NEWS - Archive June 2011

THE WILDERS TRIAL IN THE NETHERLANDS

Headlines 24 June, 2011

Headlines 17 June, 2011

Headlines 10 June, 2011

Headlines 3 June, 2011

THE WILDERS TRIAL IN THE NETHERLANDS

IS THIS THE DEATH OF DUTCH MULTICULTURALISM?

By Lauren Comiteau

29/6/2011- When an Amsterdam court acquitted far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders of all charges of discrimination and inciting hatred against Muslims on June 23, it seemed a fitting climax to a week that saw the end of the decade-long Dutch experiment with integration. Judges ruled that although the comments the politician made in the Dutch press and on the internet between October 2006 and March 2008 comparing Islam to Nazism may be offensive, they are nonetheless legal and part of a legitimate government debate — one that's taken on tones that were unthinkable — or at least unspeakable — only a few years ago. "The good news is it's legal to be critical about Islam," Wilders told reporters after his acquittal. "And this is something that we need because the Islamization of our societies is a major problem and a threat to our freedom. And I'm allowed to say so."  "I'm very disappointed," said Dutch Moroccan Zenap al-Garboni, as she smeared cream cheese on her children's bagels in a restaurant near the courthouse shortly after the verdict. "He's creating hate against Islam." Added her 11-year-old daughter Amra: "When I see him speaking on TV it really scares Me ... for all the children, it's really scary to see and I think it shouldn't be like that."

Wilders has never shied away from attacking Islam, despite having to live under constant protection since 2004, when controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim extremist. Wilders has called for a ban on the Koran — which he compared to Hitler's Mein Kampf — and a "head-rag tax." He's also on record as saying the Netherlands should close its doors to Muslim immigrants and even take away the nationality of some who are already there. And his short film Fitna juxtaposes images of the 9/11 attacks and other terrorist acts with verses from the Koran. In court last week, Presiding Judge Marcel van Oosten called some of those comments "crude and denigrating," but ruled that they fall within the scope of protected speech — especially because his remarks were made during the country's heated debates on multiculturalism. Others disagree. "He got away with Islamaphobic expressions that, in light of the U.N. Convention against Racism, should have fallen within the scope of our criminal law," says Egbert Dommering, a lawyer and professor at the University of Amsterdam. While Wilders has declared his acquittal a victory for free speech, Dommering says "it's a victory for free speech for himself, but it will lead to a deterioration in the quality of debate and a legitimization of using strong language against the Muslim religion which is in fact aimed against people." Wilders has always maintained he's against Islam and not its practitioners, a distinction that's legal under Dutch law.

Wilders' acquittal seems to be a sign that his once radical views have become mainstream in a country that for decades was viewed as one of the most liberal and tolerant in the world. "The judgment doesn't turn the tide," says Dommering, "but it's symbolic of what's going on in the Netherlands." Wilders is already an enormously popular politician — many analysts say the ruling will only make him more so — and his PVV party is the third largest in parliament. Although not a formal partner in the ruling conservative coalition, PVV's backing is crucial in giving it a voting majority. In turn, the government supports many of Wilders' anti-immigrant positions — from limiting immigration to banning face-covering attire. (Read: "The New Dutch Government: An End to Tolerance?") The verdict came just days after Dutch ministers backed away from current integration policy and announced plans to cut funding for programs designed to help immigrants. Saying Dutch values must come first, Home Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner told parliament that the government "will distance itself from the relativism contained in the model of a multicultural society." A June 19 poll found that three-quarters of the Dutch support the cabinet's slashing of funds that go toward aiding immigrants.

"In the 1990s, saying a multicultural society should end was ruled discriminatory," says Channa Samkalden, a lawyer at the firm Böhler Advocaten who specializes in free speech and freedom of religion. She's referring to the case of another anti-immigration politician, Hans Janmaat, who was prone to saying "full is full" and "our people first." Says Samkalden: "We've simply changed our minds on what's allowable." For Ronnie Eisenmann, head of the board of the Amsterdam Jewish Community, the latest twists in the Dutch culture wars reek of political strategy. "The fact that politicians say multiculturalism has failed doesn't mean you can ignore that a multicultural society exits," he says. "They're saying it because they want to cut funding." Muslim and Jewish organizations have recently come together to oppose a ban to ritual slaughter that parliament members approved on Tuesday — a ban that Wilders supports. But while Amsterdam's politicians may be declaring the death of multiculturalism, the picture on the streets tell a different story. At Sunday's Roots Festival in the Oosterpark — a musical celebration of all things cultural not rooted in Western Europe — stands selling Turkish kebabs co-exist happily with Dutch herring sellers and African artists. "I think the politicians don't know what they're talking about," said Amsterdam student Shola Verschuren. Originally from Nigeria, she is currently taking government-funded Dutch lessons, classes that would get the axe under the cabinet's current plans. "I will be angry if they're cut," she says. "Integration rocks."
© Time Magazine

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GEERT WILDERS, A VOLTAIRE FOR OUR TIMES? (Netherlands, opinion)

Geert Wilders's acquittal on hate speech charges may open up a new trend in Europe. Now that governments have stopped defending multiculturalism, critics of Islam can come back out into the open, writes a Dutch intellectual pleased with the decision.
By Thierry Baudet

27/6/2011- In acquitting Geert Wilders the Dutch judge bucked a European trend. Despite years of intolerance towards any criticism of Islam, the Netherlands are honouring their tradition of ensuring a sanctuary for open debate. In western European countries over the past few years, things have been quite different: sworn opponents of Islam have been condemned for expressing their views. Early in May in Denmark, for example, Lars Hedegaard, the ideologue of the Danish People's Party, was sentenced on appeal for saying that “girls in Muslim families get raped by their uncles, their cousins, or fathers,” and that “if a Muslim rapes a woman, he has the right. It’s part of his culture.” On 15 February in Vienna, Elisabeth Wolff-Sabaditsch was fined for calling Muhammad, the founder of Islam, a “paedophile”. According to the Austrian court, Mohammad’s marriage to Aisha, who was nine years old at the time, could not be equated with paedophilia, because that would be “disparaging” to the “religious doctrines” of Islam, especially since the marriage continued after Aisha turned 18.

Comparable verdicts for comments critical of Islam were also handed down in France, Belgium and England. Jean-Marie Le Pen was indicted for saying: “The day when we have not five million but 25 million Muslims in France is the day they will be in charge. And the French will hug the walls and scuttle down the street with their eyes on the ground.” Mark Anthony Norwood had to remove from her window a poster that read “Islam out of Britain”. And Belgium's Daniel Feret, declared ineligible to stand for public election for ten years, was ordered to perform community service in the field of integration. He had called for the “repatriation” of immigrants who he said were “criminals” and demanded that social benefits be given only to Belgians and “Europeans”. When passing down these judgments the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg held that a “legitimate purpose” was being furthered and that the restriction of freedom of expression was, in this case, “necessary in a democratic society.”

Curious, because in none of these cases were there any calls for violence. According to the national courts, the statements overstepped the mark because they incited “hatred” or “discrimination” – concepts that can easily stretch and be used to silence unwelcome political views. If for a long time it was hard to utter any criticism of Islam, it was because such criticisms were not compatible with multiculturalism. Yet now that leaders such as Cameron, Aznar, Sarkozy and Rutte have all subscribed to the surprising conclusion reached in 2010 by Angela Merkel, who said that “the multicultural society has completely failed,” criticism of Islam is once again allowed. With the acquittal of Geert Wilders on Thursday, June 23, the Netherlands has become the first country in western Europe where legal authority has drawn explicit conclusions from the abandonment of multiculturalism. The Netherlands have lived up to their reputation of being a haven of tolerance for free speech.

Indeed, for a long time, the writings of countless critics of religion, from Spinoza to Voltaire, could only be published in Holland, while elsewhere in Europe they were banned. The repressive elite of that era who wanted to suppress criticism by resorting to the courts could only keep the ban in place up to the late 18th century. In the end, what had begun as a critical debate gained momentum and led to the French Revolution. A similar development could threaten the European elites of today. Whether multiculturalism is a good idea or not, whether Islam is a political ideology or a peaceful religion and whether Muhammad was a paedophile or not, none of these ideas should be imposed or prohibited. This can only lead to a radicalisation of opinions. Only open debate can be permitted to decide these issues, and the parties that have been offended or injured can then try to persuade the critics of Islam of their alleged wrongs by force of argument.

If Wilders had been found guilty on Thursday, June 23 – even if only on a single statement – the authority of the judiciary as a whole would have been weakened yet again. Such a decision would have ushered in years of more legal jousting, which would have led to increased politicisation of the courtrooms. It would seem therefore that the judge proved conciliatory just in time. The question is: after this reasonable verdict, which European country will follow suit.

This article originally appeared in Trouw, a Dutch newspaper
© Press Europe

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LEGALISING RACISM? (Netherlands, opinion)

By Fatima Kanji 

28/6/2011- Last week, Dutch politician and leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) was found not guilty for hate-speech charges at a court in Amsterdam. Wilders was charged in connection with statements made in newspapers and the film Fitna, which directlycondemns Islam, calling it a form of fascism. He had also called for an end to Muslim immigration in Europe. Wilders has left us in no doubt about his views on Islam (and muslims) calling for an end to Muslim immigration in Europe, a ban on the Quran he promptly compared to Mein Kampf and a suggestion he made in Parliament on a tax on women wearing the Burqaof €1000. But the issue being debated in this case, wasn’t his view on Islam, as this was permissible, but his targeted views on Muslims. I detest the views of Wilders, and I’m saddened that he holds such hatred and misguided views for over a billion people, with sweeping generalisations. However, we need to analyse whether Wilders views were and are permissible contrary to the courts ruling.

There are many issues at play here. Where does freedom of expression end and hate speech start? Can one explicitly denounce a religion, providing in-depth analysis of these views, with direct attacks on followersbut still not be found guilty as it’s within the ‘context of the debate’? The unwillingness of the Public Prosecutor goes back to 2008 when it refused to take up the case despite numerous complaints. The case was brought in front of an Amsterdam Appeals Court in January 2009, but its reluctance to have this trial, has plagued the case right until the end, when it unusually asked for acquittal. Could the case have been doomed right from the outset? Many Dutch politicians were also disinclined to show their support for the case. In fact, Dutch Prime Minister welcomed his acquittal stating it was “excellent news for Geert Wilderswith whom we’re co-operating well”, so could politics have, albeit indirectly, been at play here. The disinclination of majority party politicians, the unwillingness of the public prosecutor to bring about a trial, leaves it open to some uncertainty and questions surrounding the trial and whether its fate was already pre-empted.

What this trial has shown is that you can be outwardly racist, as long the majority of your attacks also have ‘borderline’ views in them. It seems that the racist views that Wilders holds, have been overshadowed by his attacks on Islam as a religion. Statements against a religion (regardless of personal views) are permissible in this case, but against an individuals or a people, are not. However, upon reading many of Wilders speeches and interviews, one can see that they are carefully littered with racist comments amongst his anti-Islam stance. Some of these quotes include; “I’ve had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate”, “I am in favour of closing the borders for family reunion of non-Western, Islamic immigrants. Ninety nine percent of those people don’t add anything. They only bring us misery” and “We have a gigantic problem with Muslims, it goes beyond all bounds on all sides.” And these are just a selection. Judge Van Oosten argued this call for a ban on all Muslim Immigration was within the context of the Dutch immigration debate. So outward racism is permissible as long as it’s within a context of a wider debate? But surely that’s true of any debate? Wilders has been very clever in walking along a fine line between overt racism and genuine disconcertion with Islamification of the West and it seems like the courts have bought this.

Is this perhaps an indictment on the inertia of the Dutch government playing politics with tolerance, adopting a laissez faire approach so as not to maintain freedom of speech or was there a wider agenda here? The Wilders trial comes at a time when the Centre-Right Dutch government is moving from a multicultural approach forwards a tougher stance of assimilation with limited room for compromise. In Geert Wilders case, time will tell if his acquittal was the right thing to do or a nod of approval to other right wing individuals with extreme views. It has definitely set precedence andincreased benchmark for what is permissible in public. Is forced assimilation the future for Europe? Time they say is the ultimate test.
© The Independent

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TWO STANDARDS FOR HATE SPEECH (editorial, the Toronto Star)

By Aisha Sherazi

27/6/2011- If the news reports of fashion designer John Galliano’s court case about anti-Semitic slurs and Geert Wilders acquittal of Muslim-hate speech had not come consecutively, I might not have connected them. The difference between the two European men? On the surface, not much. Both wore suits in court, although admittedly, one wasn’t wearing a shirt with his suit. Both are accused of a vile kind of language. Wilders is accused of saying hateful things, not just about political Islamists, but Islam itself. He openly does not distinguish between them, and does not apologize for his views. For many peaceful, law-abiding Muslims who give to charity, take part in society and are fully-fledged citizens in the West, his speech is a blow. To be clear, no religion should be free from careful scrutiny or even informed debate. We are all accountable for our words and deeds and, as a public figure and someone who trades on his public persona, Wilders is even more accountable. Rather than using the status that has been accorded to him to promote understanding and acceptance, Wilders has chosen to scapegoat Muslims as the root cause for multicultural failure. This is nothing new. History does have a habit of repeating itself.

Hate laws focus, in general, on the understanding that you cannot incite hatred or violence towards a particular group. As commentators have observed, Wilders treads to the edge but never oversteps this boundary. Does it harm us? Nope. Does it hurt us? Sure. Is it dangerous? Possibly. Many people may take his words at face value, not bothering to check facts or consider the implications. That certainly doesn’t help people understand each other, and may lead to attacks on Muslims by those seeking to justify their own mindless thuggery. And although Wilders doesn’t call upon people to be violent toward Muslims, you can bet that violent extremists are using such speech to prove that Muslims are hated in the West under some kind of conspiracy theory. The victimization of Muslims is used to justify their heinous acts against innocent civilians. That is dangerous indeed.

Galliano’s hateful speech has cost him dearly. He has lost his position at Christian Dior. He probably won’t serve jail time, but will more than likely have to pay thousands of dollars to compensate those he hurt directly. The differences between the two cases are vast in many ways. Galliano said vile things that are not even repeatable. Wilders (apparently) enters into the realms of intellectual debate. Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel that there is a double standard at play here, when a politician on the public payroll can malign the faith of taxpayers and billions worldwide, but a clearly troubled man, high on drugs and alcohol, is fired and possibly fined, not to mention publicly humiliated. Galliano’s treatment was justified, and he clearly needs a wake-up call of some kind if he is to seek help. But it doesn’t sit right with me that Galliano is being depicted as the devil incarnate, while Wilders poses as a hero. Have the floodgates of Islamophobia just been opened a tad wider?

Aisha Sherazi is a writer, blogger and poet and a pastoral care worker at Merivale High School in Ottawa.
© The Toronto Star

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GEERT WILDERS AND DUTCH DEMOCRACY (Netherlands)

A court in the Netherlands has found the influential politician Geert Wilders innocent of charges of fomenting hatred and discrimination against Muslims. The decision is a challenge both to the rule of law and to Dutch politicians.  
By Cas Mudde for openDemocracy  

27/6/2011- The acquittal of Dutch politician Geert Wilders on 22 June 2011 on charges [10] of “inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims” is a political victory for Wilders, a legal travesty, and a missed opportunity for Dutch democracy. Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) are known around the world for their Islamophobic propaganda. A random selection of his Islamophobia includes statements [11] such as “Islam is a fascist ideology”; “Mohammed was a paedophile”; and “Islam and freedom, Islam and democracy are not compatible”. He has also warned of a “tsunami” of Muslim immigrants and compared the Qur’an to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. A glance at the declarations of Wilders [12] and his party leaves no reasonable doubt that Islamophobia is at the core of his programme. Wilders may have changed his opinion on various issues, most notably non-Muslim immigrants and the welfare state, but on one point he has never wavered: his struggle against the alleged “Islamisication” of the Netherlands, Europe, and even the world. For example, at a speech [13] on 12 May 2011 at the Cornerstone Church in Tennessee, he said: “My friends, I am sorry. I am here today with an unpleasant message. I am here with a warning. I am here with a battle-cry: ‘Wake up, Christians of Tennessee. Islam is at your gate.’ Do not make the mistake which Europe made. Do not allow Islam to gain a foothold here.”

While I am not a lawyer, I cannot see how the Amsterdam court can come to the conclusion [14] that Wilders did not - according to Dutch law and precedence - “incite hatred and discrimination” against Muslims. The emphasis is important: for the Netherlands has - since the case of the Centrumpartij (Centre Party / CP) of Hans Janmaat [15](1934-2002) in the early 1980s - long experience of charging political parties and politicians under anti-discrimination legislation. Since that time, several parties and politicians whose public statements have been far less consistent and far-reaching than those of Wilders have been convicted of incitement to racial hatred. For example, Janmaat was given a suspended sentence of two months’ imprisonment and a fine of 7,500 guilders (c 3,400 euro) in 1997 for declaring at a demonstration that “as soon as we have the opportunity and power, we will abolish the multicultural society” - a statement that Wilders regularly makes. In fact, a Dutch court even found that the slogan “Full is Full” - used in the 1990s [16] by the CP, and its successor the Centrumdemocraten (Centre Democrats / CD) - constituted incitement to racial hatred. Today, that statement would be almost uncontroversial.

The contrast between Janmaat’s conviction and Wilders’s acquittal [17] reflects an important development in Dutch politics and society. While Wilders’s Islamophobic comments are objectively harsher than Janmaat’s xenophobic equivalents of the 1990s, they are also much more accepted in contemporary Dutch society. This is not necessarily to say that the Dutch population has become more xenophobic over the past generation. What has happened [18], rather, is that the taboo on expressing xenophobia in public has been broken, particularly regarding Islam and Muslims (see “The intolerance of the tolerant [19]”, 20 October 2010). It was, incidentally, the earlier flamboyant populist Pim Fortuyn [20] (1948-2002) rather than Janmaat or Wilders who was the agent of that change. In consequence, politicians such as Wilders can gain much more electoral support than Janmaat ever could, which gives them real political power. And there is no doubt that Wilders’s political power has played a major role in the court’s decision. After all, it is much easier to convict the leader of a marginal and ostracised party like the CD than a figure like Wilders, the leader of the third-largest party in the parliament and a “support-party” of the current [21] government (see "The Geert Wilders enigma [22]", 23 June 2010).

A political failure
But a political victory is not automatically a democratic victory. In fact, I would argue that the acquittal of Geert Wilders is both a defeat of and a lost opportunity for Dutch democracy. Don’t misunderstand: I am a long-term opponent of the Netherlands’ anti-discrimination laws, I support absolute freedom of speech; and I believe that a democratic state should not limit or regulate [23] speech, particularly in politics. That said, a liberal democracy cannot function without the rule of law; and an essential aspect of this is equality before the law. Clearly, however, this is not the case in the Netherlands, where for decades people have been treated differently with regard to anti-discrimination laws (for example, in the 1990s the powerful [24] conservative politician Frits Bolkestein [25] was not even indicted, far less convicted, for statements very similar to those of Janmaat). To be fair, in acquitting Wilders the Amsterdam court has undoubtedly taken the changed public discourse on immigrants into account. But this does not get to the heart of the problem, which is not judicial [26] but political. The Amsterdam court found itself trapped by history; it was asked to enforce a law inherited from the past for which there no longer exists majority political and public support. Its acquittal has taken the lint out of the powder-keg of anti-discrimination legislation. It is now up to the politicians - not judges - to bring social values and laws back into harmony.

If Wilders had been convicted, a political crisis was inevitable: how then, after all, could the Dutch government rely on the support of a party of a convicted “anti-democratic” politician? A combination of the ensuing public outcry and sheer political necessity would have forced parliament [27] to amend the legislation by bringing it more into accord with the public view. Now, Wilders might continue at times to raise the issue, even if mainly to portray himself as a near-martyr in order to generate political support; but the political elite will resume ignoring the topic while trying to regulate who is indicted or not (and, in the few cases that this fails, to try and influence who is convicted or not). This outcome continues a policy of legal insecurity that undermines the rule of law in the Netherlands. It is therefore high time that Dutch politicians [28] update the anti-discrimination laws in accordance with their own and contemporary Dutch society’s preferences.

Cas Mudde is Nancy Schaenen scholar [9] at The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics and visiting associate professor at the department of political science [9] of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Among his books is Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe [9] (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Links:
[1] http://www.opendemocracy.net/topics/international-politics
[2] http://www.opendemocracy.net/topics/democracy-and-government
[3] http://www.opendemocracy.net/countries/netherlands
[4] http://www.opendemocracy.net/view_content_by_region/europe.jsp
[5] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy_and_power/index.jsp
[6] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-newright/debate.jsp
[7] http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/debate.jsp
[8] http://www.opendemocracy.net/authors/cas-mudde
[9] http://www.opendemocracy.net/http
[10] http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/wilders-extremely-happy-acquittal
[11] http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/wilders%E2%80%99-mohammed-rapist-killer-or-compassionate-activist%20
[12] http://www.geertwilders.nl/
[13] http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/05/geert-wilders-a-warning-to-america.html
[14] http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2011/06/wilders_found_not_guilty_of_in.php
[15] http://dutch.berkeley.edu/mcnl/the-debate/hans-janmaat/
[16] http://www.inghist.nl/overview/history/en/1967tot2000,1994.html
[17] http://www.rechtspraak.nl/Organisatie/Rechtbanken/Amsterdam/Nieuws/Pages/Uitspraak-van-de-rechtbank-AmsterdamindezaakWilders,23juni2011.aspx
[18] http://vorige.nrc.nl/international/election2010/article2560403.ece/The_peculiar_nature_of_modern_Dutch_populism
[19] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/intolerance-of-tolerant
[20] http://dutch.berkeley.edu/mcnl/the-debate/pim-fortuyn/
[21] http://vorige.nrc.nl/international/election2010/article2561211.ece/The_Netherlands_shifts_to_the_right
[22] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/geert-wilders-enigma
[23] http://vorige.nrc.nl/international/Features/article1886350.ece/Freedom_of_expression_or_freedom_to_insult
[24] http://dutch.berkeley.edu/mcnl/the-debate/frits-bolkestein/
[25] http://www.fritsbolkestein.com/
[26] http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/dutch-legal-system-dock-wilders-trial
[27] http://www.houseofrepresentatives.nl/
[28] http://www.houseofrepresentatives.nl/how_parliament_works/democracy/index.jsp
[29] http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521616324&ss=fro
[30] http://www.atlantic-books.co.uk/our_books/browse_catalogue.asp?css=1&edition=1434
[31] http://www.rnw.nl/english/bulletin/geert-wilders-acquitted-hatemongering-charges
[32] http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8421.html
[33] http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/ecri/default_en.asp
[34] http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2010-08-31-mudde-en.html
[35] http://www.thehollandbureau.com/
[36] http://dutch.berkeley.edu/mcnl/
[37] http://www.ua.ac.be/main.aspx?c=cas.mudde
[38] http://www.depauw.edu/acad/political/
[39] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/cas-mudde/article/neo-conservatism-irving-kristol-s-living-legacy
[40] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/cas-mudde/cas-mudde/geert-wilders-enigma
[41] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/cas-mudde/intolerance-of-tolerant
[42] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/new-new-radical-right-spectre-and-reality
[43] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/european-integration-after-fall
[44] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europe_constitution/holland_2567.jsp
[45] http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/austria-s-democratic-wound
[46] http://www.opendemocracy.net/people-europe_islam/article_2239.jsp
[47] http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-institutions_government/europe_blackhole_3796.jsp
[48] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-protest/austria_election_3973.jsp
[49] http://www.opendemocracy.net/mats-engstr%C3%B6m/swedens-changing
[50] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europe_constitution/new_europe_3376.jsp
[51] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-newright/article_382.jsp
[52] http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/jorg-haider-the-polariser
[53] http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/denmark_s_election_a_shifting_landscape
[54] http://www.opendemocracy.net/anton-pelinka/hungarys-election-and-viktor-orbans-choice
[55] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/
[56] http://www.opendemocracy.net/about/syndication
© Open Democracy

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BELITTLING ISLAM IN THE DUTCH WILDERNESS – ONLY A POLITICIAN’S JOB (Netherlands)

26/6/2011- A Dutch court acquitted controversial politician Geert Wilders of defaming Muslims last week. Ending a three-year prosecution, the Freedom Party leader has now been cleared of charges of inciting hatred and discrimination. Some of Wilders’ statements on Muslims were “rude and belittling” the Amsterdam district court finds, but according to the bench they were made by a politician in the context of an on-going social debate on multicultural society. But the presiding judge Marcel van Oosten also said that some of Wilders’ statements on Islam were sometimes on the edge of legal acceptability quoting him saying “You feel that you’re not living in your own country anymore. There’s a battle going on, we have to defend ourselves.” While comparing the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf in a Dutch newspaper editorial in 2007, the 47-year old politician was also charged with insulting Muslims. “You have spoken in a hurtful and also shocking way,” the presiding judge said. Another point of controversy involved Wilders’ Fitna, a movie produced in 2008 in which he spurred Muslims to rip out alleged hate-preaching verses from the Koran. The court found the footage “shocking and worrying” and said that some visuals might invoke feelings of hatred. However, the film was totally acquitted of incitement as the court felt it had rights under freedom of speech. Forced by a court order to prosecute Wilders after anti-racism campaigners’ protests against an earlier refusal to sue him, the public prosecution department joined Wilders’ legal team in its not-guilty plea, saying that certain statements by the Freedom Party leader were insulting, but not criminal. The legal base for the acquittal is a ruling by the Dutch High Court in 2009 stating that comments on religions are not penal. Accordingly, the presiding judge said that Wilders’ comments were largely about Islam as a religion and not aimed at Muslims. It’s very unlikely that there will be an appeal against the verdict.

“Victory for Dutch people”
Wilders hails the verdict as a triumph for freedom of speech against what he calls “Islamisation” of Dutch society. “I am delighted with this ruling,” he put on his personal website. “It is a victory not only for me but for all Dutch people. Today is a victory for freedom of speech. […] I have spoken, I speak and I shall continue to speak.” Geert Wilders has been living under police protection since an Islamic radical killed Dutch film director Theo van Gogh in 2004. His own feature movie Fitna also put foreign Muslims’ backs up. The film led to massive protests and demonstrations in Islamic-majority countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan and even incited Malaysians to call for a boycott for products stemming from the Netherlands, one the Eurozone’s largest exporters. But his Freedom Party doubled its representation in last year’s elections and is now the third largest group in the Dutch house of representatives. As the ruling coalition failed to secure a majority in the senate on 23 May by just one seat, it’s now also dependent on the Calvinist party SGP, an unlikely bed fellow at first sight. But it shares with Wilders’ Freedom Party the primate of Judeo-Christian heritage as opposed to ‘alien’ traditions such as Islam.

“The ruling is clear and in line with the prosecutors’ demands,” Dutch Prime Minister Marc Rutte tweeted not surprisingly within two hours after the court’s verdict. “Great news for Geert Wilders with whom we are cooperating well on the basis of the tolerance agreement.” Rutte’s minority government relies on Wilders’ Freedom Party as it needs his support more than ever to deal with its unpopular economic policies, including proposed budget cuts of €18 billion that are vehemently contested by the opposition. In a bid to secure Wilders’ support the Dutch minister for home affairs Piet Hein Donner told parliament two weeks ago that Dutch society and its values must have the right of way over a multicultural society. Integration policies should go. The government “will distance itself from relativism contained in the model of a multicultural society,” the Christian-Democrat said during the presentation of a new integration bill. General policy on schooling, job and housing gives plenty opportunity for integration according to the home minister.

“What’s next to be thrown in our face?“
Donner favours a tougher approach to people who ignore ‘Dutch values’ or disobey the law. The minister is planning to introduce a law making forced marriage illegal and he wants tougher measures for immigrants who lower their chance of employment by the way they dress. On 1 January 2013 a burqa ban will be introduced. But what do statistics say about all this fuss? According to the latest poll by the Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) 837.000 Muslims lived in the Netherlands in 2006. Most are of Turkish or Moroccan descent. The overall population is 16,7 million. The CBS calculated that in 2050 – if demographics stay the same - Muslims will account for about eight per cent of the Dutch overall population. While allegedly fighting Islamisation of Dutch society, Wilders forecasts far bigger Islamic influence. Obviously not everyone shares these views and did not welcome the court’s verdict accordingly. Anti-racism campaigners and Muslim groups saw their chance to put a spoke in Wilders’ wheel blown away by the court ruling. “To my surprise and slight consternation Wilders said after the verdict that he meant to be rude and insulting. That’s actually a kind of confession,” Gerard Spong, a lawyer representing the civil plaintiffs, told the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. “I find the acquittal disappointing because the judges have paved the way for Wilders to make Muslims second grade citizens in our society.” Aydin Akkaya, president of an umbrella organization for Turks living in the Holland agrees. “[The verdict] means that everything is permitted in the Netherlands as long as you find the right context. […] What’s next to be thrown in our face?”
© New Europe

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WILDERS FOUND NOT GUILTY OF INCITING HATRED, BUT IS 'ON THE EDGE' (Netherlands)

23/6/2011- Anti-Islam campaigner and MP Geert Wilders has been found not guilty of charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims and non-westerm immigrants by judges in Amsterdam. The court ruled that some of Wilders' statements were insulting, shocking and on the edge of legal acceptibility, but that they were made in the broad context of a political and social debate on the multi-cultural society. Talk of a tsunami of Muslims is 'blunt and humiliating' but is 'not subversive and does not incite to hatred or discrimination', the court said. And Wilders' 17- minute video compilation Fitna could lead to feelings of hatred, but Wilders himself had not generated this feeling, the court said.

Victory
In a reaction, Wilders said the verdict was a victory for freedom of speech. 'You can criticise Islam. I have not been silenced,' he said. 'Sometimes I meant to be coarse and denigrating,' he said. 'In a political debate you must be able to say what you like.' However, lawyer Gerard Spong, who was instrumental in getting the case heard, said he was disappointed because he feels Wilders did go too far with some of his statements.

Context
'The abusive language about Islam and the artificial distinction between Islam and Muslims have one effect: contributing to hatred of Muslims,' he said. The judge's ruling that such statements fall within the context of a broad debate are vague, Spong said, and raised the question 'what is the context?' Alexander Pechtold, leader of the D66 Liberal party, said the ruling could not be seen as a licence to incite hatred, even for politicians. And Christian Democrat parliamentary party leader Sybrand van Haersma Buma said the CDA is committed to debate on the basis of respect and decency and would continue to criticise Wilders if he is unnecessarily insulting. Tilburg law professor Theo de Roos told news agency ANP the trial was a test case for prosecution on the basis of inciting hatred. 'This trial shows you have to go very far before you can be found guilty. Only actual threats are no longer legally admissable,' he said.

Blunders
The case began on October 4 last year, but collapsed after three weeks when a special legal panel ruled the judges may have shown partiality following a string of legal blunders. New judges were then sworn in and the case was heard again this year. The anti-racism groups which pressed the prosecution department to take the case to trial are now planning to take their complaint to the EU court of human rights and the UN, according to media reports.

For an English summary of the verdict, click here (link at bottom of page)
For more reactions to the verdict, click here
© The Dutch News

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VERDICT SET FOR DUTCH ANTI-ISLAM LAWMAKER

23/6/2011- Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders faces judgement Thursday in an Amsterdam court for his statements attacking Islam, which he claimed were made to "defend freedom in The Netherlands." Wilders, 47, will be in the dock as Judge Marcel van Oosten starts reading his verdict at 9:00 am (0700 GMT) in a trial watched closely by both Wilders' supporters and his detractors and broadcast live. Wilders faces five counts of hate speech and discrimination for his anti-Islamic remarks on websites, Internet forums and in Dutch newspapers between October 2006 and March 2008, and in his controversial 17-minute movie "Fitna" ("Discord" in Arabic). In the past he has likened the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf," and "Fitna" shows shocking images of 9/11 and other terror attacks on Western targets interspersed with verses from the Koran. The 2008 movie caused widespread outrage in Muslim countries and opposition from the Dutch government, which feared it might spark a militant response similar to that which followed the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. But Wilders -- one of Europe's most heavily guarded politicians -- has demanded his acquittal before the court, saying he was "obliged to speak" because The Netherlands is "under threat" from Islam. The blond parliamentarian, whose right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) lends its support to a right-leaning Dutch coalition government, said he was "defending the character, the identity, the culture and the freedom of The Netherlands." His case has been helped by a reluctant prosecution, who last month again asked for his acquittal, saying that although his comments may have frequently caused anxiety and insult, they were not criminal as they criticised Islam as a religion and not Muslims as a people. The prosecution's unwillingness to take aim at Wilders dates as far back as 2008 when it refused to take up a case against him following complaints. On January 21, 2009, however, the Amsterdam appeals court forced the prosecution to mount a case against him. On trial since October last year, Wilders risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600 euro ($10,900) fine if found guilty.
© Expatica News

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DUTCH ANTI-ISLAM LAWMAKER WILDERS FACES JUDGEMENT

21/6/2011- Dutch far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders faces judgement Thursday in an Amsterdam court for his statements attacking Islam, which he claimed were made to "defend freedom in the Netherlands." Wilders, 47, will be in the dock as Judge Marcel van Oosten starts his verdict at 9:00 am (0700 GMT) in a trial watched closely by both Wilders' supporters and his detractors and broadcast live. Wilders faces five counts of hate speech and discrimination for his anti-Islamic remarks on websites, Internet forums and in Dutch newspapers between October 2006 and March 2008, and in his controversial 17-minute movie "Fitna" ("Discord" in Arabic). In the past he has likened the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and "Fitna" shows shocking images of 9/11 and other terror attacks on western targets interspersed with verses from the Koran. The 2008 movie caused widespread outrage in Muslim countries and opposition from the Dutch government, who feared it might spark a militant response similar to that which followed the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

But Wilders -- one of Europe's most heavily-guarded politicians -- has demanded his acquittal before the court, saying he was "obliged to speak, because the Netherlands is "under threat" from Islam. "Acquit me. I do not encourage hatred, I do not encourage discrimination," he told the Amsterdam court during its closing hearing on June 1. The blonde-haired parliamentarian, whose right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) lends its support to a right-leaning Dutch coalition government, said he was "defending the character, the identity, the culture and the freedom of the Netherlands." His case has been helped by a reluctant prosecution, who last month again asked for his acquittal, saying his comments formed part of the public debate. The prosecution's unwillingness to take aim at Wilders stems back as far as 2008 when it refused to take up a case against him following complaints. On January 21, 2009, however, the Amsterdam appeals court forced the prosecution to mount a case against him.

Prosecutor Paul Velleman told the court that although Wilders' remarks may have caused anxiety and insult on several occasions, they were not criminal as they criticised a religion and therefore could not be punished. On trial since October last year, Wilders risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro fine if found guilty. Wilders' trial comes against a backdrop of plans by the central-right Dutch government to move away from a multicultural approach towards a tougher stance against those who ignore Dutch values and break the law.
© AFP

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Headlines 24 June, 2011

AMNESTY SLATES ROMANIA OVER ROMA HOUSING

Rights organisation says authorities are depriving Roma people in Romania of one of their basic rights.

23/6/2011- Romania’s Roma, who rank among the Balkan country's the poorest and most disadvantaged citizens, cannot access adequate housing because of the country’s legal system, according to a report issued on Thursday by the rights group Amnesty International. “When the authorities evict Roma communities against their will, without adequate consultation, notice or alternative housing, they are violating international treaties that the government of Romania has signed up to. This also applies to the resettlement of Roma communities to inadequate and segregated housing”, says Barbora Cernusakova, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Romania. In support of its allegations, Amnesty International cites the case of 56 Roma families which were forcibly evicted in December from the main Transylvanian city of Cluj, where some of them had been living for about 25 years. The community was not given sufficient notice, no consultation was carried out and no feasible alternatives to eviction were explored, Amnesty says. “Unfortunatelly, the situation hasn’t changed yet. Forty families are still living inhumane housing conditions near the city’s rubbish dump and a former chemical waste dump,” Adrian Dohotari, a civic activist from Cluj, said. Housing is still a major problem in Romania. Around 40 per cent of Romanians live in dwellings with no indoor toilets, baths or showers, according to the EU’s statistics office, Eurostat. Over half of Romanians live in overcrowded dwellings and 22 per cent live in dwellings with leaking roofs or which are damp, the Eurostat report adds. Romania is officially home to some 550,000 Roma, although it is widely believed that there are actually at least twice that number in the country. Many people of Roma origin do not declare their ethnicity due to the widespread prejudice they face.
© Balkan Insight

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GOVERNMENT'S GESTURES TO FAR-RIGHT ALLY POISON DANISH ATMOSPHERE (Denmark)

A political compromise has granted a populist party its wish. But the anti-EU move has angered Germany, writes Clare McCarthy in Copenhagen

23//2011- Danish politics descended into farce this week after a routine exercise in legislative horse-trading between the centre-right government and its far-right ally went spectacularly awry. The drama has seen internecine bickering among former political friends, serious questions being asked in Brussels, outrage in neighbouring Germany and so much venom heaped on an eminent political scientist that she fled the public arena. The affair started last month when the government and the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party (DPP) cobbled up one of their customary barters: the minority coalition secured DPP votes for pension reform in return for government support for one of its pet causes. Such trade-offs have been a consistent feature of political life since the centre-right swung into power a decade ago and the DPP’s price invariably involves a tightening of some aspect of immigration policy, be it banning residence permits for foreign spouses under the age of 25, halving welfare payouts for immigrants or cracking down on preachers who aren’t members of the established Lutheran church. This time, the government wanted to wind down an early retirement scheme and, because the DPP’s electorate is overloaded with poor and sparsely educated Danes prone to early retirement, it was a big ask.

Badly needing a counterweight to ward off voter loss in the forthcoming general election (due by November) the DPP decided on a grandiose gesture – the reintroduction of controls at Danish borders. The image conjured up of Danish-uniformed personnel hoisting the national flag at entry points to Germany and keeping hordes of marauding eastern European criminals at bay was one that appealed to the DPP’s constituency. It also allowed Pia Kjaersgaard, the party’s veteran leader, to host a victory celebration in parliament buildings where flag-waving supporters washed down their bacon-flavoured chips with pink champagne. “The reintroduction of border controls is a big day for Denmark,” she said. The DPP’s brand of nationalism is intensely anti-EU. “Border controls were torn down 10 years ago because of EU co-operation on freedom of movement. Border control has been the EU’s way of symbolising the elimination of the essential characteristics of nation states,” said DPP deputy leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl. The party atmosphere quickly soured, as first national politicians, then German and Swedish ones and the Brussels elite started questioning the deal’s compatibility with the Schengen acquis – that part of EU law which regulates the Continent’s open borders and by which Denmark is legally bound.

Danish ambassadors across Europe fired off missives to leading media outlets explaining that police were not being deployed (this would be a clear breach of the Schengen rules) and all that Denmark was doing was introducing occasional customs checks for crime-prevention purposes. There were two problems here. First, the original Danish-language version of the plan spoke of “permanent customs control in Denmark”, whereas the English version carried the blander title “The Danish agreement on customs control”. The worrying implication here is that two versions of the text were produced – one to appeal to Ms Kjaersgaard’s voters and another more sanitised version to appease international opinion. More seriously, the original document was prefaced by a rationale referring to a “demonstrated increase in cross-border criminality”. Despite repeated requests from The Irish Times , the government has not yet provided documentary evidence to support this claim – though it promises to do so. However, data published on Monday by the national statistics agency indicate that the trend is in the opposite direction and that serious crime in Denmark is on the way down. So while DPP rhetoric conjures up images of eastern European criminals washing into the country like a horde of latter-day Visigoths, the reality is more prosaic – cases of aggravated burglary have dropped from 954 in 2009 to 933 in 2010.

