures to be mentioned. But when the first few years of integration remains far from to meet the expectations, new participants of the EU and migrants is subject to a possible accusations and exclusion.

In consequence, the European integration could turn into an expression of a process against foreigners due to abuse of integration by far-right parties. Rise of far-right in Europe together with rise of nationalism, on one side, causes to decrease in support to European integration by reason of damaging sovereignty of nation-sate; on the other side ‘outsiders inside the EU’ become the ones who mostly affected by this process. Actually, the process operates like a vicious circle. Whereas some argue that non-integration of foreigners impedes the integration process, xenophobia also causes to decrease in support to the integration. Then it needs to apply policies at EU-level which provide cultural interaction and prevent the far-right to monopolize integration process by its extreme nationalist statements.
Just a reminder: While talking about European integration in terms of its effect on racist and xenophobic explanations, it is worth not to forget the fact that it is in the EU integration process since 1950s that the Europe has experienced its longest peaceful process in its history. The only thing not to be ignored is an essential need to create political awareness at EU-level for the negativities as well. Since it is the fact that the EU has managed to get together conflicting societies around common interests, it needs to show similar success for ‘the Other’ for a sustainable integration.
© The Turkish Weekly



12/2/2008- On a cold winter's morning beside the Atocha train station in central Madrid a dozen men wait silently for contractors in the market for cheap illegal laborers. About 2,500 km north, at a sprawling slaughterhouse in the Danish countryside near Horsens, butchers in white overcoats leave their shift tired but garrulous, laughing in Polish. Skilled migrant workers seeking employment in Europe would do well to head north. Foreigners in Spain are the first to lose their jobs as a decade-long construction boom comes to an end, but in the Nordic countries businesses can't get enough of them. "It's a contrasting trend," said Jean-Pierre Garson, head of the international migration division at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). "The European Union is a free market, with free settlement of people. Qualified people are now more mobile." Nordic countries used to be known for inflows of refugees from war-torn countries, but now they're morphing into magnets for skilled migrant workers. Denmark issued about 23,000 work permits to foreigners last year, up 41 percent from 2006 and a six-fold increase from 2002. Poles received a third of the permits issued in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, only about 1,000 asylum-seekers were granted Danish residence last year -- down from more than 6,000 in 2001. Poles overtook Swedes as Norway's biggest minority last year. Finland has produced slick television ads in English to persuade migrants to move north to the land of Santa Claus.

Shrinking market in Spain
To the south, Spain -- which used to be a source of emigration -- has been relying on imported labor to drive growth, especially in construction and services. But business is no longer brisk. Rising interest rates and a glut in housing supply have snuffed out a decade-long construction boom, so demand for immigrant workers is shrinking. The number of unemployed immigrants in Spain rose by a quarter in 2007, according to government figures; unemployment among immigrants working in construction rose by over a half in the same period. "(Business) has fallen off a lot," said an Ecuadorean laborer, declining to give his name as he stood outside the Madrid station wrapped in a heavy coat and hat. "Before, there was work even on Saturdays and Sundays, but now it's just nine hours a day, weekdays." Around 55 percent of immigrants are on temporary contracts against 27.9 percent of native workers, said Ramon Mahia Casado, an economist at the Autononous University of Madrid. "They are the first to suffer," said Casado. "The first workers an employer will fire are those on temporary contracts." In Madrid, four towering glass and steel buildings are taking form in a prestigious development hailed as the city's new financial centre, built on soccer club Real Madrid's old training ground. Issufo Djalo, a wiring specialist from Guinea-Bissau, said there was still a steady stream of work at this emblematic development. But it is now an employer's market. "About five months ago they would pay for extras, like our transport," he said. "Now they've stopped doing that. Before, people left if they weren't happy. Now they stay put."

Recruiting in groups
At the slaughterhouse of Danish Crown, the world's biggest meat exporter, nearly 15 percent of the workforce is foreign -- mostly Poles and Germans. The company says it pays Polish workers the same as Danes -- between 25,000 and 30,000 crowns ($4,800-$5,800) per month. That's enough for Mariusz Kogut to afford to fly twice a month to his hometown of Wrocklaw to see his wife and two children. "It's 100 times better to work here," said Kogut, 32, who moved to Horsens last year with four Polish friends after five years as a butcher in Germany. "The money is better, the working conditions are better and the manager is more polite." This highly automated plant -- where robots oversee the butchering of 80,000 pigs a week -- still needs humans, and the company cannot find enough of them in Denmark. Unemployment is at its lowest in more than three decades at 2.7 percent. The company hires 50 to 80 Poles at a time, trying to recruit in groups to make it easier for them to live together in a foreign country. It pays for Danish lessons and its monthly magazine, 'The Meat Hook,' features articles in Polish.

Job fairs
With their hunger for immigrant labor, the Nordic countries are following a trend set by Spain, which has an ageing population and one of the lowest birth rates in the world. "A country like Spain at the end of the seventies that collectively decided not to have children or to have them in sharply reduced numbers elected -- probably without knowing it -- to have immigration in significant amounts, especially if it wanted to grow economically," said Josep Oliver Alonso, economist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. The Danish government has estimated the economy will see a shortage of between 100,000 and 150,000 workers in the next five years. Denmark's business lobby, the Confederation of Danish Industries, has called for less restrictive laws for immigrant workers, warning Danish companies are struggling to meet demand. "Denmark is looking for more qualified people and it's very difficult to get them," said OECD's Garson. The Confederation helps Danish companies recruit through job fairs in Sweden, Poland and Germany. At its next fair in April in Malmo, Sweden, it will mostly be looking for shelf stockers and bus drivers.
© Reuters



14/2/2008- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Wednesday that Washington could boycott the United Nations's 2009 conference on racism in Durban, South Africa if it will likely degenerate into anti-Semitism. Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the US government had not taken a final decision on participating in the summit. "We have no intention of participating in something like Durban I. I mean, it was an outrage, and I've been very clear with my counterparts about that," she said. "We've not tried to make a final decision on this, but let me just state very clearly we don't have any interest in participating in something that deteriorates into the kind of conference that Durban I was," she said. The UN's first World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in 2001 in the same South African city, was condemned by the United States, Canada and Israel for degenerating into anti-Semitism. Canada has already bowed out of the upcoming conference saying it would likely "degenerate into ... expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism."



Official apology to the 'stolen generation' of mixed race children still controversial in Australia

11/2/2008- Zita Wallace still remembers the coarse texture of the blanket that she huddled under in anxiety and confusion on the day she was wrenched from her Aboriginal family and sent to live in an orphanage run by white people. It was 1947 and she was seven years old. "We were put in a dormitory that had mattresses on the floor," she recalls, brushing away flies in the sweltering midday heat of the outback. She adds: "There were no sheets but we had blankets, like the blankets they used for horses, hairy and rough. They gave us bread and tea and when the sun started to go down we all got upset. I remember little Barbie crying because she was only four and one of the older girls holding her, and walking around with her. I lay down and put the blanket over my head and I was just crying and crying." Wallace was one of the "stolen generation", thousands of mixed-race indigenous children in Australia forcibly removed from their families under a government-sanctioned policy of white assimilation. The children, mostly the offspring of fleeting sexual encounters between Aboriginal mothers and European fathers, were taken to orphanages, church missions or foster homes to be raised separately from their families and culture. The practice was eventually abandoned in the 1970s, and 11 years ago a report entitled Bringing Them Home recommended a formal apology to the stolen generation.

The word "sorry" will finally resound through Australian public life on Wednesday, when the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, offers an apology in parliament on behalf of the Australian government. "I think this is a blight on the nation's soul," Rudd told Australian television yesterday. But not everyone agrees. The apology, which will not attribute guilt to the current generation of Australians, remains highly contentious. The opposition indigenous affairs spokesman, Tony Abbott, said: "Yes, some kids were stolen and this is shameful but many were helped and some were rescued." Some people claim children were rescued from malnourishment, homelessness or abandonment. Others are dismissing the government apology as a token gesture that will not improve the lives of Aborigines who still live on the margins of Australian society in communities blighted by alcohol, violence and poor health. But by far the hottest issue is the question of whether the apology will lead to financial compensation, which was also recommended in the Bringing Them Home report. The government has said this will not happen but Aboriginal activists are already saying that sorry is not enough and have talked about a $1bn fund. "We are concerned that the apology is not being accompanied by reparations, which is part of forgiveness," said Les Malezer, a spokesman.

In the shimmering heat of the Pmwarekenhe plain, Wallace is not that interested in the money, she says. The word sorry might not buy much in the red, dusty, desert surrounding her house deep in the bush, about 60 miles from Alice Springs but it would help heal a community, the 68-year-old says. "We are a broken people. A lot of our people have no identity, they have no pride in themselves," says Wallace, who returned to her grandfather's sacred Worita land to immerse herself in aboriginal culture seven years ago. "They have lost the will to survive, and that's been passed on to their children. They have got into drugs and alcohol and a lot of our youth are killing themselves. Recognising that we were stolen, it's admitting that a wrong was done to us." Her mother's sister, whom she affectionately calls Mum-Aggie, recalls the way part-Aboriginal children were removed. "A middle-aged white man came, a short man who smoked a pipe. He would go around the communities and pretend to have a conversation with people but really his eyes were on the children playing," she says. "That's how he took note of the kids and reported them." Wallace was tricked into leaving her home, along with four other girls, by nuns at the Catholic-run mission who told her she was going shopping. "They put us in the back of a truck but we never went near any shop," she says. "They took us to the telegraph station which was the holding centre for half-caste children from all over central Australia." She ended up in an institution for 200 children, run by the Catholic church, hundreds of miles away in the Tiwi Islands, about 50 miles north of Darwin, and remained there until the age of 19.

"We got belted for speaking our language. We were called pagans and heathens and spawn of the devil," she says. When, at first, they asked about their families, they were told they didn't have any. "We cooked for the nuns, we washed their big bloomers, we cleaned their rooms. We got just enough education to read and write. The brighter, fairer kids were sent away to colleges or to be adopted into white families but I didn't get selected." Some of the children were physically and sexually abused. "I won't go into what happened on the island, it doesn't serve any purpose now." Wallace married and had a family, and later, in the mid 1990s, found her mother, Nancy. "There was never the closeness I would have liked but at least my mother died knowing that I came back to her." As for financial compensation, she thinks the issue should be left for the future. "We just want to have this historic day."