Further, according to a report in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, bandito raids on private Danish homes are mostly carried out by homegrown criminals. Only two of the 36 such incidents for which convictions were secured in the 12 months to July 2010 involved eastern Europeans. When Denmark’s border plans were floated, one of the first worried voices on the phone to Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen was José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission. He expressed “serious doubts” as to whether the plan could be implemented without contravening Schengen rules. But the gravest misgivings came from Germany and a veritable diplomatic war of words has been playing across the Schleswig-Holstein border for weeks. When Denmark’s justice minister called Germany’s objections “terrible nonsense”, the Germans countered about countries “playing with the fire of nationalism”. Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister, put his case plainly: “We do not want a conflict with Denmark but we cannot accept that Schengen be undermined.” While German cabinet ministers fretted about this attack on Europe’s open borders, other politicians merely saw an example worth following. Marine Le Pen, the new leader of France’s hard-right National Front, this week grabbed the chance to launch a recruitment drive on the back of Denmark’s border efforts: “If Denmark can control its borders, why not France too?” ran the banner headline.
© Irish Times

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FREE SPEECH -TERMS AND CONDITIONS APPLY- (Denmark)

Recent cases raise questions over how far entitlement to free expression can be taken

20/6/2011- The right to speak one’s mind, regardless of what it is you have to say, is normally defended as the ultimate right in Denmark, but two incidents in recent weeks illustrate that the urge to control what people say is still a temptation. Most will remember that when protests broke out in 2005 over Jyllands-Posten newspaper's publication of 12 drawings of the prophet Mohammed, including one with a bomb in his turban, politicians from across the political spectrum in Denmark staunchly defended the cartoonist and newspaper’s right to do so. Even as Danish products were boycotted in Islamic countries, and its embassy in Damascus was torched, politicians argued that upholding this right was more important than bowing to pressure for the sake of security. Among those politicians was Liberal MP Inger Støjberg, who stated on TV2 News in 2008, after the cartoons were published a second time, that: “I think it’s disgraceful that they are able to silence people with threats. I support the right of the Danish artists to express their freedom of speech.”

And last year, when the newspaper Politiken published an apology for offence caused after it too published the cartoon, Pia Kjærsgaard from the Danish People’s Party (DF) attacked. “It is deeply, deeply embarrassing that [Politiken's editor] Tøger Seidenfaden has sold out Denmark and the West's freedom of speech. I cannot distance myself enough from this total sell-out,” Kjærsgaard said. Last week, however, University of Copenhagen professor Marlene Wind, an expert on European politics who has frequently been called upon to offer her view about plans to reinstate border controls, called the measures "electioneering" and an appeal to the voter's "inner brute". Wind’s position touched a nerve with DF, whose proposed border controls were granted by the government in return for their support for welfare and early retirement reforms.

Wind was consulted by the media on whether the new border controls violated the Schengen Agreement. She said it did and then questioned the DF’s real motivation for demanding the new controls – that with an election on the horizon, they want less to keep out criminal foreigners than to appeal to the fears of the lowest common denominator. Appearing on DR2’s Deadline, Kjærsgaard said that Wind’s statements “were not expert opinion, but political opinion”. And when Politiken asked Kjærsgaard whether Wind was correct to say her party was responsible for the uproar that has emerged, she said: “I say what I think is right to say as a politician – it’s not up to Marlene Wind to judge me. It is not her vocation. She needs to join a political party and become a politician.” The immigration minister, Søren Pind, also criticised Wind and suggested that ethical guidelines be established to control what experts quoted in the media may and may not say. The message was that experts should be providers of impartial information and not commentate or cast judgment in areas not directly related to their field.

Another expert finding himself in trouble in recent weeks after expressing his opinion was Tue Magnussen, who was fired from his position at the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims after writing an article for left-wing news website Modkraft.dk. The article was critical of the lack of public outrage during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Denmark. He was subsequently dismissed by his organisation for not making it clear that he was not writing on their behalf. Citing confidentiality requirements, the RCT declined to discuss the details of Magnussen's dismissal, but other Danish humanitarian organisations told The Copenhagen Post that the rights of employees to speak publicly are not always well defined. Lene Linde, the head of human resources for the Red Cross in Denmark, said their organisation had no explicit policies in place to guide their employee’s public remarks. “Our experts have to work according to our seven fundamental principles, such as impartiality and neutrality. We try to be very open with our position. But I think it's hard to make a policy about it because it really depends on the context in which something is said,” she said.

Public relations employees from similar organisations said they were unsure as to exactly what their rights were, and even whether these rights were defined in their contracts. Erik Østergaard-Nielsen, of law firm Selskabsadvokaterne, said it was uncommon for employees of Danish organisations to be contractually obligated to seek permission to speak publicly. “I would say that except for chief executives it would be rare for employees to have these types of clauses in their contracts,” he said. “It's not a problem really – perhaps because corporations in Denmark aren't that large. Because of this there tends to be tight social bonds between management and employees so it's rare to have a situation where there's conflict between them.” He added: “In Denmark we have a consensus culture, so I think if an employee spoke out it would affect their future employment because they would become less employable.” But whereas those in the private and charity sectors seem to lack clear rules, state employees do have more specific guidelines to work with. When speaking in a personal capacity, public employees may engage in public debate even when it concerns their own line of work without having to ask for permission from management.

Even without clear guidelines, article 77 of the Danish Constitution protects individuals' rights to free speech without reprisal, stating: “Everyone is entitled in print, speech and writing to publish their thoughts and are only responsible to the courts. Censorship and other preventative measures shall never again be introduced.” The Wind and Magnussen cases show that the debate over the extent to which individuals are entitled to express their opinion without reprisal is far from settled. Kjærsgaard and the DF supported free speech as an unassailable doctrine in the case of offensive drawings of a religious figure, but believe that opinions of experts quoted in the media should be restricted. And while Pind demands has called for the implementatio of new regulations on expert testimony, non-public organisations in Denmark are hesitant to clearly outline the rights of their employees to speak out, perhaps because the Danish consensus-culture in itself already encourages self-censorship.

The two cases, while distinct, raise questions about what limitations can be placed on voicing a public opinion. Free speech is already limited in the case of libel and Kjærsgaard does not dismiss the rights of experts to speak, providing they do not take part in political dialogue. Both cases demonstrate that while the constitution guarantees a right to free speech, there still exists a philosophical debate in Denmark about how ‘free’ our voices should be.
© The Copenhagen Post

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TURKEY IGNORING ANTI-LGBT DISCRIMINATION SAYS AMNESTY

22/6/2011- Human Rights group Amnesty International has issued a new report condemning Turkey for ignoring violence and discrimination against the country’s LGBT population. The 50-page report, entitled “Not an illness nor a crime: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey demand equality,” highlights that hate crimes against LGBTs are pervasive but ignored by the Turkish government. The report stresses that trans women are left particularly vulnerable and are subject to a disproportionately high number of incidents without legal protection or remedy.

From the Amnesty International blog:
Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey, said:
“The pervasive prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey and the fear of ostracism and attacks, means that many feel compelled to conceal their sexual orientation, even from their families. “Homophobic statements by government officials have encouraged discrimination against individuals. Rather than repeat past failures, the new government must respect and protect their rights through words and actions. “It is the responsibility of all the parties in the Parliament to ensure that any new constitutional settlement in Turkey outlaws discrimination on grounds of sexuality or gender identity. “Comprehensive legislation to counter discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is a must – and it should come as soon as possible. However, the authorities must also show the political will to combat discrimination by demonstrating that homophobic public discourse is unacceptable.”

The report also found that, not only do police officials leave trans women vulnerable, there is evidence to suggest that they actively pursue them to levy arbitrary, and that this occurs on a day to day basis. Discriminatory practices have also been found among the judiciary. Though no laws explicitly sanction penalties for trans identity, the report found evidence to suggest that the judiciary has invoked overreaching penalties for trans individuals who, for instance, may have turned to sex work because they cannot find employment elsewhere due to the fierce discrimination they face. Hate crimes against same-sex couples have also been neglected by police officials who do not always follow up charges of bias motivated crimes if they are investigated at all, says the report. Amnesty International is calling on the Turkish government to take a firm stance against anti-LGBT discrimination and put in place legislative and policy safeguards to prevent this kind of stigmatization and victimization.
© Care 2

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'SEX ASSAULT' POLITICIAN BLAMES FAR-RIGHT PLOT (France)

22/6/2011- A French mayor and former government minister spent his second night in custody last night answering questions about his alleged use of elaborate foot massages to sexually assault female employees. Georges Tron, 53, who was forced to resign as a junior civil service minister last month, claims that his accusers have exploited the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair in New York to invent evidence against him. He also claims that he is a victim of a plot by the far-right National Front. Two former employees of Mr Tron at the town hall in Draveil, south of Paris, say that he forced them to take part in sessions of "reflexology", or foot massage, which led to sexual assault and even rape. Two town hall officials, a woman and a man, have also been arrested after being accused of helping Mr Tron to assault the two women. Mr Tron's lawyer, Olivier Shnerb, said the centre-right politician had dismissed all the allegations against him. "It's not simply a question of denial," he said. "When you are innocent, you don't just deny, you reject." The lawyer also protested against the conditions under which Mr Tron was arrested on Monday night and held in custody while his parliamentary immunity was suspended during a month-long recess in the National Assembly. "Nothing happened (at the police station) on Monday evening. Nothing happened this morning (Tuesday). The interrogation took place between 11.30pm and 4am, which makes it difficult, physically and intellectually, to defend yourself," Mr Shnerb said. Since the two former town hall employees, Laura and Eloise, aged 34 and 36, made their accusations last month, several other women have come forward to say that Mr Tron forced them to undergo lengthy foot massages. No other woman has made allegations of sexual assault. Mr Tron's lawyer said last week that his client's interest in "reflexology" was well-known. "It's bizarre and unusual," he said. "But if you knew how many odd hobbies were practised in our town halls, you would be astonished."
© The Independent

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BULGARIA SENTENCED IN STRASBOURG FOR DISCRIMINATING AGAINST 2 RUSSIANS

22/6/2011- Bulgaria has been sanctioned by the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg to pay EUR 2 000 each to two Russian citizens, residing in the country, over discrimination. The two have filed a claim they have been blackmailed in order to graduate from high school. Anatoliy and Vitaliy Ponomariovi were born in 1986 and 1988 respectively in the Soviet Kazchstan. They were able to prove that Bulgaria has violated their right of free education, after granting their mother permanent status in 1994, but asking them for EUR 800 and EUR 2 600 in order to issue their high school diplomas. The brothers arrived in Bulgaria when their Russian mother divorced their Russian father and married a Bulgarian from the southern city of Pazardzhik. They started school in Bulgaria and learned to speak Bulgarian as a native language. Upon turning 18 they faced bureaucracy in Bulgaria for no longer being minors and dependents of their mother. Anatoliy requested his own permanent residency document and was told he had to go back to Russia, obtain a Bulgarian visa and then file an application for residency. The family could not afford the trip since the mother had been unemployed and their step-father forced to close his small internet coffee shop. The Foreign Affairs Ministry finally allowed Anatoliy to file for visa from Bulgaria, but his residency papers were returned with the request for a fee of BGN 1 300. With his brother, they turned to the Commission for Forgiveness of Uncollectable State Fees, which made them take a loan of BGN 1 400 each. In 2005, when Anatoliy was about to graduate from high school, the Regional Pazardzhik Inspectorate for Education forced the high school principal to ask the brothers to pay a fee for attending a Bulgarian school in order to issue their diplomas. According to the Education Act from 1991, education is free for foreign citizens without permanent residency status. The Strasbourg Court ruled that the Russians have been discriminated against and one of their basic human rights the right of education  violated. Bulgaria is sentenced to further pay EUR 2 000 forr the Court's expenses.
© Novinite

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HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL IN THESSALONIKI, GREECE, DESECRATED

21/6/2011- The Holocaust Memorial of Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, was vandalized with swastika and anti-Semitic slogans. Unidentified perpetrators daubed the bronze plaque in memory of the 50,000 Jews killed during the Holocaust with the words "That's a lie", a Star of David and a swastika. This act coincides with the decision of the City Council of Thessaloniki to bestow on Monday the City’s highest decoration to 30 Holocaust survivors still living in Thessaloniki. The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) and the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki issued press releases condemning this anti-Semitic attack and urging the authorities to take all necessary measures in order to apprehend the culprits. Greek Education Minister, Anna Diamantopoulou, the City Council of Thessaloniki as well as the local Mayor Giannis Boutaris issued public statements condemning the vandalism. The city's memorial service for the about 30 survivors still living in Greece's second city was said to be the first in 65 years. Thessaloniki's new mayor Yannis Boutaris, who defeated the conservative candidate in local elections last year, is seeking to highlight the city's multicultural and religious past at the crossroads of the southern Balkans.
© EJP News

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HITLER 'STILL HONORARY CITIZEN IN HIS HOMETOWN' (Austria)

21/6/2011- Late National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) leader Adolf Hitler is praised as a citizen of honour in the books of his hometown, according to a Green member of the federal parliament (MP). Karl Öllinger said today (Tues) he found out that the constitution of Braunau, Upper Austria, honours the Third Reich dictator in this disputed way 66 years after he committed suicide in Berlin, Germany. Öllinger called on the Braunau Town Hall to get active regarding the issue. His appeal comes shortly after Carinthian capital Klagenfurt and the Lower Austrian towns of Amstetten and Waidhofen an der Ybbs stripped Hitler of the honorary title. A spokesman for the Braunau Town Hall explained the town was willing to carry out its own investigations to clarify the matter. All eyes in a possible vote in the Town Hall will be on delegates of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) after representatives of the right-wing movement abstained from voting over the topic in Amstetten – to the fury of non-government organisations (NGOs) and political rivals.
© The Austrian Times

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NEVER AGAIN GIVEN UEFA-BACKED AWARD (Poland)

The 2010 UEFA-backed European Football Supporters Award has been presented to the Polish association NEVER AGAIN at a ceremony in Warsaw at a fair play gala organised by the PZPN.

22/6/2011- The Polish association NEVER AGAIN has been presented with the 2010 UEFA-backed European Football Supporters Award (EFSA) at a ceremony in Warsaw. The body is a ceaseless campaigner in the fight against racism and xenophobia, and is involved in important activities related to next year's UEFA EURO 2012 final round in Poland and Ukraine. The presentation ceremony took place in the Polish capital at a fair play gala organised by the Polish Football Association (PZPN). NEVER AGAIN also received a cheque for €6,000 to continue and further develop its activities. NEVER AGAIN has a mission to promote multicultural understanding and contribute to the development of a democratic civil society in Poland. The organisation is particularly concerned with the problem of education against racial and ethnic prejudice among the young.

NEVER AGAIN is actively working on the East European Development Project organised by the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network – UEFA's key partner in the campaign against racism and and any form of discrimination in football. UEFA is contributing to the funding of the three-year project, as part of a wide range of educational projects relating to UEFA EURO 2012. The principal initiative of this project is to provide a centre for all actions against racism in Eastern Europe. The specific mission is to monitor research and document specific cases of racism in the region ahead of UEFA EURO 2012. The European Football Supporters Award is a European project recognising groups of supporters or associations that show a positive attitude in sport, especially football. The award is given annually, and the 2010 jury comprised representatives of UEFA, the European Commission, the Council of Europe, European Sports Magazines, the City of Brussels and the association Sport and Citizenship. UEFA warmly congratulates its award winning FARE network partner, NEVER AGAIN.
© UEFA

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PRIEST KNOWN FOR EXTREME VIEWS INVITED TO EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT BY MEPs (Poland)

Father Tadeusz Rydzyk runs Polish radio station which regularly broadcasts anti-semitic and homophobic views

21/6/2011- A controversial Polish priest known for running a radio station which regularly broadcasts anti-semitic and homophobic views attended the European parliament on Tuesday at the invitation of politicians from a conservative group in Europe, the Guardian has learned. Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, whose Radio Maryja station has been criticised by the Vatician, former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and Jewish organisations for its extreme views, was invited to attend by Polish MEPs from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). His attendance provoked a surprising outburst from British MEP TImothy Kirkhope, the deputy chairman of the ECR group, who said that he was disappointed not to have been told in advance that such a controversial figure had been invited to attend by fellow MEPs. "I have never met this gentleman, but he is a controversial figure who has reportedly promoted homophobia and anti-semitism. "I will be raising this invitation with the group at the earliest opportunity. In future, an invitation should be authorised before being issued using the ECR's name," he said. Kirkhope, who is a leading member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, said he did not know if the ECR's funds had been used to bring Rydzyk to the European parliament. "Who knows [whether the group's funds were used], this raises a number of issues which need to be discussed at length," he added.

Rydzyk appeared at a four-hour conference to discuss climate change and renewable energy. The event was organised at the European parliament by Marek Grobarczyk and Tomasz Poreba, two Polish MEPs who are members of the ECR. A British MEP, Julie Girling, was supposed to speak at the meeting, but pulled out at short notice, insiders said. Rydzyk, the owner of Radio Maryja, was named the sixth most influential man in Poland last year by one newspaper, because of the radio station's popularity with rural, ultra-conservative communities. Radio Maryja has been at the centre of criticism and controversy since it was established 11 years ago, with critics arguing that it is vehemently anti-semitic, homophobic and xenophobic. In January 2000, a guest "historian" from a Catholic university claimed that Auschwitz was not an extermination camp but a large labour camp for Jews. In 2007, on tapes released by the weekly magazine Wprost, a voice alleged to be Rydzyk's was heard accusing the then president, Lech Kaczynski, of being in the pocket of Poland's Jewish community. "You know what this is about: Poland giving [the Jews] $65bn (£40bn). "They [the Jews] will come to you and say: 'Give me your coat! Take off your trousers! Give me your shoes!'" Rydzyk is alleged to have said, according to the magazine. Rydzyk has refused to deny making the comments, according to the BBC.

Rydzyk has been described as a "kingmaker" in Poland. Last year, he reportedly struck a deal with the Law and Justice Party in which his supporters will make up 50% of the party's candidates in Poland's general election, due this year, in return for his backing. Polish members of the ECR last night stood by the invitation. One told the Guardian: "He [Rydzyk] is misunderstood. He is a very good priest and his views are held by many in Poland."
© The Guardian

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WOMEN PLAYING BIGGER ROLE AMONG FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISTS (Germany)

What does a Neo-Nazi look like? One’s typical stereotype might be of a jackbooted skinhead. But increasing numbers of active right-wing extremists in Germany are actually women, experts say.

22/6/2011- Although there are no definitive numbers, up to one-fifth of participants in the far-right scene are female, said Andrea Röpke, who recently released the book Mädelsache! (Girl Thing!) on the topic. “You can assume that the proportion of women in the right-wing extremist scene is rising," said. "In Berlin and Brandenburg the proportion of women is very, very high." Röpke said women were valued because they provide stability and a sense of calm to an often violent and virulently xenophobic scene. Often they play the role of organizing less threatening events such as football tournaments of children’s parties. In politics they often try to project a sense of reasonableness by concentrating on social or green issues. “The women stabilize the scene in the background,” she said. “They call themselves the ‘community anchor.’” But though women play a valuable role, it doesn’t mean they seen as equal with men. In fact, the opposite is often true and women must hold their tongues in order to be accepted.

Occasionally gender-related spats explode into the public light, such as in 2009 when party officials voted to censure prominent member Gitta Schüßler who had founded a right-wing women’s organization but subsequently criticized the neo-Nazi party the NPD as a “sect of men.” The party accused her of spouting overly feminist views although she now appears to be a valued member again. The rise of women is probably best seen, however, in groups such as Exit, an organization which helps neo-Nazis to escape from their former lives and integrate into normal German society. Up to 20 percent of the active neo-Nazis the group helps are female. But women have a special challenge: They’re often delegated to taking care of children and other vulnerable family members and are reluctant to leave. That doesn't mean they don't want to find new lives, however. “In the last ten years we have increasingly seen women who want to get out,” said Bernd Wagner, the organization’s director, who suggested there might be a need for special social programmes directed at neo-Nazi women.
© DPA

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GERMANY'S LEFT PARTY FACES CHARGES OF ANTI-SEMITISM

Swatiskas intertwined in the Star of David, a map of the Middle East with Israel missing, boycotts of Israeli products: Germany's far-left Left Party, many feel, has a growing anti-Semitism problem. The issue threatens to divide the party.

21/6/2011- Germany's far-left Left Party has been struggling for months to have its voice heard on the national political stage. Falling membership numbers, shrinking support and a very public leadership battle this spring have all left the party struggling to find relevance. Now, though, the party is facing yet another challenge. For years, the Left Party -- a partial outgrowth of the East German communists -- has been criticized for harboring anti-Semitism and being overtly critical of Israel. Just recently, Left Party floor leader Gregor Gysi pushed a resolution through the party's parliamentary faction stating: "In the future, the representatives of the Left Party faction will take action against any form of anti-Semitism in society." The party, the resolution read, will no longer participate in boycotts of Israeli products, will refrain from demanding a single-state solution to the Middle East conflict and will not take part in this year's Gaza flotilla. That resolution, however, did not sit well with the party's left wing. The group protested against being "muzzled," complaining that Gysi's declaration was "undemocratic" and "dangerous," as Left Party parliamentarian Annette Groth complained. And Gysi, formerly head of the party, gave in. This week, he plans to compose a further resolution on anti-Semitism. He provided a hint at what it might contain in a recent interview with the leftist paper Neues Deutschland. "I don't see a problem with anti-Semitism in the Left Party," he said. "I am not a fan of the inflationary use of the term 'anti-Semitism.'" Gysi himself is from a family that has Jewish roots, several members of which were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Yet More Strife
More pragmatic members of the Left Party are up in arms. "A further resolution on the subject ... wouldn't solve a single problem, rather it would create new ones," said Raju Sharma, a Left Party parliamentarian who is also the party's treasurer. Michael Leutert, also a member of Germany's federal parliament, the Bundestag, is concerned that the issue could plunge the party into yet more strife. Still, it seems unlikely that the Left Party will be able to quickly silence the debate. On Monday, Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, wrote a guest commentary for the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung in which he accused Left Party members, particularly those from western Germany, of "downright pathalogical hatred of Israel." He also wrote that the "old anti-Zionist spirit from East Germany still stains the party." There are many within the party who agree. Chief among them is Benjamin-Christopher Krüger, a founding member of a Left Party working group which aims at rooting all forms of anti-Semitism out of the party. "We have an anti-Semitism problem," he said.

A recent study by the University of Leipzig quoted in the daily Frankfurter Rundschau would seem to support Krüger's claim. The study said that positions hostile to both Israel and Jews are "increasingly dominant within the party" and critics of anti-Semitic positions are "increasingly isolated." Several recent incidents bear witness to the problem. In April, the website of the district chapter of the Left Party in the western city of Duisburg featured a swastika entangled with a Star of David. The symbol linked to a pamphlet which called Israel a "rogue nation" and called for a boycott of Israeli products. The Duisburg Left Party chapter distanced itself from the pamphlet and claimed that the site had been illegally manipulated -- but the head of the Duisburg Left Party has long supported a boycott of Israeli products. In May, Inge Höger, a member of the Bundestag from the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, appeared at a Palestinians in Europe conference attended by numerous Hamas sympathizers. She was wearing a scarf printed with a map of the Middle East that did not include Israel. Höger claimed that she was handed the scarf and didn't want to be impolite.

A Painful Confrontation
In Bremen in March, the party refused to join a multi-party appeal against a further call to boycott Israeli products. The party allowed that the call was reminiscent of Nazi campaigns against patronizing Jewish shops in the 1930s, but said that boycotts against Israel were not anti-Semitic. The recent incidents are of a kind with several similar transgressions in the past. In May 2010, three Left Party parliamentarians took part in the Gaza flotilla which sought to break the Israeli embargo on the Gaza Strip. Also that year, three parliamentarians remained seated following Israeli President Shimon Peres' address in the Bundestag. In 2009, nine Left Party parliamentarians were at a demonstration at which "death to Israel" was chanted. In 2008, 11 Left Party members of the Bundestag refused to support a resolution against anti-Semitism.

The party has frequently defended itself against criticism by saying that it should be possible to find fault with Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism. But Andrej Hermlin, a well-known pianist and Left Party member, finds the defense disingenuous. He calls it the "cowardly strategy of leftist anti-Semitism" and says the debate in recent weeks has been "repellent and nauseating." He's not alone. Anetta Kahane, a Jew raised in the east who heads the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which usually focuses on fighting right-extremism, said that the party has plenty of work to do. "Without a painful confrontation with its own history of anti-Semitism in East Germany, but also with anti-Semitism within the West German left, the Left Party cannot be a credible partner in the fight against discrimination of all kinds," she said. This week, she is hosting a podium discussion on the topic. It's title: "The Renaissance of Anti-Semitism on the Left?"
© The Spiegel

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ERRC URGES END TO POLICE PROFILING OF EU ROMA IN DENMARK

20/6/2011- Today, the ERRC sent letters expressing concern to Danish authorities regarding the arrest of several Romanian Roma who recently travelled to Demark following the reversal of deportation orders issued in July 2010. Travel bans affecting these individuals, who were part of a group represented by the ERRC, were lifted in April 2011, allowing them to return to Denmark. In recent weeks, the ERRC has documented at least three cases in which its clients returning to Denmark were taken into police custody and released only after ERRC and local lawyers intervened. In all cases, Danish authorities were unaware of the reversed expulsion orders and lifted travel bans and held the persons in question in immigration detention overnight. The ERRC called on Danish law enforcement authorities to halt the discriminatory targeting of Romani EU citizens on the streets of Copenhagen for stops, searches and detention under the Danish Aliens Act.
© European Roma Rights Center

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FESTIVAL TO COMBAT DISCRIMINATION TOWARD ROMA BOTTLE COLLECTORS (Denmark)

Roma Amor campaign will encourage respectful behaviour though crime fears linger

20/6/2011- Reports of abuse and discrimination against Roma gypsies who attend Roskilde Festival to collect bottles for their deposits has led festival organisers to begin a campaign to help foster better relations. The campaign, Roma Amor, started earlier this month and has stimulated lively debate on Facebook where many people have voiced their worries about the link between the Roma and crime at the annual music festival. “I have had some bad experience with Roma,” worte Andreas Thanh Long Jensen. “I busted one of them going through my tent and my bag. He said that he was just checking for cans, but why would I hide them in my sleeping bag.” Frederik Petersson commented that the bottle deposits ought to go to charity. “I find it kind of selfish to collect bottles for personal gain, when other people do the exact same thing to help people who are actually in need.” Aware of these sorts of concerns, the festival has launched a refund mediation team as part of the ‘good refund initiative’. The team will maintain a dialogue with the Roma collectors and encourage them and festival-goers to be respectful of each other.

The campaign also hopes to highlight conditions for a group of people that faces high rates of poverty. Many of those in Denmark have travelled here to pick up bottles in order to scrape together a living. Roma Amor is part of a larger effort by Roskilde Festival organisers this year to bring about awareness of poverty and the plight of people such as the Roma. Campaign Manager, Anna Sophie Rønde, drew attention to the discrimination by festival guests, who have been known to hang signs outside their camps warning off Roma, often in profane or offensive language. “When Roma people go to Roskilde Festival to collect deposits, it’s not necessarily because they are Roma, but because they are poor,” she said. Rønde also pointed out that in Romania, where Roma make up 2.5 percent of the population, only 27 percent of Roma are employed. Those that are employed earn around €10 a day. A team of social workers has also been established to ensure that children are not made to work through the night and in front of main stages, where their size allows them to slip through the crowds to pick up discarded cans and bottles.

Factfile | The Roma
The Roma are an ethnic group who trace their origins to the Indian subcontinent but are now distributed widely across Europe. Romania and southeastern Europe houses their most concentrated population of Roma, which is estimated at approximately 10 million across Europe. The Roma people have a history of persecution, reaching back from their enslavement by the Byzantine Empire to their attempted genocide by the Nazis in the Second World War. The accession of eastern European states to the EU led to Roma travelling to Denmark for work. At the Roskilde Festival they can be found collecting bottles, earning them several hundred kroner a day. In July last year the Immigration Service ordered the arrest and deportation of 23 Roma, some of whom were guilty of property theft, who were living in squatted accommodation on Amager. But in April this year, 14 of the deportations were found to be unlawful and were overturned, on the grounds that simply living in illegal shelters was not sufficient grounds for deportation. Several of them have now returned to Denmark.
© The Copenhagen Post

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CZECH NEO-NAZIS POST GUERRILLA ‘HARDBASS’ DANCE ATTACKS ON YOUTUBE

Hardcore techno popular with Russian nationalists inspires Czech hooligans, neo-Nazis to flex their muscles via spastic public dance

21/6/2011- “Hardbass” is a sub-genre of the hard trance family of electronic dance music popularized in Dutch clubs early this decade, marked by a thumping bass line, delivered at some 140-160 beats per minute, a four-to-the-floor kick beat, synth stabs, sweeps and samples — and a host of other nuances lost on anyone over the age of thirty. Subtleties aside, it’s the kind of music you’d expect to hear blaring from a Prague taxi hailed at three in morning from Wenceslas Square or from a non-stop herna bar most anywhere in the Czech Republic. It’s not the kind of music you’d normally associate with skinhead youth and neo-Nazi groups — who typically go for white power rock, and modern strains of “Oi!” and racist hardcore punk. But, influenced by Russian far-right extremists, hardbass is what a small but growing number of seemingly disaffected Czech youth are listening to — and dancing to — in guerrilla-style public shows of force that they film themselves and then post on social media sites like YouTube. It is also called “chacharbass” by Czech proponents. “The inspiration comes from Russia, where ‘hardbass’ became popular among extremists and nationalists who want to publically show their their pride in Russian culture — which is ironic, since the music came from the Netherlands and Germany,” Miroslav Mareš, an associate professor at Masaryk University and expert on ultra-right movements, told Czech Position.

Loathsome lyrics
“The Czech hardbass movement doesn’t have their own songs yet. The lyrics of the Russian songs in their videos are mostly very stupid — about dancing to hardbass and so on — but they also make references to 14 and 88, numbers which have clear meanings for neo-Nazis, referring to [white power slogans] and Hitler,” Mareš said. The “14” refers to the fourteen words of two slogans by the American white separatist David Lane and used predominantly by white power groups — “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children” and “Because the beauty of the White Aryan women must not perish from the earth.” The first slogan was drawn from a statement, 88 words in length, from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” The number “88” is short for “Heil Hilter” (“H” being the eighth letter of the alphabet). Mareš, who has written extensively on developments of both Russian and Czech right-wing extremist movements, stresses that while some hardbass enthusiasts have ties to right-wing extremist groups — and in the YouTube videos, some sport the signature clothing of such movements (Lonsdale and Thor Steinar hoodies, bomber jackets, Doc Marten boots, etc.) while others appear to be garden-variety football hooligans. Either way, nearly all hide their faces with bandanas, ski masks, or scarves as they stage the public dance.

Bass-driven blitzkrieg
There have been 40 to 60 of these public hardbass dances staged and filmed this year, the majority in Moravia, especially in the regional capital of Ostrava, although the first were recorded in Prague, Mareš said, adding that there are perhaps 2,000 right-wing extremists in the Czech Republic, of whom very few take part in the dance actions. Many of the videos circulating on Czech sites were made by the same group in Ostrava. Over this past weekend, a group of hooligans and right-wing extremists staged a hardbass action in the Prague metro, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported, citing a transport authority spokesperson Ilona Vysoudilová as saying that although they damaged no property, the gang of masked dancers seriously disturbed and threatened other passengers and so were ejected from the metro. The group of some 25 young men then rushed into a McDonald’s for another bass-driven musical blitzkrieg. A number of Czech media reports on the hardbass phenomenon note that the masked young men are not the most accomplished of dancers, to say the least — their repetitive hopping movements evocative of controlled spasms — and Mareš said most right-wing extremists who look to Russian movements for inspiration and cooperate with them reject it as a way to raise their profile and recruit new members to their cause. “When they speak about ‘the Russian way’ they mean staging brutal mass organized attacks,” he said, not dance moves. “I’m not an advisor to the extremists, but I have to say I would not recommend it [as a propaganda tool],” Mareš added.
© Czech Position

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OSCE HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF CALLS FOR END SEGREGATION & DISCRIMINATION ROMA CHILDREN IN CZECH SCHOOLS

21/6/2011- Ambassador Janez Lenarèiè, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said more must to be done to end the persisting segregation and discrimination of Roma children in the Czech school system following the release of a United Nations report today. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its concluding observations on the human rights situation of children in the Czech Republic, expressed concern about the continued serious and widespread discrimination against Roma children, and their “systemic and unlawful” segregation from mainstream education. “We strongly encourage the Czech authorities to live up to their international commitments and step up efforts to integrate Roma schoolchildren into mainstream education,” Lenarèiè said. The practice of segregating Roma children in separate schools or classes intended for children with mental disabilities based on their ethnicity is not only discriminatory but in effect ruins prospects for their successful integration into mainstream society, he stressed. Lenarèiè welcomed the adoption in 2010 of a National Action Plan on Inclusive Education in the Czech Republic, but expressed concern over the lack of concrete timelines for the desegregation of Czech schools.

“Ensuring equal access of children to quality education is fundamental for the integration of Roma and Sinti. It is therefore in the best interest of the Czech Republic to desegregate schools without delay and not waste another school year,” he added. The European Court of Human Rights found in 2007 that the segregation of Roma schoolchildren in special schools constituted a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and ordered the Czech Republic to end the practice. As a participating State of the OSCE, the Czech Republic has committed itself to integrating Roma and Sinti into mainstream education, to ensuring that national legislation includes adequate provisions banning racial segregation and discrimination in education systems, and to developing and implementing comprehensive school desegregation programmes. Lenarèiè also expressed concern about widespread anti-Roma rhetoric from public figures at the national and local levels in the Czech Republic, and numerous recent incidents involving extremist groups intimidating and harassing Roma communities. He stressed that such manifestations of intolerance contribute to a hostile environment and have a negative impact on integration efforts.

ODIHR hosts the OSCE’s Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues and assists participating States in implementing the 2003 Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area.
© The OSCE

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MASKED NEO-NAZIS MARCH BY TORCHLIGHT AS A PROVOCATION IN CZECH TOWN OF KRUPKA

20/6/2011- This past Saturday about 11 neo-Nazis staged a provocation of the residents of Krupka, marching through the town dressed in black, carrying flaming torches and wearing masks. The event was organized by the so-called "Order of the Cogwheel" (Řád ozubeného kola), which is associated with the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS). The marchers convened at 21:30 CET by a local memorial to the WWII-era victims of a death march which Nazi prisoners of war were forced to undergo in 1945. "A large number of police officers are here. The neo-Nazis are already marching through the town," a correspondent for news server Romea.cz reported from the scene at about 22:30 CET on Saturday. "The neo-Nazis are wearing white masks. They are evidently members of the Workers' Youth (Dělnická mládeže - DM). I saw what looked like Lucie Šlégrová's dog with them," the correspondent said. Lucie Šlégrová is Vice-Chair of the DM, which is connected to the DSSS. The group marched through the town center past the town hall and then down the hill to the lower housing estate, where they disappeared into one of the buildings after 23:00 CET. Members of the Order did not enter the upper housing estate where local Romani people had gathered. "We monitored the march had a sufficient number of police officers on hand for any necessary interventions," police spokesperson Jana Matonohová said. The Order of the Cogwheel is linked to the DSSS, which organized a march in Krupka this past April.
© Romea

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HUNDREDS ATTEND COMMEMORATIVE CEREMONY FOR LEŽÁKY (Czech Rep.)

19/6/2011- Hundreds of people, including guests from at home and abroad, remembered Sunday the Czech village of Lezaky that was burnt down to the ground by the Nazis in 1942 and paid tribute to the memory of the 52 murdered inhabitants. Nine granite tombs with chiselled out crosses now stand on the site of the burnt down houses. The place is a national heritage sight. Senate chairman Milan Stech (Social Democrats, CSSD) said meetings marking the Lezaky tragedy are still relevant. He said voices can be heard even Sunday that compare the causes, course and horrors of the war with what some Czechs did after the war. "It is necessary to point out that German fascism was so cruel that some people could not cope with it after the war and made mistakes," Stech told journalists. He was alluding to the latest cases of uncovering the bodily remains of Germans who were killed by Czechs during the wild phase of their transfer under the Benes decrees after the war. The Nazis burnt Lezaky down to the ground on June 24, 1942, within reprisals in revenge for the attack on the life of Reichskprotektor Reinhard Heydrich two weeks after Lidice, central Bohemia, was razed to the ground for the same reason. Heydrich succumbed to the wounds sustained in the attack several days later. Forty-one adult inhabitants of Lezaky were murdered gradually in three groups and 11 children were gassed in Chelmno, Poland.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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POLICE 'FAIL' DISABLED PEOPLE SUFFERING HATE CRIME (uk)

Disabled people are being failed by police and left to suffer abuse, a learning disability charity has said.

20/6/2011- Mencap, launching a three-year campaign against hate crime, said there was a "general lack of police understanding of disability hate crime". It said lack of police action meant "years of harassment... escalating into more serious incidents". Police said they took the issue seriously, but it could be hard to recognise people's problems. Mencap's Stand By Me campaign calls for a dedicated officer within each force to deal with hate crime, and for all officers to be trained to spot and tackle the crime. It comes after Fiona Pilkington, 38, killed herself and her disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick, 18, in 2007 following 10 years of sustained abuse and harassment by a gang in Leicestershire. In a survey of about 1,000 adults in March, the charity found that one in two people believe those with disabilities are more likely to be the targets of abusive comments or aggressive behaviour than others. Two in three consider abusive comments such as name calling directed at someone with a disability as a hate crime. This rises to three in four when aggressive behaviour such as pushing or hitting is involved, the survey suggested.

Mencap also highlighted the case of David Askew, 64, of Hattersley, Manchester, who collapsed and died last March. He had been repeatedly harassed by local youths over a 10-year period, and an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report found there were "systemic failures" in policing. His family had called police 88 times between January 2004 and March 2010. Mencap chief executive Mark Goldring said: "When hate crime takes hold, it stops people living their lives in the way they want to." He said the deaths were "just two examples of where low-level harassment ignored by police was allowed to escalate into sustained abuse with fatal consequences". He added: "Today's report proves that police have not got to grips with disability hate crime, let alone crime against people with a learning disability. "Too often they accept abuse as a part of their daily life. Early intervention is vital if people with disabilities are not to live in fear."

'Hidden' disability
The chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Stephen Otter, who is responsible for equality diversity and human rights for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said police took the issue seriously. He said police had begun a training scheme with the NHS to help officers, but it could be hard to recognise people's problems. "When you're a police officer on the front line, you're dealing with people in the severest of need and sometimes what can be overlooked is their learning disability or a mental illness, because they're sometimes hidden behind all sorts of other factors. "And I'm not trying to make an excuse for some of the things that haven't worked well, but just saying how difficult it is for officers to make a decision about the need of the individual." A Home Office spokesman said police were recording hate crime data centrally, which would "help the police to target resources more effectively".
© BBC News

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EDL THUG ABUSED OLD MEN (uk)

18/6/2011- An English Defence League member who threatened two elderly asian men has been handed a suspended prison sentence. Darren Buck, 50, was involved in the demonstration with the far-right group in Halifax town centre on April 16. Calderdale Magistrates Court heard how around 200 EDL members turned out for the demonstration which they claimed was in protest at two of their number being attacked the week before. At around 2.30pm police reported that a large gathering of protestors were congregating outside The Plummet Line pub, Bull Close Lane, Halifax, and were trying to break through the police line. It was at this time that officers saw Buck, a former sheet metal worker, acting aggressively towards the two elderly asian men. Officers said he was seen trying to punch the two men but he missed and was consequently arrested. Buck was interviewed by police and admitted the offence saying he was demonstrating to show solidarity with his fellow members. He also told them he had been an EDL member for about a year but didn’t have any racist beliefs. Buck pleaded guilty to a charge of using insulting or abusive language with the threat of violence. Judith Poole, chair of the magistrates, said: “We feel this offence is so serious that only custody is appropriate. “You were part of a group of 200 people, over 200 police officers had to be in attendance and it was a Saturday afternoon with a lot of people around who must have been really frightened.” Buck, from Wombwell, Barnsley, was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison which was suspended for 12 months. He will be subject to a curfew on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 9pm for 20 weeks and must pay costs of £85.
© The Halifax Courier

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MINISTER: SHORTER PARENTAL LEAVE FOR IMMIGRANTS (Sweden)

Immigrant parents with young children should have a shorter parental leave when the family moves to Sweden, says Centre Party's leader and minister for enterprise and energy, Maud Olofsson, in an interview with Sveriges Radio (SR).

18/6/2011- This controversial suggestion is aimed at helping immigrant women to quickly get a foothold on the job market. "I think it is a problem when people are unable to become a part of Swedish society," Olofsson said to SR, calling parental leave a "trap" for women. Olofsson refers to a report published this week by the Expert Group for Public Finances, which showed that parental leave can lead to immigrant women, without connection to the labour market, remaining unemployed. Statistics have shown that women born outside of Sweden are the group who have most trouble establishing themselves on the Swedish labour market. Today, anyone who arrives in Sweden are entitled to 16 months of parental benefit (föräldrapenning) for their child, even if the child is four or five when he or she arrives in Sweden. The basic level of parental leave is 5,400 kronor ($857) tax-free per child per month. The authors of the report also want to scrap the childcare allowance (vårdnadsbidraget), a benefit strongly promoted by the Christian Democrats, which provides parents with up to 3,000 kronor tax-free per child per month. In effect since July 1st, 2008, the childcare allowance is available to parents of children aged one to three years old who forego the option of sending their children to a publicly financed preschool. Not only do parental leave and the childcare allowance constitute obstacles for women to enter the workforce, but they also hamper older children who could have begun pre-school and started learning Swedish immediately, the authors claim. Instead they promote the idea of linking the amount of parental leave allotted when a foreign-born child arrives in Sweden with its age on arrival. That way the older the child is, the shorter the amount of time off would be. Equality minister Nyamko Sabuni of the Liberal Party put forward a similar suggestion last year, which was heavily criticised, and the Liberal Party's head Jan Björklund quickly renounced all discrimination of non-Swedish parents. Integration minister Erik Ullenhag said this week that he wants to take a closer look at the suggestions made in the report before making any comments.
© The Local - Sweden

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RUSSIA 2018 PLEDGES TO FIGHT RACISM AFTER BANANA THROWN AT ROBERTO CARLOS

• Head of World Cup committee promises new campaign • Roberto Carlos: 'I'm outraged by this sickening behaviour'

24/6/2011- Russia's 2018 World Cup head has pledged to launch a campaign against racism in football after Roberto Carlos was again targeted for abuse while playing for Anji Makhachkala this week. Roberto Carlos walked off the field in protest during the match on Wednesday after a banana was thrown at him, again bringing the issue into sharp focus for Russian football officials. The head of the 2018 World Cup Organising Committee, Alexei Sorokin, said that the issue was "very difficult to control," but the Russian Football Union was preparing to enact an anti-racism campaign memorandum. He denied Russia had deeply rooted issues with racism, insisting that a few isolated incidents did not constitute a trend. "Yes, there are various outbreaks and incidents. But they do not represent the overall mood in our society," he said. Wednesday's incident was the second involving Roberto Carlos, the highest-profile player ever to play in Russia. In March, the Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg were fined after a fan offered a banana to the Brazilian at a pre-match ceremony. The 38-year-old left back, who won the World Cup in 2002, joined Anzhi this year from Corinthians. "I'm outraged by the sickening behaviour of this fan, who, in fact, insulted not only me but all the players," he told Sport Express. "I hope the Russian federation, Uefa and Fifa will give an adequate evaluation to this disgusting incident." Last year, Lokomotiv Moscow fans unfurled a banner showing a banana directed at Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie, who went on to join West Bromwich Albion. Russian officials attempted to claim the banner reflected general discontent at the striker and wasn't a reference to his skin colour.
© The Guardian

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NEW ANTI-NAZI COALITION (Russia)

23/6/2011- Seventy years after Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union to begin the Second World War, the world still needs a sort of “vaccination against fascism”. To this end, countries have to join forces and set up an anti-Nazi coalition, Russian experts and human rights activists believe. It will be aimed at acquainting people with the historical truth about Nazi atrocities, as well as seeking to toughen punishment for xenophobia. Many decades have passed since the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal delivered its sentences to fascism and fascists, but Nazi sympathizers seeking to justify those crimes can still be found worldwide. The scale of Nazi glorification sometimes goes beyond all boundaries, says Iosif Diskin, the chairman of the Russian Public Chamber’s Civil Society Development Commission. "Europe is about to realize for whom the bell tolls and that Nazism is being revived just around the corner. Here are just a few examples: Hungary’s ruling party is not called half-fascist thanks to political correctness alone; a party in Finland defines people in terms of their ethnicity; there are pro-fascist organizations in Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries and so on. The ghost of Nazism is popping up all over Europe, with even ultra-liberals seeing that there is a line which, if crossed, will let the Nazis roam the European capitals," Iosif Diskin said.

Experts are particularly pointing to the Baltic States, where the authorities are not only trying to rewrite history but have also got “absorbed in playing fascist games”. Latvia, for one, is annually holding marches of Waffen-SS veterans, many of whom took part in mass slaughters. Russia has made a number of fruitless attempts to draw the world’s attention to this issue but only encountered indifference on the part of European officials. Meanwhile, many countries are successfully combating various manifestations of Nazism through special-purpose public organizations. Among them are: the Simon Wiesenthal Center engaged in tracking and catching Nazi criminals all over the world, the “Night Watch” in Estonia and the International Human Rights Movement “World Without Nazism” established in Russia to unite the anti-fascist organizations of 30 countries. Their activities really offer tangible results, the movement’s deputy chairman Valery Engel said. "We try to monitor the Nazi threat in today’s world. By the end of the year we plan to release a book with information on the level of this threat in different countries. The book is supposed to become an international political instrument to help us ensure tougher punishment for Nazi-friendly ideas, nationalism and xenophobia in Eastern Europe," Valery Engel emphasized.
Experts warn that the glorification of Nazism is fraught with tragedy and new xenophobia-motivated crimes, destroys European values and undermines stability and security. Russia takes a stand for the unification of anti-Nazi organizations into a single international human rights movement with common goals and programs. It will aim to develop a single strategy to fight the reviving of Nazism, which requires joint preemptive action. Human rights activists therefore urge the establishment of a new international anti-fascist coalition.
© The Voice of Russia

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ST PETERSBURG BANS SLAVIC GAY PRIDE PARADE BUT OKs ANTI- GAY RALLY (Russia)

20/6/2011- City authorities in St. Petersburg have again banned a planned Gay Pride Parade. But they gave the go-ahead for an anti-gay rally in the city which was staged at the weekend. Organisers of the rally demanded that the authorities put an end to what they called “sexual perversion”. The rally, organised by the national People’s Cathedral movement, part of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the right-wing conservative coalition Parents Standing, was staged a week before the scheduled Slavic Gay Pride. During the rally on Saturday, participants stood in front of a coffin which was wrapped with a rainbow flag. At the end of the rally – after the speakers had made their speeches, the coffin was destroyed and thrown into a trash. “This is a symbolic destruction and burial of the movements of perverts,” commented one of the participants. In addition, the organisers asked for the resignation of Vladimir Korovin, the head of the Moscow district of St. Petersburg, for allowing a gay rally staged on May 17, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. This was the second LGBT themed public action to be ever authorised in the city. The organisers further called on the Regional Parliament of St. Petersburg to ask the State Duma to initiate a ban of “the propaganda of sexual perversion for its anti-family orientation, a danger for public morality and a threat for the country’s demographics”.

Slavic Gay Pride in St. Petersburg is scheduled for June 25. To date, the city hall has still not agreed on any application submitted by the organisers, despite a ruling at the end of last year against the Russian Federation by the European Court of Human Rights over the bans of Gay Prides in Moscow. The ruling became final in April. This ruling was ignored by the Russian government and Moscow City Hall last month when 18 Moscow Pride participants were arrested after extremist thugs attacked those trying to stage the event. Two Russian participants were severely beaten by extremists – one of them was journalist Elena Kostyuchenko who writes for the opposition daily Novaya Gazeta. She had publicly “come out” hours before the attempt at staging the Pride and was hospitalised for five days. Organisers of St. Petersburg Gay Pride march said the city authorities rejected two of their applications to stage the city’s second attempt to stage a Pride. Yuri Gavrikov, head of local gay rights group Equality and Pride chief organiser, told GayRussia that almost two weeks ago his organisation had filed three applications with the city’s administration. “We already received two denials,” he said, adding that the authorities had suggested that the Pride be staged in an industrial zone. “Is this a joke,” he fumed. “Why not offer us an island off the St Petersburg shore?”

This year St. Petersburg is organising the third Slavic Gay Pride. Previously, attempts have been made to stage the event in Moscow (2009) and Minsk (2010). “We asked the authorities for a suitable alternative, not on the city’s main street but not in an industrial zone, kilometres away from the centre,” Mr Gavrikov said. Organisers are expected to take the matter to court this week. “We will march in the streets of St. Petersburg on June 25 regardless of whether we are permitted to or not,” Mr Gavrikov added. “The [Russian] Constitution makes it clear: the street belongs to everyone, gays included. Last October, three courts in St Petersburg gave a decision against the City for banning last year’s first Gay Pride March attempt in the city. On that occasion, five participants were arrested for holding an unsanctioned gay pride march near the Hermitage museum. Following the court decision, the city authorised its first ever gay rights rally on November 20, though the event was stopped by the police before the end of the allocated time due to the presence of anti-gay groups attempting to surround the gay rights activists. No Russian city ever authorised a Gay Pride march. Over the years, Gay Pride has became a symbol of gay rights campaign in Russia after a poll released this month found that 53% of Russians have heard about the attempt to host Gay Pride in the capital. Though 61% said they still oppose such action, this number decreased from 82% a year before.
© UK Gay News

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ACTIVIST NIKOLAI ALEKSEYEV SUGGESTS RUSSIANS NOT INTERESTED IN GAY RIGHTS (Russia)

18/6/2011- In a profile published Saturday in The New York Times, Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseyev (sometimes spelled Alexeyev) blamed apathy for the country's persistent homophobia. Alekseyev is the founder of Moscow Pride, an annual Gay Pride march which has been brutally suppressed by authorities and attacked by neo-Nazi thugs. Last month's march, held outside the Kremlin, was over in flash as authorities quickly rounded up its leaders – including two Americans, Lt. Dan Choi and Andy Thayer – and protesters yelling anti-gay slurs dispersed the rest. Alekseyev, who after six years of protests and numerous media interviews has become the face of the gay rights movement in Russia, is given little credit for pushing the movement forward in Russia. One transgender activist, Anna Komarova, calls Alekeyev challenging: “He is a complicated person and does not have a mild personality. But laid-back people choose other occupations.” And the paper introduces the activist by recounting his recent meltdown during a televised debate on gay rights. Alekseyev stormed off the stage after being attacked with anti-gay slurs and hostile remarks not only from his opponents but also from the debate's moderator. “He is brash and provocative, even among would-be supporters,” the paper wrote. “He has berated journalists for coverage he disagrees with.” Near the end of the piece, Alekseyev ostensibly blames the slow slog on gay rights and persistent homophobia in Russia on the gay community's apathy. “What society wants is bread and spectacle, that's it,” he said. “I don't see any problem with people standing in lines outside gay clubs, but tell these people that they have to fight for their rights and they say, 'No way.'”
© On Top Magazine

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AUSTRIAN HOMOSEXUALS ARRESTED IN HUNGARY

20/6/2011- Two Austrians attending a gay rights demonstration in Hungary were put in custody overnight at the weekend after a controversial incident, it has been revealed. A group of Hungarians – described as neo-Nazi mobsters by the Austrians – accused the men of having attacked them. Police arrested the duo on Saturday and only released them the following day. The Austrian men are facing charges for disobedience, according to Austrian newspaper reports from today (Mon). The duo were members of a group of 50 Austrians travelling to Budapest to participate in the Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. While the Austrians claim local nationalists attacked them with pepper spray, the neo-Nazis told police the opposite was the case. All members of the group of Austrians had been preliminarily detained. Police confiscated their passports during interrogation. The street march attended by more than 1,500 people was marred by Hungarian nationalists and radicals shouting abusive rants at the crowds who had to be protected by police from becoming victims of physical attacks. The incidents occurred just days after tens of thousands of locals pounced on around 300 people forming a march for the rights of homosexuals in Split, Croatia.
© The Austrian Independent

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GAY PRIDE RALLIES HELD ACROSS BALKANS

Gays and lesbians have marched in several Eastern European capitals protected by hundreds of riot police after some extremist groups urged members to stop the Gay Pride rallies.

18/6/2011- Nearly 1000 people joined the fourth Gay Pride rally in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, organisers said. Twice as many paraded through the Croatian capital of Zagreb under rainbow arches of balloons and banners for that city's 10th Gay Pride march. Hungarian gay rights activists also took to the streets in Budapest, flanked by police in full riot gear. Gays and lesbians face widespread hostility in the region's macho-dominated societies, and opposition to their public events has been fierce. "I am here because I am tired of being afraid," Deya Georgieva, 19, said in Sofia. "It is really ridiculous that in a country pretending to be European its citizens are denied some basic rights." Police spokesman Krunoslav Borovec said 2000 people marched through central Zagreb, protected by more than 700 policemen. Police detained 17 people for insulting the marchers and holding anti-gay banners. Some prominent public figures joined the Zagreb parade, which was dubbed "The Future is Ours". The Zagreb rally came a week after thousands of extremists disrupted a gay pride event in the coastal city of Split, throwing rocks, bottles and firecrackers. Croatia, which has pledged to protect human rights as part of efforts to join the European Union, provided extensive security for Saturday's rally.

After years of tough negotiations, EU officials said earlier this month that Croatia could join the 27-nation bloc in 2013. Due to extremist violence during previous gay rights parades, Sofia city hall rejected an anti-gay group's demand to hold a parallel rally. Gay Pride organisers, however, said extremists used social networks to drum up resistance. Guarded by hundreds of police and private security, the mostly young marchers walked peacefully through downtown Sofia displaying colorful banners calling for love, equality and sexual diversity. "We are here because we exist" read one banner. "Be aware whom you hate, because it could be someone you love", proclaimed another. Gays in Bulgaria face widespread hostility despite a 2003 anti-discrimination law that protects their rights. One young man said his parents were unaware of his sexual orientation. "They belong to another generation, and for them the issue is taboo," said 18-year-old Nikolay, who would not give his last name for fear of discrimination. On Friday, the United Nations issued its first condemnation of discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people in a cautiously worded declaration. The resolution was hailed by supporters, including the United States, as an historic moment but decried by some African and Muslim countries for introducing ideas that "have no legal foundation".
© The Herald Sun

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CROATIAN CAPITAL GEARS UP FOR GAY PRIDE PARADE AFTER EARLIER VIOLENCE

Croatia's gay and lesbian community is hoping a planned gay pride parade in Zagreb on Saturday will take place without the major anti-gay violence that rocked the country's second-largest city, Split.

18/6/2011- Hundreds of supporters of gay and lesbian rights in Croatia were preparing for their 10th annual gay pride parade in Zagreb on Saturday, wary of violence that marred a similar event in the country's second-largest city. Event organizer Franko Dota said he expected the capital's biggest pride parade, with more than 1,000 participants set to march through the city's downtown area. "We hope that everything will go peacefully, joyfully and with dignity," he told the AFP news agency on Friday. "We only demand that the police act in accordance with Croatian law [by protecting participants from attack]." A police spokesman said a large police escort would be accompanying the parade. Just a week ago, violence rocked the first gay pride parade held in Split, Croatia's second-largest city. The approximately 200 participants in the parade were far outnumbered by an estimated 10,000 protesters, some of whom hurled stones, bottles and bricks at the marchers. A dozen people, including four journalists, were injured during the event. Police arrested about 28 people. Anti-gay violence also occurred at Zagreb's first gay pride event in 2002. Events since then have gone without major incident, but have always had tight security.

Religious population
Croatian President Ivo Josipovic strongly condemned the violence, saying the gay pride event in Zagreb would be "another test for a democratic Croatia." Just a day before the violence in Split, it was announced that Croatia was ready to join the European Union on July 1, 2013. Representatives of the United Nations in Croatia released a statement calling on "all parties to show tolerance and respect for diversity during the Zagreb Pride." "The UN in Croatia is convinced that the violence and aggressive behavior demonstrated by protesters in Split... is not the true face of Croatia," the statement said. About 88 percent of the 4.4 million living in the former Yugoslav republic are Roman Catholic. While the Croatian Bishops' Conference condemned "any kind of violence," many conservative Croatians point to the church's condemnation of homosexuality as justification for disrupting gay pride events.
© The Deutsche Welle

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BULGARIA'S SOFIA PRIDE GAY PARADE GOES SMOOTHLY, ONLY 'FAMILY NGO' PROTESTS

18/6/2011- The 4th annual edition of the Sofia Pride LGBT parade in the Bulgarian capital has not been marred by any incidents, assaults, or provocations, as the several hundred participants reached the destination of the procession. After far-right extremists marred the parades in support of equal rights regardless of sexual orientation in Sofia 2008 and 2010 in spite of the massive police presence, the 4th edition of Sofia Pride was also heavily guarded by hundreds of police officers and private security guards. The procession started at the National Palace of Culture and reached the Soviet Army monument without any incidents whatsoever. The nationalist and far-right formations who wanted to stage a counter-rally have given up on it after the Sofia Municipality banned them from protesting at the same time and area as the gay parade. The only protesters against the Sofia pride LGBT parade have been a NGO called "Forum for Defending Children and Family" whose protest was seen by Bulgarian media as "cultured" as all they did was hand out brochures entitled "The Myths about Homosexuality." "The right of peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right," Amnesty International representatives told the participants in the Sofia gay parade in a congratulatory address. Some of the young participants in the gay parade told reporters their parents were still unaware of their actual sexual orientation.

The organizers of Sofia Pride have stressed that the parade is against homophobic and hate crimes, that it does not seek to demonstrate a certain sexuality but to promote equal rights and the right to express any sexuality. The one more prominent Bulgarian politician who was seen taking part in the parade was Georgi Kadiev, the Sofia Mayor candidate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party in 2009 and running against in the fall of 2011, a former deputy finance minister also known as the "red yuppie". Kadiev, a Sofia city councilor, said he attended the gay parade in order to promote some normalcy amidst all the agression in Bulgaria. He made it clear he is opposed to gay marriage and adoptions by gay couples but declared his readiness to defend the right of expression of any sexual orientation. Participants from Greece Pride, who traditionally attend the Bulgarian gay parade, were once again in Sofia, this time with a banner saying "Kiss Me Everywhere." Other participants from abroad have also attended Sofia Pride. Eight foreign embassies – of the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Finland, Germany, Slovenia, the UK, and the USA – have declared their public support for the Sofia Pride LGBT parade, and for the equal rights of people regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
© Novinite

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BULGARIA'S 4TH SOFIA PRIDE GAY PARADE GUARDED BY HUNDREDS OF POLICEMEN

18/6/2011- The 4th annual Sofia Pride LGBT parade against the discrimination of people with various sexual orientation has started in the Bulgarian capital late Saturday afternoon amidst increased security measures designed to stave off provocations. Several hundred participants rallied between 4 pm and 4:30 at the starting point of the Sofia Prida gay parade near the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, guarded by hundreds of police officers and private security guards. From there, the parade is supposed to reach the Soviet Army monument at about 5:30-6 pm on Saturday. The Sofia Municipality has issued a ban for a counter-rally requested by nationalist and far-right formations. The gay parade organizers have stated they have taken all necessary precautions. However, past editions of Sofia Pride, especially the firrst ever parade in 2008 and the third annual parade in 2010, were marred by incidents and provocations caused by far-right extremists. Back in 2008, skin heads assaulted parade participants with Molotov cocktails leading the police to round up and arrest more than 60 extremists. The 2009 gay parade in Sofia has been the most peaceful so far, while the one in 2010 saw several more minor provocations. Eight foreign embassies of the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Finland, Germany, Slovenia, the UK, and the USA have declared theiir public support for the Sofia Pride LGBT parade, and for the equal rights of people regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

© Novinite

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EU AGREES TO REFORM INTERNAL BORDER RULES

24/6/2011- EU leaders on Friday (24 June) agreed to establish a "safeguard mechanism" allowing the re-introduction of internal borders in exceptional circumstances, potentially curbing one of the most integrative aspects of EU membership. Without undermining this basic principle [of free movement of persons], we felt the need to improve the Schengen rules," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said at a press conference at the end of the summit. The mechanism would allow "as a very last resort, (...) the exceptional reintroduction of internal border controls in a truly critical situation where a member state is no longer able to comply with its obligations under the Schengen rules as concerns the prevention of illegal immigration of third country nationals, with negative effects on other member states," the final statement said. The commission is supposed to work out the details of the arrangement by autumn. The debate was prompted by a row between Rome and Paris earlier this year over Tunisian migrants who had made their way to Europe following the democratic uprisings in north Africa. According to diplomats present during the negotiations on the final text early Friday morning, the new member states insisted on including the term "third country national" - Brussels jargon for non-EU citizens, so as not to leave any doubt about their own citizens, particularly Roma. Last year, France got into a month-long row with Romania and Bulgaria over Roma repatriations - which then led to the two countries' accession to the border-free Schengen area being delayed.

Corruption
In addition to the Roma issue, corruption-wary countries led by the Netherlands insisted that the two countries be kept out of the Schengen area as long as they do not fight graft and organised crime in a more muscular way. Dutch diplomats asked for the Schengen criteria to be extended so as to cover corruption, by saying that problems will always arise at the borders if there is corruption in a country. Despite agreeing with this idea in principle, Romania and Bulgaria said they feared this would become an unfair and additional criterion in September or October, when home affairs ministers are set to decide an entry date for the two countries. In the final text, a stronger evaluation of Schengen criteria is foreseen for all countries in the border-free area, but corruption is not mentioned. "The future Schengen evaluation system will provide for the strengthening, adaptation and extension of the criteria (...) and should involve experts from the member states, the Commission and competent agencies," the conclusions read. According to a diplomat from a new member state, the whole debate of linking migration with border controls and Schengen enlargement is simply "wrong" and "a big mess."

The source was also sceptical that the compromise focussing on non-EU citizens really works. If the mechanism would be put in place and internal borders set up, "how would you know if a car driving with 40km an hour has EU or non-EU citizen in it?" An agreement on an EU asylum system is still far from reach, despite calls from home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and a "passionate plea" from Malta to have more of the thousands of refugees from Libya taken over by other member states. Leaders also rejected a temporary exemption from the so-called Dublin regulation which obliges member states to send back asylum seekers to the first EU country of entry, as proposed by the commission. Instead, they urge to "push forward rapidly" with work on so-called smart borders keeping track of all entries and exits of non-EU citizens to prevent visa overstay and allowing registered travellers to go through airport security by simply swiping their passports. The decision to envisage re-introduction of internal borders in case of migratory pressure comes despite calls from human rights groups and commissioner Malmstrom herself to avoid going down that road. "Solidarity, tolerance, and mutual respect between countries and people - I am saddened and concerned to see that these values risk losing respect and support around Europe," she said in a press statement ahead of the summit, warning of the risk of far-right parties rising and getting their agenda imposed in several countries. "In my areas of responsibility – asylum, migration, integration, and border cooperation – I can see that xenophobia is on the rise. Developments this spring illustrate the situation quite clearly," she said.
© The EUobserver

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EU SUMMIT ENDORSES LIMITED TIGHTENING OF SCHENGEN SYSTEM

24/6/2011- The Schengen border-free system is to be tightened with new procedures to allow for the reintroduction of frontier checks, but only 'as a very last resort,' a European Union summit decided on Friday. The Schengen system has been under pressure since a Franco-Italian spat over a surge in migrants from North Africa led to calls in April to make it easier to reintroduce internal border controls. Checks are currently allowed for up to 30 days in case of threats to national security. That provision has been used during summits and sporting events, although Denmark has stirred controversy with plans to invoke it to deal with an alleged threat from foreign criminals. In their conclusions, EU leaders asked the European Commission to draft a reform by September, warning that controls should be reintroduced only 'as a very last resort ... in a truly critical situation ... for a strictly limited scope and period of time.' In contrast to the current system, which allowed Italy and France to react unilaterally to the migrant crisis, future steps should be taken in a 'coordinated' manner, EU leaders said.

While it will be up to the commission to determine 'the exceptional circumstances' which call for the reintroduction of border controls, the actual decision to reinstate checks will remain in national hands, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said. Countries whose borders risk being closed off should first receive funds and help from the EU border agency FRONTEX, whose operational capacity is due to be boosted following an agreement this week between governments and the European Parliament. With the economic crisis fueling hostile attitudes towards migration, EU governments have been taking an increasingly hard stance on the issue - keeping Bulgaria and Romania out of Schengen despite acknowledging they had met technical membership conditions. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso recognized there had been 'tension in recent months and a temptation to roll back the core principle of free movement of persons,' but insisted that summit decisions did not jeopardise that freedom.

Diplomats say that Poland and other Eastern European countries, among the newest members of the Schengen area, led a determined charge to rebuke attempts to roll back the accords. On the eve of the two-day meeting, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom called for the leaders' migration debate not to focus solely on security, lamenting that 'xenophobia is on the rise.' But beyond reinstating a pledge to set up a common EU asylum system and offering aid to North African countries in return for their commitment to curb irregular migration, the response to Malmstrom was limited. Her appeal to EU member states to welcome more refugees from Libya, for example, went unheeded. The EU summit also tackled foreign policy, renewing calls to Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi 'to relinquish power immediately' and reiterating the bloc's support for 'Libya's democratic transformation.' However, amid growing fatigue over NATO's military intervention, a reference in an earlier draft to the 'earliest conclusion of the conflict in Libya (remaining) a primary interest of the European Union' was struck down.

The summit also welcomed expanded EU sanctions against the government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, which entered into force Friday, and called for the United Nations Security Council to 'give adequate response to the situation in Syria.' Plans by the Palestinians to ask for UN recognition of their state in September were discussed, with a looming EU split on the issue clouding the talks. The bloc called for a resumption of peace talks with Israel as a way to convince the Palestinians to hold off on their initiative, and also backed a French proposal to hold a donor conference in Paris to support Palestinian state-building. 'Only the resumption of direct negotiations could provide a realistic chance of improving the situation on the ground, thus leading to a lasting and comprehensive solution,' EU summit conclusions read.
© DPA

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ANTI-SEMITISM SUMMARY OVERVIEW OF THE SITUATION IN THE EUROPEAN UNION 2001-2010

This report is the 7th update of the report Manifestations of anti-Semitism in the EU published in 2004 by the predecessor of the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union (FRA), the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. It contains the latest available governmental and non-governmental statistical data covering the year 2001 to 2009, and, in addition, selected incidents identified through non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and media reports.

20/6/2011- The Agency's data collection work over recent years shows that few European Union (EU) Member States have official data and statistics on anti-Semitic incidents. Even where data exist, they are not comparable, since they are collected using different definitions and methodologies. Furthermore, in many EU Member States Jewish organisations or other civil society organisations do not collect data on anti-Semitic incidents in a systematic way, as there is no complaints mechanism in place to receive and investigate allegations. Where such data exists, usually as lists of cases, they are collected ad hoc by civil society organisations or are based on media reports with varying degrees of validity and reliability. Across most EU Member States, as the FRA has repeatedly noted, there is a serious problem of underreporting, particularly in reference to official systems of data collection that are based on police records and criminal justice data, because not all officially registered anti-Semitic incidents are categorised under the heading ‘anti-Semitism', and/or because not all anti-Semitic incidents are reported to an official body by victims or witnesses.

In unofficial data collection or when the methodology applied is insufficiently robust the same incident may be recorded twice under different categories, for example, under both ‘defamation' and under ‘property damage'. In view of the lack of robust and comparable data showing the extent to which Jews in the EU are subject to discrimination, hate crime and hate speech, the FRA decided in 2011 to launch a major survey on the Jewish population in EU Member States. The issues to be covered will include experiences and perceptions of discrimination (direct, indirect and harassment) in key areas of social life, such as education, housing, health and employment, as well as experiences and perceptions of hate crime and hate speech, and, in addition, awareness of available legal remedies. The survey design will be developed in close consultation with key stakeholders, including representatives of Jewish communities in the European Union.

Anti-Semitism - Summary overview of the situation in the EU 2001-2010
© EU Fundamental Rights Agency

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CoE LAUNCHES ITS FIRST COMPREHENSIVE EUROPEAN STUDY ON THE HR SITUATION OF LGBT PEOPLE TO DATE

Today, the Council of Europe launches its social-legal report on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. This is the first ever report covering all 47 member states of the Council of Europe on a range of human rights issues that are pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people.

23/6/2011- ILGA-Europe warmly welcomes this significant report which not only maps the legal situation but also highlights the social attitudes and opinions about LGBT people: while there is certain progress in some countries, others continue discrimination and violation of basic human rights of LGBT people. When it comes to social attitudes, the report clearly demonstrates that LGBT people continue to be subjected to homophobia and transphobia in their everyday lives in all Council of Europe member states and those attitudes are being based on ‘outdated and incorrect information’ about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender. The report contains a number of specific recommendations to the Council of Europe member states on how to end discrimination and ensure full equality for LGBT people. It also provides a number of recommendations on non-legislative measures such as state education programmes aiming to increase awareness and understanding of various sexual orientations and gender identities and therefore promote improvement of the social attitudes based on facts and objective information.

Martin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said:
“This is a very important document which looks at the issues of equality and human rights of LGBT people from different angles and provides clear recommendations and suggestions to the Council of Europe member states. There is clear and urgent need to improve legislation to achieve full equality and respect for human rights. The legislation also needs to be supported by proper implementation plans and mechanisms to give its full and practical meaning. The report also looks at the issues of political will, social attitudes and current European consensus and again, provides a range of specific suggestions how the situation can be improved.

We hope that this report along with the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers Recommendations adopted in March and a number of the judgements by the European Court of Human Rights, will provide European countries with a solid road map towards full equality and respect of LGBT people’s human rights. We believe there is sufficient European consensus and legal foundation for such improvement, all is required to fill the existing gaps is a political will of the national governments to bring their countries in line with the expected European standard.”
© ILGA Europe

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COUNCIL OF EUROPE LAUNCHES PROBE INTO MIGRANT DROWNINGS

* Dutch senator to probe migrant deaths in Mediterranean * Over 1,000 migrants said to have died at sea since January * France, NATO deny not helping migrant boat in distress

23//2011- Parliamentarians at the Council of Europe launched an investigation on Thursday to determine if European states had any role in the drowning of more than 1,000 migrants in the Mediterranean since January.

The shores of rich southern Europe are a powerful draw for thousands of poor migrants from North Africa, many of whom perish during the perilous sea crossing when their boats, often rickety and overloaded with people, sink or go adrift. Britain's Guardian newspaper reported last month that no rescue was attempted when a boat from Libya carrying 72 people ran into trouble and drifted for 16 days -- although it had made contact with a military helicopter and a NATO warship. All but 10 of the passengers died on the boat. NATO denied the report, and France said that its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier was not involved in the incident. "I intend to see how these boats are, or are not, intercepted by the various national coast guards, by the Frontex agency that patrols the EU's external borders or even military vessels," said Dutch Senator Tineke Strik, a member of the Greenleft party. After popular revolts in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, some 35,000 Africans have crossed the Mediterranean and landed at the Italian island of Lampedusa, which has become a waystation for migrants trying to reach other parts of Europe. To prevent such migrants from circulating freely around Europe, EU governments led by France and Italy plan to tighten border controls within the bloc's Schengen free travel zone. The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, citing humanitarian groups, estimates that at least 1,000 people have died since January trying to cross the Mediterranean.
© Reuters

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Headlines 17 June, 2011

LEADERSHIP NEEDED ON RIGHTS (Italy)

Joining UN Human Rights Council Comes With Obligation to Address Abuses at Home

16/6/2011- Italy should take concrete steps to improve its human rights record and carry out the pledges it made as a new member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Foreign Minister Franco Frattini released today. Italy will take up its seat on the UN body on June 19, 2011. "Italy's credibility at the UN Human Rights Council depends on its record at home," said Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The Italian government needs to live up to the human rights promises it has made." Human Rights Watch urged the Italian government to improve its response to racism and xenophobia and to ensure better protection against discrimination for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. It also called on Italy to intensify rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea and ensure continued access to asylum procedures for those fleeing violence and persecution in Libya and elsewhere. Italy should also affirm its commitment to the global ban on torture by including torture as crime in its criminal code, ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and repudiating practices that put people at risk of torture upon deportation, Human Rights Watch said. To demonstrate its commitment to human rights, the Italian government should follow through on the pledges it submitted ahead of the May 20 Human Rights Council elections, Human Rights Watch said. This includes timely implementation of recommendations made during the first round of Italy's Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council, in February 2010. Particular attention should be given to addressing discrimination and racism, improving the situation of Roma and Sinti minority populations, and the long-delayed creation of an independent entity to monitor human rights practices.
© Human Rights Watch

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POLICE ATTACKS THE OFFICE OF THE INSTITUTE FOR PEACE AND DEMOCRACY (Azerbaijan)

16/6/2011- Azerbaijani human rights advocate Leyla Yunus has declared about a police attack on her office in Baku June 13, 2011. “The police attacked the office of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) at Shamsi Badalbelli Street,” Leyla Yunus told Radio Liberty. “I had instructed my employees to write on the wall of my house that the building was my property. I had declared that its destruction contradicts the Azerbaijani Constitution and the European Convention, that it was a violation of human rights. The police tried to exert pressure on us in order not to allow to write that on the wall,” the human rights advocate said. IPD has been located at this address for many years, but there has not been any plate with signs on the building. This building was privatized long ago by its owner, and is used by the above mentioned NGOs. However, the police could not explain why it is not permitted to write on the wall what institutions are located in it. Moreover, they attempted to take Leyla Yunus to police.

The police demanded that Leyla Yunus immediately painted over the inscriptions in front of her office. Leyla Yunus refused to obey those orders. Journalists and foreign diplomats visited the scene. The police stepped back after the arrival of foreign diplomats but continued watching the scene from the police car. “It is arbitrariness and pressure on us, but we will not surrender, ” said Leyla Yunus. The pressure of police coincided with the demands of the executive power to vacate the houses, and move to new premises. But most of people refuse to leave their flats in the city center for the houses in the outskirts of Baku. According to the residents of the houses in Badalbeyli Street, the representatives of the government have not paid yet the compensation 1500 manat per square meter, which was the established compensation for the houses taken by the government from the residents of the Shamsi Badalbayli street. According to the plans of the authorities, one-story houses in the Badalbeyli and Mirzaga Aliyev streets have to be demolished. The authorities are going to build a Winter Boulevard in that place.
© Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Social Union

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MIGRANTS TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES (Netherlands)

Policies supporting ethnic minorities are to be a thing of the past in the Netherlands. In the future, every migrant will have to take responsibility for his or her own integration, Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner has said in a letter to the parliament, everybody should embrace Dutch values.

17/6/2011- The opposition is calling this change of direction by government “a historic error”. The Labour Party and democrat party D66 fear that people will fall by the wayside if various immigrant groups are not targeted. Labour Party MP Martijn van Dam points out the specific problems there are with Moroccan boys who score higher than average when it comes to unsocial or criminal behaviour. “I cannot imagine that the other parties would want these problems to be neglected.”

Ethnicity
But Minister Donner wants to put an end to policies for target groups. No more special treatment for Antilleans, Turks, Moroccans and other minorities. This cabinet thinks it’s up to migrants themselves to become useful members of society. Mr Donner, “We think it’s the responsibility of the people themselves. We shouldn’t continue with policies aimed at specific target groups and subsidise all kinds of measures, because that way you actually maintain these groups.” Minister Donner believes that labour, education and housing policies give every citizen plenty of opportunity to lead an independent life regardless of their background. Ethnicity should not be taken into consideration when it comes to tackling anti-social or criminal behaviour. The minister is also working on a proposal to make it possible to prosecute for forced marriages. And as of 1 January 2013, he wants a ban on burkas or other garments covering the face in public.

Gesture to the Freedom Party
The government no longer believes it’s its duty to help migrants to integrate into society. As a result, the cabinet is distancing itself from the multicultural society as we know it. It is a gesture by Minister Donner to Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration party, which supports the current minority government in parliament. In the future, Dutch norms and values should be at the heart of integration and the Dutch government wants to see more initiative from migrants themselves. Minister Donner, “If people want to live here for a long time it is no longer a matter of ‘learning Dutch and then you know how things are done here’. We want to feel that we are at home here. We also want other people who want to be part of this, to be able to make their home here, by contributing.”

Dutch values
In response, D66 opposition MP Gerard Schouw says this emphasis on Dutch values shows a lack of self-confidence and fear of anything that is foreign. “That is absolutely ridiculous for an export country like the Netherlands.'' Many Turkish and Moroccan organisations have criticised the proposals. The Moroccan-Dutch organisation Samenwerkingsverband van Marokkaanse Nederlanders, which advises the government on integration matters, points out that vulnerable groups need extra support to find a job. The umbrella Muslim group Contactorgaan Moslims en Overheid, on the other hand, says it is good that the cabinet bases its policy on the ability of migrants to be independent. However, it rejects a ban on burkas.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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DUTCH GROUP TO BURN HILL'S BOOK OF NEGROES (Netherlands)

A Dutch group is threatening to burn Canadian author Lawrence Hill's award-winning novel The Book of Negroes because they believe the word "negro" is a racist epithet.

16/6/2011- The novel, which traces the life of a slave girl, was recently published in the Netherlands, where a group claiming to represent slavery victims has threatened to burn the book if its title isn't changed. Mr Hill received a letter from Roy Groenberg, the leader of Dutch group Foundation Honour and Reparations Victims of Slavery in Surinam. "We, descendants of enslaved in the former Dutch colony Suriname, want let you know that we do not accept a book with the title The Book of Negroes," he said in the letter. "We struggle for a long time to let the word 'nigger' disappear from Dutch language and now you set up your Book of Negroes! A real shame!" Groenberg's group plans to burn the book on June 22, just 11 days before July 1, the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the former Dutch colonies.

Lawrence Hill said that the title has given him the chance to explain this piece of history, which he said is "fascinating, important and troubling, to many thousands of readers in Canada, the UK, The Netherlands and elsewhere. The title is used not to provoke or offend but to resurrect a forgotten history. Really it affects the very people Mr. Groenberg purports to represent." In a letter to Mr Groenberg he wrote that: "I have found that when given the opportunity to see what I am doing in this book and with this title, readers understand that the title is not intended to be offensive, but that it is used historically, to shed light on a forgotten document and on a forgotten migration that of thousands of Blacks from the USA to Canada in 1783." The award-winning book has raised controversy before. Publishers in the United States and Australia called the book Someone Knows My Name. While in Quebec the book is titled Aminata.