The Bringing Them Home report, of 1997, says at least 100,000 children were removed from their parents over several generations. As many as one in three indigenous children were taken between 1910 and 1970, though the practice began as early as the 1860s. The policy adhered to a racial supremacist doctrine favouring northern Europeans. Though some children were ceded voluntarily, the vast majority were forcibly removed. Most were placed in institutions and church missions; some went to foster parents. Bruce Trevorrow last year became the first Aborigine man to win compensation. The 1997 report generated apologies in state parliaments, but former prime minister John Howard refused to say sorry.
© The Guardian


Headlines 8 February, 2008


8/2/2008- The Norwegian indigenous people officially known as Sami are upset about the use of what they call the "derogatory" terms Lapp and Lappland. Finnmark province, in the most northern part of Norway, bordering Russia and Finland, has printed up a brochure that urges tourists to visit "Norwegian Lappland". "The words ‘Lappland’ and ‘Lapp’ are discriminating terms that we long thought had been out of use," said Sami Parliament representative Gunn-Britt Retter to Norwegian daily Aftenposten. She says it is upsetting that these terms are being used to sell Sami culture internationally. Finnmark’s tourism head, Jens-Harald Jenssen, says he has received positive feedback about the brochure, and points out that the term Lappland is much more recognized internationally than the official name "Sapmi". "Our nearest and biggest competition comes from Finnish Lappland," said Jenssen. That’s where we got the idea to use Norwegian Lappland." He added: "Our aim was to present the Sami people in a correct and good way. Of course we don’t mean to be discriminatory towards anyone." Another Sami Parliament representative, Egil Olli, said: "I personally don’t find the term Lappland to be negative." Lappland, or Lapland, comprises a vast region of northern Europe, largely within the Arctic Circle. It includes the Norwegian provinces of Finnmark and Troms and part of Nordland; the Swedish historic province of Lappland; Northern Finland; and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. There are a total of about 80,000 Sami, with more than half of them living in Norway. The Samis traditionally led a nomadic life, but now only about a tenth of them raise and follow reindeer herds, according to questia encyclopedia. The Samis celebrated their National Day this week (February 6), which has been made an official flag day in Norway.
© Aftenpost



8/2/2008- French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen has been given a three-month suspended jail term for playing down the Nazi occupation of France. Le Pen, who was also fined 10,000 euros (£7,400), described the occupation as "not especially inhumane". Le Pen, 79, is the leader of the French far-right party, the National Front. He reached a surprise second-place finish in the 2002 French presidential election, after beating the socialist candidate in the first round. Le Pen's remarks were made in an interview with the far-right magazine Rivarol in January 2005. Elsewhere in the article he described the 1944 massacre of 86 people in the town of Villeneve d'Ascq as the actions of a junior officer "mad with rage", and praised the Gestapo for its role in the incident. The French court ruled that Le Pen had denied a crime against humanity and had been complicit in condoning war crimes. This is not the first time that Le Pen has faced legal sanctions for making controversial comments about the actions of the Nazis. In 1987 he was fined for describing the Nazi gas chambers as a "detail of history".
© BBC News



8/2/2008- The former leader of the far-right group Blood and Honor (Vér és Becsület), János Domokos, has announced a demonstration at Budapest's Heroes' Square (Hõsök tere) for Saturday, February 9, writes, based on a report in Népszava. The event, which is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. and last three hours, is to mark the Day of Honor, February 11, 1945, when German and Hungarian troops attempted to break through the Soviet ring. The group Blood and Honor was forced to disband in October 2005. Budapest Police said that it had given permission for using the square to hold the demonstration planned for Saturday, because it did not violate any laws on free assembly. Organizers are expecting 1,000 people to participate. Various far-right organizations have been marking the Day of Honor every year since the end of the 1990s. Last year, when the event was also held on Hõsök tere, those assembled consisted primarily of skinheads wearing clothing that resembled military uniforms and several organizations from other countries were also in attendance.
© Caboodle



4/2/2008- Two new human rights reports released this week argue that the numbers of hate crimes in Russia seem set to increase in the near future, with St. Petersburg keeping its notorious status as one of the hot-beds of xenophobia in the country. “We see the situation exacerbating in the recent months: since early January 2008 there has been more than 25 apparent ethnically motivated attacks [in Russia],” said Alexander Brod, director of the Moscow Bureau For Human Rigths, a member of the Public Chamber. At least 14 people died in what the organization regards as hate crimes, with 20 more people sustaining injuries. “The lion’s share of the incidents was registered in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Tolyatti,” Brod said. “Not only have the incidents mushroomed in numbers, they can also be seen in many different regions.” Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy head of the Moscow-based SOVA Center think tank that monitors xenophobia and tracks ethnically motivated crimes, said xenophobia in Russia is taking off at high speed, with apparent hate crimes seen in at least seven regions of Russia since the beginning of the year. Yuly Rybakov, a prominent human rights advocate with the St. Petersburg rights group Memorial, accuses the authorities of turning a blind eye to the problem. “Usually it is democrat politicians or human rights advocates who report these cases,” he said. “And most of the time, the prosecutors openly show their contempt to anti-fascists and democrats, sometimes with outright insults.”

Human rights advocates are alarmed by the changing pattern of ethnically motivated crimes in Russia. “It used to be that it was mostly skinhead groups responsible for such attacks but xenophobic attitudes are spreading and now affect a large proportion of ordinary people,” Kozhevnikova said. “It reveals itself in a greater share of crimes committed by ordinary people, not involved in any gangs and radical groups.” “At the same time, ultra-nationalist organizations are becoming increasingly more violent,” Kozhevnikova said. According to the statistics collected by SOVA Center, in 2007 sixty-nine people died in xenophobic attacks, and over 600 people were injured in such incidents. Racially motivated crimes were registered in 39 regions of Russia. Natalya Yevdokimova, an advisor to Sergei Mironov, the chairman of the Council of Federation, urged the authorities to commission an in-depth analysis and assessment of the scope of extremism and nationalism in St. Petersburg and Russia as a whole and for the results to be widely publicized. “It does not help that only human rights groups are aware of the issues; ordinary people do not get the picture at all,” she said. “The circumstances of and around these crimes — which are often classified as robberies, hooliganism or homicide without a hate motive — remain obscure to them.”
© The St. Petersburg Times



6/2/2008- Outwardly, the main campus of the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, known in English by the acronym MAUP, looks like a college in every way. Assorted buildings are dispersed around lawns of the campus on the outskirts of town, with a group of young students milling about between them in a somewhat informal atmosphere. Notice boards display announcements regarding academic matters and entertainment events. On the surface, there is nothing to indicate the facts that have made MAUP a staple of every report on anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe published over the past five years. There are indeed a great many statues, symbols and small picturesque buildings that underscore the nationalist and religious identity of the place. Pravoslavic crucifixes abound, along with signs marking milestones in the history of the Ukrainian nation, and everywhere one can find the picture of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, the 17th-century Cossack leader who also led the attacks that killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, and who is a national hero in Ukraine. But who can complain about Khmelnitsky's presence in Kiev, where a huge statue of him on a charging steed stars in one of the city's main squares. And besides, there are also statues of such giants of the human spirit as Plato and Socrates and pictures of contemporary politicians, local and global, who have extended their patronage or granted prizes to the university, such as former South African president Nelson Mandela. And this fact is perhaps the most troubling of all for the Jewish and Israeli bodies that monitor anti-Semitism worldwide. They are unable to understand how in the middle of the Ukrainian capital there operates an academic center that publishes entire series of books and regular editions of newspapers with explicit anti-Semitic content, and why the central government refrains from taking determined action against it.

The office of MAUP's rector, Mykola Golavatiy, continues the thematic scenery from outdoors. Its walls are hung with photographs of national heroes and archaeological sites from the glory days of the Ukrainian people, including the usual picture of Khmelnitsky. Beside his desk stands a long wax candle illuminating a religious icon. In the sitting area is a calendar published by the Ukrainian National Conservative party, the most anti-Semitic party in the country, which was founded by MAUP's president, Georgy Tchokin. Prof. Golavatiy agreed to be interviewed for an Israeli paper only after some hesitation. On the one hand, MAUP officials want to present a front devoid of racism and anti-Semitism. On the other hand, they are determined to preserve their "academic freedom" and are not willing to appear to be groveling before Jewish pressure groups. He protests the reports against them by Jewish organizations and efforts by the "socialist" education minister not to recognize MAUP degrees. He points with pride to the certificates from the Ukrainian council for higher education and to the 2004 report by a government committee, one of whose members - he stresses - was even Jewish, which confirmed that they are tolerant and teach the history of all peoples equitably. He even managed to locate an official MAUP textbook that has stories from Ukraine's various nationalities, including one story about the Holocaust. He himself had a Jewish friend, "a man who is better than a lot of Ukrainians," who emigrated to the United States eight years ago.

Just discussions
Golavatiy cannot understand how his school can be tarred with the brush of racism. The university has students of 40 different nationalities, including several hundred Jews, and there are also Jews on the faculty. So how, the rector is asked, can books be sold under the MAUP imprint accusing Zionism and Jewish organizations of posing a danger to Ukraine and to world peace? His response: "When the issues of terror and globalization arose, discussions were held here on these matters, and also about Zionism and anti-Semitism. The publications in question merely report on the discussions. It was only discussions," he explains. MAUP also invited Jewish figures to those discussions, but they declined. "But there were also Jewish lecturers, even one from Israel named Shahar; I don't think he's connected to any academic institution in Israel, but he's from there," he said. MAUP, he insists, is not anti-Semitic. "There is no such thing as anti-Semitism anyway, it's a concept invented by scientists," he maintains. "Those [Jewish] organizations are anti-Semitic. Every time there is talk of Jews, they say it's anti-Semitism." Golavatiy holds one organization responsible for everything: Chabad - the most prominent and best-known Jewish entity in Ukraine today, which in the eyes of many locals represents all Jews.

Evil Chabad
"Chabad gave the world nothing good," he grumbles. "Something is wrong with them. This is an international organization with branches around the world and you cannot say they are for peace; they do evil things. They are also tied to extremism and terrorist actions." As far as he's concerned, what is really at issue is a battle over academic freedom. "There are not only positive things in Jews and Judaism, there are also negative things, and nobody will deprive me of the possibility to research these negative things in the history of the Jews," he said. "The UN ruled in 1975 that Zionism is racism. It is necessary to study this as well and understand why it was said." The vast majority of MAUP's 50,000 students, enrolled at 18 branches across Ukraine and additional branches in other Eastern European countries, are not engaged in anti-Semitic activity. However, according to Amos Hermon, head of the Jewish Agency's task force on countering anti-Semitism, "MAUP has not only become the main producer of anti-Semitic literature in Ukraine, but it distributes these materials in various languages throughout Eastern and Central Europe."
© Haaretz



4/2/2008- A neo-Nazi march will be held on March 1 instead of a banned march scheduled for January 19, the march's organiser Vaclav Bures said. The original march date, January 19, coincided with the 65th anniversary of the first deportation of Jews from Plzen to the concentration camps. Plzen Mayor Pavel Roedl (senior ruling Civic Democrats, ODS) finally banned the march. However, the regional administrative court decided last Friday that the march was banned unjustly because the criteria for the ban were not met. As a result, Bures could organise a new rally. Bures has to announce the new march to the authorities one day in advance at the latest. The route of the march is the same as planned before. The marchers are to pass by Plzen's Great Synagogue. Bures said he did not know how many people could take part in the event. Later in January it turned out that Bures was a member of the ODS branch in Plzen-Lochotin. The branch immediately expelled him from the party. Bures announced the January 19 march as a march in support of the freedom of speech, in reaction to the police intervention that prevented a neo-Nazi march through the historical Jewish Quarter in Prague.



8/2/2008- Comedian Lenny Henry last night hit out at British broadcasters for failing to tackle a lack of ethnic diversity on screen and off, arguing that little had changed since the era of Alf Garnett and Love Thy Neighbour. "When I started, I was surrounded by a predominantly white workforce. Thirty-two years later ... not a lot has changed," he told the Royal Television Society in a speech aimed at shocking the gathered television executives into action. Henry, who has starred in a string of sketch shows and sitcoms as well as being deeply involved with Comic Relief, said scriptwriters and producers still bandied around offensive terms too readily. "Words like wog, Paki and coon back then, and chav and pikey today, have a profound effect on our communities," he said. He also hit out at the lack of progress in employing staff from ethnic minority backgrounds off screen, and called on executives to set specific targets and reach out to young people. "To walk on set and find a black DOP or an Asian boom operator is as rare as seeing John McCririck on the front cover of Vanity Fair." He said his own area of comedy was "pitifully underserved" by broadcasters who were not looking in the right places for the next generation of stand-ups from ethnic minorities. "Do they go to the Hackney Empire, or any of the ethnic minority nights put on by Upfront comedy or Harmony productions all over the country?" he asked. "Or do they head down to Jongleurs, the Comedy Store, or up to the Edinburgh festival, the same as they always do?"