The Book of Negroes refers to an actual historical document: a British naval ledger charting the migration of 3,000 African slaves from New York, to Nova Scotia and then to Africa. Copies of the actual Book of Negroes are available in places such as the National Archives of Canada, Great Britain, and the New York City Public Library. The Book of Negroes is one of the most popular books of the Toronto Public Library.
© Expatica News

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DUTCH JEWS, MUSLIMS APPEAL RITUAL SLAUGHTER PLAN

16/6/2011- Jewish and Muslim representatives Thursday appealed to Dutch lawmakers not to enforce plans requiring animals to be stunned before halaal and kosher slaughtering rituals. "We are against any form of stunning because it's against our religion," Yusuf Altuntas, president of the CMO -- an organisation that links the Muslim community with the Dutch government -- told a parliamentary commission. "One of the first measures taken during the occupation (during World War II) was the closing of kosher abattoirs," Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs added during the debate in The Hague. Dutch law required animals to be stunned before being slaughtered but made an exception for ritual halaal and kosher slaughters. The country's Party for Animals (PvdD) which holds two seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament, has submitted a proposal, if implemented, would see this exception abolished. Dutch media widely reported that the PvdD's proposal was expected to get a majority nod from parliamentarians. "It will cause an irreversable fracture in our society," said Ronnie Eisenmann, who leads Amsterdam's Jewish community. "Changes in the law will do nothing to ease the suffering of animals," he added. Jewish and Muslim representatives Thursday insisted the ritual slaughter respected the animals' welfare, notably restriction methods used to limit suffering and those slaughtering received expert training. They did however offer to implement some measures which they said would ease the animals' suffering, especially better controls in abattoirs where ritual slaughters were performed and an improvement in conditions under which animals were being transported.
© AFP

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YOUTH PARTY FIGHTS FOR THE RIGHTS OF WHITES (Denmark)

Neo-Nazi splinter group inspired by similar movements in the US and Sweden

16/6/2011- A new nationalistic Danish party was established last Saturday by defectors from the Danish National Socialist (DNSB) movement, led by a 21-year-old self-confessed racist and holocaust denier. Danskernes Parti (The Danes’ Party) will stand in the 2013 council elections and will seek to deport all non-European foreigners, withdraw from the EU and fight for the environment. The party’s young leader, Daniel Carlsen, reportedly said he believes they stand a good chance in the elections. “We are still experiencing massive immigration and we are still controlled by the EU despite promises of the opposite,” he told TV2 News. Carlsen, who calls himself a ‘modern nationalist’, and other members of the DNSB left the party in April to establish the new party in order to fight for the rights of white Danes. “We are all Danes before we are anything else. Before you are an academic you are a Dane, before you work you are a Dane, and even though I am a student I am first and foremost a Dane,” he said. “But despite this all we hear about are parties that either fight for workers or academics, ‘the rich’ or ‘the weak’. You never hear about people who fight for Danes. But that’s what we do.”

The party’s website demonstrates sympathy for far-right nationalist parties and movements and features an article written by the leader of the American Third Position, a newly established party that works to promote the interests of white Americans. Their website also indicates a co-operation with Svenskarnas Parti (The Swedes’ Party). “Our fight is not only about Denmark, but the whole of Scandinavia, the north and Europe. All Europeans face the same challenges as us,” reads a statement from the website. Carlsen joined the DNSB when he was 16 and his far-right beliefs have often brought him into the media spotlight, most notably when his parents were interviewed on DR’s Aftenshowet about his beliefs.
© The Copenhagen Post

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HACKERS EXPOSE NEO-NAZI PARTY SUPPORTERS (Germany)

Hackers crack web sites, siphon names and home addresses.

16/6/2011- A left-wing hacker group has stolen up to 400 names and home addresses of supporters of Germany’s neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NDP) and published them on Google Maps. The German hacking crew ‘n0-N4m3 Cr3w’ stole the details of financial backers after hacking 25 NDP websites last month, before publishing them on Google maps and its homepage. The NPD was founded in 1964 as a successor to the Third Reich. Leader of the hacking group, Dark Hammer, said the hack was a politically-motivated attempt to prevent the NDP from gaining influence in Germany. “I love Germany above everything, and I do everything in my power to improve the image of Germany,” the hacker said in a translation. “We will not allow that which brings the NPD or the right wing to bring our children on the wrong track. “I know my action will have broad public interest. That is exactly my goal.” The NDP was left red-faced in April after some 60,000 internal emails were sent to journalists that exposed the party’s 2011 election strategy. The exposure of German NDP member details follows a declaration yesterday by right-wing New Zealand blogger Cameron Slater that he had obtained 450 names of the country's Labour Party sponsors, which he threatened to publish.
© CRN

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RIGHT EXTREMISTS SQUABBLE OVER A CROSSWORD PUZZLE (Germany)

Crossword puzzles may seem like a fun way to pass the time, but a word game in party campaign literature has sparked a row within Germany's right-wing extremist NPD. Solutions such as "Adolf" and "Hess" could turn voters off, some fear.

15/6/2011- The right-wing extremist party, the NPD, is no stranger to controversy. Usually, however, more than a simple crossword is to blame. But a puzzle included in the party newspaper put out by the Berlin branch of the NPD has managed to infuriate members across the country. Three months ahead of elections for the Berlin city-state parliament, party members included the puzzle in the internal paper, one million copies of which are set for release in August, according to a report in the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. One clue for a five-letter word reads: "It's a German first name that has fallen somewhat out of fashion." The answer? "Adolf." Another clue refers to a "German politician ('freedom flyer') of the 20th century," to which the four-letter answer is "Hess," in reference to Rudolf Hess, who was Adolf Hitler's deputy before he flew to Scotland in 1941 in hopes of coming to a peace agreement with the UK. Those who successfully complete the puzzle can submit their answers for prizes such a bicycle, party literature or clothing. Everybody likes a prize, but party members have been outraged by the puzzle's blatant references to Nazism. While the NPD is certainly known for its Third Reich nostalgia, in recent years the party has sought to downplay its affection for Nazis, focusing on creating a more palatable image and appealing to a broader voting base. The tactic is meant to earn credibility for the disputed party and prevent critical coverage by the mainstream media. The crossword puzzle is among "the dumbest PR actions in the history of the NPD" and "stupid squared," Hesse state party leader Jörg Krebs told online publication DeutschlandEcho over the weekend. Meanwhile Michael Schäfer, head of the NPD youth organization Junge Nationaldemokraten, criticized the campaign material in a Facebook entry. "That's how one squanders the points won in the election," he wrote. "Those of us at the base are the fools once again. Great!"

Credibility in Question
National party spokesman Klaus Beier refused to comment on the dispute, but Berlin NPD leader Uwe Meenen told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that criticism from those like Krebs was trivial. "He's not responsible in Berlin," he told the paper. Meenen also refused to elaborate on the Nazi references in the crossword puzzle for fear of "ruining the fun of the riddle for people." Meanwhile the neo-Nazi party may have a bigger battle for credibility ahead. State interior ministers plan to discuss the possibility of withholding tax revenue from the NPD at a meeting on June 21. Plagued by a number of financial and donation scandals in recent years, the NPD is funded in large part by German taxes in proportion to the number of votes they earn. In 2009 the party received about €1.2 million -- some 37 percent of their total receipts. But a December 2010 report by the German parliament's research service may have discovered a loophole that could exclude the NPD from receiving state money in the future. Sources told SPIEGEL that it outlines the legal possibility of "excluding an unconstitutional party from state party financing." Such a measure would, however, require two-thirds majority vote in parliament to amend the constitution.
© The Spiegel

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NEO-NAZI LEADER GETS SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR ASSAULTING POLICE (Hungary)

16/6/2011- Slovak news server SME reports that yesterday in the eastern Hungarian town of Gyöngyös, the leader of the right-wing extremist group Véderő, Tamás Eszes, received a suspended sentence of 1.5 years for assaulting police officers. The Véderő movement is an infamous Hungarian organization that reveres the Nazi legacy. Véderő received global attention in April for attacks committed by its adherents against the residents of the Romani community of Gyöngyöspata in the north of the country. The movement established a training camp not far from the Romani village. Those attending the camp repeatedly attacked the nearby Romani residents. On Friday 22 April, local Romani people evacuated as many as 300 children and women with the assistance of the Red Cross. Three people were hospitalized as a result of attacks committed by Véderő members. At the time Hungarian State Police classified the actions of the three neo-Nazi brawlers responsible as "causing a public disturbance". Tamás Eszes will be on probation for four years. News server SME reports that this "leader of the nation", as his megalomaniac promoters call him, was detained for causing a public disturbance in an intoxicated state.
© Romea

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THE EXTEND AND THE LIMITS OF XENOPHOBIA IN FRANCE (opinion)

By Maxime Gauin

15/6/2011- The contemporary xenophobia in France started with the racist wave of 1973 in Marseille, and expanded on a national level at the end of 1970’s and afterwards during 1980’s, because of the propaganda of the National Front (FN) and also of a part of classical right. The wave of 1973 was provoked chiefly by Gabriel Domenech (1920-1990), actually a prominent Marseille’s journalist, former MP (1958-1962) and former support of “French Algeria”, who had evolved gradually from the center-right to the far right in the 1960’s, by bitterness against the Algerians. Domenech joined eventually the FN in 1985. He was the first person sentenced in application of the anti-racist Pleven Act of 1972. In the FN, the main thinker of xenophobia was François Duprat (1940-1978), who developed the following argumentation with his associates. In using anti-immigrant speech, the FN will increase our electoral results, like the Swiss far right; and since our results will increase, the reelection of the current majority (classical right and center right) will depend of FN’s voices; so, the moderate right will be forced to assume some of our arguments, and as a result, the FN will acquire eventually a minimum of respectability. Actually, it was partially what happened, since some young intellectuals and ultra-conservative notabilities of the classical right joined the FN after François Mitterrand’s election (1981), judging to new opposition insufficiently aggressive and effective.

The majority of the main topics of the most current xenophobia were elaborated at that time; i.e. the “excessive” number of immigrants (especially in a period of economic difficulties), the “integration and assimilation problems” and the “link” between immigration and criminality. The policies and the political speeches became progressively harder since the return of the political right in power, in 2002. Especially, an increasing number of laws were adopted, whose avowed goal is to restrict the number of the immigrants, and to control more strictly the naturalizations of foreigners. Nicolas Sarkozy’s election in 2007 marked a new hardening, with the creation of a Ministry of Immigration and of National Identity. In the Summer of 2010, Mr. Sarkozy pronounced severe speeches about criminality, the Gypsies and the fundamentalist Islamic practices; according to his proper words — reported by some newspapers like “Le Canard enchaîné”, generally well informed — the main goal is electoral. The resignation from the government of all the ministers of Arab or Black African origin, as well as of the former social-democrats, at the end of last year, reinforced the rightist turn.

The FN maintained a high level profile during almost all Jacques Chirac’s second presidential mandate (2002-2007), but this decreased during and after the election of Mr. Sarkozy. However, since 2010, the FN has again a high result (around 15 %). The National Commission of Security’s Deontology (CNDS) notices, since 2003, an almost constant increasing of the abuses by members of the police and other security forces, including a substantial part of xenophobic and racist incidents; the CNDS deplores also its lack of funds and a lack of effectiveness in the repression of abuses. The official statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs reveal an increasing of racist incidents during the 2000’s. The Arab immigrants and their children are the most affected by these acts. If the anti-Semitic incidents take an important share of the total, they are no more the most numerous, unlike the beginning of 2000’s. Some surveys indicate that in 2010 the racist speech is less refrained than one year before.

Since approximately the last ten years, the main notable change in the themes of the anti-immigration speeches is that the target is now less Arab but more Muslim. Such a change is mostly new for France, which has no tradition of strong anti-Islamic feelings — for instance, the colonialists of the Third Republic (1870-1940) were rather pro-Islamic — and is probably the less religious country of the world. So, the economic crisis is more an accelerator of various trends than the unique and short-term reason. However, the level of xenophobia must not be exaggerated. The vote for the FN is not only motivated by feelings of hostility against the immigrants and their children. The number one reason, according to surveys, is a general disgust for the traditional political parties. The recent revival of the FN is largely due to the deep disappointment of rightist and independent electors — of low and middle classes — who voted for Mr. Sarkozy in 2007 and consider that all their hopes were betrayed, especially the promise of better incomes, and also the promise of non-partisan nominations in the high administration. An augmentation of the salaries and an “irreproachable Republic” were indeed two of the main promises made by Mr. Sarkozy in 2007. Anyway, the level of the FN in 2010-2011 is not exceptional; because in the past, in several elections of 1990’s and 2000’s, this party obtained similar results.

Even if the political speeches from far right and from a part of the right include bitter comments on Islam, there is no evidence of the existence, in France, of a strong anti-Muslim tendency, as compared to what exists in Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. The small far right political parties which attempt to compete the FN in focusing only on anti-Muslim feelings obtained tiny results in the regional elections of 2010 and local elections of 2011. The UMP also took no profit of the rightist turn of Summer 2010 during the local elections of March 2011. Within this party, many local and national leaders — including the Prime Minister François Fillon and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Alain Juppé, himself chief of governement from 1995 to 1997 — consider openly that Mr. Sarkozy is going too far to the right side. According to surveys, the numerous statements and eventually the law banning the burqa did not interest many electors; quite the contrary, a substantial part of the traditional UMP sympathizers interviewed by the IFOP institute in 2010 said that this issue is a minor problem, and criticized Mr. Sarkozy to focus on such unimportant topics. Symptomatic is the recent change of the Christian Estrosi, former minister and still mayor of Nice, who was for years one of the most vocal supporters of severe measures about immigration and security: he asserts now that the UMP should avoid initiatives which could divide the French citizens, and instead should focus on economic concerns.

If the racist incidents increased globally until 2009, their number decreased of 26% in 2010. There is no indication of a possible revival of far right terrorism which committed bloody acts in France from 1973 to 1991. The main danger is perhaps less the xenophobic prejudices themselves — incontrovertibly real —, than the prejudices of some politicians about these prejudices. These politicians are, as a result, led to make wrong choices with the questionable hope to obtain more voices.
© The Turkish Weekly

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FRENCH PARLIAMENT REJECTS SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BILL

France's lower house of parliament on Tuesday rejected a bill to legalise homosexual marriage. The opposition Socialists, who proposed the bill, said they would make legalising gay marriage a priority should they come to power in 2012.

14/6/2011- French lawmakers on Tuesday rejected a bill presented by the opposition Socialist Party seeking to legalize same-sex marriage, despite growing public support for gay rights. The vote reflected opposition to gay marriage among President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing conservatives and the strain of traditional values that runs through many parts of France — away from the gay-friendly bars and neighborhoods of Paris. The National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, turned down the measure by 293 votes to 222. Opposition was led by Sarkozy's UMP, while Socialists and other leftists supported the bill, which said "marriage can be contracted by two people of different sexes or of the same sex." Supporters say France has fallen behind the curve on gay rights, as nearby countries like Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands have legalized gay marriage. Earlier this year, France's highest court ruled that laws banning gay marriage don't violate the constitution. The esteemed Constitutional Court said any change would be up to parliament to decide. In France, same-sex couples can form civil unions, but those do not confer inheritance rights or joint custody of goods, among other things. France's very vocal gay rights groups say their efforts are making progress, crediting improving media coverage and role models like Mayor Bertrand Delanoe of Paris, who came out publicly years ago. A January poll published by Canal Plus TV found 58 percent of respondents in France believe gays should be able to marry, up from 45 percent five years ago. No margin of error was given.
© The Associated Press

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2 RUSSIAN NEO-NAZI LEADERS SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR KILLINGS OF NON-RUSSIANS

14/6/3011- Two leaders of a neo-Nazi gang were sentenced Tuesday to life in jail for a rash of hate killings that terrorized minorities in Russia's second-largest city. The St. Petersburg City Court said Alexei Voevodin and Artyom Prokhorenko headed a gang that enlisted Russian supremacists and football fans aged 16 to 22 who preyed on non-Slavs with dark skin or Asian features, kicking and stabbing them to death. The court also sentenced another 10 gang members to up to 18 years in jail for their roles in dozens of attacks over three years. Their victims included a nine-year old from the ex-Soviet republic of Tajikistan, and natives of North Korea, China and African nations. The gang also killed two former members suspected of co-operating with police and buried their bodies in a suburban forest. In 2004, the gang members gunned down Nikolai Girenko, a prominent expert on African ethnology and a human rights advocate who organized anti-racist conferences and helped police investigate hate crimes. The killings rattled St. Petersburg, a city long plagued by assaults on labour migrants from ex-Soviet Central Asia and Russia's Caucasus region, as well as natives of African and Asian nations. Critics accused police of doing little to prevent the crimes and find the culprits, and the gang was caught only after a local newspaper ran an investigative report.

Voevodin and Prokhorenko, with shaved heads and bulging biceps covered with tattooed Celtic imagery, stood calmly in a cage in the courtroom as they listened to the verdict. At a court session last week, Voevodin threatened the judge with "a horrible death," Gazeta.ru online newspaper reported. Celtic crosses are popular among Russian neo-Nazis as substitutes for swastikas. A handful of their supporters raised their right hands in a Nazi salute and yelled "Hail Russia! Hail heroes!" Some of them were holding small, hand-drawn pictures of Adolf Hitler. Voevodin formed the gang in 2003 after most of the members of his previous group, the Mad Crowd, were arrested and charged with multiple killings and assaults. He ordered his followers not to name the gang, refrain from wearing Nazi and ultranationalist symbols and advertising their crimes — unlike other neo-Nazi groups that often posted videos of their attacks online. In recent years, dozens of mostly underage neo-Nazis have stood trial and been convicted across Russia amid a surge in xenophobia and hate crimes triggered by the influx of labour migrants. Some average Russians and nationalist politicians accuse the migrants of stealing jobs and forming ethnic gangs.

Racially motivated attacks peaked in 2008, when 110 were killed and 487 wounded, independent human rights watchdog Sova said. Since then, the number of hate crimes dwindled, but human rights groups say neo-Nazis are increasingly resorting to bombings and arson against police and government officials, whom they accuse of condoning the influx of illegal migrants. Ultranationalist groups have also stepped up attacks on human rights activists and anti-racist youth groups. In early May, a member of an ultranationalist group got a life sentence for the Jan. 2009 killing of a human rights advocate and a journalist, his girlfriend and accomplice was sentenced to 18 years in jail. In April 2010, a federal judge who presided over trials of White Wolves, a mostly teenage group of skinheads convicted of killing and assaulting non-Slavs, was gunned down contract-style outside his Moscow apartment. Members of a neo-Nazi group accused of planning to blow up a mosque, a McDonald's restaurant and railway stations are currently standing trial in Moscow. Neo-Nazis operate in small, semi-autonomous groups that co-ordinate their actions through Internet forums and coded messages, rights groups say.
© The Associated Press

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FAR-RIGHT COULD PUSH SWEDEN INTO CRISIS

15/6/2011- Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt warned Wednesday the left-wing and far-right opposition parties were pushing his minority government towards crisis. "If you are not prepared to take responsibility for Sweden together and in the long-term, you should not ruin it in the short-term through recklessness," Reinfeldt told Jimmi Åkesson, the head of the far-right Sweden Democrats, during a parliamentary debate of all party leaders. Reinfeldt's centre-right coalition won a second mandate last September but fell two seats short of a majority in an election marked by the spectacular performance of the SD, which entered parliament for the first time, snagging 20 seats and the role of kingmaker. The SD has since sided with the leftwing opposition Social Democrat, Green, and Left parties to defeat the government on a series of key votes, including on the sale of state-owned companies and a controversial back-to-work scheme for the unemployed. "Our protection against having a parliamentary majority take over Sweden is the finance policy framework. It is the core of the government's power, to eliminate the possibilities of short-sighted, irresponsible majorities such as those Aakesson is pushing for," Reinfeldt said.

Reinfeldt also lashed out at the Social Democrats and the Greens, which had vowed ahead of last year's elections never to cooperate with the SD, hinting that their attacks on the government's job policies were undermining the possibility for a minority government to rule effectively. "This is not just about this government and this mandate period. This will create the basis for ruling Sweden for a long time to come," he said. New Social Democrat leader Haakan Juholt was visibly annoyed by the prime minister's comments. "Fredrik Reinfeldt should not lecture us Social Democrats on the economy. We invented the finance policy framework" that in the 1990s simplified minority rule, he said. Wednesday's debate was the first for Juholt, who took over the party in March after his predecessor Mona Sahlin stepped down in the aftermath of its disastrous election results.
© The Swedish Wire

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PARENTAL LEAVE 'TRAPS' IMMIGRANTS AT HOME (Sweden)

Less parental leave for those who have just arrived in Sweden with kids will help getting immigrant women out on the labour market, according to two Swedish experts.

14/6/2011- “This report points to a very real problem and may offer part of an explanation of why it takes so long to get out on the labour market,” Minister for Integration, Erik Ullenhaag said to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN). According to statistics, ‘women born outside of Sweden’ is the group that is finding it the most difficult to establish themselves on the labour market. In a report to the ministry of finance, scientists Åsa Olli Segendorf and Tommi Teljosuo argue that parental leave traps immigrant women in poverty and is often used as a social benefit for several years, keeping women in the home. Instead they promote the idea of linking the amount of parental leave allotted when a foreign-born child arrives in Sweden with its age on arrival. That way the older the child is, the shorter the amount of time off would be. Today, anyone who arrives in Sweden are entitled to 16 months of parental benefit (föräldrapenning) for their child, even if the child is four or five when he or she arrives in Sweden. The basic level of parental leave is 5,400 kronor ($857) tax-free per child per month. The scientists also want to scrap the childcare allowance (vårdnadsbidraget), a benefit strongly promoted by the Christian Democrats, which provides parents with up to 3,000 kronor tax-free per child per month. In effect since July 1st, 2008, the childcare allowance is available to parents of children aged one to three years old who forego the option of sending their children to a publicly financed preschool. Not only do parental leave and the childcare allowance constitute obstacles for women to enter the workforce, but they also hamper older children who could have begun pre-school and started learning Swedish immediately, the authors claim. Erik Ullenhaag wants to look into the report. “The basic level of parental benefits is 5,400 kronor per month, which I believe can provide quite a strong incentive to stay at home,” Ullenhaag said to DN. But not everyone is as positive to this explanation. Party Secretary for the Christian Democrats, Acko Anckarberg, is not impressed by the report. “They are highlighting family politics as the problem when it really is about not being able to get a job and being shut out of the jobs on the market, “ she said to DN.
© The Local - Sweden

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SWEDISH KIDS INVITED TO NEO-NAZI SUMMER CAMP (Sweden)

A Swedish neo-Nazi political party is offering children free admission to a camp scheduled to be held in a secret location in southern Sweden this summer. But not everyone is welcome to attend.

14/6/2011- The camp is being organised by the Party of Swedes (Svenskarnas parti -- SVP), which has its roots in Sweden's neo-Nazi movement. “Targeting young people is a very conscious strategy of these organisations. It is easier to reach young people with Nazi-propaganda before they have really made their mind up on what Nazism stands for,” journalist Johannes Jakobsson told The Local. Jakobsson, who writes for Swedish magasine Expo, which studies and maps anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and racist tendencies in society, said there is little doubt about the party's heritage. “The party leadership is the same as the old National Socialistic Front (National Socialistisk Front – NSF), they represent an ethnic nationalism and they believe in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” he said. In July, the party is organising a gathering for “all nationalists” under the name of Nordisk Vision 2011 ('Nordic Vision 2011'). The camp, which is described as a “summer-camp with drive” has on its agenda “several interesting lectures, speeches, workshops, competitions, self-defence classes, airsoft, rounders and a lot more,” according to the party's website.

The location of the camp is a secret as organisers fear harassment. “We have a fixed gathering point but from there the directions are secret. We can’t make the location official after all the harassment we have been subjected to in the past,” organiser Andreas Carlsson told Dagens Nyheter (DN). According to Carlsson, there is no political agenda to the gathering. He told daily DN that the aim is to “have fun, creating kinship and meeting new people". Carlsson told daily Aftonbladet that the focus for the kids would be on “having fun” but that everyone will be able to take part in a debate on the Sunday where one of the topics will be “Who is a Swede and who isn’t?”. But the organisers would not agree that the camp itself is targeting young people, despite Swedish media calling it a "Nazi children's camp". They are marketing the camp as having activities for both “young and old” and claim that children under 15 go in for free as it is a family event and they want to subsidize the price for families.

However, that doesn't mean that everyone is invited. “You can have a foreign name, but if it is from outside Europe it becomes more difficult. And we don’t necessarily see someone as Swedish just because they have a Swedish citizenship,” Carlsson told DN. Jakobsson says that there is no reason to doubt that the participants won't be paddling, playing rounders and taking part in all the activities advertised on the webpage. However, he doesn't believe that the gathering is without a political agenda. “They have said that they will have political speeches and discussions so when they say that it’s not political they are contradicting themselves,” he told The Local. The Party of Swedes party is formerly known as the People's Front (Folkfronten) and was founded by members of the former National Socialist Front (Nationalsocialistisk front, NSF) in November 2008. At the time it dissolved, NSF was the largest neo-Nazi political party in Sweden. It became a political party on April 20th, 1999, the 110th birthday of Adolf Hitler.
© The Local - Sweden

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OPINION POLL POINTS TO DISCRIMINATION IN MONTENEGRO

More than half of respondents in a recent poll in Montenegro say they don't want drug addicts, homosexuals, or people with AIDS living in their neighbourhood.

14/6/2011- The poll, carried out by the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, CEDEM, showed that 76 per cent of respondents don't want neighbours who are drug addicts, 57 per cent don't want neighbours who are homosexuals, and one-fifth of interviewees said they don't want ethnic Albanian living next door. The public opinion survey, which was conducted in cooperation with the Ministry of Minorities, found that Montenegrins believe that the Roma are the most discriminated against group in the country, followed by women. Fifty-six per cent of respondents believe that these groups face discrimination mainly in employment, and are least discriminated against in court proceedings. Respondents said that Roma have the most difficulty finding employment, followed by people with disabilities, the elderly, homosexuals, minorities, and finally, women. Montenegrins believe that Roma and people with disabilities are most discriminated against in terms of health care and access to education, the study found.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents said that NGOs were considered to be the bodies that worked the hardest to protect people from discrimination, followed by the media, the government and political parties. Institutions, meanwhile, work primarily to protect against discrimination against women, fifty-eight per cent of respondents said, followed by homosexuals, forty-eight per cent said. Montenegro is seen as especially unfriendly towards gays and lesbians, and a planned pride parade was recently cancelled after attacks on homosexuals in the weeks before the event. While Prime Minister Igor Luksic had pledged his support for the parade, saying that Montenegro had to show it was a society that was ready to accept differences, the country's minister for minority and human rights had not welcomed the idea of a parade. Minister Ferhat Dinosa was infamously quoted as saying that if it is true that there are gays in the country, “then it is not good for Montenegro”.

Assistant Montenegrin Minister for Minorities, Sabah Delic, said that the data gathered in the CEDEM poll will be used in reviewing and improving the government's policies toward minorities and marginalized groups.
© Balkan Insight

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JOBS ADS ARE OFTEN DISCRIMINATORY, OMBUDSMAN SAYS (Czech Rep.)

15/6/2011- Czech employers often discriminate against the job seekers as evidenced by the fact that every sixth job advertisement is discriminatory, ombudsman Pavel Varvarovsky told journalists yesterday. The name of a profession in the masculine gender does not pose any problem as this is used in Czech for both sexes, Varvarovsky said. On the other hand, it can be considered a discrimination against males if an employer seeks a "prodavacka" or "kadernice" (female shop assistant or female hairdresser), he added. The ombudsman's team examined 12,000 job ads on one of the work portals on April 1-7. There is a frequent indirect discrimination if an employee wants to hire a person for a young collective. "One can indirectly infer that since there is a young collective, an older job seeker would hardly be welcomed as he would be a problem in the young collective," Lucie Obrovska, from the Ombudsman's Office, said. The ombudsman considers discriminatory also the situation in which a firm wants to hire a person with a clean criminal record such as manual workers for construction or gardening works. Lawyer Michal Cermak, from the Ombudsman's Office, said the failure to pay alimonies was the most frequent reason for a prison sentence in the Czech Republic. If the situation is to be remedied, such people should find jobs as soon as they are released from prison, Cermak said. If a clean criminal record is demanded even for unskilled manual jobs, they will never repay the alimonies, he added. The demand for inordinately long working practice may discriminate against certain groups, too, Cermak said. He said the survey had come across some advertisers demanding 15 or 20 years of practice. If this is coupled with the demand of university education, women and men who spent some time with children at parental leave can also be eliminated, Cermak said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT SAYS EXTENSION OF CUSTODY FOR NEO-NAZI LEADER VIOLATED HER RIGHTS (Czech Rep.)

15/6/2011- The Czech Constitutional Court ruled today that Michaela Dupová, the informal leader of the women's branch of the neo-Nazi movement in the Czech Republic, spent several months in custody on the basis of a verdict that did not respect her fundamental rights. The Municipal Court in Prague justified its extension of her time in custody by saying Dupová was communicating by mail with people on the ultra-right scene, but the Constitutional Court ruled that it and of itself that had not been sufficient reason to extend her time in custody, as the right to conduct correspondence is guaranteed by the Constitution and the legal code. In her complaint, Dupová claims the courts extended her time in prison solely on the basis of her political opinions. She was released from custody by the Prague 1 District Court long before the Constitutional Court's ruling today, which has no direct effect on her at this time. However, it may open the way for her to seek compensation for her illegal imprisonment.

The Constitutional Court said the Municipal Court's mistake was that it did not address the content of the correspondence when ruling to extend her custody, basing the decision solely on the fact that her correspondents were members of the right-wing extremist scene. The court could theoretically have used the content of those letters against Dupová if, for example, she had planned or supported a crime in them - "but essentially not the mere fact that she exercised her right to conduct correspondence with other persons, which is guaranteed at both the constitutional and the sub-constitutional levels of the law," the Constitutional Court's finding reads. Dupová was imprisoned after the police raids on the neo-Nazi scene in October 2009. She spent more than a year in custody. She has always denied all charges against her. The dubious Prague Municipal Court verdict to extend her time in custody, which the Constitutional Court overturned today, was handed down in July 2010. The Prague 1 District Court decided to release her last December. She posted bail of CZK 400 000 and made a written promise to refrain from criminal activity.

Along with others, Dupová faces charges of promoting and supporting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. Together with other right-wing extremists, she organized a 2009 ultra-right gathering in Jihlava. According to the case files, she provided drums and made funeral wreaths for an event in honor of fallen Nazi soldiers. In December 2008, she is alleged to have participating in posting stickers of the National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO), an informal Czech neo-Nazi organization, in the center of Prague. Dupová is also the sole defendant in two other criminal cases. According to the files, she is alleged to have participated in creating and running the website of Resistance Women Unity (RWU). Police claim this is the women's branch of the NO. According to the charges against her, Dupová was the administrator of the website and published both her own articles on it and articles by others which the state prosecutor says disseminated and promoted Nazi and neo-Nazi ideas.

The file also says she participated in organizing and running a concert of "white power music" in support of neo-Nazis in detention and in prison. The concert took place in February 2009 in Srby na Kladensku and was attended by about 120 people. The suit against her claims she knew those performing at the concert and those attending it would be disseminating the ideas of Nazism and neo-Nazism. Eight people, including Dupová, are being tried on these charges at the Prague 1 District Court. The original head judge, Věra Bártová, recused herself after public criticism of her former membership in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. In February the case was taken over by Judge Libor Vávra. Dupová was convicted in May in a trial also involving the leaders of the dissolved Workers' Party. The Brno Municipal Court handed down suspended prison sentences and fines to the defendants for statements they made at a 1 May demonstration in 2009.
© Romea

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CATHOLIC PRIESTS PROTEST AGAINST ULTRA-RIGHT PARTY IN KRNOV (Czech Rep.)

"We Don't Want E.coli or Neo-Nazism"

13/6/2011- A group of Catholic priests has protested against neo-Nazism in Krnov. The daily Bruntálský deník reports that the priests protested against a rally there by the extremist Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS). The priests unfurled a banner reading "Christians against Neo-Nazism" and "We Don't Want E.coli or Neo-Nazism". The daily reports that some DSSS promoters - apparently bored by the lengthy, incomprehensible speech being given by party leader Tomáš Vandas - asked the priests what E.coli was and then asked for an explanation of the relationship between bloody diarrhea and neo-Nazism. They also tried to discuss the role played by the Catholic Church in Czech history with the Catholic activists. When asked what specifically they were doing for a better future for humanity and their country, the priests described their pastoral work among prisoners in Mírov. In his speech, Vandas admitted and emphasized the continuity between the dissolved extremist neo-Nazi Workers' Party (Dělnická strana - DS) and today's DSSS. "As a result of our electoral results we received CZK 750 000 from the state, and that's the only subsidy we have been given so far," Vandas claimed. The state contribution, however, was made to the treasury of the DS, which has since been dissolved.
© Romea

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TURKEY FEELS RACIAL TENSIONS AS FLOOD OF SYRIAN REFUGEES GOES ON

As incomers from different backgrounds flee across the border, trouble is brewing

15//2011- The demonstration was vocal, about rights and Syria – a familiar sight. The difference, however, was that this was taking place in Turkey and the slogans were in support of Bashar al-Assad and against those defying his regime. The rally, at the town of Samandag in Hatay province, was predominantly by members of the Turkish Alevi community, a Shia offshoot with links to the ruling Alawites in Syria. They were protesting against allowing refugees, who are overwhelmingly Sunni, being allowed to come into Turkey. Around 7,000 people have registered with the Turkish authorities so far, after fleeing the fighting; another 4,000 are believed to have entered unofficially and 10,000 more are gathered across the border. The numbers are rising daily as the Damascus regime's forces expand their military onslaught in the northern Idlib province. Despite claims by many in Syria's protest movement that they are united in their demand for freedom, sectarian divisions are appearing among the refugees with claims that the worst atrocities are being committed by the Shabbiha, a militia of the Alawite community to which President Assad and the elite belongs. There are also charges by some of the refugees that their Alawite neighbours are being armed to carry out the regime's dirty work. Nasr Abdullah, a resident of Jisr al-Shughour who fled a day before the city was stormed, complained bitterly: "They gave guns to Alawites... and brought them in to loot and burn."

There is growing concern that the religious tensions sparked by the Syrian uprising will be imported into this part of Turkey which has a delicate demographic balance between Sunnis, Alevis and Christians. The 1.5 million population of Hatay province is divided almost equally between Sunnis and Alevis with a Christian minority. St Peter's Church at Antakiya, one of the oldest in the world, is next to an ancient Sunni mosque. Down the road is a place of worship, a cemevleri, for the Alevis. The Syrian refugees are not being allowed to mix into the general community in Hatay province by the Turkish authorities. Even the many that have cross-border family links are being stopped from staying with their relations. They are, instead, being corralled into one of the growing number of holding centres – two more camps are being built to add to the three which have been put up in just over 10 days. Local people, the media and human rights groups such as Amnesty International have been denied the opportunity to speak to the camp inmates. This is seen as an attempt to avoid adverse publicity as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had built up amicable relations with President Assad, tries to cope with the humanitarian crisis presented to him by his former ally in Damascus. Privately, officials concede that the measures are also to prevent inflaming the domestic situation by putting thousands of Syrian Sunnis, some of them blaming the Alawites for their predicament, on the streets. One official said: "We think there will be serious religious problems in Syria after all this. We don't want that to happen here. We want these people to go back when the situation improves."

But there is already anger and tension in Hatay about what is happening in Syria. A Sunni shopkeeper at Guvecci on the border turned his fury on a young Alevi student working as an interpreter for The Independent. "You know very well what is going on! Your people are murdering us. Ask your Alawite brothers how many more they are going to kill." Opponents of taking in the refugees are planning another march next weekend. Haydar Tekil, a driver from the Alevi community who took part in the last demonstration, was adamant: "We do not believe these stories from the refugees. They are big liars. Bashar al-Assad has been a good leader for them, he has given them a much better standard of living than we have here in Turkey. There will be a lot of trouble if he is forced to leave, not just for Syria but Turkey as well." Ali Yilmaz Cecim, a 39-year-old engineer and fellow Alevi, another who also took part, said: "They [the Turkish Sunnis] are taking sides with foreigners against fellow Turkish citizens. We know that many of these Syrians coming in have extremist views, that is why they are fighting their government, despite what they say. The people who want to bring them in are doing so because they will help to push their own extremist religious views here, they want to build up numbers. "There is also the economic factor, we shall have to provide financial support for these people. The Alevis have every reason to speak up and we should do more to assert our rights."

Alevis, who comprise 25 per cent of Turkey's population, complain that having Sunni Islam as the sole state religion is a form of discrimination. Dogan Bermek, an official of the Federation of Alevi Foundations, agreed that the community must be more assertive about securing their interest. "Even our places of worship are not recognised. This means we are not getting equal treatment," he said. Abdulhadi Kahya, a member of parliament from Hatay, representing the AKP party which draws most of the Sunni Muslim vote, denied that there were problems between Sunnis and Alevis and stressed that the Syrian refugees must be made welcome. "We must do all we can for our brothers from Syria, we have had good relations with them for many years and we must help them," he said. "There should be no problems with them coming here. All religions live in this area in peace." Mehmet Ustin disagreed. The 24-year-old was born and brought up in Ovakelt, near Antakya, after his Afghan father arrived in 1982 among a party of 120 Uzbek families from Kunduz. He said: "We have never had any problems in the past, but there are some really bad things happening now. "Recently I was on a trip with my friend and our motorcycle broke down. We went to a repair shop and the mechanic started hitting us, shouting insults because we were Afghans. He was an Alevi, I don't know why he was so angry. I do not personally mind the refugees coming here. But I can see this could be a problem for others, there are a lot of angry people around here."

Aid organisations and rights groups are worried that sectarian infighting and internal politics may distract from the urgent task of looking after the refugees. Metim Corabacir, an official of the UNHCR based in Ankara, said: "The most important thing is that the border should be kept open and they have a safe area to come to. The principles of international protection must be applied. We have constantly been in touch with the [Turkish] government to offer support but they claim to have the resources to provide assistance for now." Neil Sammonds, of Amnesty International, currently at the border, added: "The main thing is that we get access to all the refugees – those who are in camps in Turkey and those still in Syria. Their welfare must be the chief concern."
© The Independent

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SOCIAL MEDIA'S INFLUENCE ON ‘HATE CRIME' (Turkey)

The Internet and social media networks are not under any sort of inspection against racist ideas, hate or abusive speech in the name of freedom of surfing the Web.

12/6/2011- Whilst the rise of the Internet and social networking websites has, in many ways, presented many positives for society, particularly in terms of freedom of speech and communication, it has also created a platform on which abusive and threatening opinions can be more easily voiced, in particular against certain individuals or groups of people, which is often referred to as hate speech. Despite hate speech being restricted to the act of verbal abuse, some experts are worried by its tendency to develop into something more serious, falling under the bracket of hate crime. A hate crime is a criminal offense motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a victim's race, ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation or disability. This kind of crime may include robberies, threats, harassment, intimidation or actual acts of physical violence such as physical assault, sexual assault, rape, torture, attempted murder or murder. Hate crimes are unique as they have a social undertone in their aim. They are intent on sending a message to entire groups or individuals, as well as to their families and other supporters, that they are unwelcome in particular communities. What sets hate crimes apart from other acts of violence is the psychological damage that they leave behind. Although any type of victimization carries with it psychological consequences, certain types of emotional reactions are more frequent among survivors of hate crimes. These feelings include depression, anxiety, fear, stress and anger.

The Internet and social media networks are not under any sort of inspection against racist ideas, hate or abusive speech in the name of freedom of surfing the Web. The news that features on media outlets are getting onto social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where hate speeches are added and uploaded. Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was fatally shot in front of the headquarters of the bilingual Armenian weekly Agos in 2007, was one of the biggest victims of hate crime in Turkey as he was killed only because of his "Armenian" identity. Forty-eight Roma from 13 families were forced to leave Selendi in Manisa, where they had lived for many years, after clashes erupted between the district's Roma population and other locals. These two examples show how serious these hate crimes can be. An organization named the Association for Social Change (ASC) is currently the only association that solely deals with every aspect of hate crime. Their slogan is "Hate Crimes Kill."

In an interview with Cihan new agency, ASC's secretary-general, Fikret Levent Şensever, stated that there are various organizations that are working against hate crimes, such as the International Hrant Dink Foundation. Şensever said that hate speech on online community and social networking websites strongly influences hate crimes. "We have to differentiate hate crime and hate speech first. Hate crimes are physical crimes against individuals or groups of people, based on many aspects, such as ethnic origin, religious belief and so on. Hate speech is normally only in the form of verbal attacks; however, they can sometimes lead to hate crimes, too." Currently there is no legislation about hate crimes in the Turkish Constitution. Though there are some articles in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), as they do not directly cover hate crime or hate speech, criminal cases on such issues are not solved as they are in European countries and criminals generally get away with what they have done.