Calling on broadcasting executives to take "affirmative action", he said there was a wealth of on and off screen talent from ethnic minorities if they went out and found them and started thinking of "diversity as an asset, not a problem". Henry also criticised the policy of "ghettoising" programmes aimed at ethnic minorities on specialist channels. "1Xtra, MTV Base and Zee TV are all hugely popular. But whenever I watch these channels, all I see is a ghetto ... Nobody wants to be in the ghetto, OK? We all want to live in the mainstream," he said. The BBC has failed to hit diversity targets set by then director general Greg Dyke when he accused the corporation of being "hideously white". It has failed to hit its target of 12.5% of the total workforce, with the figure standing at 10.6% by the end of last year. The target for senior managers was 7% and the total in 2007 just 4.4%. Henry was for four years the only "real black guy" in a touring production of the Black and White Minstrel Show. "I look at those photos now and I want to shoot everyone involved. Including myself," he said.
© The Guardian



7/2/2008- Almost 2,000 people in South Yorkshire have signed a petition objecting to gay couples adopting children. The petition, drawn up by the Christian People's Alliance (CPA), is being presented to Sheffield City Council to lobby against homosexuals adopting. The group is protesting at government plans to allow a child to be placed with a gay couple regardless of the wishes of birth parents. But gay couples in the area say it is "about what is best for the child". One gay couple from West Yorkshire, who have two adopted children aged 10 and 12, believe the issue of sexuality should not be an overriding factor in adoption. The men, aged 37 and 42, said: "This church sees this issue as being about gay rights, but it is about what is best for the child." The decision to campaign against same sex adoptions comes after a city magistrate and CPA member, stood down over the issue. Andrew McClintock, 63, resigned from his position in the family courts after he was refused permission to opt out of cases that resulted in children being placed with same sex parents. Former city councillor Sid Cordle from CPA, said: "People in Sheffield have a right to say if they were tragically killed in an accident and their children had to be adopted, then their children should go to a father and a mother." On 6 April Westminster regulations come into force which direct all adoption agencies, including Christian ones, to comply with the Equality Act when finding an adoption family for a child or lose all access to public funds. The homosexual partners, who did not want to be named, said: "This is about homophobic issues, making adoption political and trying to close the doors of opportunity for children." The couple, who adopted their children six years ago, said gay parents could offer youngsters a stable home environment. "Our children had a traumatic past and we have worked to give them a good home life, we go to the supermarket, go to the park like any normal family and are involved at school. "Often birth parents are very angry about their child being taken into care and will come up with reasons for them not to be adopted, this will just be used as a smoke screen, when sometimes they do not know what is best for the child."
© BBC News



6/2/2008- Children as young as three are to be given anti-racism lessons as part of moves to tackle the problem by Scotland's largest local authority. A new curriculum pack has been produced for nursery schools across Glasgow to help pupils understand what attitudes are racist. There are several hundred recorded incidents of racist abuse in schools in Glasgow every year, although the figures have been in decline since 2003. A recent report by HM Inspectorate of Education also found that the children of asylum seekers were subjected to racist taunts on a daily basis, either at school or in their communities. Every month, the city's school population is swelled by hundreds of additional children from overseas, including asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants from eastern Europe. The new teaching pack has been produced by Glasgow City Council for nursery schools because research shows that, by the age of three, children can exhibit prejudice on the grounds of race, particularly if it is learned from others, such as parents. Lessons include learning about the significance of different religious festivals and the different foods, songs and stories from other cultures. Children will be encouraged to discuss the differences between themselves and others in their class, such as skin colour, and recognise discrimination if it arises. The booklet, called Different Together, includes a section for teachers to help them deal with racist incidents in the classroom. And because the attitudes of nursery-aged children are so dependent on those of their families, the booklet also includes a section for parents, which encourages them to confront their own prejudices, if they exist.

Les McLean, adviser in race equality for Glasgow City Council, who helped develop an anti-racism pack for primary schools two years ago, said officials felt it was crucial to tackle the issue at the earliest stage. "We had thought about the possibility of doing a pack for secondary schools, and that may be something we look at next, but the feeling was that we could have an impact on the very youngest children," he said. "Research indicates that nursery-aged children recognise differences and we felt it was important to get to them at the time when they are starting to develop attitudes towards life. "Because children pick up attitudes from the home as well as from nursery we felt it was also important to look at the attitudes of parents and carers." Myra Struthers, headteacher of Thornlaw Nursery in Arden, Glasgow, who helped design the pack, said: "Racism is an issue because of the rapidly changing demographics in Glasgow and there is fear about that. "We are trying to tackle that fear by looking positively at others so it becomes the norm and children accept diversity." Gordon Matheson, education convener of Glasgow City Council, said the pack, which will be distributed to all council and partnership nurseries in Glasgow, was the first resource in Scotland tackling issues of discrimination in the early years. "It allows the children to investigate these differences and ensures the parents and staff are comfortable discussing these matters in a way that is non-discriminatory and reinforces respect and the value of difference," he said. The pack was also welcomed by Kubriya Binyamin, a parent, whose three-year-old daughter, Ambreen, attends Kinning Park Nursery in Glasgow. "There is tome racism in everyday life in Glasgow and so it is very important to have education at an early age to prevent it," she said.
© The Herald



3/2/2008- Scotland Yard’s antiterrorist squad secretly bugged a high-profile Labour Muslim MP during private meetings with one of his constituents. Sadiq Khan, now a government whip, was recorded by an electronic listening device hidden in a table during visits to the constituent in prison. The bugging of MPs is a breach of a government edict that has barred law agencies from eavesdropping on politicians since the bugging scandal of Harold Wilson’s government. There was no suspicion of criminal conduct by Khan to justify the operation. A document seen by The Sunday Times shows there was internal concern about the propriety of bugging an MP, who was also a lawyer, but the operation nevertheless went ahead. The disclosure will put further pressure on Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, who will be asked to explain why his officers apparently breached government rules – and if he authorised it.  Khan discussed sensitive personal and legal matters during the recorded meeting. The MP was said to be “outraged” yesterday. “From what you have told me, this is an infringement of a citizen’s right to have a private meeting with his MP,” he said. Last night Jack Straw, the justice secretary, said that he had ordered an immediate inquiry and added that it would be “unacceptable” for such a bugging operation to take place. Andrew Mackinlay, a Labour colleague, said: “The bugging of Sadiq Khan is very dangerous indeed. It is totally unacceptable that MPs’ conversations with constituents are bugged by the security services or the police. “It is an affront to democracy and has all the hallmarks of a totalitarian regime. No one is suggesting that MPs should be above the law, but when behaving as MPs and dealing with people’s liberty that must be sacrosanct as it is with lawyers.” Khan, 37, is a rising star in the Labour party and is seen as a key figure in Gordon Brown’s drive to win the hearts and minds of Britain’s Muslims. He is a former chairman of Liberty, the human rights group, and used to be a legal adviser to the Muslim Council of Britain. As a lawyer he was a thorn in the side of the Metropolitan police, taking a series of controversial malpractice cases against them.

The bugging operation recorded conversations with his constituent, Babar Ahmad, who is facing deportation to the United States under new extradition laws. Khan has been a friend of Ahmad since childhood and has been a prominent campaigner against his extradition. He met the home secretary to discuss the case and handed over a petition of 18,000 signatures calling for Ahmad’s release. The US government has accused Ahmad of running a website that raised funds for Taliban and Chechen terrorists in the late 1990s. He faces no charges in Britain but is wanted in the United States because his website was registered there. Khan made two visits to Ahmad in 2005 and 2006 while he was on remand at Woodhill prison in Milton Keynes. Both meetings were secretly recorded. Ahmad’s family say he arranged the meetings because he was no longer free to go Khan’s constituency office in Tooting, south London, and wanted to see his MP. Knowing that Khan was coming, the antiterrorist squad requested the bugging. Senior officers had already granted authorisation to bug Ahmad’s guests before Khan first visited. The officers had previously recorded family members who were leading the campaign to free him. The meetings took place in the main visitors’ hall where each inmate is allocated an identical wooden table. Underneath the tables is a solid wood partition that separates prisoners from their visitors.

However, The Sunday Times has learnt that at least six of the tables have had their panels hollowed out to hide bugging equipment. They are known as “talking tables”. Inside each panel is a microphone, a battery, an antenna and a transmitter. Such is the secrecy surrounding these tables that even the prison officers are said to be unaware of them. They are operated and maintained by specialist detectives permanently based at the prison. The second meeting between Khan and Ahmad took place on the Saturday morning of June 24, 2006, during a crucial period for his campaign and legal case. Khan bought cups of tea and chocolate bars and joined Ahmad who had already been seated at one of the “talking tables”. Every word was transmitted to a receiver in the domed ceiling above them and then routed to a nearby office. The digital recording was picked up by an antiterrorist branch officer the next Monday morning. During the conversation the two men discussed the latest developments in the campaign against extradition. Khan updated Ahmad on a meeting in the House of Commons against the 2003 Extradition Act. The Commons gathering had drawn support from politicians of all parties who had objected to changes in the law that allowed the United States to extradite suspects without first testing the case in a British court. The antiterrorist officers would have heard Khan and Ahmad discussing tactics for his appeal, which was due to start shortly. The two men also talked about the civil case he was taking against the police, alleging that he was physically assaulted by officers when he was first arrested in December 2003 and released without charge.

Khan noticed nothing untoward. About a month later, Ahmad claims that he was approached by MI5 officers who offered him his freedom if he agreed to become their informant. He declined. Meanwhile, Khan was promoted to assistant government whip in the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for prisons. The Sunday Times told him about the bugging operation last week. A friend said the disclosure might further undermine the government’s attempt to “reengage” the Muslim community. He said: “If he was not a Muslim MP would they be doing this? If it had been some ordinary white middle-class MP, would they have been bugged?” He added that this was a violation of an MP’s relationship with his constituent: “If you have not got the confidence to see your MP and know it is privileged, then that raises serious questions. It is f****** outrageous.” The bugging is a probable breach of the Wilson doctrine that has protected politicians from eavesdropping by the security services for more than 40 years. It was introduced by Harold Wilson, then prime minister, and was reaffirmed in the Commons by Tony Blair as recently as March 2006. Yesterday a senior Scotland Yard officer said Khan’s work as a defence lawyer had generated “ill feeling” in the Metropolitan police and questioned whether the force had legitimate grounds for the bugging. The officer said: “To do this you have to suspect the MP of being involved in some sort of conspiracy.” He added that the operation may have breached Ahmad’s legal privilege: “The officers in charge would have known that because Khan is an MP and a lawyer there was a grave danger that the legal professional privilege would be breached.”