Hate speech does not only declare one's hate or anger, but also sets a premise for hate crime. Şensever stated that the Turkish government should take immediate action in creating legislation on hate crime and inform and train judicators, attorneys, police officers and civil societies. Şensever told Cihan news agency, the government in the United Kingdom trains media personnel on discrimination issues to prevent any sort of racism or hate crimes, and they also provide booklets and newsletters concerning hate crime. Şensever said the ASC was founded on Feb. 26, 2009 by activists in order to carry out various campaigns on social, cultural and environmental issues, and to support such efforts through projects and campaigns. He also mentioned that there were not many organizations that are dealing with hate crime in Turkey. "In Western countries, especially in the United States, the government produces reports on hate crime every year. However, this is not the case in our country. So far there have been no reports on hate crimes in Turkey, so we do not know which segments of society are victims of hate speech," he said.
© Cihan news agency

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MUSLIMS SAY BULGARIA PLAGUED WITH ISLAMOPHOBIA, VOW TO DEFEND THEMSELVES (Bulgaria)

13/6/2011- Part of the Bulgarian society is plagued with islamophobia, the Bulgarian Chief Mufti's Office has declared in a special statement urging the Bulgarian Muslims to take measures to defend themselves against attacks. Monday's statement of the Chief Mufti's Office comes a day after on Sunday the warden of the main mosque in downtown Sofia suffered a brutal assault at the hands of unidentified attackers just minutes before the start of the morning prayer on Sunday. In it, the Chief Mufti's Office refers to the incident of May 20, 2011, when extremists from the nationalist and far-right party Ataka assaulted praying Muslims outside the Sofiay Mosque Banya Bashi when an Ataka rally against the loudspeakers of the mosque got out of hand. The Chief Mufti's Office, however, complains that numerous similar incidents have followed ever since, and that the Bulgarian state institutions have failed to protect the Muslims in Bulgaria and their temples. "After this next case of violence against a Muslim and the desecration of a mosque, the Bulgarian Muslims community has received a clear message that the state is either unable to protect us, or doesn't want to do that, which leaves us in a very hard situation as citizens of the EU who were still hoping that there are sufficiently good democratic mechanisms for preventing repressions against us," reads the statement of the religious leadership of the Bulgarian Muslims.

"Unfortunately, our hope turned out to be illusionary, our expectations were not met, and we are now aware that we have to provide for our own security and rights. Nnumerous cases, some of them rather shocking, in the recent years lead us to assume that Muslims are unwanted in this country, and that pressure against us will continue... [They] show that part of the Bulgarian society is hostile and aggressive against Islam, Islamic values, and the Muslim community," the Chief Mufti's Office says stressing that the above-described incidents should not be treated as hooliganism or criminal acts "but as a common strategy and intolerance against the Muslims, which could probably lead to more large-scale operations." "This kind of islamophobia and pressure expressed as threats, insults, restricting religious rights, and physical violence should be treated as an attempt to instigate inter-religious conflicts, a civil war, and a threat to the national security," the Chief Mufti's Office declares. The statement further explains that even though after the attack on the Banya Bashi mosque on May 20, 2011, the Bulgarian Muslims "received the support of the politicians, the intelligentsia, and part of the society", similar incidents have continued to occur. The Chief Mufti's Office says that on May 30, 2011, it alerted Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov about several more cases of physical assaults on praying Muslims but that it did not see any reaction from human rights organizations, the government, the civil society, the political parties.

"Why? Probably because we are now used to such incidents and because some circles acquiesce to the violence against us?.. The National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria adopted a declaration stating that the Muslims do not need to defend themselves because the authorities can do that. It turns out that this is not really true, and it is an attempt to put out the problem, to win time, and to blunt our feelings," says the office of the Bulgarian Chief Mufti. It further calls upon the Muslims in the country to organize day and night guards as volunteers "in order to protect what the state fails to protect – the honor and dignity of Islam and Muslims." "These steps are the beginning of a self-protection campaign. We are going to inform you of your next steps depending on the development of the problems and the desires of the community. In conclusion, we turn to our state leaders, institutions, and authorities, to all evil-minded people, to all Islamophobes, to all attackers – do you think that we love Bulgaria less than you?", concludes the Chief Mufti's Office. The Muslim community in Bulgaria can be perceived as rather diverse as it consists of indigenous Muslims - ethnic Bulgarian Muslims (also known as Pomaks) and ethnic Turks – as well as immigrants from the Arab countries and Iran.
© Novinite

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SOFIA MOSQUE WARDEN ASSAULTED, BEATEN - CHIEF MUFTI (Bulgaria)

12/6/2011- The warden of the main mosque in downtown Sofia has suffered a brutal assault at the hands of unidentified attackers just minutes before the start of the morning prayer on Sunday, the Chief Mufti's Office announced. "Today we witnessed yet another attack against Sofia mosque. This morning, 20 minutes before the morning prayer, the warden of the mosque in Sofia was cruelly beaten. Unknown people have jumped over the fence of the mosque, beaten the keeper, destroyed the security room and burst into the mosque," says the statement. The man was found by worshippers who came to the mosque for the morning prayer, covered in blood and unconcious, it said. He has been taken to the emergency Pirogov hospital. "Hate crimes, acts of xenophobia and Islamophobia have risen dramatically in recent months," says the statement of the Chief Mufti's Office. Bulgaria's Interior Ministry has issued no official information about the incident so far. The news comes just a month after a Muslim man and five policemen were hurt in clashes between supporters of Bulgaria's ultra-nationalist Ataka party and worshippers outside the Banya Bashi mosque in Sofia on May 20. The incident was condemned by authorities and human rights groups as an example of a worrying escalation of xenophobia and religious hatred.
© Novinite

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POLICE PROBE FAR-RIGHT LINKS TO 'POISON PACKAGES' AT MOSQUES (uk)

Muslim leaders across London are on high alert after fake anthrax was posted to five mosques by suspected far-Right extremists.

17/6/2011- Detectives from Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command are investigating after imams at the mosques received bags of white powder. One package, sent to the Finsbury Park mosque, also contained "evil drawings" of the Prophet Mohammed similar to cartoons published in Denmark. The Evening Standard understands up to five other mosques in pockets of extremism outside London - thought to be Luton and Birmingham - were targeted in the past 10 days. Scotland Yard is so concerned about the threat to community cohesion that it has sent a warning to more than 200 mosques in the capital. An email from the Association of Muslim Police warns staff to avoid touching any mail they deem suspicious. It says: "The inquiry relates to suspicious but non-hazardous packages sent to mosques. Inquires are ongoing and no arrests have been made at this stage. We recognise the distress and disruption caused by such incidents and will continue to investigate them, and any others which come to light, robustly. "Anyone receiving an item they think is suspicious should treat it seriously and follow the following advice: Call 999; 1. Do not touch or handle it any further; 2. Remain calm; 3. Move everyone away to a safe distance; 4. Safely communicate instructions to staff and public; 5. Ensure that whoever found the item or witnessed the incident remains on hand to brief the police." Detectives are studying hours of CCTV footage as many of the packages did not have stamps and are thought to have been hand-delivered to the mosques. Some of the mosques were evacuated while specialist officers in protective suits checked the suspect material.

When a package arrived at the Finsbury Park mosque last Thursday, police closed the building and surrounding roads for four hours. Ahmed Saad, the imam at the mosque, told the Evening Standard: "Our security guard was in the office when I opened the letter and he called the police right away. "He told me to wash my hands and face just in case the powder was dangerous. The police arrived with ambulances and evacuated the building. "It could have been anything in the envelope, my first thought was that it could be anthrax, or it could be some kind of [other] poison. "It was very frightening. Something like this should not happen, we live in a multi-cultural society." Mohammed Kozbar, the manager of the mosque, said: "We often get a lot of malicious communications but this is worse than anything that happened before. The envelope also had nasty, devil, evil drawings of the Prophet Mohammed and Muslim women in hijab clothing. "It is very bad - we have worked hard to change the culture of the mosque since the case of Abu Hamza [the extremist former imam]. These racists won't succeed and we will carry on with our work." In 2005, a Danish newspaper published 12 offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. The row triggered protests across the world and led to the bombing of the Danish embassy in Pakistan. Mr Kozbar believes the package was sent by someone with far-Right views. A BNP spokesman said: "We are in the political business now and we certainly do not indulge in any activity of that sort." Scotland Yard said "no line of enquiry had been ruled out". Meanwhile, a counter-extremism group has warned British Muslims could also end up victims. Ghaffar Hussain of Quilliam, a counter-extremism thinktank, said: "This is a reminder that British Muslims can also be victims of extremism and intolerance."

The History of the Finsbury Park Mosque
Prince Charles opened the Finsbury Park mosque in 1994 to serve the large Muslim population in north London. However, it soon gained notoriety when its members appointed Abu Hamza al-Masri as imam in 1996. The notorious hook-handed cleric used his position to spread messages of hate and his violent sermons have been linked to several Al Qaeda terrorists, including "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. In 2003, more than 100 armed police raided the Finsbury Park mosque during an investigation into the alleged Wood Green ricin plot. And three of the 7/7 bombers - Jermaine Lindsay, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer - also attended sermons given by Abu Hamza prior to their Tube attack in 2005. In April, leaked Wikileaks documents revealed American intelligence chiefs once believe Finsbury Park mosque to be a "haven for Islamic extremists from Morocco and Algeria" and "an attack planning and propaganda production base". New leadership took over the mosque when Abu Hamza was eventually jailed for inciting murder and race hate in 2006. Despite working hard to rebuild its battered public image, its chequered past means Finsbury Park mosque remains a prized target of Islamophobes. Last July, it was the victim of another attack when vandals mounted a pig's head on its gates.

Comment: by Ghaffar Hussain head of outreach at Quilliam, a counter-extremism thinktank based in London
Although the suspicious packages recently sent to a number of London mosques fortunately turned out to be harmless, they are a reminder that British Muslims can also be victims of extremism and intolerance. While newspaper headlines focus on the threat of Islamist terrorism, far-right extremists in London and elsewhere in the UK are posing an increasing threat, both to Muslims and to wider society. The recent packages sent to mosques are not one-off incidents; they are part of a clear trend of attacks aimed at intimidating British Muslims. Last year, a pig's head was dumped in Finsbury Park Mosque, one of those targeted in the latest anthrax scare. In March, a gang of six men shouting anti-Muslim slogans tried to break into another mosque in Redbridge as local Muslims were preparing for their evening prayers. The men threw bricks at worshippers and attacked nearby cars before being arrested. And only last month in Lancashire two men went on trial for daubing racist graffiti on a local mosque in Lancashire. Britain's minority communities have been subjected to racist acts since the 1960s. However, these new attacks are the result of far-right groups like the British National Party (BNP) focusing their attention less on race and more on religion. As racism becomes less and less acceptable in society, they think that attacking and scapegoating Muslims is an easy way to win new supporters - particular in view of widespread (and often legitimate) fears about Islamist terrorism and extremism. Attacking people because of their religion is not and can never be acceptable. British society needs to stand firm both against religious extremists and against those who incite hatred against people simply because of their religion.
© The Evening Standard

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UK LIBERAL MUSLIMS LAUNCHED JIHAD AGAINST VIOLENCE

The Liberal Muslims'conference in London, this two- day conference organized by ‘Inspire’ has been a melting pot of thoughts and ideas, an indulgence of sorts. It brought together a ‘who’s who’ of liberal Muslims whose opinions and interpretations of the Qur’an have been a slap in the face to some in the classical-conservative field of view.
By Farrukh I. Younus, Freelance Writer - United Kingdom

17/6/2011- One of the speakers, Chris Allen, addressed a rather subtle point, the tie between a Muslim woman’s dress and societies’ perception of Islam. A recent subject of discussion in the news, the burkini illustrated the divergence of opinion. Simply, when a Muslim woman dresses in such a way she is oppressed because she is hiding and covering herself, all the while when non-Muslim woman such as Nigella Lawson, a famous personality chooses to go onto a beach in a burkini, did it, she is hiding her modesty from prying eyes. What is oppression for one is liberating for another, thus the dress code isn’t really the subject, rather it is the creation of fear of, and anger towards a faith i.e. Islam. In this context, another of the speakers, Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, used her slot to address a number of the commonly misunderstood hadith relating to women. The classic example being a false narration where one of the companions Abu Huraira said that a man cannot pray if a woman or a dog is in front of him, to which Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, objected angrily saying that he has compared women to dogs. She then corrected him giving her own example of how the Prophet would pray and when he would prostrate he would tap her legs and she would move them out of the way so he could prostrate. Aside from the literal meaning of this hadith, it addresses a much wider concern, that is the attitude that even men who were close to the Prophet had with regards to women. If it happened here, where else did it happen? And more importantly, how have these attitudes remained to the point that the self-proclaimed champions of Islam do not view women as women but rather as sexualized objects that often need ‘protecting’?

Taking this further, Riba Mir-Hosseini, pointed out something which I hadn’t thought of previously. That is at a time of revolution and change, where some societies were trying to become more ‘Islamic’, in doing so, they simply uplifted conservative classical interpretation of Islam, integrating elements of them into their state’s legal code, without going through the same due process that took place throughout the differing periods of Islam. Even in early Islam where interpretation of the Qur’an and Hadith varied between the different regions to which Islam spread reflecting the conditions and circumstance of the societies that lived there, one set of opinions were established as the norm. While in theory this may sound like a good idea, the problem is that it included vast statements and opinions based on a patriarchal interpretation of Islam, which in many cases didn’t reflect the example of the Prophet Muhammad himself. As a result, in the Western world specifically, you have a much stronger conservatism of Islam than you do in many of the Muslim countries e.g. attitudes to music, where all music in the west to some Muslims is ‘haram’ but elsewhere in the Muslim world good music is good while bad music is bad. Further, and this is what really struck me, is that in place of intellectual discovery which has been made possible in the west on account of the wider freedoms enjoyed by general society, when these evidences and discovery are then shared with the wider Muslim world – particularly with regards to women’s rights, they are disregarded for not adhering to the status quo, irrespective of whether they are sound or not. For me, a truth is a truth, irrespective of how it is derived. And for me, refusing to acknowledge the integrity of that truth is a reflection of the Qur’anic verse where people are criticized for following what their forefathers did blindly, more often than not, under the guise of tradition.

End of Inspire Conference
The conference concluded with the launch of an initiative named Jihad Against Violence (JAV). The initiative driven by the team at Inspire along with the support of Daisy Khan and Uasama Hasan, which is built upon a single philosophy of the Prophet Muhammad, that is, to seek peace instead of war. That is to say that we haven’t been created different to disagree with one another, rather our differences should be adding value to the wider human experience. One of the most important reminders this conference left me with is the knowledge and understanding of the relationship between man and Allah Almighty, one that is based on understanding and piety, not arrogance and self-righteousness. We are taught in the Qur’an that faith is a blessing. It is thus through our own individual actions that we must reflect the values of faith, from modesty to justice. However, all too often Muslims suffer from a superiority complex that is to say that we are on truth and others are on the path to hell. This attitude does not reflect the approach the Prophet himself had with others. Rather, his approach to any and every person was first that they are a human being, and that every human being as a descendant of Adam and Eve has the same rights with regards to freedom and justice as every other human being. Whether this is freeing women from pre-Islamic (and now post-Islamic) oppression, running the affairs of a state, or simply matters relating to everyday life, until such time as we adopt the Prophetic advice, ‘A person is not a believer until they want for the other what they want for themselves’; until we have understood and apply this in our daily lives, we as people have little right to claim that we are upon the path of truth.

In 2010, the journal Psychological Sciences reported on a study commissioned by the University of Arizona which found idle talk made people unhappy, going on to say “that the happy life is social and conversationally deep rather than solitary and superficial." So I return to my opening quote from the Quran which reads, (There are some people who purchase idle talk in order to lead away from Allah’s path without any knowledge.) And I ask myself, who exactly is facilitating this ‘idle talk’? Is it the person who accepts (all of) the status quo (as is), or is it the person who perhaps challenges (some of) the status quo, seeking clarification and better understanding of faith?

Read part one of the Liberal Muslims'conference in London: - “Inspirations of Liberal Muslimsat City Hall
Farrukh I. Younus holds a master's degree in international business management and works in the emerging telecommunications industry across Europe and Asia. Dedicated to understanding and delivering solutions based on new technology, Younus has spoken on the subject to the European Parliament in Brussels, and regularly attends industry-leading conferences worldwide. His cross-cultural knowledgebase is strengthened with extensive international travel that includes visits to China on more than 25 occasions. His interests include travel, nouvelle cuisine, and chocolate.
© On Islam

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SCHOOL'S REFUSAL TO LET BOY WEAR CORNROW BRAIDS IS RULED RACIAL DISCRIMINATION (uk)

Boy's family wins case in high court against Harrow college that bans 'gang-related' hairstyles

17/6/2011- A school's anti-gang ban on unconventional hairstyles has resulted in "unlawful, indirect racial discrimination which is not justified", the high court has ruled. The test case decision is a victory for the family of African-Caribbean teenager "G", who wears his hair in cornrow braids as part of a family tradition. G, who cannot be named, and his mother challenged a refusal by St Gregory's Catholic Science College in Kenton, Harrow, north London, to let G through the school gates with his braids in September 2009, when he was 11. Mr Justice Collins, sitting in London, ruled that the hair policy was not unlawful in itself, "but if it is applied without any possibility of exception, such as G, then it is unlawful". He said in future the school authorities must consider allowing other boys to wear cornrows if it is "a genuine family tradition based on cultural and social reasons". Even though the family's application for judicial review was successful, G, now 13, does not wish to return to the school, which he left in tears on his first day.

"This is an important decision," said G's solicitor, Angela Jackman, after the hearing. "It makes clear that non-religious cultural and family practices associated with a particular race fall within the protection of equalities legislation." The judge emphasised that the school's "short back and sides" hair policy was perfectly permissible and lawful, but exceptions had to be made on ethnic and cultural grounds. He stressed that the school was "not in any way racist" but had made "an honest mistake" in failing to allow for exceptions, adding: "The school has had glowing Ofsted reports and there is no question that it is an excellent school." The judge said headteacher Andrew Prindiville had justified the policy as necessary to stop the gang culture prevalent in the area, in which haircuts were used as badges of membership, coming into the school. Cornrows were not necessarily gang-linked but other styles, like the skinhead haircut, might well have that connection, the judge said.

The fear was that allowing exceptions to the "short back and sides" rule would undermine the anti-gang policy. But the judge pointed out that exceptions were already made for Rastafarians and Sikh boys who wore hair beyond the collar, and similar exceptions should be made for African Caribbeans. The judge said G's family was not alone in regarding cornrows as part of their culture: "There are, on the evidence, other African Caribbeans who take the same view." The judge refused the head teacher and governors permission to appeal to the court of appeal, but they can still go to the appeal judge directly to ask them to consider the case. The judge stressed that he was not ruling on whether the exclusion of G in 2009 was unlawful. It had been suggested that G's family might bring a county court damages action over the case. That would be the time to decide whether or not the school had dealt with G's desire to wear cornrows in an unlawful manner, said the judge.

Jackman said the judge had found the school's policy unlawful as it applied to African Caribbean boys with G's beliefs because it indirectly discriminated on race grounds. She added: "For G, wearing his hair in cornrows is a fundamental cultural practice which would have had no adverse impact upon the school. His wishes, however, were dismissed by the school without any consideration. Whilst schools face the challenges of maintaining good discipline, a community environment and their particular ethos, this case is a reminder that they must do so within the boundaries of the law."
© The Guardian

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TOUGHER LAWS FOR FOOTBALL HATE CRIMES (uk)

17/6/2011- Tough new laws to tackle the "ugly manifestation" of football-related sectarianism could see offenders jailed for five years. The draft legislation, published today, seeks to create two new offences relating to behaviour which can "incite religious, racial or other forms of hatred" in and around football grounds and on the internet. If approved, the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill, will mean bigots will face up to five years in prison and the prospect of a football banning order. Existing law sees people who disrupt football matches charged with breach of the peace, which carries a maximum one-year sentence. However the Bill includes behaviour deemed to be threatening, abusive, disorderly or offensive. Online hate crime, such as abusive or offensive comments posted on Twitter, is also included and carries the same five-year maximum jail term. Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "This Bill is a fairly short, sharp Bill, which is creating two new criminal offences, one of which is directed very much at activity in and around, and related to, football matches but not absolutely confined to the grounds, and the second offence will deal with the problem of the threatening communications which we began to see an upsurge in a couple of months ago. "The Bill is a direct response to what we saw happening towards the end of the football season and that is why we want to have it in place before the start of the new football season." The Offensive Behaviour In Football And Threatening Communications Bill could be passed by MSPs before they go on summer recess. It comes in the wake of several high-profile football-related incidents.

Recent problems have seen two men appear in court after suspected parcel bombs were sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two other high-profile supporters of the club in March. Ms Cunningham added: "This is only a piece of legislation dealing with a very ugly manifestation of it (sectarianism) we saw in Scotland in the last few months. "Sectarianism in the wider sense will take a great deal more work right across the board and that work will be continuing." Concerns have been raised that the legislation is being rushed through the Scottish Parliament. Church of Scotland Moderator the Reverend David Arnott said: "Whilst we are not against the ideas in this Bill, we remain unconvinced of the wisdom of this approach. "The speed at which it is being rushed through means it appears to lack scrutiny and clarity." owever, Ms Cunningham said ministers felt they had to move quickly to deal with the issue. She said: " We saw a very ugly situation developing towards the end of the last football season, very ugly - an image of Scotland going around the world which we really, really do not want to see continuing. "We felt as a Government that we had to move fast to tackle some of that in its specifics while we dealt with the broader problem throughout society." Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan welcomed the Bill. He said: "In particular, we are pleased to see that it covers sectarian and other forms of unacceptable chanting and threatening behaviour. "As we approach the start of a new season, it is important we look forward with anticipation and excitement. Football is this country's national sport and we all have a responsibility to ensure that entertainment replaces aggravation and that a family atmosphere is generated inside our grounds instead of a hostile one.

"As part of our new strategic plan, the SFA has developed a Scotland United philosophy and it is our wish that everyone involved in the game in this country - the league bodies, supporters, clubs and media - embraces that ethos." However, the Law Society of Scotland said the Bill is being pushed through Parliament too quickly and that the resulting lack of scrutiny may create legislation that is open to successful challenge. Bill McVicar, convener of the society's criminal law committee, said: "We understand the importance of tackling sectarianism. This is a very serious issue and one that needs both attention and action from our political leaders. "However, it is because of the importance of this issue that the Scottish Government needs to allow adequate time to ensure the legislation can be properly scrutinised. "It is particularly vital for sufficient time to be allowed at stage one, the evidence gathering stage, for proper public consultation."
© The Independent

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RELIGIOUS HATE CRIME SOARS (uk)

14/6/2011- The number of cases of religious hate crime recorded in Edinburgh has soared to an all-time high. New figures show that in 2010-11, Lothian and Borders Police reported 66 charges involving religious aggravation to the procurator fiscal, compared with 38 the previous year and just 14 when figures were first compiled in 2003-04. Labour described the rise as alarming, though police said they believed it at least partly reflected an increase in awareness of the problem and a greater willingness to report incidents. Across Scotland, there were a total of 693 charges that included a religious aggravation element in 2010-11. The vast majority - 548 - were in the Strathclyde area, although there is no breakdown on how many involved incidents between Old Firm fans. Lothian and Borders said most of the cases they dealt with involved verbal abuse in the street and the vast majority occurred in Edinburgh rather than other parts of the force area.

Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, James Kelly, said: "The sharp rise in religious aggravated offences is alarming. It is shameful that in the 21st century people are being persecuted because of their religion. "The police must remain vigilant to track down those committing such offences. We must work with all groups in the community to create a more tolerant society." Police said they believed religious hate crime had previously been under-reported and they hoped the figures reflected the effort they had put into raising awareness, not least in the run-up to the Pope's visit last year. But they made no link between Benedict XVI's high-profile visit to Edinburgh and the apparent increase in religious hate crimes. Religious prejudice has been an aggravating offence since 2003 and courts are obliged to take it into account when sentencing.

The latest figures cover a period immediately before the revelations that Celtic manager Neil Lennon, his QC Paul McBride and Celtic-supporting former MSP Trish Godman had been sent potentially lethal homemade letter bombs. A police spokeswoman said: "Lothian and Borders Police treat any reports of hate crime extremely seriously. The increase in reported crime is encouraging and could be attributed to the confidence victims now have in coming forward. "We work closely with various partner agencies and all groups within our communities to reduce the number of hate-crime incidents across the force area."
© The Edinburgh Evening News

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‘CAGED’ EDL LEADER VOWS TO RETURN TO DEWSBURY IN THOUSANDS (uk)

13/6/2011- The leader of the far-right English Defence League has vowed to stage a large national protest in Dewsbury after complaining that supporters were treated like “caged animals” at a demonstration in the town on Saturday. A protest by 400 EDL supporters passed off without serious incident but leader Tommy Robinson was angered that the protesters were contained within high steel barriers. He said the EDL should have been allowed to protest at Dewsbury Town Hall, rather than a tightly cordoned area of the railway station car park. Mr Robinson said Saturday’s protest was a regional demonstration but the next one in would be national and “the EDL bandwagon will be coming back to Dewsbury in our thousands.” Many of the EDL protesters were from outside West Yorkshire, including members from Merseyside, Teeside, Burnley, Bolton, Leicester and Mansfield. A nearby counter-protest by Unite Against Fascism attracted about 50 people at its height.

A large police operation ensured that the day passed off relatively peacefully, although traders in the town said they were thousands of pounds out of pocket because many shoppers stayed away. Kirklees Divisional Commander Chief Superintendent John Robins said: “On duty in West Yorkshire in relation to this operation there has been around 700 police officers in total but I stress they have not all been at Dewsbury. They have been around West Yorkshire in support of this operation.” Six men were arrested by West Yorkshire Police and British Transport Police. They were: A 31-year-old from Batley, for possessing an offensive weapon; a 44-year-old from Barnsley, a 39-year-old from Merseyside and a 41-year-old from Cleckheaton, all for public order offences; a 16-year-old from Bradford for criminal damage; and an 18-year-old from Preston for trespass on railway property.
© The Yorkshire Post

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MUSLIMS CALL FOR ACTION AGAINST HATE CRIMES (uk)

Islamophobic attacks have been on the rise, with an increase in assaults, vandalised mosques and desecrated graves

12/6/2011- Britain's largest mainstream Muslim organisation will today call for "robust action" to combat Islamophobic attacks amid fears of growing violence and under-reporting of hate crimes. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) will challenge the "ethnic profiling" of members of its community, claiming that minorities are 42 times more likely to be targeted under the Terrorism Act. MCB secretary-general Farooq Murad will tell the council's AGM in Birmingham that there must be more monitoring of anti-Muslim crimes in response to incidents including violent assaults, death threats and the desecration of graves. He will also complain that not enough is being done to encourage communities to report crimes to the police.

The calls, supported by leading academics, a counter-terrorist think-tank and Muslim groups, come as the Metropolitan Police confirmed a total of 762 Islamophobic offences in London since April 2009, including 333 in 2010/11 and 57 since this April. A spokesman said the Met was aware of "significant" under-reporting of hate crime, and acknowledged "missed opportunities" to keep victims safe. Despite rising concerns about the impact of hate crime on all communities, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said that data on such offences are not collated centrally as this would be an "overly bureaucratic process for local forces". Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, who leads the police on hate crime, was unavailable for comment.

In his speech, Mr Murad is expected to warn that attacks are increasing. "Islamophobic attacks, on persons and properties, are committed by a tiny minority, but the number of incidents is increasing. Robust action is necessary and this means we must have a systematic manner of recording, monitoring and analysing such attacks. Only a small number of police forces record anti-Muslim hate crimes." He will claim that figures collated from only two police forces indicate 1,200 Anti-Muslim crimes in 2010, as opposed to 546 anti-Semitic crimes from all the police forces in the UK. Muslims from across the country have reported attacks on imams and mosque staff, including petrol bombings and bricks thrown through windows, pigs' heads being fixed prominently to entrances and minarets, vandalism and abusive messages. Mr Murad will tell the gathering at the Bordesley Centre: "It is not a piece of cloth on someone's head or face, the shape of someone's dress, a harmless concrete pillar on a religious building or even not speaking a common language that creates alienation."

Dr Robert Lambert, co-director of the European Muslim Research Centre and research fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University, said a decade of research will report before the 10th anniversary of 11 September. His report will provide comprehensive figures on attacks on mosques, Islamic organisations and Muslim institutions, while avoiding confusion over race-related or random attacks. Dr Lambert, a former counter-terrorism police officer, said problems over data collection stemmed from a lack of political will, rather than from the police efforts – and that the onus was on Muslim communities to emulate the "outstanding" data collection around anti-Semitic crimes conducted by the Community Security Trust. He added: "When I was working in the police, some of the notable spikes in incidents came after terrorist events such as 9/11 and 7/7. We have more than 50 incidences of fire-bomb attacks and we have yet to reach the 10-year anniversary. But no leading politician has seen fit to stand shoulder to shoulder with mosque leaders. That is quite something."

Ghaffar Hussain of the counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam said: "Anti-Muslim bigotry is very real. It does exist. There are sections of our society who are deeply suspicious of Muslims, even of Muslims building mosques, and are threatened by the idea of Islamification across Europe." Some 40 to 60 per cent of the mosques, Islamic centres and Muslim organisations in the UK have suffered at least one attack since 9/11. Taji Mustafa, spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain, said: "Xenophobic attacks on Muslims have increased under successive governments. In a manipulative alliance with some sections of the media, they have demonised Islam as part of their foreign policy propaganda."

Case study: Community leader and diversity trainer
Mohammed Khaliel, 48, lives in High Wycombe and was among horrified families who discovered Muslim graves at a local cemetery had been desecrated on 20 April  "I am the community representative, but, equally, I'm a victim of it as well. My mother had been buried there four weeks earlier. This is not the first time that there has been desecration. This time it was much more severe, with more than 25 graves attacked. I've got photographic evidence of someone hammering them. It was a proper effort to deliberately do it. It was pure hatred. You have a graveyard that is 200 years old that has a small section for Muslims, and only that section was attacked. It was clearly Islamophobia. I'm on a number of advisory boards, including Scotland Yard, so I get notified as a courtesy on any Islamic issues relating to the community. On this one, they asked me to sit down before they told me. A lot of the relatives belong to our mosque. We called an emergency meeting, and we had to calm people down. There was a stage at which, if we had not handled things properly, it could have turned into an expression of anger. But that didn't discount the hurt they felt for [their] loved ones to be attacked like that."
© The Independent

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PRIDE'S SUCCESSFUL MARCH (Slovakia)

13/6/2011- Following Slovakia’s first Rainbow Pride gay-rights parade in 2010, which was disrupted after being attacked by far-right extremists, there was a good deal of apprehension surrounding the second running of the event on June 4. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community also welcomed the coming out of Slovakia’s first openly gay MP, Stanislav Fořt, of Freedom and Solidarity (SaS). As some 1,500 people gathered for pre-march festivities in Bratislava’s Hviezdoslavovo Square, a heavily armed police presence, including SWAT units in full riot gear, were on hand, restricting entrance to the square and checking all purses, bags and parcels. But in the end everything came together as planned with barely a hitch. Many dignitaries were on hand and addressed the crowd in the square. They included two European Parliament members, Ulrike Lunacek and Marije Cornelissen; Milan Ftáčnik, the mayor of Bratislava; Speaker of Parliament Richard Sulík; and Labour Minister Jozef Mihál. Several members of the opposition Smer party also attended the event.

Unlike last year, the parade march was completed without interruption, making its way from Hviezdoslavovo Square, in central Bratislava, across the New Bridge to a ship anchored on the southern bank of the Danube. The marchers were monitored all the way by well-armed police units who even had water cannons at their disposal. Police detained 45 people during the event but laid criminal charges against only one. A few dozen of members of Ľudová Strana – Naše Slovensko, a far-right party, showed up bearing banners carrying mottos such as “For the traditional family and against deviation,” but there were no major incidents. The organisers were pleased that the whole event was handled so well. “Bratislava can call itself an open city now,” Romana Schlesinger, one of the organisers, told the Sme daily.

The political aftermath
Political support for the event was somewhat mixed. Prior to the parade SaS had called a press conference inviting all its supporters to attend the event. “I’m convinced that Slovak citizens who live with each other as same sex partners should have equal rights to everyone else,” Mihál, an SaS member, told the press, as quoted by the SITA newswire. Fořt, the only member of the Slovak parliament who openly admits that he is gay, said in an interview he gave to Sme after the event that though most of his parliamentary colleagues were privately positive about his announcement, many were reluctant to show public support for fear of offending large numbers of their voters. Fořt said that MPs from the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) had taken a very reserved attitude toward his announcement, though no one had openly criticised him. Homosexual rights activists welcomed Fořt’s coming out. According to Schlesinger, it is good that someone found enough courage to talk about his homosexuality in public, despite the fact that society remains largely homophobic.

The opposition
The parade was not without its detractors. On June 8, four days after the event, several public figures signed and published a letter meant as a response to an earlier joint statement by 20 diplomats publicly supporting the Rainbow Pride march. The signatories argued that the statement by international diplomats in support of the parade was unfortunate and that they regarded it as interference in Slovakia’s internal affairs. “The radical demands of the organisers of the Rainbow Pride exceed the legislative framework in most of your home countries,” the signatories wrote. “In Slovakia these are a subject of political polemics. Your support for these demands is surprising and we do not consider it opportune.” The letter states that by supporting the demands voiced by the Rainbow Pride organisers the diplomats had interfered in the internal political debate in Slovakia and overstepped their diplomatic mission. Among the signatories were politician Vladimír Palko, lawyer Ján Čarnogurský and psychiatrist Alojz Rakús – all three of whom are former KDH MPs and one-time ministers – as well as writer and former ambassador to Canada Anton Hykisch, Sme reporter Eugen Korda, historian Martin Lacko, pro-life activist Jana Ray-Tutková and Civic Conservative faction MP Peter Osuský.

The diplomats rejected the criticism, saying that support for human rights is part of their work. In their reactions, as reported by the Pravda daily, they stressed mainly the universal character of human rights. The ambassadors of the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark issued a joint statement saying that basic human rights, including LGBT rights, do not involve internal politics but rather the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that Slovakia had signed this. “We hope that our laws and regulations securing equality before the law for all are an inspiration for countries seeking ways to secure the same for their citizens,” Pravda quoted from their statement. The US Embassy in Bratislava also mentioned the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their reaction and pointed out that Slovakia and the US have both signed it. “We do not consider taking a strong stance on human rights to be involving ourselves in Slovakia’s “internal affairs”,” the US Embassy press attaché Chase Beamer told The Slovak Spectator. “Indeed, we take heart that your own government does not take that approach when addressing human rights’ concerns in Belarus or Syria.” Beamer also noted that supporting people's right to assemble and peaceably march is not an endorsement of their political platform and goals, and added that the US still has work to do in eliminating prejudice but has come a long way in recent decades.
© The Slovak Spectator

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EURO 2012 FRONTLINE IN BATTLE WITH RACISM (Poland/Ukraine)

15/6/2011- With just a year left until Euro 2012 kicks off in Poland, authorities and campaigners say they are determined to use the football showpiece to stamp out stadium racism. "We're treating the European Championship as a chance to make things civilised," tournament security chief Adam Rapacki told anti-racism campaigners, who wrapped up a two-day meeting in the capital Warsaw on Wednesday. The former commander of the police anti-gang squad, Rapacki is also overseeing a crackdown on hooliganism, which has long afflicted club football here. Racial abuse carries a jail sentence of up to three years in Poland. Rapacki said around 100 probes are launched every year. "But we're aware that the real numbers are shadowy, as a lot goes unreported," he added. To redress that, 20,000 police officers have received special training. Authorities are also tapping English expertise to improve stewarding. European football's governing body UEFA has the issue firmly in its sights. "For us, racism as such is a phenomenon of society, which plays itself out in and around football," Patrick Gasser, in charge of the issue at UEFA, told AFP. "We have taken this on in order to make a positive contribution to society but also, obviously, to eradicate it from the football scene," he added. Starting on June 8 next year in Warsaw and ending three weeks later in Kiev, capital of co-hosts Ukraine, Euro 2012 marks the first time the continent's top international tournament will be held behind the old Iron Curtain.

That ups the ante, said Piara Powar, the British head of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE). "This is about the legacy, not just Euro 2012, but about how football in Poland, Ukraine and the region will benefit," he said. Since the collapse of communist rule two decades ago, far-right groups have fed on and stoked social and ethnic tensions across the region. They flourish among fans who worship England's once-notorious hooligan 'firms' (gangs) -- a hardcore of 3,000-5,000 in Poland, a nation of 38 million, Rapacki estimates. Besides abusing black players, far-right fans also chant anti-Semitic slogans or brandish neo-Nazi banners. That is notably shocking given the region's World War II history, when millions perished at the hands of the occupying Germans, including the overwhelming majority of its Jews. "You rarely see a Ukrainian Premier League match without a display of racist, right-wing slogans. Unfortunately, it's a discourse that's embedded in the Ukrainian football scene," said Pavel Klymenko, of Kiev-based Football Against Prejudice. Ukrainian authorities have failed to wake up, he claimed. "Recognition of the real extent of the problem is the first step to fighting it," he added. Whereas West European campaigners have long worked directly with fan groups, the far-right's hold makes that harder in the ex-communist bloc, noted Rafal Pankowski, who runs FARE's regional operations.

One solution is to get respected ex-players onside. Iconic 1980s Poland striker Dariusz Dziekanowski is leading the way. "It's important to use former national team players to help minimise this problem. We can't cut it off completely, but we can minimise it," said Dziekanowski, who has had campaigners address his youth-coaching programme. The Polish football association can punish clubs that fail to stamp out the problem, although the penalties look paltry in West European terms. A starkly anti-Semitic banner at a second-division match in May 2010 earned the guilty club a 2,500-zloty (635-euro, $918) fine. This month, however, a 20-year-old fan involved in the incident was jailed for six months. Fans can also be hit with stadium bans, but critics point to slack enforcement.
© AFP

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WARSAW CONFERENCE TO LAUNCH FARE EURO 2012 ACTIVITIES (Poland)

12/6/2011- The Never Again Association will this week host a conference to launch the FARE programme to challenge extremism and racism at next years UEFA European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. An audience of Polish government ministers, European activists, former players and representatives of governing bodies of football will attend the Polish Parliament for an expert seminar on Tuesday 14th June, and Wednesday 15th June. The seminar will set out the issues facing the host countries of the 2012 Euros. The Never Again (NA) Association, who run the FARE Eastern European Monitoring Centre, recently launched a far ranging monitoring report, documenting levels of racism and hate crimes in football settings since 2009. The report highlighted continuing levels of anti- Semitism in Poland and far- right activity in Ukraine as issues to be dealt with. Incidents of abuse and violence inside stadiums over the past few weeks have underlined the message of the report. NA have themselves been commended by governments recently, as founder and Chairman Marcin Kornak was awarded a high-level state distinction by the Polish President this month, days after US President Barack Obama singled out co-ordinator Rafal Pankowski during his visit to Poland telling him, “What you do is very important. Keep it up!”. Amongst the initiatives being launched this week will be a FARE observer programme at the Euros and an ‘Inclusivity Zones’ concept that will nominate hundreds of public spaces across Poland and Ukraine as welcome and open places, where difference will be valued. The idea is already being hailed as an innovative step and is expected to attract widespread support.
© Football Against Racism in Europe

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RACISM STILL RIPE IN THE MEDIA (Poland, editorial NPE)

11/6/2011- While it should come as no surprise that loveable rogue Kuba Wojewodzki has been involved in making more racist comments, what one should find baffling is how he’s managed to keep hold of his job in the first place. In any other civilised country, this cheeky-chappy would have had his contract destroyed, been tossed out on his backside and would be struggling to find work as a youth correspondent for Radio Maryja. How is it then that every time one turns on the box they are in danger of seeing this goofy clown acting with about as much wit and wisdom as a washed-up PiS politician? If I enjoyed a healthy splattering of idiocy and racism mixed in with my evening entertainment there are plenty of places I can find it, but national television and radio should not be one of them. Racism is a large problem in Poland, but surely it’s not so ingrained into the national psyche that it can be displayed so blatantly without being dealt with or at the very least questioned. But then what can one expected when a country’s own Foreign Minister is allowed to get away with making jokes about the US President based on his skin colour. A book released earlier this year featuring research by anti-racism group Nigdy Wiecej (Never Again) gave a stark account of various racially-motivated attacks, showing just how important it is to get this issue out in the open. Perhaps Mr Wojewodzki would do well to get himself a copy and see just how serious this problem is. Although on the other hand it would more than likely just provide him and his cronies with more ammo which is the last thing the Polish public need right now.
© The New Poland Express

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ITALY AGAINST THE JEWS

Murky wave of anti-Israel zeal, demonization of Jews growing at alarming rate in Italy
By Giulio Meotti
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism

13/6/2011- The first months of 2011 have confirmed Italy’s status as one of Iran’s biggest European trade partners, all while the ayatollahs pursue the means to perpetuate a second Holocaust. Rome is doing business as usual with the greatest totalitarian threat to international peace and security since the defeats of Soviet communism and Nazi fascism, providing a lifeline to an Iranian regime that is cruel at home, sponsors terror abroad and preaches anti-Jewish revolt. Meanwhile, a murky wave of anti-Israel zeal is also growing at an alarming rate in Italy. “The old anti-Jewish libels are now aimed at the State of Israel”, says Stefano Gatti, one of the top researchers at the Center for Documentation in Milan. Pro-Palestinian activists are threatening to “ignite” Milan, the financial capital of Italy where an Israeli exhibit is going displayed in a central square. Meanwhile, the city of Turin hosted a “cultural festival” where the image of Shimon Peres was used as a shoe-throwing target. For one euro, Italian students had the chance to hit the face of Israel’s president, who was fitted with a Nazi-style Jewish nose.

An Israeli student at the University of Genoa has been harassed and threatened with death by Arab students. Muslim students shouted at him “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) and “Itbach el Yahud” (slaughter the Jews.) Another Israeli student at the University of Turin, Amit Peer, confessed that “the Jews here are hiding their own identity because they risk becoming a target.” Meanwhile, demonization of the Jews is spreading in the liberal media. Leftist newspaper “Il Manifesto” published a caricature of a Jewish candidate for parliament, Fiamma Nirenstein, with Fascist insignia, a campaign button and a Star of David. The cartoon “Electoral Monsters” was dubbed “Fiamma Frankenstein.” L’Unità, the official newspaper of the leftist Democratic Party, published an interview with anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes, where she claimed that Israel is a world leader in organ trafficking. The accusation resembled that of the Middle Ages blood libel whereby Jews were accused of kidnapping Christian and Muslim children before Passover in order to murder them and use their blood for matza.

Lists of boycotted Israeli products
Ucoii, the largest Islamic organization in Italy, published an ad in many mainstream newspapers entitled “Nazi Bloodshed Yesterday, Israeli Bloodshed Today.” An Italian court ruled that the Nazification of Israel came under “freedom of expression” and was not a case of incitement to hatred. In 2009, Italy sent the largest European delegation of artists to an Iranian cartoonist festival on the Holocaust. The cartoons presented the Holocaust as an invention of Jews with hooked noses typical of Nazi propaganda. Pisa, Rome and Bologna are among the most prestigious Italian universities that annually host anti-Zionist conferences and pro-Intifada speakers. Israeli attaché Shai Cohen was prevented from speaking at Pisa University after a violent attack by students, who called out “butcher, fascist, assassin.” The Israeli ambassador, Ehud Gol, fled Florence University after a similar “protest.” Meanwhile, the Riccione city council sponsored a meeting against “the militarism of Israel,” explaining that “Israeli governments don’t represent the Jewish people.” The Coop and Conad, two of the largest supermarket chains in Italy, for some weeks last year removed Israeli products from their shelves in the name of a boycott of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. Lists of boycotted Israeli products have been launched also by local Christian communities and leftist groups, targeting L’Oreal, Ahava and other firms. Flaica, a trade union with 8,000 members working in large-scale retail, promoted the boycott of “all Rome shops managed by Jews” and drew up lists of Jewish-owned shops to be avoided, because of “what is happening in Gaza.” In Rome, a new pro-Hamas Freedom Flotilla has just been presented in the official buildings of the Professional Order of the Journalists, a body financed by the Italian government. Some members of Turkish terror group IHH were also on hand.

Anti-Semitism becoming fashionable
The Foreign Press Association in Rome, a state-funded institution, suspended two journalists, both Jews: Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent Menachem Gantz and French journalist Ariel Dumont. Iranian journalist Masoumi Nejad, who has been arrested for a arms trading involving Italy and Iran, has never been expelled by the association. Anti-Semitism is becoming fashionable also among the “chattering classes”, intellectuals and academicians. Actress Sabina Guzzanti attacked the “Jewish race” in a primetime television program. Literary guru Alberto Asor Rosa wrote in a book on the transformation of the Jews from “a persecuted race” to “a warrior persecutor race.” Renowned leftist philosopher Gianni Vattimo declared that he had “re-evaluated” “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and now felt they largely reflect the truth about the Jews. The slandering of Israel is also growing among the most important Catholic journalists. Vittorio Messori, who conducted the first book-length interview with Pope John Paul II, recently wrote an editorial for the Italian daily “Il Corriere della sera” where he stated: “All governments of all Muslim nations are under the tsunami of the violent intrusion of Zionism that has come to put its capital in Jerusalem.”

The growing anti-Semitism is also evident by the security around the largest synagogue in Rome, one of the oldest in the world. The Jewish temple looks like a military outpost: Private guards everywhere, metal detectors and policemen at every corner. The Jewish school looks like a “sterilized area” protected by policemen, bodyguards and cameras. All school windows are plumbed with iron grates. I saw the same in the Jewish homes of Hebron and in the schools of Sderot. Pro-Palestinian groups just recently marched into the ghetto, shouting “Fascist” and “Assassins” to the Jews, some of them Holocaust survivors. It was here, on 16 October 1943, that 1,200 Jews were deported to Auschwitz; none of the 200 Jewish children came back home. It was here, on 9 October 1982, that an Arab terrorist opened fire on Jews; a two-year old baby, Stefano Taché, became the first Italian victim of anti-Jewish violence since the war. Not far from the ghetto, in the lower part of the Titus Gate, named after the Roman emperor who destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem, someone wrote in Hebrew: “Am Yisrael Chai.” The people of Israel not only had not been destroyed, but defiantly remained alive. It's comforting to know that there is still someone with the courage to write it.
© Ynet News

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ANTI-GAY PROTESTERS CHARGED AFTER SPLIT PARADE VIOLENCE (Croatia)

Police have filed charges against scores of people after violence marred the first ever gay pride parade in the Croatian coastal city of Split at the weekend.

13/6/2011- Police arrested scores of people accused of causing incidents during the first gay pride parade in Split on Saturday, and have pressed charges against more than 150 protesters. Eight persons were injured in the violence, which comes one day after the European Commission gave the go-ahead for Croatia's path towards EU membership. According to police estimates, the gay pride parade brought together 150 participants at the city's main Riva waterfront promenade, while nearby streets were packed with 10,000 people, with 8,000 of them protesting against the event. The police reported that anti-parade protesters threw stones, shoes, paint, tomatoes and a gas mask at the parade. Commenting on the injuries caused by the violence, the police said that reporters and police officers sustained injures, as well as one anti-parade protester while he was being apprehended. After the parade, police drove the participants in police cars to a bus which took them to their homes.

Officials in Zagreb, including Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and President Ivo Josipovic, condemned the violence in Split, and praised police for protecting the parade participants. Josipovic said that the violence showed that "shown that there are some non-European parts of our society", while insisting that this was not the real face of Croatia. Kosor said that the violence is "something that cannot be tolerated in Croatia". The organisers of the event, meanwhile, have vowed to press charges themselves against the anti-gay rioters and local authorities, and called on the country's Interior Minister, Tomislav Karamarko, to resign over the violence. While Zagreb has prided itself on holding the only annual gay pride parade in the Balkans, the events in Split are reminiscent of violent attacks against gay pride events in other cities in the Balkans.

Montenegro recently cancelled plans to hold the country's first ever gay pride parade in Podgorica on May 31, after attacks against the event's organisers in the weeks before it was to take place. Belgrade's pride parade in October last year, which was the city's first since 2001, was marred by violence. Anti-gay protesters fought running street battles with police during and after the parade, and the marchers were eventually escorted by police vehicles to the city's student cultural centre. The pride parades are important tests for the countries in the region, which are under pressure to prove that they can protect and respect human and minority rights as they aim for greater integration into the EU.
© Balkan Insight

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VIOLENCE MARS CROATIAN GAY PRIDE PARADE

11/6/2011- A dozen people, four of them journalists, were injured on Saturday in scuffles during the first gay rights march in the Croatian coastal town of Split, national television reported,as quoted by AFP. Around two hundred people took part in the Gay Pride parade under heavy special police protection but some 10,000 opponents of the event hurled stones, bottles, bricks, cigarette lighters and other objects at them, the television said. Participants of the march had to be evacuated by police vehicles. Several dozen people were detained before and around 100 after the march, which police called a high-risk event in the southern town known as a stronghold of conservative nationalists. Sanja Juras of Kontra lesbian association accused police of not acting adequately to prevent violence.

"Today's gathering in Split showed that in Croatia, the right to chose homosexuality is not guaranteed and that there is no rule of law," she said. Meanwhile, Amnesty International and Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) condemned the violence and said police had failed to protect the participants. "The police have to make absolutely clear that discriminatory violence is a criminal offence and will not be tolerated," the Amnesty statement said. The world's leading human rights organisation called on Croatian authorities to "act to stop this happening in the future". The HND said it was shocked by "today's homophobic violence in Split", adding that "obviously poorly prepared police could not prevent it". Noting that a RTL television cameraman, hit in the head with a stone, suffered brain concussion, the HND "voiced regret that an event that should have shown the maturity of democracy in Croatia, due to giving in to bullies, was not a full success".

Croatia's first Gay Pride parade was held in the capital Zagreb in 2002, but more than a dozen participants were beaten up afterwards. Since then, parades have been held in Zagreb annually without major incidents, but always under heavy security. The Croatian capital is to host another Gay Pride parade on June 18. Croatia's society is still largely conservative and the powerful Roman Catholic Church has publicly branded homosexuality a "handicap" and a "perversion". Almost 88 percent of the former Yugoslav republic's population of 4.4 million are Roman Catholics.
© AFP

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TURKEY PM WARNS OF DUTCH RADICALISM (Netherlands)

11/6/2011- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he is worried by the “radical” turn Dutch politics is taking. "In politics I strongly oppose radicalism. The right way is a middle course”, Mr Erdogan told Dutch media on the eve of Sunday's general elections in Turkey. “Radicalism only causes problems, for people and the country”, he went on to say, without mentioning Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders. “Our party, as you know, steers a middle course in politics. We are neither left nor right wing. We are far removed from the extremes. We are far removed from the radicals. We only work with those who are close to everybody. “ “Erdogan is the worst kind of Islamist”, Mr Wilders says in a reaction. “If he wins the elections, Turkey will turn its back on Europe for good. We don’t want them in the EU anyway, but with him even normal relations will become more complicated. He is, therefore, a dangerous man who is a radical Islamist himself.” "Erdogan is the worst kind of Islamist”, Mr Wilders says in a reaction. “If he wins the elections, Turkey will turn its back on Europe for good. We don’t want them in the EU anyway, but with him even normal relations will become more complicated. He is, therefore, a dangerous man who is a radical Islamist himself.”
© Radio Netherlands Worlwide

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POPE WANTS GYPSIES INTEGRATED INTO SOCIETY

Europe's Gypsies, Roma and other nomads should be integrated into society but must live by the law, Pope Benedict said.

12/6/2011- Some 2,000 members of the Roma, Sinti, Manouche, Kale, Yenish and Romanichais people from various European countries attended what the Vatican billed as the first papal audience for Gypsies. They danced and sang for the pope while playing violins. Some told of ancestors killed in Nazi concentration camps and life today in squalid camps on city outskirts. In his address, the pope defended their right to proper housing and schooling, saying that should constitute the basis of an integration that would benefit both them and society. "Never again should your people be the object of vexation, rejection and contempt," he said. "On your part, always seek justice, legality, reconciliation and make an effort never to be the cause of other people's suffering," he added. Many Italians blame nomads for crime, including drug trafficking and petty theft. One of those who addressed the pope was Ceija Stojka from Austria who spent part of her childhood in three Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz. "I was a child and I had to watch the deaths of other children ... I lived among the dead and the living dead. I asked myself why? What have we done?" she said in German. "I still smell the odour of burning bodies". The Nazis killed millions of Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies and dissidents in their camps.
© Reuters

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HOW TO AVOID A MULTICULTURAL CHERNOBYL? (opinion)

By Alexander Feldman, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, Founder of the Institute of Human Rights, Prevention of Xenophobia and Extremism

12/6/2011- Last summer French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, said multiculturalism was dead as the French cracked down on immigrants, gypsies, and crime. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said shortly afterwards that that "multi-kulti" had failed amid a national debate sparked by a racially loaded bestseller written by German bank official Thilo Sarrazin that criticized Arabs. Indeed it would seem that these days Multiculturalism is on its last legs as European leaders increasingly promote separation rather than integration. The “Arab Spring” has resulted in heated arguments and discussions within the EU as panic has spread with the arrival of tens of thousands of economic refugees (mainly from Tunisia) in Italy. While a re-jigging of the Schengen policy and reintroduction of border controls was ruled out, some states, like Denmark , disobeyed and reintroduced controls at its German frontier. This marked a step backwards for a borderless Europe and may have a negative impact of those countries – such as Ukraine and Moldova – which are in the process of negotiating visa free regimes.

In my native Ukraine, along with the economic recovery, we are also facing an inflow of migrants. These migrants are not using Ukraine as a transit state to the EU but rather they want to remain in the country and work in cities like Kyiv or Kharkiv. While we have not yet witnessed any significant inter-ethnic conflict, no one can be certain that xenophobia will not raise its ugly head (as it has done in the past) and be used for political reasons. The rapid growth of extreme right-wing parties all over Europe, as well as in Ukraine, is evidence of how serious this threat is. These parties have gained popularity through playing the immigration card. They tap into the sentiments of xenophobia and the fear of losing traditional cultural identity to alien cultures. Indeed the fall of parliamentary seats into extremist hands represents the biggest shake-up in European politics since the disappearance of communism. Russia is also facing problems with recent racist-football clashes in Moscow sending a strong warning that ethnic tensions could easily explode with unpredictable consequences.

Moreover, there is a growing trend among some EU leaders to question multiculturalism declaring it divides and weakens society. By promoting multiculturalism as a failure and pushing for further integration and greater efforts to adopt the core values of European society, the likes of Sarkozy and Merkel are hoping to take votes away from right-wing parties. Even in the UK, which has in the past been viewed as a positive example of multiculturalism, tolerance for other cultures and religions has been weakened with British Prime Minister, David Cameron, urging citizens “to cease to adhere to a principle of passive tolerance”. Unfortunately shortsighted leaders all over Europe, unable to offer a solution to present economic difficulties, have been happy to “distract” their constituents by sidetracking the nation with talk of the “threat” posed by those from other cultures. For example Islamic dress, particularly the controversial burqa has become a focus for wrenching political disputes. The recent decision by France to ban it is an example of this negative trend.

However, even against the backdrop of this bleak picture, in theory, most European policymakers recognize the importance of implementing successful multicultural, anti-racist and anti-discrimination policies. The key challenge for European governments is to shift the focus from bans and restrictions to try and create a unified and inclusive society where all citizens feel at home. The future will insist that European nations be multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and tolerant. However, presently this seems very low on the agenda of most European leaders. The Institute of Human Rights and Prevention of Extremism and Xenophobia in Kyiv recently carried out an expert poll among Ukrainian specialists in this field which focused on the future of multiculturalism. It came as something of a surprise to learn that all experts agreed on three issues. First that we are presently undergoing a crisis over the concept and understanding over the meaning of multiculturalism. Secondly that multiculturalism is not yet dead and thirdly, that there is no alternative to it. Moreover, everyone agreed that there is a fine line between the fight against socially unacceptable elements of another culture and the fight with dissidence. Tolerance must be ensured otherwise, as one expert said, we might one day be faced with a multicultural Chernobyl in Europe.
© New Europe

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EU AGENCY FOR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (FRA) LAUNCHES ITS ANNUAL REPORT (press release)

Marginalised Roma, strained asylum systems and threats to data protection: three of the major fundamental rights challenges facing the EU

15/6/2011- Fundamental rights: challenges and achievements in 2010, the flagship Annual Report of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), charts the progress made in 2010 by the European Union (EU) and its Member States towards securing the rights guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights through developments in legislation, policies and practices. The FRA Annual Report, presented at the European Parliament today, points to promising practices and obstacles to rights protection across a range of policy areas. Some of the major challenges in 2010 related to asylum, the Roma and data protection. FRA Director Morten Kjaerum: “While the Agency has collected numerous examples of promising practices among the Member States, there is still some way to go before the reality of the situation on the ground meets the standards guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Major fundamental rights challenges in 2010 included barriers in the way of getting access to justice, high levels of discrimination, as well as violence against children. The EU and its Member States must also face up to the marginalisation of the Roma, inadequate conditions for asylum seekers in particular at the EU’s external borders, and threats to the protection of personal data.”

Asylum and migration
2010 witnessed a fundamental rights emergency at the Greek-Turkish land border, where a large number of irregular border crossings into the EU took place. The Greek authorities have encountered significant difficulties in providing reception conditions that comply with fundamental rights standards, and in ensuring that migrants in need of protection have a fair chance to apply for asylum. The European Court of Human Rights has found detention conditions for migrants in Greece to violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. Member States experiencing high pressure migration will have difficulties in implementing their fundamental rights obligations, unless all Member States share responsibility through a Common European Asylum System, which is due to be completed by 2012 and will, therefore, require significant progress in 2011.

The Roma
Roma experience lower levels of employment, poor housing conditions, barriers to health care and segregation in education systems. This prevents the Roma from enjoying a standard of living comparable to that of the general EU population. Efforts at the European and national levels must be stepped up to promote equality and combat discrimination. Through data collection, research and its expertise, the Agency is assisting the European Commission and the Member States to assess the impact of their policies to promote the inclusion of Roma. The report makes a number of suggestions on how to bring about the successful inclusion of Roma communities, such as ensuring that the EU Racial Equality Directive is fully enforced to combat discrimination in employment and access to services.

Data Protection
The events of 2010 highlight that there is a continuous need to balance the opportunities offered by new technologies to promote freedom of expression, cultural and social life, and free movement, against the potential threat to other rights. Google Street View, for example, attracted attention from law-makers and regulatory bodies in Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Spain because of the potential threat that it poses to privacy and data protection. Similarly, the EU’s Data Retention Directive, which obliges phone and internet companies to collect data about all of their customers’ communications, has attracted opposition in several Member States. The constitutional courts of Romania and Germany have barred the application of national laws transposing the directive and the Commission has announced that this legislation is under review.
© The Fundamental Rights Agency

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UN GROUP BACKS GAY RIGHTS FOR THE 1ST TIME EVER

17/6/2011- he United Nations endorsed the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people for the first time ever Friday, passing a resolution hailed as historic by the U.S. and other backers and decried by African and Islamic countries. The declaration was cautiously worded, expressing "grave concern" about abuses suffered by people because of their sexual orientation, and commissioning a global report on discrimination of gays. But activists called it a remarkable shift on an issue that has divided the global body for decades, and credited the Obama administration's push for gay rights at home and abroad with helping win support for the resolution. "This represents a historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and whom they love," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. Following tense negotiations, members of the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council narrowly voted in favor of the declaration put forward by South Africa, with 23 votes in favor and 19 against. Backers included the United States, the European Union, Brazil and other Latin American countries. Those against included Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Pakistan. China, Burkina Faso and Zambia abstained, Kyrgyzstan didn't vote and Libya was earlier suspended from the rights body. The resolution expressed "grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity." More importantly, activists said, it also established a formal U.N. process to document human rights abuses against gays, including discriminatory laws and acts of violence.

According to Amnesty International, consensual same-sex relations are illegal in 76 countries worldwide, while harassment and discrimination are common in many more. "The Human Rights Council has taken a first bold step into territory previously considered off-limits," said Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights program at Human Rights Watch. "We hope this groundbreaking step will spur greater efforts to address the horrible abuses perpetrated on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity." "Today's resolution breaks the silence that has been maintained for far too long," said John Fisher of the gay rights advocacy group ARC International. "It's clear that the resolution will serve as an entry point for further debate at the United Nations." The opportunity to do so comes next spring. Friday's resolution called for a panel discussion "to have constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against" gays, lesbians and transgender people. The prospect of having their laws scrutinized in this way went too far for many of the council's 47-member states. Speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Pakistan said the resolution had "nothing to do with fundamental human rights." "We are seriously concerned at the attempt to introduce to the United Nations some notions that have no legal foundation," said Zamir Akram, Pakistan's envoy to the U.N. in Geneva. Nigeria claimed the proposal went against the wishes of most Africans. A diplomat from the northwest African state of Mauritania called the resolution "an attempt to replace the natural rights of a human being with an unnatural right."

Indicating that Washington plans to keep up the pressure on this issue, Clinton said the U.S. "will continue to stand up for human rights wherever there is inequality and we will seek more commitments from countries to join this important resolution." One of her senior diplomats, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Baer, told reporters the Obama administration had chosen what he described as a "course of progress" on gay rights, both domestically and internationally. In March, the U.S. issued a nonbinding declaration in favor of gay rights that gained the support of more than 80 countries at the U.N. This has coincided with domestic efforts to end the ban on gays openly serving in the U.S. military and discrimination against gays in federal housing. Asked what good the resolution would do for gays and lesbians in countries that opposed the resolution, Baer said it was a signal "that there are many people in the international community who stand with them, and who support them, and that change will come." "It's a historic method of tyranny to make you feel that you are alone," he said. "One of the things that this resolution does for people everywhere, particularly LGBT people everywhere, is remind them that they are not alone."
© The Associated Press

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STRUCTURAL DISCRIMINATION, A COMMON THREAD BETWEEN THE ROMA AND THE VICTIMS OF CASTE SYSTEMS

14/6/2011- The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism, Githu Muigai, said Tuesday that deep-rooted discrimination, prejudices, and intolerance are common threads that run through the lives of the Roma people in Europe and the victims of caste or similar systems of inherited status in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. “All victims should receive the same attention and protection, and all forms of racism and discrimination should be addressed with the same emphasis and determination,” the expert said, presenting his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council. “It is essential to avoid establishing any hierarchy among the different manifestations of discrimination, even if they may vary in nature and degree depending on the historical, geographical and cultural contexts.”

Roma
In his report, Mr. Muigai assesses racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against Roma, particularly in Europe. “While positive developments and good practices have been identified at the regional and national levels they have been insufficient,” he noted. “Important challenges remain that reveal grave and deep-rooted problems of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against Roma that need to be addressed in the most vigorous manner.” The Special Rapporteur highlighted that it is essential to develop a comprehensive approach based on stronger legal, political and institutional measures, taking into account the structural dimension of the problem, the interrelation between discrimination and socio-economic marginalization and political exclusion, as well as the situation of the most vulnerable Roma. In his view, legislative measures should be adopted and complemented by key measures such as affirmative action to redress historical inequalities; human rights training of State agents; and educational and awareness-raising measures to foster mutual understanding, respect and tolerance.”

Discrimination based on work and descent
The Special Rapporteur’s report also addresses discrimination based on work and descent in different regions. “The vital first step is to recognize that discrimination on the grounds of descent constitutes a form of racial discrimination prohibited by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,” Mr. Muigai said. “However, certain Governments have failed to implement effectively their obligations to protect against such discrimination, and have, in some instances, sidestepped the question of caste discrimination.” Mr. Muigai invited Governments to include information on the issue of discrimination based on caste and other analogous systems of inherited status in their reports to UN human rights bodies. He also called for the collection of disaggregated data, on a regular basis, to be able to identify the number of people affected and design appropriate strategies to fight this kind of discrimination. “Shortcomings do not stem only from Governments and institutions but also from the population itself, including within communities considered of lower caste or status,” the expert noted. In his view, any legal measure to outlaw discrimination should go “hand-in-hand with awareness-raising, with a special emphasis on the judiciary, police and civil service, to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the law by the police and civil service to ensure access to justice and effective remedies for victims.”

Githu Muigai (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in August 2008. He is a lawyer specialized in international human rights law. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on racism was established in 1993 by the former Commission on Human Rights to examine incidents of contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and official measures to overcome them. It was further extended by the Council in 2011.
© UN News Centre

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Headlines 10 June, 2011

MEDIA STAR IN RACISM RIOT (Poland)

Two of Poland’s leading celebrities were accused of making “shamefully offensive and racist” comments after mocking a man’s skin colour on radio, suggesting they should “call the negro” and that their show was sponsored by the Ku Klux Klan.

10/6/2011- In their morning show on Radio Eska Rock, Kuba Wojewodzki and Michal Figurski made fun of Alvin Gajadhur, the half-Indian spokesman for the Road Transport Inspectorate. Among a string of comments about Mr Gajadhur’s appearance the two said that “negroes don’t sleep”, that perhaps they “should make a national registry of negroes” and that “today’s sponsors are the Warsaw branch of the Ku Klux Klan.” Following a formal complaint from Mr Gajadhur the Media Ethics Council condemned the two stars. “In their morning show Kuba Wojewodzki and Michal Figurski made shamefully offensive and racist remarks,” the council said in a statement, adding that the show was a “blatant display of xenophobia”. Mr Gajadhur said that he “could take a joke” but found the behaviour of the radio presenters offensive. "Mocking my skin colour has nothing to do with humour,” said the angry spokesman. “Who gives these people the right to talk about people and their skin the way they do?”

But the radio station stood by its stars, arguing that rather being blatantly racist the two were being satirical and that their comments had been taken out of context. “The program was satirical in nature and the intention of its presenters was to expose the xenophobic behaviour that still lingers in parts of our society,” Radio Eska said in a statement. “We regret that such a respectable body as the Media Ethics Council issued a verdict on the basis of quotes taken out of context by press reports, and without referring to the station for clarification and recordings of the entire program, which would have allowed it to understand the real intentions of the presenters.” The public remarks by Wojewodzki and Figurski angered anti-racism groups in particular. Rafal Pankowski, co-founder of the Never Again Association, which campaigns against and monitors racism in Poland, castigated the two stars. “Our opinion as an anti-racism NGO is that this kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable especially for public figures and pop-culture role models,” he told NPE. “The case shows Poland still has a long way to go in terms of respecting ethnic diversity. They should be punished.” The scandal is not the first time that Kuba Wojewodzki has faced accusations of racism. Earlier this year during an edition of the hit show X-Factor he mocked a black contestant, who did not speak Polish, by telling the audience “he had eaten his wife”.
© The New Poland Express

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“KEEP GAYS AWAY FROM KIDS” (Poland)

Disgraced Polish law maker Robert Wegrzyn has made headlines again after stating that children should be kept away from homosexuals.

10/6/2011- According to TVN24, the former Civic Platform (PO) MP wrote his thoughts in an SMS which he then circulated to a number of journalists. Referring to proposed amendments to the family support law (which included the issues of homosexuals being employed in places such as children’s homes), Mr Wegrzyn said, “Gays should be completely isolated from children, especially the youngest ones.” The amendment, which has since been rejected by Parliament, stated that homosexuals may not be employed as foster parents. The issue was protested by gay-rights group LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual People) which believed that the bill was “not consistent with the constitutional principle of equality which allows homosexuals the right to equal treatment in all spheres of a political, social and economic nature”. After sending the text message, Mr Wegrzyn then addressed the cameras to back up his views. “It is very much like adoption. If a homosexual is to be put in charge of a child for eight hours a day, how is that any different from giving them custody as a foster parent,” he told reporters. “This is a preventative measure to ensure the child has no future bad habits.” It is not the first time Mr Wegrzyn has made headlines for his comments. In February, he stated that while gay men should not be allowed to marry, he would “happily watch lesbians” - a comment which ultimately saw him expelled from his party.
© The New Poland Express

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PRINCIPAL 'HURT' BY TRAVELLER BOY'S DISCRIMINATION CLAIM (Ireland)

10/6/2011- A school principal has said he was "very hurt" at accusations of discrimination after a Traveller boy was excluded from enrolling. The High School in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, is appealing a decision made last year by the Equality Tribunal. It found that John Stokes (13) suffered indirect discrimination when he failed to gain a place at the secondary school for September 2010. Judgment in the appeal at Clonmel Circuit Court is expected on July 4, after evidence was heard in court yesterday. One of 179 applicants for 140 first-year places for that year, John Stokes fulfilled the criteria that he was a Roman Catholic and had attended one of 17 designated feeder schools. However, he didn't meet the requirement that a sibling or his father had attended the High School and, following a lottery involving a number of such applicants, didn't get a place at the school. After a case was taken by his mother Mary Stokes, backed by the Irish Traveller Movement, the Equality Tribunal found in the teenager's favour.

It supported his argument that, as Travellers were less likely than settled people to have attended secondary school when John's father was growing up, he was indirectly discriminated against by the school. "I was very disappointed that John didn't get a place in the High School," Mary Stokes said. High School principal Shay Bannon said that, in all but two years since he joined the school in 1991, there were more applications than there were first-year places. They used the "parent rule" and "sibling rule" because involving past-pupils helped to build the school's ethos, he said. "There's normally between 20 and 25 applicants who don't get in," he said. "You can imagine the effect on a child of 12, telling them they're a failure or different to everyone else. It's nuts. The whole system is absolutely nuts." Asked how he felt about being accused of discriminating against the Travelling community, he replied: "Very hurt. And I don't think it's true. We open our doors to all students."
© The Irish Independent

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POLICE GEARING UP FOR CITY PROTEST BY FAR RIGHT GROUP (uk)

10/6/2011- Police have moved to reassure residents over a planned protest by the far right group the English Defence League. Members of the Portsmouth and south east branch are planning a march in the city next month. They say they will peacefully protest against Islamic extremism and Sharia law, which they are against. A wreath will then be laid in Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square in memory of servicemen and women who have lost their lives. The march is due to take place on July 16 but the group says that date could change and it has refused to reveal the route. The group has informed police who are now planning for an estimated 1,000 people expected to come to Portsmouth for the march. Officers from Safer Neighbourhoods Teams are speaking to locals to allay any concerns about the planned protest. Superintendent Rick Burrows, who is planning Operation Buscot, said: ‘We are engaging with organisers to establish details and have begun the planning process to provide a policing operation. ‘This will facilitate the group’s right to peaceful and lawful protest, while minimising the impact to people and ensuring that the interests of all members of the local community are protected. ‘Officers from the Safer Neighbourhoods teams in Portsmouth are engaging with members of the local community to address any concerns they may have. It is very early in the planning process at this time.’ The rally comes eight months after up to 100 people were involved in a protest outside the Jami Mosque in Victoria Road North, Southsea. It started after Muslim extremists from outside Portsmouth burned poppies in London during the Armistice Day two-minute silence. Peace campaigners gathered outside the mosque in support of the Muslim community. An English Defence League spokesman said: ‘This is not a national demo but a local one that will be protesting at situations relevant to that area. ‘The English Defence League will be peacefully protesting at this event against Islamic extremism.’
© The Portsmouth News

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DAVID CAMERON TO TARGET ISLAMISTS WHO HOLD 'UN-BRITISH' BELIEFS (uk)

PM wins cabinet battle over counter-terrorism strategy against those holding extremist views, such as intolerance of women's rights

5/6/2011- David Cameron has won a cabinet battle to toughen up the UK's counter-terrorism strategy and take a harder line against Islamic traditions that fail to "reflect British mainstream values". The successor to Labour's Prevent strategy is likely to redefine extremists as those who hold "un-British" views, such as intolerance of equal rights for women, because ministers believe there is a link between non-violent extremism and violent acts of terrorism. The new policy, which could be unveiled this week, will reflect the prime minister's February speech in Munich in which he claimed "state multiculturalism" had failed. Further education colleges are likely to be targeted in the belief that they have become a breeding ground for young Islamists. Cameron is set to tackle a string of policies that have posed a threat to his authority over the next two weeks. He is expected to give a major speech, possibly on Tuesday, on the NHS, giving the government's first official indication of how it will respond to the listening exercise on the NHS bill. He is also scheduled to give a speech on crime to tackle accusations from the right that he has failed to prioritise crime-fighting and allowed the justice department under Ken Clarke to liberalise prisons policy.

The justice minister Nick Herbert has indicated that up to 10,000 people every year could benefit from the government's controversial policy to change the plea bargaining system so offenders can cut their sentence in half, instead of the current third, if they admit guilt early. Defending the policy, Herbert told BBC1's Politics Show: "Ten thousand offenders are pleading guilty at the very latest point in a trial and that is often particularly damaging to the interests of victims. It's costly and it's not in the interests of justice. "We need a system that is deterring unnecessarily late pleas and is also incentivising those who plead guilty at an earlier stage." It has been reported that the Prevent strategy had split the cabinet, with Cameron and the education secretary Michael Gove pushing for a toughened version of the Prevent strategy, against the wishes of the Liberal Democrats and even the home secretary, Theresa May. Yvette Cooper MP, Labour's shadow home secretary, said: "Preventing extremism is ... too important to be dogged by government confusion and this kind of ministerial in-fighting. It seems Theresa May has lost another battle on her own policies."
© The Guardian

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MARCH AGAINST NEO-NAZIS IN SOFIA ON JUNE 12 (Bulgaria)

10/6/2011- People Against Racism will stage an "anti neo-Nazi march" on June 12 at the Sveta Nedelya Square in Sofia, media reports have said. The organisers said that they will commemorate the one year anniversary since the foundation of the People Against Racism, but also to mark the anniversary of the "tram attack" in which several youths were attacked and beaten by suspected skinheads. Six men were arrested following an assault aboard tram 20 in Sofia on June 6 2010. Reportedly, the six are said to be members of far-right extremist groups. Other reports have them linked to Sofia-based football "firms", hooligan supporter groups. The authorities named the six perpetrators – Dimitar Lazarov, Vassil Pavlov, Matei Penev, Emil Alexiev, Rossen Kunev and Mario Abdal Gamal. The latter's name has also been reported as Mario el Makoussi in other media. On the day of the attack, the masked men burst into the tram, allegedly armed with metal rods, and proceeded to attack four youths in the vehicle. The victims were supporters of asylum seekers' rights in Bulgaria. People Against Racism say that neo-Nazi attacks in Sofia are increasing. Traditionally, they are aimed at Roma and people of darker skin complexion, as well as homosexuals, but they can sometimes happen randomly and against anyone they perceive as strange. The anti-Nazi march in Sofia on June 12 is not politically motivated, the organisers said.
© The Sofia Echo

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NGOs RISE AGAINST XENOPHOBES VOWING TO MAR SOFIA GAY PARADE (Bulgaria)

106/2011- Bulgarian NGOs have demanded that the Bulgarian capital Sofia's municipality ban the nationalistic rally scheduled at the same time and place as the upcoming "Sofia Pride" gay parade on June 18. The Sofia Pride Foundation, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the AnarchoResistance group, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender's youth "Action" organization, People against Racism and the Bilitis Resource Center have sent a letter to Sofia's Mayor Yordanka Fandakova and the head of the Sofia Department of the Interior, pointing out that the nationalistic rally will be dangerous for the public order and should be banned. The NGOs have refuted a statement made earlier by Sofia's Deputy Mayor responsible for security, Ivan Sotirov, who claimed that the municipality cannot ban any parades but only advise about changing their routes. The rally will be aggressive and threatening the peaceful citizens, the NGOs have pointed out. "Sofia Pride", Bulgaria's first ever gay parade, took place for the first time in 2008 and was marred by hooligans, with more than 60 people ending up arrested by the police for trying to attack and harass the participants, some of them throwing Molotov cocktails. The 2009 gay parade, passing very quickly and under enhanced security measures, gathered around 300 people. Bulgaria's 3rd annual gay parade went without violent incidents largely thanks to the decisive actions of the 300 riot police officers guarding the rally.
© Novinite

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NEED FOR OVERHAUL IN THE FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO MIGRANTS (Malta)

10/6/2011- A report published by the European Council Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg yesterday pointed out the need for an overhaul of the financial support system to people housed in Malta’s open centres. The Commissioner believes that making financial support and social assistance available to all beneficiaries of international protection would favour the gradual development of their self-reliance and integration into society. The report, together with the Justice and Home Affairs Ministry’s reply, was published on the European Council’s website yesterday morning. However, the report was sent to the government earlier and last Friday, the ministry issued a statement in reaction to the points raised. The visit by Commissioner Hammarberg took place between 23 and 25 March. Discussions with representatives of the Maltese authorities and institutions as well as with members of civil society were held.

Commissioner Hammarberg strongly recommended that Maltese authorities close the ¨¤al Far tent village and ensure its residents are relocated to facilities that meet adequate standards of housing and living, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter. Co-operation with UNHCR and international expert partners should be sought as necessary, to ensure this is done. Material conditions in the open centres visited by the Commissioner were clearly sub-standard, with the ¨¤al Far tent village offering totally inadequate conditions of accommodation even for short periods of time. The village, which at the time of the visit hosted approximately 600 migrants, consists of tents, some of which had been damaged due to bad weather conditions, and containers, as well as offices, a classroom, sanitary facilities, a mosque, and a restaurant. The tents were clearly overcrowded and offered no privacy. Residents have complained to the Commissioner about bad sanitary conditions, including having to share the same space with persons who are sick, and about the very cold temperatures in the facilities in the winter and hot temperatures during summer. The presence of rats was also reported by migrants. A female migrant stated that she avoided using the toilets’ building at night as she felt unsafe covering the considerable distance between them and the container where she was accommodated.

The Commissioner considers this policy irreconcilable with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the case-law of the Strasbourg Court. It strongly encouraged the Maltese authorities to bring their policy and practice relating to the detention of migrants in line with the said requirements. In its reply, Malta noted the migratory influxes disproportionate to its size and capacity. The Commissioner’s recommendation to close ¨¤al Far tent village was described as “simply not realistic” at the time the visit took place, and is even less realistic now that the migratory influx to Malta has resumed as a result of the Libyan crisis. “Malta’s reception capacities remain overstretched and appear likely to experience more pressures in the near future,” the ministry said. Meanwhile, the Commissioner welcomed the Maltese authorities’ efforts aimed at rescuing irregular migrants on boats, saving thousands of lives over the past years, and recent progress in the relocation and resettlement programmes from Malta to other countries. In fact, it stressed the need for strengthening international solidarity in this area. Viable long-term avenues for the local integration of migrants should also be sought.

The Commissioner also expressed concern at reported manifestations of racism and xenophobia in Malta, which underpin many of the difficulties migrants face in life, including employment, housing, access to services and places of entertainment. To this end, it is particularly important that the Maltese authorities contribute to the public debate on immigration in a manner that fully reflects the importance of human rights and dignity while the media must ensure that material published does not contribute to creating an atmosphere of hostility. When contacted, the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS) said it had nothing to add to the government’s reply.
© The Times of Malta

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RELIGIOUS RACISM SHOCKS OFFICIALS (Norway)

The city officials in Oslo who ordered a report on racism and anti-Semitism in Oslo schools say they’ve been shocked by its findings: Jewish children report the most harassment, while religious racism appears widespread.

8/6/2011- The report, conducted by analysis firm Perduco for the City of Oslo, questioned 7,212 students chosen at random from among 48 schools in the eighth to 10th grades. The response, with fully 78 percent of the students answering the questions posed, revealed a worrisome degree of harassment based on religion or nationality: 15 percent of the students reported having experienced one or more incidents of harassment based on their nationality. Nearly 7 percent said they were harassed at least two to three times every month. Students with ethnic Norwegian background were the least harassed, but the rate of harassment rose in line with the number of non-Norwegian students at their schools.