Ahmad remains in jail having lost his appeals in Britain and is awaiting a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. He has also lodged a civil claim against Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner. Ahmad’s wife Maryam has called for the home secretary to investigate the police bugging operation. Last week an official report suggested that authorities, including local councils, were launching bugging operations against 1,000 people a day. The Metropolitan police declined to comment yesterday.
© The Times Online



The Netherlands frets about the likely impact of a new anti-Islam film

7/2/2008- The Netherlands is going through a “considerable crisis”, says the prime minister. The Iranians are musing publicly about cutting diplomatic ties. The grand mufti of Syria has issued grave warnings of war and bloodshed. Dutch citizens living in Muslim countries have been asked to report any worrying incidents. The one thing missing is the cause of the fuss: an anti-Islamic film neither made nor shown by a Dutch member of parliament, Geert Wilders. In November Mr Wilders revealed his plan to air on television an exposé of the wickedness of the Koran, which he calls an Islamic “Mein Kampf”. The film is said to include shots of him desecrating the Koran. Dutch state television appears reluctant to show it, so Mr Wilders now talks of a private broadcaster, or using the internet. But the mere talk of his film has been enough to ignite a renewed debate about Islam in Europe and the limits on free speech.

The Dutch have reason to worry. Two years ago the publication of Muhammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper triggered anti-Danish riots around the Muslim world. Two years before that a film about Islam, “Submission”, was shown on Dutch television; soon afterwards its director, Theo van Gogh, was butchered in an Amsterdam street by a radical Dutch Islamist, who also threatened the screenplay writer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (now living in America). Mr Wilders's film could, some fear, have similarly violent consequences. Mr Wilders's anti-immigrant party has nine seats in parliament, too few to affect the government's fairly tolerant policy towards the country's Muslim minority. But he has jabbed his finger into several sore spots. He has publicly questioned the loyalty of two cabinet members with dual nationality (ie, Turkish and Moroccan as well as Dutch). He called a third minister “barking mad” because of her liberal integration policies. And he has demanded a ban on immigration from Muslim countries. Mr Wilders might seem just a provocateur. But his power lies in the rhetoric that he uses to contrast such liberal notions as gay rights and female emancipation with the image of an intolerant and anti-modern Islam, says Paul Schnabel, head of a Dutch government social-science institute. Polls show that the Dutch rate freedom of speech as one of their most important values—and many see Mr Wilders as its champion. He is a “modern conservative”, argues Mr Schnabel, able convincingly to demand of immigrants that they should show full loyalty to Dutch values.

As important as Mr Wilders's political talent is the absence of powerful countervailing voices speaking up for inclusiveness, pluralism and a more respectful public debate. Many Muslim immigrants suffer from relative poverty, from high levels of crime and from social segregation. The government focuses on policies to improve the education of second-generation Muslims, get more of them to work and find ways to reduce crime. The justice minister, Ernst Hirsch Ballin, insists that such measures offer the best hope of improving the sour relationship between Muslims and native Dutch folk. But the technospeak often used to describe them hardly matches the fiery one-liners launched from the right.
© The Economist



3/2/2008- According to exit polls and his own Democratic Party, Serbia's incumbent pro-European President Boris Tadic wins re-election in the run-off with ultra-nationalist opposition leader Tomislav Nikolic. According to estimates given by poll monitors CeSID, Tadic has edged out Nikolic in a very close result. The non-governmental organisation said its latest estimates, based on the official count, gave Tadic 50.5 percent of support against 47.9 percent for ultra-nationalist candidate Tomislav Nikolic. The announcement by CeSID sparked wild celebrations in the streets of Belgrade. CeSID, known for its reliability, added that the turnout of the 6.7 million votes was 67.7 percent -- the highest in Serbia since late president Slobodan Milosevic was defeated in elections in September 2000.

More follows...
© Deutsche Welle



3/2/2008- Last May, hours after ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic was forced to resign as speaker of Serbia's parliament, tens of thousands of young people massed in Belgrade to welcome home Marija Serifovic, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision is a big deal in the Balkans, and, when Serifovic dedicated her victory to a new, young, European Serbia, millions of compatriots saw it as a turning point for their downtrodden nation, a feeling intensified by the departure of the hardline Nikolic. Today, Nikolic could become president of a country that is again poised on a political knife-edge, and Serifovic is being denounced for allegedly endorsing him by young Serbs who threaten to leave their homeland if the old ally of Slobodan Milosevic takes power. The election race between Nikolic and incumbent Boris Tadic is too close to call, and is seen as a referendum on whether Serbs want to eventually join the European Union or turn their back on the West and draw closer to a resurgent Russia. For Nikolic, it would be treason to court an EU that supports Kosovo's imminent declaration of independence, while for Tadic it would be something similar to abandon Serbia's bid for membership of a bloc that all its neighbours are determined to join. A few thousand votes could decide today's winner, making turnout among Serbia's disaffected youth a crucial factor - and making Serifovic's apparent endorsement of Nikolic a major boost for the ultra-nationalist and a blow for Tadic and his liberal supporters.

Many young Serbs were outraged to see Serifovic sing at campaign rallies for Nikolic, leader of a party whose founder is on trial for war crimes, has a reputation for racism and homophobia, and lauds genocide suspect Ratko Mladic as a national hero. Singing for Nikolic seemed an odd move for a 23-year-old Roma woman who is idolised by Serbia's beleaguered gay and lesbian community, but also appeared to reveal fault lines in a society stuck in poverty and isolation since the war-ravaged 1990s. 'Young people are divided, and many under-20s are very radical,' said Dragan Popovic of Serbia's Youth Initiative for Human Rights. 'They are sick of the lack of jobs and prospects in this country and are angry with the EU and the conditions it places on membership. Also, they don't really remember how bad things were in the 1990s, and because they want some sort of change they support Nikolic.' Polls suggest most young Serbs back Tadic, however, especially well-educated, urban people who are desperate to join the EU and escape Milosevic's shadow. 'They are afraid of Nikolic's nationalist, conservative, anti-EU stance and support Tadic,' said Popovic. 'But if Nikolic wins, lots of the best-educated young Serbs will leave. They will find good jobs in the West and be lost to Serbia.' Sonja Licht, president of Belgrade's Fund for Political Excellence, said Tadic should have done more to target young voters. 'Thousands of young people have already abandoned Serbia and thousands more of the best and brightest are ready to go if Nikolic wins,' she said. 'They are waiting for the outcome of the election and if it favours Nikolic - who won't foster ties with the EU - then the outflow of talented people will get even quicker.'

Tadic vows to give young Serbs a future in the EU, and Brussels has tried to boost his chances by delaying a final decision on Kosovo's status and offering to sign a deal next week to strengthen ties with Belgrade and allow Serbs to travel in the EU without a visa. But that may not be enough to rouse Serbia's youth from deep political apathy that saw only one-in-ten young voters take part in the first round of the presidential election. 'I'm sick and tired of elections and politicians and I couldn't care less who will win,' said Belgrade student Ana Petrovic. 'I didn't vote in the first round and I most certainly will not vote in the second. Why should I? Nothing will change in my life, I still won't be able to travel or get a decent job.' The same disillusionment seems to have gripped Serifovic, who denies endorsing Nikolic and says she only sang for the Radicals to return an unspecified "favour" to the party. 'I'm not interested in politics and I'm not going to vote,' she told the Observer. 'I don't actually give a damn who wins, as long as they give Serbs a better life.'
© The Observer



2/2/2008- It’s been a bad week for NGOs in Cyprus, with news of women’s support centre Apanemi’s prosecution coming on the heels of last Sunday’s arrest of the Doros Polycarpou, the head of Action for Equality Support and Antiracism in Cyprus (KISA). Polycarpou was arrested for playing music without a licence at a protest outside the Interior Ministry by the families of asylum seekers indefinitely detained by the state. Plainclothes police officers were also accused of beating protesters as the demo degenerated into scuffles. So what is the state’s attitude to NGOs? According to KISA, the picture is bleak and the help offered by the state minimal. Polycarpou offers his analysis of the situation. “For one, Cyprus has a peculiarity,” Polycarpou explained. “NGOs that were founded after 1974 were founded with the support of the state and occupied with issues that had to do with problems that arose after 1974.” Another issue, he pointed out, is that Cyprus society is very set in its broader action through the island’s political parties. “We lead a very political life, which isn’t necessarily negative; it’s just a fact. “These are two factors that make it objectively difficult to develop a civil society in Cyprus.” However, these difficulties, according to Polycarpou, are intensified by the subjective factor. “We were founded in 1998 and were possibly the first NGO with the character of an independent, non-governmental organisation that is occupied in specific matters. Its stance – whichever party is in power – is determined through its actions and not its political preferences.” It was also the first time that an organisation such as KISA was not just acting as an assistant to the state.

“NGOs in Cyprus were seen as a helper to the state, to exercise its social policy, deal with the problems of drugs, domestic violence etc. “KISA was an organisation that had two roles – and to the outside it looks like a contradicting role – on the one hand it co-operates with the state to deal with problems, and on the other, it has a critical stance regarding the effectiveness of the measures proposed by the government.” He added: “This was something new and the government had not evaluated these factors properly, resulting in this situation today; the state has not yet managed to create a constructive and respectful stance towards NGOs.” According to Polycarpou, the state’s negative stance towards KISA began when it was founded, with the Interior Minister at the time “more or less making it seem that we were hypersensitive and making various accusations against us”. This wasn’t helped by the attitude of state services, especially the police, towards KISA. “This was because they were under constant pressure and criticism from us over how they were doing their job.” But if there is one thing KISA recognises, it’s that in the past 10 years the police have made far greater progress than any other state service, and this is due to the fact that they have received the most criticism when it comes to migrant policies. “But instead of seeing this as something positive, they take this defensive stance and more or less see you as the enemy because you are criticising them for the things that are going wrong,” said Polycarpou. He wondered, “If the political leadership cannot understand this role, how can the police? “And yet if we look at these reports that the Cyprus Republic prepares for the outside, we will see a very good and close relationship between the state and NGOs,” he said.

“Many times we have noticed in state reports, for racism for example, the projection of KISA’s actions in order to project to the outside that there are NGOs that work on these matters in Cyprus and execute a positive job.” So what is the situation today? “First of all, the government is not supporting us with its statements. Even if they disagree with an NGO, they have a duty as a state to stress the significance of co-operation and stress their respect towards NGOs. It is not acceptable for the state to undermine NGOs, even if they don’t totally agree with its actions,” said Polycarpou. “The state needs to support us politically so we can execute our role in society.” As for the criminalisation KISA has been subjected to, Polycarpou says: “Should I list all the cases we have had against us? The attacks; personal attacks. It is not just the organisation that is under target. It is also its members. Each one of us can list two and three examples where they were subjected to persecution, either at their workplace if they are a civil servant, or elsewhere because they are a KISA activist.” The state, he says, offers very little help. “It has been 10 years now and they still haven’t given us a building to offer these services. We have plastic buckets to gather the water when it rains as it floods the building out,” he said. Furthermore, the state refused KISA’s application for funds to offer legal advice to political asylum seekers – a practice that has been going on for the past five years – as the request was half an hour late being submitted. “They preferred for asylum seekers not to have legal aid, instead of accepting our form half an hour late. And this delay was because I was abroad and the Board member that was responsible for submitting it happened to have a crisis with his back and the doctor had to give him an injection before he could take the form. And they didn’t accept it. “So we have this financial strangulation.”

Polycarpou, like Apanemi head Julia Kalimeri, believes KISA has been subjected to persecution and unfair treatment. “A policeman of the state’s secret services KYP, which are occupied with matters of national safety, used to visit migrants and migrant organisations and offer them money to distance themselves from KISA. For this we have testimonies and it has been proven, they can’t deny it,” Polycarpou claimed. “I think [one of the reasons why NGOs come across such resistance from the state] is because the government has this attitude that whoever doesn’t agree with us is an enemy. The second is that they want migrants in our country to be without a voice. If KISA stopped doing what it did, who would be a voice for the migrants in Cyprus?”

No funds from the state
According to Polycarpou, KISA has received almost no support from the state since it was founded. “We had some support, around £8,000 from the Labour Department.” As he explained, what is costly is maintaining permanent staff in KISA’s two centres in Nicosia and Limassol, something for which they have repeatedly asked the state for help. “We have even asked the state to provide these services so we can occupy ourselves with other matters. But we can’t close our doors on the immigrants and refugees, as they will have nowhere to turn.” KISA is now internally trying to figure out how to detach itself from the state. “We are tired of depending on the state. Many of our members have taken out personal loans in order to support this organisation. But this must have a limit. This is not right. But what other solution do we have?”
© Cyprus Mail



2/2/2008- Police fired tear gas today when rival far-right and anarchist demonstrators clashed in central Athens, sending shoppers rushing into stores for safety. A scheduled march by about 60 members of Greece's far-right Golden Dawn group was met by anarchists, leading to a series of skirmishes that spread through the city's back streets. "About 400 anarchists barricaded themselves along the main street throwing rocks and petrol bombs," a police officer at the scene said. "Two policemen and two anarchists have been slightly hurt, but there are no serious injuries." Police cordoned off the city centre as the groups clashed and lit fires, causing huge traffic jams. Golden Dawn, an extreme right-wing group with links to European neo-Nazis, was commemorating the date in 1996 when Greece and Turkey almost went to war over an uninhabited island in the Aegean known as Imia in Greek and Kardak in Turkish. "The situation has calmed down, but we are still on alert for any escalation," the police officer said.
© Reuters



6/2/2008- Racism is an issue in Spanish sport and reflects attitudes held in wider Spanish society. However, cases of serious discrimination or violence based on race seem no more prevalent in Spain than in other western European countries. Where it is possible to point the finger at Spain is for its wide tolerance for less extreme forms of racism - like using race as a way to hurl insults or make fun of someone. The racist taunting of Lewis Hamilton is just the latest high-profile example.

'Acceptable' abuse
Four years ago, British football players Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole were the target of monkey chants from Spanish fans during an international friendly in Madrid. British fans were outraged, but for many Spanish fans this is seen as an acceptable way of abusing the opposition. It regularly occurs in Spanish league games. That incident followed Spanish national football coach Luis Aragones making abusive racist comments about French striker Thierry Henry. You could imagine that sort of incident in Britain leading to the resignation of the national football coach - not in Spain. The Spanish Football Federation was very slow to take action, but did eventually end up fining Aragones. The Spanish press reacted, but not with much of a sense of outrage. The decision by a small group of fans to paint themselves black and taunt Lewis Hamilton with racist abuse at the Formula One circuit in Barcelona was denounced by Spain's sporting authorities. But there is a definite sense among sports followers here that the British press is exaggerating an incident that could have happened anywhere to suit an anti-Alonso bias. Spain's Fernando Alonso and Hamilton are two former team-mates who rowed publicly last season. And Spanish sports fans - through their comments posted on news websites - often seem to condemn and excuse the abuse at the same time, seeing it not so much as racism but as bad taste in the context of a fierce sporting rivalry.

'Lamentable insults'
Jaime Martin edits the Formula One section of Marca, Spain's biggest selling sports newspaper. ''It's been exaggerated in the news reports a bit. It was only four or five people who were doing this in the context of the competition between Alonso and Lewis," he says. "It's certain that the insults were racist, but if Lewis was bald the insults would have related to his baldness." Like Mr Martin, many Spaniards do not see much difference between racist insults based on the colour of someone's skin and other forms of verbal abuse. ''These sorts of racist insults are lamentable and racist insults need to be eradicated, and so do non-racist forms of abuse" says Mr Martin. On the website of national newspaper El Pais the racism directed at Lewis Hamilton is confronted in a sideways manner. A survey asks readers whether they think there should be more control of the signs and placards people bring to motor racing events. The majority say yes, but a British audience would probably see a survey on placard control after an incident like this as rather missing the main point. British society has much less tolerance for this form of racism than Spanish society does, and there is a consciousness about race-related issues in the UK that does not exist in Spain. After many decades of immigration, and with it a certain amount of experience on race issues, British society is generally much more sophisticated and sensitive about race - although there are clearly still serious problems. Spain is just starting along that same road. Until the death of dictator General Franco in 1975, migration to Spain was virtually non-existent. During the last decade the population of migrants - among them Latin Americans and Africans - has risen by more than 400% to about five million.

For any society, even Spain, which has a reputation for being generally open and friendly to foreigners, that is a big adjustment. Isabel Martinez is spokesperson for SOS Racism in Barcelona. She says: "Immigration has been a part of British society for much longer, here it is a newer phenomenon - although that is not an excuse." "The things that happens on a football field or in motor racing are a reflection of the reality of day-to-day life in Spain." Ms Martinez thinks the more attention that is focused on Spain's racism problem, the better. Anti-racism groups are concerned that unless education programs are introduced in schools, sport and the workplace, current insensitive attitudes to race could contribute to serious social problems. "What we should do is learn from that experience in Britain and use it as an example," says Ms Martinez. "It's not too late."
© BBC News



8/2/2008- Toni Calderon was one of four fans who wore dark curly wigs, black make-up and T-shirts with the words "Hamilton's family" at the Montmelo circuit near Barcelona during testing last weekend. As Hamilton walked from the McClaren team paddock to the circuit last Saturday, he faced more insults and racist abuse. Gerry Sutcliffe, Britain's Sports minister, condemned the incidents as "sickening" and said he would make an official protest to his Spanish counterpart. Formula One's governing body, the FIA, has launched an investigation and could ban Spain from holding two Grands Prix in Barcelona and Valencia later this year. Mr Calderon told the Spanish daily Publico: "We went last Sunday and we dressed up to celebrate Carnival. We wanted to give a touch of humour to Montmelo and have a laugh at the father of [Lewis] Hamilton. We didn't have the slightest intention to laugh at anyone, nor to laugh at the British driver for the colour of his skin. "I am not a racist and it has made me ashamed to appear like that in the British press. Also, as I am in the middle of the photo [of four blacked up fans], I seem like the protagonist. This has angered me." Mr Calderon said no one on security said a word when the group arrived at the circuit dressed as "Hamilton's family". "On the contrary, the people on security at the gate started laughing and let us pass," he said. "In fact half the people who saw us thought we were fans of Hamilton. Lots of people took pictures of us. "If I had known that this was going to happen, I would never have dressed up, but I want to be very clear that we never intended to offend. "We haven't done anything wrong. I would not have any problem to explain it personally to McClaren and Lewis who is a star."

Hamilton finished second in the drivers' championship last year in his rookie season and was widely blamed in Spain for the failure of his team-mate Fernando Alonso to win a third consecutive Formula One title. Hamilton said: "The truth is that I feel somewhat sad, I am in love with this country, and especially the city of Barcelona and this circuit, which is one of my three favourites." The Spanish Motor Sports Federation expressed its "absolute repulsion" after the incident. At Montmelo, circuit staff erected barriers around the McClaren paddock while banners making references to Hamilton and the team boss, Ron Dennis, were removed. The stands above McLaren's garage were cleared to ensure no missiles could be thrown. Racism has dogged Spanish sport for many years and it is common at football matches for abuse to be directed at black players.
© Independent Digital



3/2/2008- British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton suffered racist abuse from Spanish fans during testing at the Montmelo circuit in Barcelona, Spanish media reported on Sunday. Reports in a number of papers said the McLaren driver was booed and insulted whenever he made his way from the team motorhome and into the pits on Saturday. The correspondent from sports daily Marca said that shouts of "puto negro" (fucking black) and "negro de mierda" (black shit) were clearly heard and that large sections of the crowd were involved. "It is not right the way he is being treated," McLaren test team manager Indy Lall was quoted as saying. Marca said that the circuit director asked for fences to be put up around the McLaren paddock and ordered the removal of banners that had been put up opposite the team's base. Daily La Vanguardia also said the circuit director had reminded fans of their obligations at the venue.
"We would like to make a plea to the fans to behave correctly, no type of offensive behaviour can be tolerated," circuit director Ramon Pradera was quoted as saying in the newspaper. Hamilton, who finished runner-up in last year's championship, has become a hate figure in Spain because of his rivalry with former McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso who now drives for Renault. "McLaren has raced and tested on Spanish circuits for many years and everyone connected with the team regards Spain and the Spanish people with great affection, Lewis included," said a McLaren spokeswoman. Incidents of racism have plagued Spanish sport, in particular football, in recent years.
© The Guardian



2/2/2008- Sweden has slashed the proportion of Iraqi asylum seekers it has allowed to stay in the country, following the tightening of rules by the judiciary, the immigration service said Saturday. Last year some 90 percent of candidates from Iraq were granted asylum, while for January this year the proportion was down to some 40 percent, spokesman Per Loman said. Loman said the comparison between a year and a month was not very apt, while adding, "It's too short to talk about a new trend but of course it could have a connection with the decision made last year by a court." Though the law had not changed, the conditions required for permission to stay had been "clarified," he said, referring to the fact that asylum-seekers had to prove that they were personally under threat of persecution. "The general situation in Iraq is not enough anymore to get a permission to stay in Sweden," Loman said. Sweden is the leading European state for granting asylum to Iraqis, who now form the country's second-largest foreign community after the Finns. According to the immigration service, 18,559 Iraqis sought asylum in Sweden last year, compared with 8,950 in 2006. The brakes began to go on in July, when some Iraqis who had settled in Sweden were told they could no longer stay.
© The Local



By Haroon Siddiqui, the Star's editorial page editor emeritus

7/2/2008- Given the prevailing paranoiac obsession with Islam, the media have duly informed us that the "Islamist" government of Turkey is set to lift the "secular" ban on the hijab in universities. Another view of this development would be that a democratic government is about to restore some basic human rights for women: freeing them from state strictures on what they should or should not wear. Meanwhile, a more significant development in Turkey is going unnoticed in the West: the busting of a right-wing plot of murder and mayhem, designed to destabilize the country and trigger a coup against the elected government. Number one on the plotters' hit list was Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk. Thirty-three members of a clandestine cell are charged with "provoking armed rebellion." They include: A retired army general who was earlier allegedly associated with bombings and extrajudicial killings – incidents that were blamed on "Islamists" and others; A leading prosecutor who had hauled Pamuk and other writers into court, on the infamous charge of "insulting Turkishness" – such as questioning the official denial of the 1915-17 Armenian genocide; Some former army officers with links to an anti-Semitic academic, who thinks that "Hitler was right about certain things," and that 9/11 was the work of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. Turkey is abuzz with the expectation that a thorough probe and a transparent trial may, finally, unmask "the Deep State." That refers to the shadowy forces in the army, the judiciary and the bureaucracy long suspected of working with the mafia to advance their ultra-nationalist agenda. They are thought to have been behind the murder of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007 and a judge in Ankara in 2006.