Most worrisome for school and city officials was the high level of Jewish students, 33 percent, who reported harassment at least two to three times a month. That compares to 5.3 percent of Muslim students who said they’d been harassed. Fully 9 percent of the students responding said they’d been harassed at school because of their religion or faith, while Christians experienced the least harassment. The harassment was reported to have come in the form of negative comments on the social media sites of those who have online profiles. Some were told their photos were “ugly” and others said their identities had been manipulated or wrongfully used. The digital mobbing was evenly spread between racist and anti-Semitic comments.

More than half of the students, 52 percent, said they’d experienced that the word jøde (Jew) was used to describe something negative. Fully 41 percent confirmed having heard jokes about Jews at school and 35 percent had noticed generally negative commentaries on Jews. As many as 5 percent had heard other students deny that the Holocaust occurred during World War II. On a brighter note, 63 percent of the students responded that it was good that a wide variety of nationalities and religions is now found in Norway, but far fewer said they wished they had more friends with backgrounds different from their own.

City government leader Stian Berger Røsland, who was among those ordering the overview after Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on anti-Semitism in the schools last winter, said he was shocked and deeply disturbed by the findings. “Here are young children who experience being harassed,” Røsland told NRK. “It’s heartbreaking and intolerable.” Both Røsland and education officials said teaching plans would be changed to demand more knowledge and sharing of understanding of anti-Semitism and religious racism, starting in the fifth grade or earlier. “Respect, tolerance, equality and inclusion must be made crystal clear in the schools’ educational program,” said director Astrid Søgnen of the city’s department of education.
© Views and News from Norway

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GAY PARADE PLANS TO CHALLENGE 'BACKWARD' ITALY

Europe's main gay pride festival comes to Rome on Saturday with organisers hoping Lady Gaga's presence will help amplify their message of defiance against the Vatican and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

9/6/2011- The US singer is to address what organisers say will be over one million participants with a message of support for gay rights in Italy, which lacks legislation against homophobic attacks and does not allow gay civil unions. "This is the most backward government Italy has had since World War II," said Paolo Patane, director of Arcigay, an activist group founded in the 1980s that is helping to organise the EuroPride parade in the Italian capital. "It's a government in which the prime minister goes with underage girls but then says that parliament will never approve legislation that contradicts the concept of the family promoted by the Vatican," he said. Patane pointed out that the mass gathering in Rome also comes just days after Berlusconi suffered a major defeat in local elections and said he hoped it would help "push out this backward government." The EuroPride parade will make its way through the city centre and end with a concert and rally in the Circus Maximus, an ancient Roman arena. The police are expecting around 500,000 people to take part. Lady Gaga, who has Italian-American roots and has long lobbied for gay rights in the United States, is expected to sing her hit single Born This Way. The run-up to Saturday's event has been marred by some small anti-gay protests around a fair set up by organisers near Rome train station. Vladimir Luxuria, the organiser of Italy's first gay pride festival in 1994 and a former member of Italy's parliament, said homophobia is on the rise. "This parliament is homophobic. The fish stinks from the head and we have a prime minister who is a gay-basher," said Luxuria, a transsexual who has just published a novel linking homophobia in World War II to the present day.

Berlusconi has long been notorious for his off-colour quips and last year dismissed a sex scandal involving him with a homophobic comment saying: "It's better to be passionate about beautiful women than to be gay." Activists quickly came up with a slogan printed on placards and T-shirts reading: "It's better to be gay than to be Berlusconi." In another speech in 2007, Berlusconi boasted there were no gays in his party. "Don't be afraid -- the gays are all on the other side," he said. Berlusconi is on trial for paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl and then allegedly abusing the power of his office to try and cover it up. His former wife said she was divorcing him because he "frequents minors." The prime minister has repeatedly denied all the accusations. Patane said the real challenge for gay rights however is the continued role of religion and "the Vatican hierarchy" in European societies. The Vatican condemns homosexuality and has lobbied hard against legislation allowing more gay rights including marriage and adoptions. Pope Benedict XVI defended traditional family values during a visit this month to Croatia where links between politics and religion are strong. "Do not give in to that secularised mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute, for marriage!" he said in a homily. He also urged lawmakers to introduce legislation that "supports families in the task of giving birth to children and educating them." Asked to compare the current EuroPride festival to the first one that she organised, Luxuria said that while the numbers of people attending such events have increased drastically, Italy is still stuck in the past. "I'm very sad that there are gay Italians who say they are forced to leave because they're gay," Luxuria said. She added: "Now the costumes are less provocative because the situation really is serious."
© AFP

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GREEK MINORITY LEADER SENTENCED TO PRISON (Albania)

An ethnic Greek leader in the southeastern city of Korca was sentenced to one year in prison on Thursday, after a judge found him guilty of desecrating ethnic Albanian graves.

9/6/2011- Naum Disho, the head of the Greek minority organisation Omonia in Korca, was tried together with two local workers from the village of Boboshtice, Alqi Koroveshi and Luan Zace, who were each handed a 18-month suspended sentence. Disho and the two workers had been accused by prosecutors of desecrating graves in the cemetery of the village of Boboshtica, while carrying out repair works to a memorial to Greek soldiers who died during World War Two. Disho has rejected the sentence, calling it ‘politically motivated,’ local media reported. The sentence comes as Albania’s right-wing parties and Greek minority politicians continue to exchange jibes over the postponement of the national census, which includes a contested question on ethnicity and religion. Estimates of the Greek minority in Albania range from two to three per cent of the total population, with most concentrated in the south of the country. The census, which was scheduled to start on April 1, was postponed to later this year after becoming the target of outrage from an amalgam of civil society groups and politicians, which are concerned about calculating ethnicity through self-declaration. Critics say the census question that asks for the voluntary declaration of nationality would artificially increase the numbers of the ethnic Greek minority in southern Albania. They argue that Athens has been offering pensions and travel benefits to Albanians in the country’s south, in order to augment the size of the Greek minority in a plan to extend territorial claims. Greek minority politicians and activists have argued that the ethnicity question in the census is the only way to measure the real size of their community and reject accusations of being Athens’ pariah.
© Balkan Insight

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NO PLACE FOR RACIST PLAGUE IN MOSCOW (Russia)

9/6/2011- Aggravation of interethnic relations that resulted in riots on Manezhnaya Square in Moscow in December of 2010, prompted the city authorities to respond with preventive measures. After the ban of some far-right movements heating up the already volatile subject, they authorities now work at some large-scale social projects aimed at promoting tolerance. Moscow seems to have seriously decided to fight for the normalization of the situation. As it turns out, the city authorities mean to implement a comprehensive program of activities in support of positive interethnic relations by the end of 2011. According to some reports, Sergei Sobyanin has already signed the corresponding resolution. The project involves a series of measures - from social advertising and the creation of special sites and positive films to holding various cultural events. For example, among the abovementioned activities the Moscow authorities intend this year to develop and implement a project of social advertisement entitled "Cure yourself of racism." "The implementation of this project includes the development of scripts for outdoor social advertising, external design and implementation of media projects for posting on the Internet", RIA Novosti news agency reported. According to a representative of the mayor's office, there are also plans to create a site devoted to ethnic issues.

Importantly, in July-December, the city authorities intend to undertake a comprehensive monitoring of the condition of inter-ethnic relations in the administrative districts (raids on places of compact residence of migrants will be organized for this purpose). It is also planned to organize the work to promote inter-ethnic cooperation and prevention of xenophobia in social networks. The city authorities also intend to provide assistance to religious organizations in carrying out various cultural activities. The media provided the figure of 110.6 million rubles allocated from the budget for "preventive" purpose. According to the newspaper Vedomosti, the department of inter-regional cooperation and national policy will be allocated 22 million rubles and will implement the social advertisement project. The Department of Family and Youth Policy, which will be allocated 20.7 million rubles, will have to ensure the participation of Moscow youth in summer camps and patriotic conduct in urban schools, as well as providing lessons of friendship. Prefectures, which, according to the newspaper, will be allocated $25 million rubles, will have to organize prevention activities to identify "informal youth associations."

Jaroslav Ternovskii believes that the allocated funds will not be wasted. "The Moscow City Government properly responds to the evolving situation, because the improvement of the situation in the area of ​​strengthening of the inter-ethnic relations is a move in the right direction. They will have not only a healthy cultural and public benefits but also economic ones," the member of the Public Chamber said in an interview with Pravda.ru. "Moscow should become attractive to investors. This program will affect the investment climate." "It is hard to judge if the money is allocated to the fight against xenophobia is much or little," said in an interview with Pravda.ru a member of the Public Committee Ivan Mohnachuk. "To ensure that this money is not wasted, a supervisory board must be created for each program or project that would consist of people interested in the feasibility and appropriateness of the spending. It would make things better." "As for the various forms (of the development of tolerance), public service ads should be actively engaged in this area," Mokhnachuk said. "In addition, they must make arrangements with the media for active coverage of the events aimed at solving the problems of xenophobia and the formation of a normal social climate."

Of course, it would be hard to question the acuteness and necessity of the measures taken by the capital's government. The ratio of Muscovites to the migrants has long been known. According to opinion polls, in the ranking of the major problems named by the residents of the metropolis, in addition to the traditional issue of high prices and rising utility bills, there is the item "dominance of immigrants from southern republics" has long been in the first place. Another question is that tolerance, or rather, lack thereof, has less to do with the issues of education and cultural relations (this is of course also important), but more with unresolved immigration issues, or even with seemingly unrelated issues such as corruption in law enforcement and economically justified decline in the birth rate among Russians.
© Pravda

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MEMORIAL ACTIVIST BEATEN OUTSIDE HOME (Russia)

8/6/2011- A human rights worker was hospitalized after being beaten up in his apartment building, an attack his employer said was linked to his work. Bakhrom Khamroyev, a member of leading human rights group Memorial, was walking into the building in southeast Moscow on Monday when a group of strangers attacked him, spraying gas in his face and beating him on the head and legs. Memorial chief Oleg Orlov said Tuesday that the attack was aimed at disrupting Khamroyev's upcoming trip to Murmansk, where he had arranged a meeting with an Uzbek citizen threatened with extradition for purportedly taking part in Islamist militant activities, RIA-Novosti reported. "Memorial believes the attack on Bakhrom Khamroyev was planned in advance and prepared as a trap," Memorial said in a statement. "In December last year, an attack was carried out on Khamroyev. A criminal case was opened, but until today no one has been called to take responsibility." Orlov said Khamroyev was attacked by security forces in December when he was working on a similar case involving the arrest of suspected militants from Central Asia. The head of Amnesty International's Russia division, Sergei Nikitin, called on authorities to find and punish those responsible for the beating. "We hope a serious investigation will be carried out and that the guilty are punished," he said. Police said Tuesday that they were looking for the attackers.
© The Moscow Times

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RECTOR AT MUSLIM UNIVERSITY IN RUSSIA IS SHOT TO DEATH

7/6/2011- Gunmen on Tuesday killed the rector of a Muslim university in southern Russia who had been leading a government-sponsored effort to counter violence in the region by reviving the local traditions of Sufi Islam that he said were less likely to inspire suicide bombers. The rector, Maksud I. Sadikov, of the Islamic University of the North Caucasus, was shot to death in a car in Makhachkala, the capital of the Dagestan region, Russian prosecutors said. Mr. Sadikov’s bodyguard was also killed, they said. The prosecutors had not arrested or identified any potential suspects by late Tuesday, and no group immediately stepped forward to take responsibility for the attack. Mr. Sadikov was a proponent of the idea that state support for Sufism could diminish the threat of terrorism in Russia. Sufism was once widespread in the North Caucasus but faded after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the arrival of proselytizers from Middle East who sought to spread Sunni Islam. In an interview about his work in February, Mr. Sadikov said that no Sufi had committed a suicide bombing in Russia. “One of the best methods to resist the ideology of extremism is a good religious education,” Mr. Sadikov said. He said a moderate Islamic education was an “anti-venom” against terrorism.

The effort, and the government financing it received, had put him at odds with militants in the Islamic insurgency in Russia that began in Chechnya in the 1990s and has spread to other regions, including Dagestan. His university, a sprawling complex beside a mosque in Makhachkala, was involved in one of the few nonmilitary approaches that the Russian government has attempted to resolve the long-running rebellion. President Dmitri A. Medvedev has also tried to use economic aid to ease unemployment in the area. Militants have sent dozens of suicide bombers into central Russian cities, including Moscow, over the past decade. In the past 18 months, 76 people have died in attacks on the Moscow subway system and at its main airport. Those attacks led the police to put additional metal detectors in public spaces. Mr. Sadikov said his strategy was to prevent radical Islamic ideas from taking root in young men. In southern Russia, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, most suicide bombers are adherents of fundamentalist Sunni sects, including the Salafi tradition that is the state religion in Saudi Arabia. The Russian government latched onto Mr. Sadikov’s observations and threw official support behind other forms of Islam.

The United States tried a similar tactic in Iraq by introducing moderate imams at the prisons where insurgents were being held. Mr. Sadikov’s university was intended to educate elementary school teachers for a pilot project to teach Sufi Islam in public schools. This year, 1,300 students were enrolled, making it the largest effort of its kind in the North Caucasus. His university taught what he characterized as pacifist Sufi practices, like performing a ritual whirling dance or taking pilgrimages to holy sites. Critics countered that the Sufi monopoly of formal religious education in the North Caucasus only served to further alienate fundamentalist Sunni believers by compelling them to worship at home. The state’s support also made the university a target. In the February interview, Mr. Sadikov said that he was keenly aware of the dangers inherent in his project. “The radicals are saying, ‘You need to punish the impure Muslims,’ ” Mr. Sadikov said.
© The International Herald Tribune

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IMMIGRANT WOMEN 'NEED PROTECTION' (Switzerland)

A new report says Switzerland is not doing enough to protect immigrant women from domestic violence.

7/6/2011- The Swiss Observatory for the Rights of Asylum Seekers and Foreigners said that according to the current national laws, a woman who reunites with her migrant husband in Switzerland must stay married with him for at least three years in order to remain in the country. In case of abuse, the woman can stay, provided she can bring evidence from either the police or a doctor, a requirement that proves particularly difficult in the cases of isolated women who often do not speak any of the Swiss official languages. “The requirement of proof is an often insurmountable barrier,” the Observatory said in a statement. “If, for fear of their husband or ignorance of the Swiss legal system, migrants do not make police or doctors certify the abuse, their chances are minimal.” The report said that evidence from a women's shelter centre or the testimony of neighbours are still rarely taken into consideration by the authorities, even though there are signals that this will change in the future. “We often meet women who continue to stay with their violent husbands so they won’t have to go back to their home country,” said Claudia Hauser of DAO (Organisation faîtière des maisons d’accueil pour femmes de Suisse et du Liechtenstein). According to the report, figures from the Federal Statistics Office show that 22 women, both immigrant and Swiss, die every year following domestic abuse. Nearly 20 per cent of women living in Switzerland suffer from psychological or sexual violence in their life.
© The Local - Switzerland

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HUNGARY'S ROMA ENCOUNTER 'GYPSY CRIME' GENDARMES

Far-right activists have built up support in Hungary and are now taking the law into their own hands - prompting accusations that they are stirring racial hatred.

8/6/2011- Tiszavasvari is the "capital" of the radical right-wing Jobbik party - on the faultline of ethnic tensions between the Roma minority and the non-Roma majority. It has a Jobbik mayor who talks of "gypsy crime" and has set up a uniformed vigilante group in response, putting the party on collision course with both civil-rights groups and the conservative Fidesz government. Margo Vadasz Sandorne, a caretaker at a community centre on the eastern edge of town, admits there is a crime problem among local Roma but urges against stereotypes. "I teach my grandchildren never to steal, never to take anything which does not belong to them," she says. There are clothes laid out on the grass to dry and half-naked children play opposite in the hot, early summer sunshine. The hard mud track is flanked by identical houses in an advanced state of disrepair. Girls queue with containers at a communal tap - there is no running water in the houses. Many children wave or shout greetings. Some adults return my nod, others simply scowl.

'Loan sharks'
Mayor Erik Fulop says he and his party use the phrase "gypsy crime" to refer to "types of criminality which are unfortunately especially prevalent among the Roma - extortion by loan sharks, and robberies from homes and gardens". He has launched extortion proceedings with the tax and customs office against 17 local Roma. He has also set up a "gendarmerie" based on an erstwhile nationwide force of the same name - Csendorseg - disbanded in 1945. The word carries unfortunate connotations in Hungarian - in 1944, gendarmes played a central role in rounding up Jews whom the Nazis then deported to concentration camps. In Tiszavasvari, 10 gendarmes now patrol the streets, separately from the police. Five of them are paid from the council budget. They are unarmed but have the right to detain any suspected wrong-doer until the police arrive. I accompany them in their patrol car and we first investigate a burglary, close to a Roma area, where regular police caught the suspect - a young Roma man - red-handed. Next we visit the house of Margit Papp. The 76-year-old widow, who lives alone in a house with a big vegetable garden she tends herself, complains that almost every crop she plants is stolen by Roma. Once they even took the metal poles which hold up her vines. Another time they cut her phone line, before smashing the window and climbing into the house. "I was pleased when I heard that there would be gendarmes," she said. "Whoever it is, they're responsible for public order."

New legislation
But the government in Budapest have been stung into action by recent incidents between Jobbik-affiliated vigilantes and local Roma in two other settlements, Gyongyospata and Hajduhadhaza. Zoltan Balog, state secretary for social inclusion, told me that local government could not endorse paramilitary activity aimed at ethnic or religious groups. The government has just amended the penal code and passed a decree issuing fines for citizens' groups that try to take over the job of the police. In Tiszavasvari, Erik Fulop accuses the government of suppressing initiatives aimed at "upholding law and order". County police, however, challenge his portrayal of the town as a hotbed of crime, pointing out that it compares favourably with other towns in the county, where the crime rate is below the national average. A police spokesman stressed that there was no co-operation agreement with the gendarmerie.

'Flames of racism'
Aniko Koka, a local Roma activist, says relations between Roma and non-Roma have deteriorated since Jobbik won control of the town. "What we desperately need here now is jobs, and for the town leadership not to fan the flames of racism," she says. In October 2006, a Tiszavasvari teacher, Lajos Szogi, was beaten to death by Roma when he accidentally ran over a child in a nearby village. In April 2009, Roma man Jeno Koka, who worked in the pharmaceutical factory, was shot dead by anti-Roma vigilantes - possibly in retaliation. Four men accused of that, and the killing of five other Roma, are now on trial in Budapest. In a primary school on the eastern edge of town, the principal, Erika Levai Kerekesne, argues that her town does have a future, provided jobs are created. She challenges the stereotype of Roma children who play truant, insisting: "These children want to learn." The mayor has plans to encourage unskilled Roma to farm council-owned agricultural land, and is looking to attract foreign investment. And in the gypsy ghetto, Margo is organising the first neighbourhood litter collection, "so people don't look down on us anymore".
© BBC News

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AUSTRIAN FAR-RIGHT IN FRESH PUSH FOR EU RESPECTABILITY

9/6/2011- Buoyed by their recent success in the polls, the Austrian and French far right have made a fresh push for respectability in the European Parliament. A blurring of the 'softer' far right with eurosceptic parties may be in the offing. Austria's Freedom Party in particular called on the eurosceptic alliance in the chamber, the Europe of Freedom and Democracy grouping led by Britain's Ukip and Italy's Northern League, to let their two MEPs join.FPO Party leader and MEP Heinz-Christian Strache alongside French Front National chief Marine Le Pen in the parliament in Strasbourg announced deeper co-operation between their two far-right parties at a Wednesday press conference. Speaking to reporters, the Austrian also said that he wanted his deputies in the EFD but was being blocked by two MEPs in the grouping reluctant to embrace the party. The two party leaders were hoping to put themselves across as serious statesman and distance themselves from the impression of far-right politicians as consorting with skinheaded and heavily tattooed bully boys.

According to a March poll in Le Parisien, Le Pen, who has something of a softer image from her father whom she succeeded as leader in January, would gain an unprecedented first-round victory if a presidential election were held today. Meanwhile, a May survey found that were an election to happen now, the FPO would top the polls, with 29 percent of votes to the second-placed Social Democrat's 28 percent. A second far-right party, the Alliance for Austria (BZO) would be awarded an additional 13 percent, putting far-right politics by far the most popular option in the land. Strache, whose MEPs are classed as 'non-inscrit', the parliamentary term for unattached deputies but something of a short-hand for extremists as most of the non-inscrit politicians come from far-right parties, wants to leave this reputation behind. He declared he has no interest in joining with the Greater Romania party, the UK's British National Party (BNP) or Bulgaria's Ataka, three groups that in the demi-monde of the far-right are seen as the extremists.

Asked whether Le Pen is looking to form a parliamentary fraction with the FPO, she held back from a full endorsement, saying "Deeper relations and work on different fronts ... does not necessarily revolve around the European Parliament." In an interview with Dutch radio on 1 June, Le Pen also sought to distance herself from Dutch anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders, saying he reads the Koran literally. Strache this week also met with Belgium's Flemish nationalists of the Vlaams Belang and the Northern League to press his case. According to Francesco Speroni, Northern League deputy and co-chair of the EFD, his party is in favour of the FPO joining, but MEPs from Greece's Laos and Denmark's People's Party are opposed. The FPO has been campaigning for months to kick Greece out of the eurozone. Ukip for its part said that they have no contact with Strache's party and have no comment on their joining. "Everybody is free to desire to be a member of the EFD," EFD spokesman Herman Kelly, a member of Ukip, told EUobserver. "But we have no control over that. The EFD has had no contact with Strache. Ukip has had no contact with Strache. Why would we have an opinion about someone we have never met with?"

In the wake of the economic crisis, both euroscepticism and the far right have been two of the only political forces to increase their support in polls. While the centre-right has benefited electorally at the expense of the centre-left, it has been largely on the back of record abstention.
© The EUobserver

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TURKISH OSCE VETO CAUSES A STIR

A serious diplomatic rift has erupted between Austria and Turkey.

7/6/2011- The Turkish government decided at the weekend to veto Ursula Plassnik’s application for the position as secretary-general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The former Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) foreign minister said earlier this year she wanted to take over from Marc Perrin de Brichambaut. The French diplomat’s term ends on 30 June. Turkey argued that the ÖVP MP "does not accept" the country’s European identity. The Austrian was harshly criticised by Turkey during her term as federal foreign minister between 2004 and 2008 due to her opposition to the country’s bid to join the European Union (EU). Austria became a member of the EU in 1995. Turkey has held talks with European leaders about an accession since the 1960s. ÖVP Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said today (Mon) Turkey’s veto was "totally incomprehensible and baseless." The minister warned Austria will consider very carefully which stand to take on Turkish regards of international meaning from now due to the country’s decision to speak out against Plassnik’s application. Spindelegger also said that he agreed with Turkish President Abdullah Gül that the two countries will not obstruct each other’s nominations of candidates for positions in international organisations when Gül visited Austria last month. The Turkish government vehemently denied that such an arrangement was made.

The OSCE decided to put the nomination of a new secretary-general on hold due to the conflict as the appointment must be made unanimously. Reports have it that many diplomats fail to understand Plassnik’s decision to apply for the position as Austrian ambassador in France at the same time. Italy and Portugal, and Turkey also nominated candidates for the job which Perrin de Brichambaut is in charge of at the moment. Austrian newspapers claim today that Plassnik had vital chances to become his successor before Turkey opted to veto her candidacy at the weekend. Turkey’s candidate for the position, Ersin Ercin, hit out at Plassnik as early as March. The diplomat – who currently represents his country in Brazil – told Viennese newspaper Die Presse: "I was the first person to signalise interest in becoming the OSCE’s next secretary-general. Plassnik’s application came at the last moment. She is known as a person who blocks Turkey’s EU integration." Ercin added: "Many OSCE member states east of Vienna are bewildered. They have the impression that EU countries want to turn the OSCE into an extension of the EU. (...) EU member states think they are immune to criticism. They lecture the rest of the world east of Vienna about the issue of human rights. But Austria is not perfect – nobody is. We should play fair."

Ercin told Die Presse his application had the support of Caucasian countries and states in the Balkan region. He added that "some small EU member states" backed his bid too. The Turkish diplomat said Plassnik was overqualified for the position he was also running for, but added that the "weak point" of her application was that the OSCE has its headquarters in Vienna. "Vienna has benefited enormously from the organisation," he said, adding that it was widely assumed Austria will not nominate an own candidate. Austria has been reluctant considering Turkey’s interest in becoming a member of the EU for years. The current government coalition of Social Democrats and Spindelegger’s ÖVP has stuck to the same approach to the issue former ÖVP Chancellor’s Wolfgang Schüssel cabinet had shown. Schüssel headed a coalition of the ÖVP with the Freedom Party (FPÖ) and later on with the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) for seven years until 2007. Spindelegger said today Turkey’s veto to Plassnik’s application for the OSCE top job was unlikely to create a change of mind in his party as far as the country’s ambitions to join the EU were regarded. The ÖVP leader once more emphasised that Austria was in favour of a so-called privileged partnership between the EU – which currently has 27 members – and Turkey.

Spindelegger and SPÖ boss Werner Faymann has made clear many times that they intended to hold a referendum in Austria if the EU decided in favour of Turkey’s request to join one day. Research group Karmasin found last December that a majority of 61 per cent of Austrians oppose a Turkish EU membership. Around 59 per cent of polled citizens said the same in May 2009. Gül told the Kurier newspaper last month that the privileged partnership alternative was "not an option." "We’ve already got a privileged partnership (with the EU). There’s a customs union. We want to become a full member," the federal president of Turkey said a few days before meeting with Austrian President Heinz Fischer in Vienna. Gül added: "The obstacles which have been erected are unfounded and unfair." Around 113,000 of the 8.5 million people living in Austria are Turks. Another 70,000 have a Turkish migratory background. The Turkish community is expected to be represented stronger than before in the Austrian Islamic Denomination (IGGiÖ) which appealed to the half a million Muslims living in Austria to elect a new leader. Final results of the ballot – which has taken place in the past months – will be released in a few weeks.
© The Austrian Independent

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HITLER'S FIRST DRAFT OF THE HOLOCAUST: UNIQUE LETTER GOES ON SHOW

Army document is only written statement detailing Hitler's wish for systematic removal of Jews from Germany

7/6/2011- A document understood to be the only existing written statement by Adolf Hitler in which he set out his belief in a systematic removal of Jews from society has been acquired by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles. The four-page letter, typewritten on faded brown paper and bearing Hitler's signature, was shown in public for the first time in New York, in what is likely to be seen as a key artefact in the historical record of the Holocaust. It will go on display at the centre's Tolerance Museum in Los Angeles. The centre's founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, said it was one of the most important documents of the period, showing the development of Hitler's antisemitic thought, and proved he had in mind a governmental solution to the so-called "Jewish Question". "This is the most important item we have in an archive of more than 50,000 objects," Hier said, adding that it would be used to educate future generations and to counter Holocaust denial.

Though Hitler alluded to his plans to exterminate Jewish people in speeches and indirectly through his closest henchmen, his thoughts on the subject can be found nowhere else committed to paper. Such is the prevalence of fraud in Hitler memorabilia that some experts remain to be convinced of the document's authenticity. But the Wiesenthal Centre said it had authenticated the letter. Long known by historians of the Third Reich as "the Gemlich letter", the original signed copy has never before been seen in public. An unsigned copy exists in the state archives in Munich. Hitler wrote the letter in Munich on 16 September 1919. Then aged 30, he was as yet unknown but was starting to show interest in politics. Shortly before writing the letter he attended a meeting of the German Workers' party, which later he took over and converted into the National Socialist German Workers' party.

At the time he was in a propaganda unit of the German army that tried to counter Bolshevik influences among soldiers returning from the Russian front at the end of the first world war. His commanding officer, Captain Karl Mayr, told Hitler to respond to an inquiry from one Adolf Gemlich, who wanted to know the army's position on the "Jewish Question". In his reply, Hitler spouted an antisemitic diatribe, in which he said Jews were "pure materialists in thought and aspirations" and that their effect was "racial tuberculosis on the nation". Crucially, he went on to set out his vision for a calculated antisemitism that would operate through strong governments rather than the emotion of the people. Emotional antisemitism, he wrote, merely ended in pogroms. "The antisemitism of reason must lead to a struggle for the legal battle to abrogate laws giving [Jews] favoured positions, differentiating the Jew from other foreigners. The final goal must be the uncompromising removal of Jews altogether. To accomplish these goals, only a government of national power is capable, and never a government of national weakness."

The signed letter was bought by the centre for $150,000 from a trader in historical artefacts. It was said to have been obtained by an American soldier in 1945 from a Nazi archive near Nuremberg and was held privately until now. The centre had a chance to buy it in 1988 but was doubtful about its provenance, particularly the fact that it was composed on a typewriter – a rare and expensive object Hitler could personally not have afforded in 1919. Hier said their doubts had been assuaged when they realised that Hitler was working for the army and would have had access to its typewriters.
© The Guardian

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WOMEN GIVE NEO-NAZI SCENE A FACE-LIFT (Germany)

Men make up the majority of neo-Nazis, but emancipation has also forged new territory for women in right-extremist circles in Germany. A new book sheds light on female neo-Nazis.

7/6/2011- Women want to have their say. That slogan from the 1960's women liberation movement still echoes through to today. And it's a rallying cry that leaders from Germany's National Democratic Party, the NPD, have picked up on. The NPD, which is not prohibited in Germany, uses women to lure people into the right-extremist movement, maintain authors Andrea Röpke and Andreas Speit. Their new book "Mädelsache! Frauen in der Neo-Nazi-Szene" ("Girls' Business: Women in the Neo-Nazi Scene") illuminates how women are used as ambassadors for the movement. A mother of several children wins the hearts of people much more easily than a young man with tattoos chanting xenophobic slogans, said author Speit. "Many people think 'If women are part of it, it can't be so bad,'" he observed. The strategy seems to work, as regional elections in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt this past March showed. NPD women reaped an impressive number of votes.

Wolves in sheeps' clothing
Röpke and Speit's book looks at the various right-extremist groups in Germany. It's a heterogeneous movement that includes a right-wing women's organization, as well as numerous rightist enclaves such as the National Women's Circle - an association linked to the NPD. Other smaller groups or associations do not appear to be right-extremist at first glance. On the contrary, one could almost take them to be "granola heads" - save the environment hippies donned in handmade clothing or dirndl-like dresses, living cozily amongst their kind in rural communities. But at second-glance, say the authors, one notices the Prussian rigidity with which the mothers raise their children. It's a harsh approach that glorifies discipline and German tradition. This breed refuses to use English words that have long found their way into colloquial German. "T-shirt" thus becomes "T-Hemd," "Weltnetz" (World Web) is used rather than "Internet," "Gemüsetorte" (Vegetable Cake) rather than "Pizza."

The danger of underestimation
That all may sound so "yesterday," but authors Röpke and Speit stress that one should not underestimate the power and reach of women within the right-extremist movement. They have a stabilizing function within their groups; they are particularly loyal in toeing the NPD party line; and they have a major impact on how children and youth are raised. They also don't stay within their own extremist enclaves, but are often employed as social workers or caregivers in pre-schools or daycare centers. There, they can easily recruit members for the movement - one with no shortage of young people, Speit said. The book "Mädelsache" illuminates just how underestimated these right-extremist women are, especially in their ability to appeal to mainstream society far better than men. But as moderate as the women may appear, the authors make clear their connections to organizations touting non-democratic, racist beliefs.
© The Deutsche Welle

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BUNDESWEHR SLAMMED FOR CHILDREN'S 'MITROVICA' WAR GAMES CAMP (Germany)

The Bundeswehr has launched an investigation after reports that children were invited to play war games at a mock encampment named for a village in Kosovo where the Nazis once committed war atrocities.

6/6/2011- The incident took place two weekends ago at in Bad Reichenhall in Bavaria, during a day where German army barracks were open to the public, according to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. Children were given dummy weapons and the fake village was made complete with bullet holes, blackened windows and smoke bombs, all designed to make the exercise more realistic, Bild reported. The real problem, however, was the mock village’s name: 'Little Mitrovica.' During World War II the German military controlled part of the real Mitrovica in Kosovo, forcing 300 Roma into concentration-camp type work and eventually killing them. The town was also the the site of serious ethnic violence in 1999 as Albanians in the region attempted to break away from Serbia. During the war in Kosovo, thousands of Roma were also expelled. One possible explanation for the name choice could be that Bundeswehr troops were stationed in Kosovo as part of NATO's KFOR mission in the now independent province. Objections to the children's camp were first raised by the radical leftist group Rabatz, which called the incident a “scandal” in a statement. “This is a disgusting insult to the victims” in Mitrovica, said spokeswoman Anna Jade. She called for those responsible to resign and also questioned allowing children to play with fake weapons. A Bundeswehr spokesman told Bild that officials were investigating the matter. “We’ll let the process determine if there were violations at the open house day,” he said.
© The Local - Germany

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THE CRISIS GROWS AMONG REPRESENTATIVES OF ISLAM IN FRANCE

The crisis revealed during the elections this weekend of the French Council of Muslim Faith (CFCM), pro-Moroccan component of Islam in France and its Algerian rivals, continues to grow since the 2003 creation of this partner of government.

6/6/2011- The Rally of Muslims in France (RMF), resulting from the former National Federation of Muslims of France, created in 1985 and close to Morocco, was the winner of the poll, but with no triumph, since there was no adversary. Two major components of the CFCM, the Great Mosque of Paris (pro-Algerian) and the Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF) had called for boycotting the polls. So that after the elections for regional councils that have earned 62% of the votes of 3,176 delegates voting in 25 regions, the Great Mosque of Paris was quick to say Monday that "this election is by no means representative of all France's Muslims and mosques." Created in 2003 by the Ministry of Interior then occupied by Nicolas Sarkozy – in the anxiety that prevailed after the attacks of 11 September 2001 - the CFCM was supposed to become the correspondent of government for all Islam issues, which represents 4 to 5 million Muslims in France.
© Ennahar online

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SPAIN’S HIGH COURT OVERTURNS CONVICTION ON NAZI PROPAGANDA

6/6/2011- Spain's Jewish community has slammed a ruling by the country's Supreme Court that overturns the conviction of four people connected to a Barcelona bookstore that sold Nazi literature. The four connected to the now defunct bookshop, Kalki, had been found guilty by a lower court of fostering xenophobia and anti-Semitism through the selling of Nazi literature. The acquittals include a publisher in the nearby town of Molins de Rei. In 2009, the four were each sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail after being found guilty of selling publications that justified the Holocaust and praised the Nazi regime. In the Supreme Court's ruling, Justice Miguel Colmenero wrote that the selling of Nazi propaganda that promotes genocide is only a crime when there exists a danger that it could create a climate of hostility that would incite violence. "Jews in Spain view with extreme concern the fact that the Spanish judiciary, so sensitive in certain situations, does not consider as criminal conduct the sale of books denying the Holocaust and promoting racism, in spite of standing criminal legislation to the contrary," the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain said in a statement. The Israeli Embassy in Madrid in a statement said that Israel was "sad and concerned" to hear of the acquittals, "allowing for the circulation of books that incite hate and deny the Holocaust." Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, called the ruling "a grievous blow" to Spain's "laudatory efforts to confont its historical fascist past." "The court has insulted the memory of all Nazi victims -- Jew and non-Jew," Steinberg said in a statement.
© JTA News

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SWEDES URGED TO CELEBRATE 'MULTICULTURAL' NATIONAL DAY (Sweden)

An editorial article attacking the far-right and calling on Swedes to celebrate "diversity not stupidity" on national day, has provoked a heated debate in the Swedish media on Monday.

6/6/2011- Today is Sweden's national day, a public holiday since 2005, and an occasion seized by many to wave the Swedish flag, and perhaps enjoy a plate or two of pickled herring. Unfortunately, however, the day has also become synonymous with right-wing extremists, as these groups have chosen June 6th to convene in anti-immigrant marches. In light of this, newspaper Aftonbladet today published an opinion piece penned by journalist Anders Lindblad, defending the multicultural society. The piece, headlined "Today we celebrate diversity, not stupidity" (Vi firar mångfald idag - inte enfald), criticizes right-wing parties in Sweden for changing the tone of the immigration debate since extreme-right party Sweden Democrats (SD) entered the Riksdag. Lindblad suggests that these parties are trying to lure SD's voters with a harsher debate of immigration and multiculturalism. Lindblad is also critical of those promoting assimilation instead of integration, among others conservative think tank Timbro. "Development and openness are the sources of our success. Not isolation and insularity. In the Sweden of the future, people can celebrate any holidays they like. Including the national day," he writes. This opinion piece has sparked a great deal of controversy on the newspaper's website, and just hours after publication the site has been flooded with hundreds of comments from readers who accuse Lindblad and Aftonbladet of trying to rob Sweden of its own identity. The photograph accompanying the article - a photo montage of a mosque with a Swedish flag waving from the minaret - has been a particular source of aggravation.
© The Local - Sweden

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'NEVER AGAIN' FOUNDER RECEIVES DISTINCTION FROM POLISH PRESIDENT (Poland)

5/6/2011- On 4 June, the Polish Freedom Day, President Bronislaw Komorowski awarded a high-level state distinction, the Officer’s Cross of the Order Polonia Restituta, to Marcin Kornak, the founder and chairman of the anti-racist ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association. ‘Poland really needs your activity. Thank you!’ said President Komorowski congratulating the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ leader. The President met with a group of civil society activists including Jerzy Owsiak, the founder of the charity WOSP and organizer of the annual Polish Woodstock rock festival. A delegation of five ‘NEVER AGAIN’ members was present during the meeting, too.  Marcin Kornak is a co-founder and chairman of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association as well as the editor-in-chief of the anti-fascist ‘NEVER AGAIN’ magazine. He has initiated the campaigns ‘Music Against Racism’ and ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of the Stadiums’. He is the principal author of the ‘Brown Book 1987-2009’ and ‘Brown Book 2009-2010’ (published with the support of the EVZ Foundation), which contain results of hate crime monitoring conducted by ‘NEVER AGAIN’.

Born in 1968, Marcin Kornak has used a wheel chair since the age of 15. He is renowned as a poet and author of lyrics for several independent rock bands. After the ceremony, during a reception in the presidential garden, Prime Minister Donald Tusk received copies of the ‘Brown Book’ from ‘NEVER AGAIN’ members and discussed the problem of racism in Polish football with them. The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an anti-racist educational and monitoring organization established in Poland in 1996. In 2011, the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association received the Honorary Medal of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising awarded by the Association of Jewish Ex-Combatants and Victims of World War II as well as the European Football Supporters Award. Since 2009, ‘NEVER AGAIN’ has coordinated the FARE East European Development Project supported by UEFA in the lead up to EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. ‘NEVER AGAIN’ has set up the East Europe Monitoring Centre documenting racism and xenophobia across the region.
© NEVER AGAIN Association

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MUSLIM AND GAY: 'ALLAH MADE ME THIS WAY' (Netherlands)

“If Allah didn’t want me this way, he wouldn’t have made me this way,” says Omeed.

10/6/2011- He’s a 27-year-old Dutch guy who believes he’s basically a good person and, therefore, a good Muslim too. But he’s also openly and unashamedly homosexual. How does he fit the two together? Omeed (not his real name) was born here in the Netherlands, but his parents are first generation immigrants from Pakistan. He describes his family life not so much as strictly Islamic, but certainly ‘traditional’ with strong Muslim values. He did all most of ‘normal’ Islamic things, like observing Ramadan and studying the Qur’an. Given this background, he was more than a bit worried when he first realised in his early teens that he was attracted to boys: “I thought […], oh no, I’m from a Muslim family – what’s going to happen?”

Not a real problem
But those concerns were more about his family’s reactions [see the item on Omeed and his family] than those of his religion. In fact, Omeed says being Muslim and gay is something he’s never regarded as a real problem: “I was and am still a believer but I also knew that Allah made me this way. If Allah didn’t want me this way, he wouldn’t have made me this way.” He also came to these conclusions quite quickly: “I knew very early on that this wasn’t a matter of choice on my part. After all, I would never have chosen to be gay and Muslim, because that would be such a difficult path to choose for yourself.” As a result, he concluded quite simply that this is the way he’s ‘meant to be’. After all, coming from a traditional, ‘heterosexual’ Muslim family, clearly... “There’s no choice or ‘learned behaviour’ involved. I am as I am, I think I’m a nice and a good person. I don’t do any harm to anybody – at least I try not to do so deliberately – and that’s more important than my sexual inclination”.