The latest arrests are unprecedented, and follow a public pledge by Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan to expose and eradicate such elements. He has been democratizing Turkey to strengthen its candidacy for the European Union. He has run into stiff resistance by the old guard, led by the army, which is ostensibly safeguarding Turkey's secular traditions against the "Islamic" encroachments of his religious Peace and Justice Party. In fact, he is dismantling the autocratic policies put in place back in 1925 by Kemal Ataturk. That legacy includes keeping religion at bay with bayonets, denying the wrongs done to the Armenians, oppressing the Kurdish minority and silencing political and intellectual dissidents. Erdogan has already begun restoring the linguistic and cultural rights of the Kurds, even while battling Kurdish separatists in the south along the border with Iraq. Last year, he nominated as his presidential candidate Abdullah Gul, whose wife wears a hijab. That led the army to threaten a coup. Gul won handily. Now the government is easing the ban on the hijab. Next, it hopes to axe the law against "insulting Turkishness." But its move against the nationalists is its boldest. Last week, the main headline on Page 1 of the English newspaper Zaman captured the widespread public sentiment:
"Million-dollar question: Who's the boss of the Deep State? It's time to get the number one in the operation."

A historic democratic battle to end the quasi-dictatorship of the Turkish army and expose the elusive fascist forces that have long haunted Turkey has finally begun. Too bad the West remains fixated on a piece of cloth called the hijab.
© The Toronto Star



2/2/2008- More than 100,000 Turks took to the streets on Saturday to protest against government plans to lift an Islamic headscarf ban at universities and to defend the country's strong secular tradition. Protesters called on the government to resign as they gathered at the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a symbol of secularism in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. Military authorities who manage the mausoleum said 126,500 people demonstrated. "I am very angry -- not against veiled women but against those who want to cover the republic's values with a veil," said novelist Sevgi Ozel, who was among the protesters. Cemil Yasavul, 46, said she would "defend secularism until the last drop of my blood ... It is our most precious value." Turkey's Islamist-rooted ruling party submitted to parliament this week a draft amendment to allow the Islamic headscarf in universities, making good on a six-year-old electoral promise. It was to be voted on next week. The reform was agreed to after weeks of bargaining between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP). The two parties easily have the two-thirds parliamentary majority required to amend the constitution, but debate over the potentially explosive issue is far from over. Defenders of the country's strict separation of church and state, including the army and senior judges, see the headscarf as a symbol of defiance against Turkey's secular system. Leading Turkish academics Friday also warned that the country's secular system was under a "serious threat." The chairman of a university oversight board, Mustafa Akaydin, said some women academics were already considering boycotting classes if the bill is passed.

"We are concerned that universities will plunge into a chaotic environment and opposing groups will start clashing with each other," he said. But Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan defended the proposal on Saturday as a necessary reform that could further the country's bid to join the European Union. "The controversy that has arisen in recent days in Turkey unfortunately weakens, for the most part, Turkey's image abroad," the minister told reporters, according to Anatolia news agency. "Turkey is a country that must move forward in the area of rights and liberties," he added. "Turkey is a country that is obliged to carry out political reforms to arrive at full membership in the European Union." Erdogan had promised before his first electoral victory in 2002 that the "unfair (headscarf) ban will be abolished," but is in a position to deliver only now -- thanks to his party's solid re-election win in July. A former Islamist whose wife and daughters wear the Islamic head cover, Erdogan says respect for basic human rights is his sole motivation in pushing through the amendment. "We want to lift all laws that result in all sorts of absurd restrictions on people," AKP vice president Egemen Bagis said Saturday, according to Anatolia. But many experts say lifting the ban upheld by the country's highest courts -- and, in a 2005 ruling, by the European Court of Human Rights -- will deal a blow to the state-religion separation, one of the founding principles of the modern Turkish Republic. Some argue that once the Islamic headscarf is allowed on campus, it will make its way into the civil service and eventually become a source of religious and social pressure on millions of women who do not cover up. Hundreds of thousands of people participated in protests last spring against the government and in favour of secularism.



1/2/2008- Dozens of university deans on Friday warned the Islamic-rooted government and a conservative opposition party against lifting a decades-old ban on Islamic head scarves in universities, saying it would pose a serious threat to the country's secular traditions. Deans of several state and private universities gathered in Ankara as a parliamentary commission began debating the proposed measure days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party struck a deal with the Nationalist Action Party to allow women wearing head scarves on campuses. Lawmakers from the secular Republican People's Party opposed the measure in the commission meeting, but they lack seats to prevent the measure from being approved on the floor. A vote could come as early as next week. "Turkey is secular and will remain secular," shouted some deans at the end of their meeting. Thousands of secularists are expected to march in Ankara against the measure on Saturday. "We are warning those who support this measure and those who remain silent that it would erode the gains of the republic and the secular order will come to an end," said Mustafa Akaydin, head of a council that serves as a bridge between universities. "It would inevitably transform the Turkish republic into a religious state." The government says the measure is aimed at ensuring liberties at universities and that it intends to uphold secular principles enshrined in the constitution. The government-appointed new higher education chief, Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, supports an end to the head scarf ban. He warned the deans at the beginning of the council meeting that they were overstepping their responsibilities. But Akaydin said protecting secularism was their main responsibility and that they feared that freedom to wear a head scarf would not be limited to universities alone. Secularists fear it could be expanded to primary and secondary education as well as state offices. Turkey's debate over wearing headscarves grew out of tension between the Islamic-oriented government and the military-backed, secular establishment, which faced off in a struggle for political power last year. The conflict ebbed after the government scored a resounding victory in general elections and its presidential candidate, Abdullah Gul, won election on his second attempt.
© International Herald Tribune



In the wake of a tragic fire in the southwestern German city of Ludwigshafen, the Turkish media immediately concluded, without concrete evidence, that the blaze was the work of xenophobic Germans. The media reports underscore how troubled the relationship is between Turks and Germans -- and between Ankara and Berlin.

7/2/2008- Nine people died in an apartment building fire in the western German city of Ludwigshafen on Sunday, but the investigation into the causes of the blaze has not led to any conclusions yet. Nevertheless, the Turkish press is already convinced that it was a racially motivated attack. Wednesday's issue of the tabloid Aksam ran a cover story titled "Nazi Panic in Germany." The pro-government dailyYeni Safak wrote: "It's Solingen all over again." And even Sabah, a Turkish news agency, seemed convinced that the fire must have been the work of neo-Nazis. For Sabah, graffiti found near the site of the blaze that called for all "dirty Turks" to be killed was evidence enough. The Turkish press quoted witnesses to support these claims, including two young Turkish girls who said they saw a suspicious-looking man in the building's hallway shortly before the fire. Family members of the victims told the Turkish daily Zaman that the Kaplan family had been threatened by young German neo-Nazis shortly after moving into the corner apartment building in Ludwigshafen. The public prosecutor's office in the nearby town of Frankenthal told SPIEGEL ONLINE that it is investigating the possibility of a neo-Nazi connection. Meanwhile, Maria Böhmer, the federal government's integration commissioner and a member of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), has reported that Turkish adolescents attacked a German fireman. The man, who was involved in the rescue effort on Sunday, was assaulted later that night.

A Deep Feeling of Distrust
Despite the German authority's intensive investigation of the fire, a deep feeling of mistrust has taken hold in Turkey: against the German police, which the Turks say refuses to acknowledge the possible neo-Nazi connection, and against German politicians for, as Ankara claims, not taking Turkish fears of neo-Nazi arsonists seriously enough. Ayhan Kaya, a sociologist at Bilgi University in Istanbul, is not surprised by the reactions of many Turks. Kaya, who specializes in immigration studies, believes that Germans of Turkish heritage have been under attack for some time. The election campaign in the state of Hesse, with its xenophobic undertones (more...), was pursued with great interest in Turkey. According to Kaya, "there was open incitement against foreigners" in Hesse. The fear among many Germans of headscarf-wearing fundamentalists and of violent youth gangs, as well as the widespread opposition to EU membership for Turkey combine, says Kaya, to form a dangerous mix. "We don't want another Solingen," said Kaya, referring to an infamous tragedy in the western German town of Solingen, where in 1993 two Turkish women and three young girls were killed in a house fire set by an arsonist. "Can anyone fault the Turks for believing that this is another Solingen?" Kaya asks, although he is reluctant to assign the blame for the tragic fire in Ludwigshafen to neo-Nazis without sufficient evidence. Meanwhile, the Turkish government has announced that it plans to get involved in the case. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent State Minister Mustafa Said Yazicioglu, responsible for Turks living abroad, to Ludwigshafen on Tuesday. Yazicioglu was accompanied by a team of Turkish detectives and fire experts, although German authorities have limited their activities in Ludwigshafen. "They are permitted to ask questions, but not to interrogate," said a spokeswoman of Germany's Interior Ministry.

"We Don't Want another Solingen"
Erdogan, who will attend the Munich Conference on Security Policy this weekend, plans to visit the site of the fire on Thursday. "We don't want another Solingen," the prime minister told Turkish newspapers. We hope fervently that this incident was not motivated by xenophobia." A memorial service will be held no later than next week in Gaziantep, the town in southeastern Turkey where the victims' families come from. Asim Güzelbey, the mayor of Gaziantep, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that German officials want to complete their forensic investigation before the bodies can be flown to Turkey, which is unlikely to happen until Sunday. The residents of his town, says Güzelbey, are deeply moved by the suffering of their fellow Turks, and yet they harbor no hatred of Germans. On the contrary, he insists: "We don't know if it was an accident or an attack," says Güzelbey. "All we know is that the German is not a society of arsonists. They are friends of Turkey." German politicians of Turkish descent have called on the media not to draw overly hasty conclusions. Bülent Arslan, a CDU politician from the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, believes that the position taken by the Turkish media is dangerous. The representatives of Turkish associations in Germany, he adds, are also playing up the incident. According to Arslan, it is very important to prevent the situation from escalating even further. "When people start asking themselves which country is worse, Turkey or Germany, and when these sorts of issues become the center of attention, the psychological consequences will be devastating," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE. Meanwhile, the telephone has been ringing off the hook in the office of Cem Özdemir, a Green Party politician, as the Turkish media inundate him with questions. He says that he has held back until now and that he expects the same kind of restraint from his "German colleagues of German descent." According to Özdemir, all sides should exercise greater caution. Politicians should not try to second-guess the investigators or rule out any possibilities as long as the investigations are still underway. The current confusion, says Özdemir, underscores the considerable amount of mistrust on both sides, as well as revealing the poor quality of government-level communication between Germany and Turkey -- and between German politicians and the Turkish community.

"Our Only Comfort Is the Huge Outpouring of Sympathy"
"What we need now is a politician who, as a friend of the Turkish community, can inspire confidence," Özdemir told SPIEGEL ONLINE. He is convinced that the government's integration commissioner, Maria Böhmer, isn't the right person for the job and that she is unpopular and has little sway among Turkish-Germans. Lale Akgün, a Social Democratic member of parliament, is suspicious about Turkish politicians' motives for taking up the issue of the Ludwigshafen fire. It is one thing, says Akgün, for Turkish specialists to come to Germany because they can contribute significantly to the investigation. "But that's not the reason. Instead, one has the sense that Big Brother has arrived to look out for Turks, so that bad things don't happen to them in Germany." This, according to Akgün, is harmful to the goal of integration. He also believes that the German public is already very sensitized to radical right-wing activities. When Kenan Kolat, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD), visited Ludwigshafen and met with the family members of the victims and other building residents, he said that they were surprisingly levelheaded and that they were not quick to pass judgment. According to Kolat, the local Turkish community greatly values the work of the German authorities and believes that the city's mayor has been very supportive. "Our only comfort in this situation is that there has been such a huge outpouring of sympathy from Germans," Kolat told SPIEGEL ONLINE.
© Spiegel Online



7/2/2008- Neo-Nazi graffiti was found scrawled on the entrance to a Turkish cultural center at a building where nine people — including five children — were killed in a fire over the weekend, police said Wednesday. The German word for hate — "Hass" — was written twice on the wall, with the final two letters in the Nazi "SS" rune script, police spokesman Michael Lindner said. He said it was not yet known when the graffiti had appeared, but that it must have been scrawled before the fire because the building had been secured since the blaze on Sunday. Authorities have already said that two small fires were started in the building in 2006 but that they were quickly put out by residents, and it is not yet clear whether they were related to the fire. Meanwhile, police were working with two young witnesses to develop a sketch of a man they said set a fire in a building. The girls, aged 8 and 9, whose names were not released, have said they saw a man setting fire to something with his lighter and then throwing it next to a baby carriage in the hallway of the building in Ludwigshafen, in southwestern Germany. It is hoped they will be able to recall enough to produce a portrait that could be distributed later in the day, police spokesman Volker Klein said. "Every clue is being taken seriously," he said. However, an initial search with sniffer dogs turned up no trace of anything that might have fed the fire. The fire broke out on Sunday afternoon, quickly engulfing the four-story building in smoke and flames. People jumped for their lives from the burning building; and in a dramatic scene, a 32-year-old man possibly saved his infant nephew, Onur, by throwing him to a policeman 23 feet below, who caught the child. "To let him fall was the only chance," the uncle, Kamil Kaplan, told Bild newspaper. "There was a policeman in front of the house, I made eye contact with him and knew that it would work. The official took his jacket off and held it like a safety net. I kissed Onur again. Then I let him drop."

German police said the infant was unharmed and the parents, whom they did not identify, also survived the blaze. Besides housing the cultural center, the building was inhabited by two Turkish families. In total, 24 people were registered as living at the residence but it was unclear how many were in the building at the time of the fire. The Turkish ambassador visited the site on Tuesday and Turkish state minister Sait Yazicioglu followed on Wednesday. "Our people should not have any concerns about the investigation," he told Turkish reporters after inspecting the site. "The investigation will be concluded in a way that leaves no room for any doubt." Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who is making a previously scheduled visit to Germany — has indicated he will also go to the fire scene. Rescue workers finally secured the building, which is in danger of collapse, to allow investigators with the sniffer dogs to enter Wednesday and look for clues as to the cause of the blaze. Late Tuesday, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble urged people not to jump to any conclusions as to the cause. "It is terrible misfortune, it is really a catastrophe, but there is currently — so far as I know — absolutely no basis for any wide-ranging assumptions," Schaeuble said on Suedwestrundfunk radio.
© Associated Press



6/2/2008- Turkey heaped pressure on German authorities yesterday to speed up an investigation into a fire that killed nine people, amid suspicions that it may have been started by neo-Nazis. It was an uncomfortable suspicion that the people of Ludwigshafen did not want to deal with as they mourned the deaths on Sunday of the Turks, including five children and a pregnant woman, in what is being called the city’s worst blaze since the Second World War. Most preferred to marvel at the survival of eight-month-old Onur, dropped by his parents into the arms of a policeman who was thrown to the ground by the impact. “We understand that the officer is seen as a hero but he doesn’t want to be identified,” Dieter Klein, a police spokesman, said. “He was just doing his duty.” Onur’s parents were being treated in hospital for burns and respiratory problems. The nagging question of who or what started the blaze would not go away yesterday. "We don’t want another Solingen,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, said. He was referring to a strikingly similar incident in 1993: an arson attack on a Turkish family in the steel town that killed five and ruptured relations between Germans and the Turkish community. Only after sluggish detective work did police arrest four neo-Nazis.

Ludwigshafen, too, has its neo-Nazi hangouts. An industrial city in southwest Germany, it has always employed large numbers of Turks in its chemical factories. As youth unemployment has grown, so has resentment. “We hope that this was not an act based on hostility towards foreigners,” Mr Erdogan said. “We want light shone on this incident as soon as possible.” Four detectives are to be sent from Turkey and Mr Erdogan will visit victims tomorrow. About 20 people were said still to be in hospital, three on the critical list. Cranes were used yesterday to lift the remains of the roof, to ensure that the whole structure would not collapse. The fire appears to have swept up a wooden staircase, cutting off the people on the third and fourth floors. A Turkish website named seven of the nine dead as Medine Kaplan, 50, her daughters-in-law Hülya Kaplan and Döne Kaplan and their children, Kenan, Karanfil, Ilyas and Dilara. According to the Turkish newspaper Sabah, Belma Özkapli died when she jumped out of the window. Police confirmed that one woman died when she missed the rescue blanket after leaping through the smoke and flames. So far the only suggestion that the fire was started deliberately has come from a seven-year-old child named Aylin. Speaking on television she said: “There was a man who lit his cigarette lighter, lit a stick and then put it under a pram in the hallway.” As for Onur, he is being cared for by his uncle. It will be some years, say friends, before he will find out the truth about his family — that on one evening he lost his two-year-old brother Ilyas, his aunt and two cousins. And that he is lucky to be alive.
© The Times Online



7/2/2008- The treasurer of the German far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) was arrested for allegedly embezzling money from the organization, police said. Erwin Kemna, national treasurer of the NPD, was detained after a Thursday, Feb. 7, raid on the party's headquarters in Berlin. The search of the NPD's Berlin headquarters was part of a year-long investigation by prosecutors in Münster and police in western Germany against the party official, Berlin police spokesman Uwe Kozelnik said. According to prosecutor Hans-Jochen Wagner, Kemna is suspected of having embezzled 627,000 euros from the party's treasury. The 57-year-old party official allegedly made 65 electronic transfers between 2004 and 2007 from the NPD to a gift shop boutique he owns in the western German town of Ladbergen. If found guilty, Kemna could face between 5 and 10 years in prison. Party spokesman Klaus Beier confirmed that dozens of police officials had searched the party's Berlin offices for several hours on Thursday. Beier said the raid came as a surprise and that he did not know the exact accusations against Kemna and could not comment on them

Political outcasts
The NPD campaigns against foreigners in Germany, but denies it is a neo-Nazi party. The NPD does not have any seats in Germany's federal parliament, but is represented in two state assemblies in eastern Germany. According to the German government, the NDP received more than 1.3 million euros in state money in 2006. NPD's nationalist, xenophobic messages and its outreach to overtly neo-Nazi groups has made it the outcast of Germany's mainstream parties. Party leader in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Udo Pastörs, was thrown out of the state assembly last week after he railed against Jews immigrating to Germany. An attempt by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government to ban the NPD faltered in 2003 after the Federal Constitutional Court refused to hear the case because the government had infiltrated the party with informants in high places.
© Deutsche Welle



6/2/2008- German late-night television host Julianne Ziegler, 26, lost her job last week after jokingly using the German phrase "Arbeit Macht Frei" (translated as "Work makes you free"), inscribed over the gates of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, during a live broadcast. Ziegler made the statement to a guest who voiced his displeasure at having to go to work following the interview. ProSebien, the station on which the program airs, is the second largest private station in Germany. It is unclear whether the fact that the station's owner, Haim Saban, is Israeli had anything to do with the decision, but the station managers decided to fire Ziegler immediately. "It was an unjustified slip of the tongue," the station's spokeswoman said. "These things should not happen. Ziegler will not host on our station anymore." The late-night program's production company backed the statements, saying Ziegler would no longer appear in the company's productions. The host's slipup was followed by a rolling laughter. Shortly after, she was taken off-screen, and when she returned, she offered the audience a nervous and serious apology: "Earlier I had a slip of the tongue. It was unintentional." Facing the camera, she said, "this is a live broadcast. It was a silly mistake. I'm sorry." The apology failed to save her job.

A week before Ziegler's dismissal, the Polish Berlin resident DJ Tomekk was thrown off a German reality program after a homevideo featuring him making a Nazi salute and singing "Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles" was posted online. The reality show, "The Jungle," airs on a competing private station, RTL and leads the station's ratings. Contestants on the show, a German version of "I'm a Celebrity? Get Me Out of Here," are local celebrities sent to a remote Australian jungle. The video footage was taken in an Australian hotel room, shortly before production on the reality program began. It also features DJ Tomekk saying, "So many foreigners in this building." The contestant apologized and attempted to offer explanations, saying he has more foreign then German friends and that he's "anything but xenophobic." "It was a stupid joke. I sincerely apologize," he added. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Nonetheless, he was booted off the show and the station managers wasted no time in condemning the video, saying "This type of humor is unacceptable and not tolerable on a television broadcast."

But not all "Nazi scandals," as they are termed in German media, end with apologies. Prior to both of the above incidents, popular talk show host Eva Herman was fired from the public television network NDR. Herman presented the news on the network for 18 years and in recent years hosted the talk show, but last September, she praised Nazi family values during a press conference to promote her new book on child-rearing. "It was a gruesome time with a totally crazy and highly dangerous leader who led the Germans into ruin," she said. "But there was at the time also something good, and that is the values, that is the children, that is the families, that is a togetherness." Praise for the Nazi regime, even if preceded by reservations, is taboo in Germany, and the network's director general fired Herman immediately. The presenter, however, refused to retract her statements, and shortly after her dismissal, said on a talk show on the ZDF station: "If we can no longer discuss the Nazis' family values, then we also cannot discuss the fast roads they built. We can't discuss German history without endangering ourselves." She left the studio before the broadcast was over. Some of the veteran presenter's fans tried to overturn her dismissal, but most of those who arrived at the rally to support Herman were members of Hamburg's far-right party.
© Haaretz



Think of a neo-Nazi and you think of a man with a shaved head, pummeling a foreigner. But that image is outdated, some social researchers say. She may well be a woman -- and a feminist, to boot.

2/2/2008- At a recent conference of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Berlin, researchers examined the role of the sexes in the extreme right wing. Their findings: there may well be a preponderance of young male neo-Nazis, but there are women in their ranks, too. And they are gaining in importance. Renate Bitzan, of the University of Göttingen, has formed the Research Network on Women and Right-Wing Extremism. Her objective is to look into what sort of women join the far-right -- and why. "Generally, it is not the image of women in the scene that draws women to be a part of it in the first place," Bitzan said. "It is their ideology. Like the men, they are mainly attracted by ideas of togetherness, race and nation. Relations between the genders is of a lesser importance, so to speak."

Producing the pure race, and raising it right
Nonetheless, she said, women tend to be assigned certain roles. And that is first and foremost that their job is to produce the purest possible offspring for the race, and raise them in the national spirit. The woman's second-most-important job is to take part in the political struggle, as a "comrade" to the men, Bitzan said. There are a wide range of approaches to combining these two roles, ranging from a strong identification to the mother-role to the creation of a so-called "national feminism." Groups like the nationalistic, right-wing Gemeinschaft Deutscher Frauen (Organization of German Women) promotes not only political activism but also strongly advocates motherhood and uses populist rhetoric. On the other hand, groups like the Mädelring Thüringen (Thüringen Girl Gang) exist to combat the patriarchy and political immaturity. "Today's right-wing woman is not necessarily only the protector of hearth and home, but also an equal partner in creating a public life, which includes all areas of life and career equally," Bitzan said.

Racist, nationalist -- and feminist
Bitzan contends that this reflects a change of focus among right-wing women. Motherhood may still play a role, but independence, personal development, competency and challenging the patriarchy are more important. But while the women may be exactly as racist, anti-Semitic and nationalistic as their men, in keeping with gender clichés that also fit outside of the right-wing scene, they tend to leave violent public demonstrations to their men. This doesn't mean that women would never publicly demonstrate, Bitzan said. "Most frequently, they are included in mixed-gender groups -- parties, clubs, fellowships," Bitzan said. Some of them are members in right-wing women's groups, which have seen a boom in the past years, the expert claims. "This could mean that the women themselves are starting to see cooperation among women as an attractive thing in itself," she said.

Neo-Nazi girls "just wanna have fun"
One worker at a mobile youth clinic in Ostprignitz, a depressed area of eastern Germany, took a shot at explaining the attraction young women feel toward such right-wing groups. "The girls want to have fun, they are totally bored -- especially in the countryside," said the worker, who did not give her name. "They are looking for something really attractive. That is the far-right scene." As part of the far-right, the girls feel strong. They can terrorize people, and have the feeling they are influencing society -- the same thing that draws young men, the worker added.

Outreach aimed mostly at men
There is a long-held misconception that young women are either not part of the scene or are just "fellow travelers" with their truly active male counterparts. This means outreach clinics and social workers are "overrepresented" in terms of being geared toward young men, said Esther Lehnert, a spokeswoman for the Mobile Outreach Against Right Extremism in Berlin. She warned that young women need to be taken seriously. One way to reach young women in the scene is to go through the schools, said Gabi Elverich, of the German Youth Institute in Halle. But that is a hard nut to crack, because schools don't deal with racism and discrimination at all, she said. "Teachers aren't trained to deal with it," she said. "There are few examples in practice. I think it is the area where there is a lot of need for information, where early intervention could help."
© Deutsche Welle



It's not just racists that have an attitude problem but sport's governing bodies
By Marina Hyde

7/2/2008- In the fight against racism, are there any more reassuring words than "the sport's governing body has issued a statement"? It is impertinent to speculate on any appendices Martin Luther King might have added to his Lincoln Memorial speech, given the benefit of hindsight, but it seems unlikely he'd make room for "I have a dream that 45 whole years from now, when pictures of blacked-up people baying at Lewis Hamilton emerge, the international motor sport federation will issue a statement saying there might possibly be trouble if it happens again". Another week, another chance to gauge how our fine governing bodies are combating racism, with everyone's favourite test case still England's 2004 friendly against Spain in Madrid. Yet what's often overlooked is that it was Fifa who imposed the paltry £44,750 fine on the Spanish FA for the racist chanting. It was also Fifa who fined the Cameroonian FA £86,000 for wearing the wrong kit in the African Cup of Nations that same year. And it was Uefa's then chief executive, Lars-Christer Olsson, who announced Thierry Henry should hug Luis Aragonés, who had called him a "black shit". According to Lars, this would "surpass any anti-racist initiative we've held before". As though that were difficult. So what we might euphemistically call an "attitude problem" is not peculiar to Spain. Fifa, for instance, seems riddled with it. Indeed, anyone who thinks the English can tut in absolute moral authority should note an interview with Joleon Lescott, cited here previously, after both he and Tim Howard reported Newcastle's Emre to the FA for alleged racial abuse of their Everton team-mate Joseph Yobo. Both players were strongly advised to say nothing publicly, and when they differed on whether he had said "fucking nigger" or "fucking negro", the FA found the charge unproven. Lescott said he "didn't agree with how it was dealt with. It felt like we were on trial as much as Emre. I felt hurt by it, having gone to the trouble of ... making a stand". He added he'd think twice before wearing a Kick It Out T-shirt again.

We seem to need a more radical solution than waiting on governing bodies to act on racism. Why should people be satisfied with this pace? At this rate black athletes will be taking abuse another 45 years from now, while some governing body or other churns out a milquetoast press release saying what a shame it all is. Direct action is one alternative. Interviewed just after the game in Madrid, Rio Ferdinand said he'd considered walking off the pitch. "It's not the players' decision but if the boss had said 'That's it', I would have been happy to come off," he said. "I don't think anybody in England or the England team would have blamed us." Such a protest would have been eloquent and historic but it's plain to see what happens when such decisions are left to managers and owners. Perhaps their overwhelming whiteness has something to do with it but it's mostly just that this is business. Ron Dennis is unlikely to withdraw labour to make some political point. It is extraordinarily brave that athletes even consider individual acts of protest. In 2005, the Messina defender Marc Zoro threatened to halt a Serie A game after enduring racist taunts. He was persuaded not to by his manager, as was Samuel Eto'o the next year when he suffered similar torment from Real Zaragoza fans. But resentment seethes beneath the reluctantly biddable surface. Zaragoza were fined just €600 (£448) after their fans racially abused a Real Betis player and Zaragoza's then striker, Ewerthon, said of the Eto'o incident: "We are here to work and if things carry on like this it will be impossible. The Spanish Federation have to start taking proper measures," he continued, "and we as black players also have to act."

All over the world, you can find athletes who feel the speed of change to be pretty glacial. Some just vow to play on, ignore it. Some probably wish Lewis Hamilton would win the Spanish Grand Prix and come over all Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium. There is no one right way and those who aver that black athletes "should just be like Tiger Woods" betray themselves as the worst kind of prescriptive, shut-up-and-play "progressives". John Carlos himself has called for athletes of all colours to "step up to society", saying bigotry is "just more cosmetically disguised" than it was in 1968. It was the bigots who were disguised with cosmetics at the Circuit de Catalunya, but it is the FIA's weak reaction that chimes most closely with that sentiment.
© The Guardian



By Naseem Mithoowani, Khurrum Awan, and Muneeza Sheikh, members of Osgoode Hall Law School's Class of 2007.

7/2/2008- Human Rights Commissions have a mandate to address the very real problem of speech that subjects identifiable communities to hatred or contempt. On Dec. 4, we announced that we had launched human rights complaints in Ontario, British Columbia and Ottawa against Maclean's magazine for its refusal to publish our response to its October 2006 article, "The Future belongs to Islam." This article claimed that due to lax immigration requirements and multiculturalism policies, Muslims are poised to take over entire Western societies and subject them to Islamic law, with the only question being "how bloody the transfer of real estate would be." Our case – and a similar but unrelated one in Alberta – has sparked a lively discussion on the role of human rights commissions, and whether individuals have a right to respond to what they believe to be defamatory media publications. It is our position that HRCs' jurisdiction in cases of hateful speech extends to defamatory media publications. The notion that HRCs should have no role to play vis-à-vis the media presumes that there are no human rights implications attached to public media representation of identifiable communities. On the contrary; the impact of biased and/or misleading media portrayals on the social perception of these communities – whether black, aboriginal, Hispanic, Muslim, Arab, evangelical Christian or others – has been well documented and is not a subject of dispute. In the case of the Muslim community, however, media misrepresentation and the ensuing growth of Islamophobia since 9/11 have been significant. For instance, the 2003 report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, found that improper media coverage after the 9/11 attacks contributed to the perception that Islamophobia is now more widely accepted as normal in the West, "not only among the common people, but also, and more openly, among certain elites, who at times seemed to adopt it as an ideological or even aesthetic position."

We believe that the human rights implications of media speech fall properly and squarely within the mandate of the HRCs, for as independent, quasi-judicial bodies, they possess the authority to adjudicate human rights concerns arising from the actions of private, non-state actors. Recent concerns that this mandate may result in government censorship are woefully uninformed. HRCs operate within the principles of law laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada. These principles guarantee an appropriate level of independence in light of the commissions' adjudicative functions and provide for the judicial review of tribunal decisions by our courts. In fact, the government itself is often the subject of complaints heard before the HRCs. More than 50 per cent of the complaints received by the Canadian Human Right Commission, for instance, name a federal department, agency or Crown corporation as the respondent. Moreover, our human rights codes are a less restrictive and more effective means of dealing with the human rights implications of media misrepresentation than alternatives currently available under our criminal and civil law processes. In the 1980s, Alberta school teacher Jim Keegstra was charged under criminal hate speech laws for regularly indoctrinating his students with Jewish conspiracy theories. When Keegstra challenged the constitutionality of the law, Canada's Supreme Court, in a majority decision, upheld the criminal provision as a reasonable limit on free expression. Noticeably, both majority and dissenting opinions in that case cited the virtues of the hate speech provisions of our human rights codes as an alternative to criminal provisions. Then Chief Justice Brian Dickson observed that human rights statutes were a "less severe and more effective response than the criminal law" to hate speech because they adopted a "less confrontational approach." In her dissenting opinion, current Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin noted that human rights legislation "focusing on reparation rather than punishment" is "more appropriate and more effective" in addressing hate speech than the "criminalization of expression."

Much of the ongoing debate about the role of HRCs with respect to media misrepresentation of specified communities is, however, quite abstract in relation to facts on the ground. In practical terms, most individuals and communities would prefer to submit their concerns to self-regulatory bodies of the media industry. These bodies, commonly referred to as press councils, are independent consortiums of the journalism industry and provide an avenue for hearing and addressing readers' complaints. Subscribed to by prominent media organizations like the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail, these councils have the mandate to chastise subscribing organizations when their publications fall below the ethical and normative standards of the journalism industry. Unfortunately, membership in press councils is voluntary and some prominent media organizations have chosen not to subscribe. But some of these non-participating organizations do not provide an alternative avenue of complaint, either. In such situations, the only avenue available to people and groups who feel threatened by certain media publications is to submit their concerns to the HRCs. Faced with a similar dilemma, we had no option but to bring our issues with Maclean's to the attention of the HRCs.

But what about the fundamental democratic right of free expression? Should sensitive topics be taken off the table because discussing them may provoke the sentiments of a particular community? Absolutely not. As citizens of a free democracy, we need to have faith in the "free marketplace of ideas"; we need to trust the power of more and better speech to defeat the harm of discriminatory and hateful speech. However, we can maintain this faith only if ordinary citizens are given the opportunity to participate in the marketplace of ideas. This in turn places a significant responsibility on our media organizations – as the primary facilitators of national discourse – to include the views of identifiable communities when those communities are the subjects of discussion. If our media were to assume this responsibility, we would no longer have to live with an awkward trade-off of free speech for the rights of minorities in our multicultural society. If, however, our media exclude the communities in question while providing extensive coverage to negative views about those same communities, the results are evident and inevitable: more prejudice, discrimination and prejudicial stereotyping. In our case, we have filed human rights complaints not because Maclean's published 19 articles about Muslims over two-and-a-half years that we judged to be defamatory, but because it refused to publish an adequate counterview when the Canadian Muslim community asked for one.

The core issue here is the right of identifiable communities like ours to participate in the national discourse on concerns that relate directly to us; it is emphatically not about censorship. Since 9/11, the Muslim community has done plenty of serious listening and we will continue to hear the concerns of our fellow citizens. Now, however, it is our turn to speak as well. And we believe that Canadians would like to hear from us.
© The Toronto Star


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