Exception
Omeed acknowledges he is an exception in the Dutch Muslim community, where homosexual men and women seldom come out 100 percent as most of their ethnic Dutch counterparts do. However, he says more and more gays and lesbians from a Muslim background are coming out partially – i.e. carefully, to a very select circle of friends and – in some cases – family members. But basically, Omeed says he believes Allah wills and makes us to be the way we are, and if you can accept that then you can accept your own sexuality too.

Don't make it a problem
His advice to other young Muslims – and, come to that, anyone from a conservative-religious community - facing up to their homosexual feelings is not to make a problem out of their religion or let the religious interpretation of ‘others’ stop you being who you are. Nonetheless he recommends that young gay Muslims be cautious about who they come out to, but not let this prevent them seeking support, either from friends or professionals. Although he’s never been a victim of real aggression, he knows it’s out there and that in the larger Muslim community homosexuality remains taboo.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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MINISTER UPHOLDS RIGHT TO REFUSE TO PERFORM SAME SEX MARRIAGE CEREMONY (Netherlands)

8/6/2911- Local authority staff who have religious objections to performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples should retain the right to refuse to do so, says Education Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt. The minister made the remark during a Lower House debate on equal opportunities policy. The exemption was introduced when same-sex marriages were legalised ten years ago. Ms Van Bijsterveldt said it was up to the local authority in which a marriage is taking place to solve the problem, perhaps simply by asking another member of staff to perform the ceremony. The matter was raised last week when Amsterdam city council expressed the view that council staff should not be entitled to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Two council staff in the city apparently make use of the right.
© Expatica News

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ATTACK ON MOSQUE ENKHUIZEN (Netherlands)

4/6/2011- Four Molotov cocktails were thrown at the mosque in Enkhuizen Alaattin. Süleyman Yapici, Secretary of the Islamic Foundation Yapici Enkhuizen,  said. At this time the police doesn't want to confirm nor deny. In the night of Wednesday to Thursday a fire broke out at the site of the mosque on the Tureluurshof. Only garden furniture was damaged. The police investigated the fire on Ascension Day, therefore the mosque was closed to the public during the day, but is now back open. According to Süleyman Yapici, the fire was caused by a Molotov cocktail. "It rolled from the roof onto the ground, where it set the garden furniture on fire It was a bottle of gasoline or other flammable material." According Yapici another three Molotov cocktails were found. "They were trown against the front of the building, but bounced of it without thrown against the wall, without igniting. It is not a stone building, he explains. The fire occurred after the last user had left the mosque. According to Yapici nothing like this has happened before. "In the past sometimes eggs were thrown at the mosque, but this is something else". In the interest of the investigation police spokesman Menno Hartbergare wants to say about the attempted arson. Therefore he did not want to confirm that Molotov cocktails were the cause or where they would be thrown from. However, the investigation has high priority for the police. Deputy mayor Henry Boland is also shocked by the incident. "We now want to wait and see what comes out the police investigation into the trace evidence. As long as it is not clear where this comes from, it is also difficult to take action, said Boland.

Noordhollands Dagblad Translated by Suzette Bronkhorst for I CARE News
© Noordhollands Dagblad (Dutch)

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COUNCIL TRIES TO BAN ROMA FROM PUBS (Slovakia)

6/6/2011- The muncipal council of Diakovce in the Nitra region has drawn up a list of names of people it has labelled “problematic Roma citizens” in an attempt to get them banned from entering local pubs. The council action, which the local mayor vetoed, came in response to a recent violent incident at a pub in the village, the Sme daily reported. The altercation in the pub involved five local residents, age 15 to 50, who allegedly attacked a 68-year-old customer, leaving him with head injuries. When police were called to deal with the situation, a 15-year-old young man pointed a gun at them and threatened to shoot. Four persons were charged with disorderly conduct. The mayor of Diakovce and local council members claim the police mishandled the intervention and subsequently wrote a letter to police president Jaroslav Spišiak to complain about what they called “unbearable Roma problems” in the village, Sme wrote. “In the evening people are afraid to leave their homes, it’s normal for [Roma] to carry knives, speak obscene language, and they are most daring after they’ve had a drink,” an unnamed Diakovce citizen told Sme. The local council proposed to ban some Roma from local pubs with a decree but the mayor, László Hajdu, refused to sign it because he believed it violated human rights and instead recommended that pub owners hire their own security service, Sme reported, adding that Hajdu said he is planning to start projects in the village aimed at Roma inclusion. “They get €60 [a month]; if you had such an income, you would go stealing too,” the mayor told Sme. “It’s easy to say they should go to work, but nobody wants them; the state has forgotten them.”
© The Slovak Spectator

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NATIONALIST POLITICIANS SPLIT UP – AGAIN (Slovakia)

6/6/2011- Slovak nationalist politicians and their supporters could be forgiven for experiencing a spot of déja-vu at the moment. Anna Belousovová, once the most prominent representative of the Slovak National Party (SNS), has left her party to establish a new political party based on what she called “a non-xenophobic and non-confrontational patriotism”. Her action is an almost exact re-run of a previous split in the party a decade ago, a poisonous spat which resulted in the SNS and its splinter party losing all their seats in parliament for one election term. Apolitical analyst says he does not expect the new party to have a very bright future. Belousovová and Rudolf Pučík, two of the nine members of SNS's parliamentary caucus, announced on May 24 that they were leaving the caucus to become independent MPs. They stated their membership in the caucus recently had been only a formality as the caucus had stopped inviting Belousovová to its sessions and Pučík only sporadically received invitations. The departure of the two MPs from the SNS caucus provoked discussion among some lawyers and parliamentarians about the future of the SNS caucus in this parliament because the applicable law says eight MPs are required for creation of a caucus. The Speaker of Parliament, Richard Sulík, announced that he had consulted with parliament’s lawyers who had concluded that the law does not specifically authorise the speaker to dissolve a caucus with less than eight MPs.

Like Geert Wilders?
Three days after she left the SNS caucus, Belousovová, accompanied by Pučík, announced she was starting a petition to found a new political party named Nation and
Justice (NAS). The signatures of 10,000 Slovak citizens are required for a political party to be legally registered. Belousovová said she believes it is necessary for a new
political party to emerge in Slovakia, one that would be based on what she called “the current civilised, democratic, non-xenophobic and nonconfrontational patriotism”, which she said is represented by newly-emerging movements and parties in Europe and beyond: the Tea Party movement in the US; the True Finns party in Finland; the Party of Freedom of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands; and nationalist parties in Austria and Switzerland that are currently on the rise in their countries. “The leaders of the traditional ruling parties and representatives of the UK, Germany and France are rejecting late-20th-century multiculturalism and are speaking out
loud about the need for new approaches,” Belousovová also stated.

Not relevant, analyst says
Political scientist Grigorij Mese nikov does not foresee a bright future even if NAS is legally established, believing that it has little potential to become a relevant player on the Slovak political scene. “They could harvest a percent or so if they started now very intensively building their structures and promoting the party,” Mese nikov told The Slovak Spectator. But he added that since Belousovová is not a new face in Slovak politics and is wellknown for her style of politics and her opinions, he doubts if there is a real chance for the party to be a key player in the Slovak party system. Mese nikov also suggested that many of the people now around Belousovová represent no real alternative to the SNS since these individuals supported SNS chairman Ján Slota on all issues in the past. “It’s all the same all the time, radical nationalism and the Hungarian card, so there is no room for any alternative, although [Belousovová and Pu ík] now present themselves as those who desire more decent nationalist politics,” Mese nikov said. “But they had an opportunity to do that in the party they were a part of and nothing like that ever occurred.” Mese nikov added that the main reason for the conflict between Belousovová and Slota is not differing opinions, because they were usually of one mind on key issues, but rather an ongoing power struggle within the party and the subsequent accusations made by each of them that led Belousovová to break away. Belousovová, the first vice-chair of the SNS until last year, was expelled from the party on February 2 this year, with all 14 members of the SNS presidium backing what they called a disciplinary action against her “for damaging the name and the interests of the SNS”. Belousovová ran for the post of SNS chair against Slota in September 2010, following the party’s poor showing in the 2010 general election in which it came close to losing its seats in parliament. In her campaign to become leader she criticised the scandals that dogged the SNS during its time in government between 2006 and 2010. The SNS congress did not elect her and instead stripped her of the vicechair position. She was then stripped of all other posts she held and was not included on the party’s list of candidates for the municipal elections in November 2010. Belousovová and Slota have had a troubled relationship for many years. The SNS entered the 2002 general election divided between groups led by the two individuals and failed to reach parliament as a result. At that time it was Slota who broke away from the party, which had been led by Belousovová (née Malíková) from 2001 to 2003.

Slota visits Roma
While Belousovová started a petition drive to establish her new party, SNS head Slota paid a visit to a Roma community in Podskalka, near Humenné, an unusual step for him as he has been quoted several times in the past expressing anti-Roma statements. “I am convinced that we’ve got a lot of sympathisers here among these Gypsies,” Slota stated in an interview with the Sme daily during his visit to the Roma community. Sme wrote that Slota said he believed Roma culture enriches Slovak culture, adding that “by no means do I have xenophobic or racist views towards the Gypsy community” and that his party wants to help Roma be included in a society-wide discourse in Slovakia. “He did it out of speculative reasons,” Mesežnikov commented about Slota’s visit. “This party has offered so many ‘solutions’ for Roma
problems that it can only be perceived as a sort of folklore. It’s a typical example of a sort of mimicry. I believe this party is well known for the fact that its epresentatives often have made anti-Roma statements.”
© The Slovak Spectator

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GAY RIGHTS STILL TABOO FOR SOME SLOVAKS

Cabinet fails to establish a committee on the rights of LGBT people

6/6/2011- The colours of the rainbow were due to shine over Bratislava on June 4 in the form of the Pride march, but the world had become slightly greyer for Slovakia’s non-heterosexuals a few weeks earlier. It was then that gay people living in Slovakia came very close to getting an official body, working under the auspices of the government, to look after their interests – but the initiative to set up a committee to do that ultimately failed. And while politicians tend to use the unpreparedness of Slovak society as a justification for their timidity, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community insists that society is, in fact, ready for some changes. In March 2011, the cabinet dissolved several of its advisory bodies – the council for national minorities and ethnic groups, the council for NGOs, for seniors, for disabled people, for gender equality and the committee of ministers of children. The agenda of these bodies was transferred to a newly-established Council for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality. The new council then proposed that seven committees be created under its auspices, among them a committee on the rights of non-heterosexual people. But while the cabinet agreed to establish the other committees, it baulked at the idea of one for gay rights. The decision, which some LGBT activists called an act of homophobia, was made on May 11, less than a week before the International Day Against Homophobia was marked around the world.

Activist: failure is 'homophobic'
“We perceive it as a political decision,” said Romana Schlesinger, an LGBT rights activist from the non-governmental Queer Leaders Forum and a Rainbow Pride organiser, adding that the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) made clear to all the participants in the debate that either the statute of the new council would be passed without the LGBT committee or it would not be passed at all. “We regard this committee as being redundant, since the human rights issues of all citizens are dealt with by the Government Council for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality,” KDH spokesperson Matej Kováč told The Slovak Spectator. Rudolf Chmel, the Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights and National Minorities, who proposed the creation of the committee, argued along with other supporters of the idea that the committee would bring together representatives of the community and representatives of all the ministries and be a platform for experts to discuss issues, including related legislation, but also anti-discrimination practices, educational programmes and data gathering.

“I am convinced that it would be an advantage for all those concerned to create a space for the formulation of concrete solutions to improve the life of the LGBT community,” Martin Poliačik, an MP for the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, told The Slovak Spectator. His party presented registered partnerships as part of its election campaign for the 2010 parliamentary election, but failed to get them adopted as part of the coalition government’s programme. Most-Híd, the party of Deputy Prime Minister Chmel, considers the non-existence of the committee to be a deviation from the European standard, “but not an insurmountable problem that would fatally divide the current ruling coalition”, the party’s spokesperson Nora Czuczorová said. Július Kolenič, a board member of the Inakosť (Otherness) initiative, remarked that such a platform would cost the state no money, but could have helped significantly to improve the quality of life of the LGBT community, which constitutes a considerable portion of the population. “We regard this to be a homophobic act by Iveta Radičová’s government, since other proposed committees had been created,” Kolenič said, hinting that the LGBT community is the only minority (based on grounds for discrimination as defined by the Slovakia's Anti-Discrimination Act) not to be represented within the council.

Opinions on LGBT discrimination vary
“We do not believe that Slovak citizens are discriminated against in any way based on their sexual orientation,” KDH’s Kováč said. “If these people suffer violation of their basic human rights, they have the possibility to turn to the existing institutions.” Most-Híd spokesperson Czuczorová, however, said that the institute of registered partnerships, for instance, remains taboo in Slovak society despite the fact that in neighbouring countries like the Czech Republic and Hungary it has existed for several years now. “We are lagging behind our neighbours in Europe concerning many legislative solutions,” SaS MP Poliačik admitted, listing issues like inheritance, common ownership of property, and access to health records in the event of illness or injury. “All these things concern the everyday life of equal citizens of Slovakia and we should be dealing with them.” Despite the odds, Kolenič said, support for the LGBT community from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights and National Minorities is now greater than it was in the past. He cited conferences organised by the office and brochures that they are planning to issue. “But it’s still too little,” he said, adding that the community is less than satisfied with the current position of the non-heterosexual minority in society, the main failure being the fact that only NGOs are keeping alive public discussion on related topics through events such as the Rainbow Pride march or the Inakosť Film Festival.

Ready to accept same-sex love?
Politicians tend to excuse their lack of action in the sphere of LGBT rights with the argument that society is not yet ready to accept some legislative steps that would improve the rights of non-heterosexual people in Slovakia. But the LGBT community itself dismisses this as a false argument, saying that society is becoming more and more open and accepting of people with other-than-heterosexual orientations. According to Schlesinger, there has been limited recognition by all governments, regardless of their ideological basis, that there is no room in terms of public debate about registered partnerships of same-sex couples, for instance, and that expert discussion needs to be launched first. “Politicians keep talking about the need for public and expert discussion, but their deeds are the exact opposite of that – as seen from their recent decision to not establish the LGBT committee within the government’s council,” Kolenič agreed, adding that there are parties in the government unable to free themselves from the “unjustified, panicked fear of losing voters”.

Paradoxically, Kolenič said, most people in Slovakia long ago understood that human rights are no threat to anyone and that all people, including LGBT people, have the right to a dignified life. Schlesinger also said that the community feels a change in the perception of LGBT people among the majority, and added that research that the Queer Leaders Forum conducted a couple of years ago showed that more than half of Slovakia’s population has nothing against registered partnerships, although there were still some negative sentiments when it came to the adoption of children. She put this down to the fact that this issue has been discussed for a much shorter time in the public arena. “The only thing people are missing is information,” Schlesinger said. “And if they get the information, their view of things changes. Our feeling is that society is changing and becoming much more open not only towards otherness in sexual orientation but also towards any other differences.”
© The Slovak Spectator

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POLICE IN BRATISLAVA DISPERSE AGGRESSIVE NEO-NAZIS (Slovakia)

5/6/2011- Approximately 50 aggressive neo-Nazis attempted to attack the second annual Rainbow Parade in support of gay and lesbian rights yesterday in Bratislava. About 1 500 people participated in the parade. The event started at 13:00 on Hviezdoslavova náměstí, where the first 400 people gathered. The site resembled an impregnable fortress, as barriers had been erected on every side and police officers, including riot units, defended the peaceful gathering from neo-Nazis. A small group of extremists attempted to protest directly on the square. Right-wing radicals wearing "Slovenská pospolitost" ("Slovak Solidarity") t-shirts and dark-colored clothing held a banner reading "For the traditional family, against deviation" and featuring the logo of the People's Party - Our Slovakia (Lidová strana - Naše Slovensko).
Rainbow Parade participants held banners reading "Hate is not a family value" or "I'm the pink sheep of the family." Slogans such as "End homophobia in Slovakia!" resounded from the loudspeakers. The march left the square and headed through the Old Town across the New Bridge (Nový most) to the Petržalka quarter. The numbers of participants gradually increased and separated into two parts on the Tyršov embankment. The first got on buses to go to after-parties in various parts of the city, while the second headed for a boat where a party was also taking place. As the march proceeded beneath the New Bridge, an approximately 50-member group of neo-Nazis attempted to attack the peaceful march with smoke bombs, but police immediately dispersed them. Bratislava Police detained at least 42 people, including 26 of those who did their best to disturb the march beneath the New Bridge.

People from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and other European countries participated in the march. Many were wrapped in enormous rainbow flags. During the program, singer Aneta Langerová also performed. She admitted Slovakia is much more conservative and prudish in this area than the Czech Republic. "Some of that may have to do with the fact that there are still not many laws about human rights for homosexuals. I believe those are basic things which should have been instituted a long time ago and which we do have in Bohemia. We are probably ahead of Slovakia in that respect, and that was even more a reason to come here," Langerová said after her performance. She recently admitted to being in a relationship with a woman herself. The embassies of the Netherlands, Norway and the USA sent representatives to the event. Mayor Ftáčnik, Slovak government politicians, Slovak MEP Monika Flašíková-Beňová and her husband Fedor Flašík, Austrian MEP Ulrike Lunacek and Netherlands MEP Marije Cornelissen greeted the marchers.

Last year, during the first-ever Slovak Rainbow Parade, neo-Nazis organized a counter-action on the day of the march and attacked its participants. Organizers had to change their entire program, canceling their planned march through the center of Bratislava and changing the route to pass through a different part of the city. Right-wing radicals shouted abusive slogans at the approximately 500-strong march and threw smoke bombs and stones into the crowd.
© Romea

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DID SERBIA SACRIFICE MLADIC FOR EU MEMBERSHIP? (opinion)

by Yamin Zakaria 

5/6/2011- "Muslims of the EU may enhance the case for democracy to the Arab and Islamic world, which is already feeling the pressure for reform from the recent Arab spring, and concurrently many more Europeans may embrace Islam through direct interaction, which would dissolve the Islamic-demons created by the hostile mass media. Another remote possibility is the creation of a new Islamic block, where Bosnia, Albania and Turkey merge with the new progressive Middle East that may arise from the Arab spring." A few years back I visited Serbia. As a Muslim, I was naturally feeling a bit apprehensive as ones expectation is coloured by the media reports of war and genocide - and I remembered the terrible Serbs who slaughtered the defenceless Bosnians Muslims in the 90s. Once I arrived there, to my surprise, they were fully aware of my religious needs and tried their best to accommodate me. Almost everyone I met was helpful and polite. I had similar experience in the subsequent visits to Serbia, and it makes me wonder how this nation produced monsters like General Ratko Mladic; a former Bosnian Serb commander, indicted by the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal in 1995, for murdering 8,300 Bosnian men and boys, after the fall of Srebrenica.

Indeed, the needless massacre of Bosnian Muslims is a fact; the graveyards are still there, with the grieving relatives to testify. I remember the clip shown on the BBC, the Bosnian Muslim men being off loaded from the truck, and then shot in the back like animals. It is difficult to imagine that the ordinary Serbian masses would condone such barbaric acts; and if there is a contrast between the ordinary Serbian masses and the small number of criminals like Mladic, then it proves the point that a few men can tarnish an entire nation, just like a few drops of urine can spoil a glass of milk! The Serbs as a nation are still unrepentant, one poll shows 40% regard him as a hero, and 51% are against the extradition; perhaps it’s their sense of nationalism and patriotism, combined with a defensive mood after the NATO bombings that prevent them from acknowledging these war crimes. Even individuals who admit the guilt in their hearts are reluctant, to condemn the war crimes and genocide as they would be seen as traitors; it does take a lot of courage to go against popular opinion and express the truth. So, was it mere luck that Ratko Mladic was found and arrested? For sure, it was not because the Serbian government feels the need to atone for their past sins, otherwise they would have made the effort to find and arrest monsters like Mladic and Karadzic 15 years ago, and compensate the Bosnian victims.

Serbia needs to cooperate with the war crimes prosecutors to start negotiation for gaining entry to the lucrative EU club. The recent arrest prevented the outright rejection of Serbia’s bid for EU membership, as the chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal at The Hague, revised his earlier view presented at the UN. Hence, the real motive for arresting Ratko Mladic lies in gaining membership of the EU, for the same reason the Serbian regime also arrested Radovan Karadzic in 2008. Handing over war criminals is one of the hurdles Serbia needs to cross. The other hurdles will be further internal reforms so that it matches the democratic standards set by the EU, and reign in the nationalists in order to normalise the relationship with the former province of Kosovo. With the arrest of the major war criminals almost coming to an end, the EU will start to consider Serbia as a candidate and start negotiation. In addition, there is demand from within; one cannot fail to observe the gap between the young generation on the streets of Belgrade, Novi Sad, and Nis, who want to be part of the Europe Union, and the status-quo that reminds you of a country still living in the old communist block of the 70s. The youths want to transform their nation to resemble the wealthy nations of Western Europe.

The pressure to join the EU also arises from Serbia’s neighbours making progress and gaining entry, which will give them greater opportunity to make economic progress through movement of trade and labour. Nobody wants to remain poor and isolated, whilst the neighbours are getting richer. Slovenia is the only former province of Yugoslavia that has gained membership of the EU since 2004, and Croatia looks to be next, expected to join in 2013. Both of these nations are culturally closer to Western Europe. In fact, the Croatians see themselves as the demarcation line between Western Europe and the outside world. Montenegro is also a candidate. If Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro succeed in joining, it will also exert pressure on Muslim dominated Bosnia, Albania, and Turkey for membership. One can only speculate what its impact will be, adding a substantial amount of Muslim population into the EU which was originally seen as a fortress for Christian Europe. Will it lead to integration and create harmony in a cultural melting pot, or will it result in the rise of xenophobia, hate and conflict? Ideas and values may flow both ways - these new Muslims of the EU may enhance the case for democracy to the Arab and Islamic world, which is already feeling the pressure for reform from the recent Arab spring, and concurrently many more Europeans may embrace Islam through direct interaction, which would dissolve the Islamic-demons created by the hostile mass media. Another remote possibility is the creation of a new Islamic block, where Bosnia, Albania and Turkey merge with the new progressive Middle East that may arise from the Arab spring.
© Media Monitors

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EUROPEAN EMISSARIES SEEK TO CONFRONT INTOLERANCE AND PROMOTE FREEDOM

9/6/2011- The Council of Europe’s group of Eminent Persons—assembled to address the challenges arising from the resurgence of intolerance and discrimination in Europe—has produced a new report on “Living together: Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe.” The group, commissioned by secretary-general of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland, is led by the former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and is comprised of nine political heavyweights, including Ayţe Kadýođlu of Turkey and Vladimir Lukin of the Russian Federation. Presented to The Council of Europe on May 11th, the report focused on the increasing levels of intolerance throughout Europe and the threat that intolerance poses to the values of The CoE. Eight major “risks” were identified––rising intolerance; rising support for xenophobic and populist parties; discrimination; the presence of a population virtually without rights; parallel societies; Islamic extremism; loss of democratic freedoms; and a possible clash between “religious freedom” and freedom of expression––followed by 59 “proposals for action” formulated to address these risks.

The group chose to present its findings as a general representation of intolerance in Europe, rather than singling out specific countries for scrutiny. The report indicated that minority groups and immigrants are the victims of widespread discrimination in Europe and that leaders in many European countries are not taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety and equality of all citizens. Roma are particularly affected by this negative dynamic. According to the report’s findings, Roma are persecuted in almost all aspects of their lives. The unemployment rate of Roma women lingers somewhere between 80 and 90 percent and the school drop-out rates of Roma children are alarmingly high. They are underrepresented in the governments of the countries where they reside and are often used as scapegoats by politicians. Roma people are often stereotyped as criminals, and anti-Gypsism is widespread. Human Rights First’s research and advocacy efforts focus on violent hate crimes against Roma. Our most recent set of recommendations for the government of Hungary offered a blueprint for concrete actions necessary to strengthen response to bias-motivated violence against Roma. The recognition of the plight of the Roma is an integral step forward in guaranteeing the rights and safety of the group. However, it remains to be seen what, if any, steps the CoE will take to urge leaders to make the protection of the Roma a priority.

The Eminent Persons group also found that xenophobia is rampant in Europe and has led to increased support for xenophobic and populist political parties in many countries. Commonly cited stereotypes for anti-immigration positions blame foreigners for stealing jobs, taking advantage of the welfare system, and increasing crime. However, these sentiments are often directed toward people who are in fact the bigots’ fellow citizens who stand out because of the color of their skin or religious practices. The report concludes that little fuss is made over the presence of immigrants that are physically and socially indiscernible from the rest of a country’s citizens. As these xenophobic tendencies become increasingly prevalent, political parties are beginning to incorporate them into their platforms. The populist parties emerging in Europe differ from traditional neofascist parties in that they have garnered a much broader voting base. The parties are able to do so by playing off the fear of rising immigration levels in their countries. The group found that “in some countries, they have even established themselves as the second largest party with around 30% of the votes, sometimes denying their rivals a governing majority.” These parties are quickly gaining momentum, which threatens the security of immigrants across the continent. Even those currently in power are actively participating in discrimination against immigrants and minority groups. Country reports by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance have found that police do not regularly report victims of hate crimes and go so far as to try and intimidate the victims.

The report offers numerous proposals for fighting the spread of intolerance across Europe, many of which are in line with Human Rights First’s recommendations. It commends the member states of the CoE for pledging to follow the European Convention on Human Rights but advocates for stronger implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the convention on a national level. It also recognizes the importance of the larger societal change needed to make these new laws effective. It cites the impact that education, civil society, prominent individuals, and the media as invaluable to altering the mindset of the European people. Utilizing these resources to create a more socially conscious populace will decrease levels of prejudice throughout the continent. Despite its having been presented three weeks ago, the report has yet to be given full approval by the Council of Europe. Secretary-general of the Organization, Thorbjorn Jagland, has said that the 47 member states will issue a written response after further examination. The foreign minister of Ukraine, Kostyantyn Hryshchenko, has called for alterations to the report to take into consideration the specific circumstances of certain countries.
© Human Rights First

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ARE 30,000 IMMIGRANTS ALL IT TAKES TO PUT AN END TO FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT IN THE EU? (press release ENAR)

9/6/2011- Today, EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers will adopt conclusions on borders, migration and asylum. ENAR, the European Network Against Racism, is deeply concerned by recent proposals to re-introduce internal EU border controls and calls on EU member states not to give in to fear and populism when discussing or deciding on migration-related issues. The proposal to relax Schengen rules arose in the wake of the Arab Spring and ensuing arrivals of North African immigrants to Europe. France and Denmark have announced they would reinstate border controls, thus jeopardising one of the EU’s key achievements: freedom of movement. “The EU and its member states must realise that the overwhelming majority of people fleeing conflict in Libya and other parts of North Africa have fled to neighbouring countries and only a small number have arrived on Europe’s shores”, said Chibo Onyeji, ENAR Chair. “In 2002, the net inflow of international migrants to the EU-15 was 1,260,000[1] and now the EU-27 thinks 30,000 is a crisis situation? This disproportionate reaction confirms recent trends in the migration policy of both the EU and its member states of seeing migration as a threat, and focusing predominantly on border control, control of ‘illegal’ immigration and return policies.”

The migration agenda is driven by negative public perceptions and discourses, yet there is increasing evidence and research pointing to the benefits of migration. For instance, if rich countries were to admit enough migrants from poor countries to expand their own labour forces by a mere 3%, the world would be richer, according to one estimate, by $356 billion a year. Completely opening borders would add $39 trillion over 25 years to the global economy. Migration is thus an economic solution, in particular in the light of labour shortages in the ageing EU member states. But beyond this, a positive approach to migration should allow for mutual benefits of migrant and host communities and view migrants as individuals with both rights and responsibilities. “In a society that embraces diversity the interests of the majority and minority are both met by respect for the fundamental human rights of all”, said Onyeji. “It is high time to recognise the daily contribution made by migrants to Europe’s economic, social, cultural and political life, as well as the importance of equality and diversity to a vibrant society and economy.”
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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TAKING IT TOO FAR-RIGHT (Europe,opinion)

By Virginie Guiraudon

5/6/2011- Religious intolerance is a daily reality in Europe. Mainly targeted at Muslims, attacks on religious pluralism focus on refusing to share public space with non-majority religions. The key voices of intolerance are neither marginal nor can they be dismissed as old-style far-right activists. Today, they are often heads of government, important ministers or powerful politicians. Successive recent salvos by the French president and German chancellor on the failure of multiculturalism in countries where that policy has never been promoted, and the British prime minister’s February speech associating multiculturalism with Islamic terrorism are among the latest examples. The desire to make Islam invisible has resulted not just in stigmatising speeches, but also in new laws. On November 29, 2009, 57.5% Swiss citizens, voting in a popular referendum, agreed to forbid the building of new minarets in their country. A new law, which came into effect on April 11, 2011, bans the wearing of the face veil in ‘public places’ throughout France. A recent study published by the Open Society Foundation found that less than 2,000 women in France wear the face veil. Many have suffered insults and sometimes physical harassment. Yet, Christian religious processions that require face-covering hoods are still allowed.

We need to better understand the dynamics behind these controversies and new laws banning symbols of religious expression. And we must ask whether there is adequate protection of religious pluralism and confessional neutrality in Europe’s public space. The far-right in Europe have occupied public space to assert their culture against Muslim practices. In Italy, the right-wing Northern League party organises processions of pigs on the sites where mosques are to be erected. In France, open-air ‘salami and wine’ events have been organised by an anti-Muslim movement that claims to be secular. This shows that fear of threats to cultural identity in the face of globalisation is at the core of the ‘new right’, as sociologist Mabel Berezin argues in her book Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times. Religious expression is again becoming a marker of national cultural identity, and the xenophobic discourse that surrounds Islam seems to have broad appeal. The current generation of far-right leaders (among them Heinz-Christian Strache in Austria, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Oskar Freysinger in Switzerland) wear new garb. They are younger and claim to be progressive while subverting the symbols and the struggles of the 1960s revolutions. And they are targeting Islam rather than Judaism. Then how can minority religions be protected in public space?

In liberal democracies, the fundamental rights of minorities tend to be protected from majority abuse by domestic constitutions as well as international covenants. But the jurisprudence of the court that safeguards this convention shows that not all religions are treated equally. In the March 2011 case of Lautsi vs Italy, the Grand Chamber of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the presence of crucifixes in Italian primary schools doesn’t violate the right of freedom of conscience of non-Christians. It was a success for the Italian government and 19 other governments that had urged the court to respect the national identities and dominant religious traditions of each of the 47-member states party to the convention. The court of European public opinion appears to be growing ever less tolerant. The possibility of equality among religions in Europe is still an open question.

(Virginie Guiraudon is a research fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research, France. The views expressed by the author are personal. This is part of the Religion and Public Space series in collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilisations and its Global Experts project)
© The Hindustan Times

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USA TO BOYCOTT RACISM SUMMIT

The US will snub the UN summit on racism being held in New York in September to commemorate 10 years since the controversial 2001 Durban Declaration conference.

5/6/2011- "We will not participate in the Durban commemoration," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "In December, we voted against the resolution establishing this event because we believe the Durban process includes displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we don't want to see that commemorated." President Barack Obama's administration told lawmakers of the decision this week, joining Canada and Israel in boycotting the event known as Durban III. The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said she was "gratified" by the decision. She said it would "like its predecessors ... no doubt be hijacked by extremists and turned into an anti-Western, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic hatefest."  Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said it was "an insult to America that the United Nations has decided to hold the Durban III conference in New York City just days from the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks". "We all witnessed how extreme anti-Semitic and anti-American voices took over Durban I and Durban II and we should expect the same with Durban III," she said. Israel joined the US in opposing the UN General Assembly resolution in December that convened the follow-up to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban. The resolution passed by 104 votes to 22, with 33 abstentions. The 2001 conference was marked by bitter disputes and walkouts over plans to include condemnations of Zionism in the final declaration. Nine governments - including Canada, the US, Australia, Israel, Germany and Britain - boycotted last year's Durban II talks in Geneva. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used the conference to launch a virulent attack on Israel.
© The Times Live

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Headlines 3 June, 2011

NEO-NAZI IDEAS NOT ILLEGAL, SPAIN'S SUPREME COURT SAYS

3/6/2011- Propagating neo-Nazi ideas is not a crime if they are not used to incite violence, Spain's Supreme Court ruled Friday. The court acquitted four neo-Nazis who had appealed against a three-and-a-half year prison sentence imposed by a lower court. The four, who had a far-right bookshop and publishing house in Barcelona, were charged with advocating genocide and belonging to an illegal association. Neo-Nazi ideas 'deserved a clear rejection' and should not be propagated by the authorities, but freedom of expression also applied to 'offensive and unpopular' material, the court said. Neo-Nazi ideas were illegal only when they clearly risked 'creating a hostile climate' which could lead to violence, the court said.
© DPA

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SILVIO SNUBBED (Italy)

Bad results for Silvio Berlusconi, but also for the main opposition party

2/6/2011- What could be worse for the euro than political instability in Italy? How about a government trying to buy popularity with higher public spending and/or tax cuts? That was the spectre conjured by Silvio Berlusconi after the local election run-off this week, when his conservative government lost control of Milan, his home city and an unassailable fortress of the Italian right for two decades. The main reason Italy has escaped the euro-zone crisis is that Mr Berlusconi’s finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, has curbed his boss’s easy-spending, populist instincts and imposed strict fiscal discipline. He has done little to get the economy growing (Standard & Poor’s, a rating agency, has cut its outlook on Italy from stable to negative). But Mr Tremonti has reassured investors that Italy can finance its huge public debt (almost 120% of GDP). Yet soon after the elections it became clear that Mr Berlusconi wanted to change fiscal policy. Asked what he would do if his finance minister refused to loosen the purse strings, he replied: “We’ll make them open. Tremonti doesn’t decide.” Later he made a statement reaffirming his confidence in Mr Tremonti. But this is his third such disclaimer in a month. The pressure on him to splash out is severe.

Milan was among 90 Italian towns and cities with run-off votes. Mr Berlusconi’s candidates took a beating. In Naples the opposition candidate won over 65% of the vote. The centre-right lost Arcore, the town near Milan where Mr Berlusconi has his main private residence and, it is alleged, held his “Bunga Bunga” parties. A trial in which he denies paying an underage prostitute to attend such a party resumed the day after the vote. The loss of Arcore was one of several that made these elections a personal calamity for Mr Berlusconi. Milan is his home city, from which he launched himself into politics 17 years ago, and the place he could rely on to back him in the darkest moments of his career. By putting himself on the slate of the outgoing mayor and declaring the election a national one, he turned it into a vote of confidence in his management of Italy. Two other things must worry Mr Berlusconi. One is that Milan is Italy’s bellwether: conventional wisdom has it that what the Milanese do today the rest of the country does tomorrow. Second, his Northern League coalition partners also took a thrashing. The loyalty of Umberto Bossi’s movement, which combines regionalism with populism and Islamophobia, is vital to the government’s survival. Its poor showing in the first round had persuaded many in the League that the time had come to sever links with Mr Berlusconi’s People of Freedom movement. The second round, in which the League lost control of the north-eastern city of Novara, will make that view more widely shared.

Some of Mr Berlusconi’s opponents hailed the results as a sign that his long ascendancy in Italian politics was drawing to a close. But that is to jump to conclusions. As the prime minister quipped, even his successful AC Milan football team loses sometimes. These were mid-term elections that produced typical mid-term victors. The new mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, was not the choice of Italy’s biggest opposition group, the centre-left Democratic Party, but of the smaller and more radical Left, Ecology and Freedom movement, led by the governor of Puglia, Nichi Vendola. The winner in Naples was a maverick former prosecutor, Luigi de Magistris, who ran for the anti-corruption Italy of Principles party, founded by another former prosecutor, Antonio Di Pietro. Not the least of the questions posed by these elections was whether they presage a shift not just on the right, but also on the left.
© The Economist

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SOFIA MOSQUE TURNS DOWN LOUDSPEAKERS AFTER INCIDENT (Bulgaria)

The volume of the loudspeakers at the Banya Bashi mosque in downtown Sofia will be turned down and one or two removed following a violent incident against Muslims praying outside the building.

2/6/2011- The agreement was reached during a meeting between the Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, and Bulgaria's Chief Mufti Mustafa Hadzhi. The mosque's board will also make every effort to limit the number of people who pray outside on the sidewalk by using the second level of the building which can hold 900 people, Hadzhi says. Tsvetanov explained no events are to be held from now on in the mosque's vicinity during the Friday prayer.
On May 20, supporters of the far-right nationalist Ataka party clashed with Muslims praying outside the mosque in downtown Sofia, leaving several people injured, including police. The party supporters had gathered to protest the use of the loudspeakers outside the mosque. The incident has led to an investigation into Ataka on suspicion of stirring ethnic and religious hatred. The Interior Minister said that six or seven individuals have been identified from video taken of the incident, and some are not from Ataka. They have all been interrogated, the minister explained, but the Prosecutor's Office has yet to request anything else. Bulgaria's former Tsar and Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg, wrote Wednesday in his personal blog that the incident is a disgrace for Bulgaria.
© Novinite

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MOLDOVA'S GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS REVOKING ITS FORMAL RECOGNITION OF ISLAM

Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat has pledged to review the recent registration of Islam as one of the country's recognized religions, Moldovan news sources report.

1/6/2011- Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat has pledged to review the recent registration of Islam as one of the country's recognized religions, Moldovan news sources report. Prime Minister Filat made the pledge at a meeting with Metropolitan Vladimir, the head of the powerful Moldovan Orthodox Church. The Justice Ministry registered the Islamic League in mid-March, after Moldova's tiny Muslim minority had tried in vain for years to obtain some kind of official recognition. The registration of the organization, led by Sergiu Sochirca, triggered a wave of protests from the dominant Orthodox Church. Last week, more than 1,000 Christians rallied in the country's main cities in protest, and this week a number of priests warned that they will stop mentioning the country's leaders in their sermons, which is common practice.

Vladimir assured the Prime Minister on May 25 that priests will continue to pray for the health of the country's leaders if the government revokes the recognition of Islam. Communists were also unhappy with the recognition of the country's Muslims. The leader of the Communist Party, former President Vladimir Voronin, pointed out that Moldova resisted the construction of mosques when it was part of the Ottoman Empire and must continue to do so today. (He failed to mention that Moldova was never actually part of the Ottoman Empire. It had a status of suzerainty, which allowed it considerable control over its domestic affairs. Mosques were not built there because the Sultans themselves banned the construction of mosques, the forced conversion to Islam of the populations, or the settling of Turks in the region. Moldova paid a tribute to Istanbul for that.)

In spite of the protests, former Justice Minister Alexandru Tanase, who approved the Islamic League's application and who has since stepped down to take a seat on the Constitutional Court, says there is no justification for denying recognition to Muslims. "Islam is not a sect. It is one of the world's three major religions. There is no country in the world that does not recognize the rights of Muslims," Tanase says. "Our own constitution guarantees freedom of religion to everybody. And the people who applied for registration by the Justice Ministry have fulfilled all the legal requirements." Because of past repression, even the size of Moldova's Muslim community is not known. There are some 2,000 officially registered Muslims among the country's approximately 3.4 million people. But Islamic League head Sergiu Sochirca says the real figure is closer to 17,000.

"When my wife and I applied for new passports and wanted to write 'Muslim' in the 'religion' space, we saw that it had already been filled in as 'Christian.' I told the police officers we were Muslim, and they ignored me," Sochirca said. "They said they can't write in 'Muslim,' that they register everyone as Christian, and that's all there is to it." For the time being, the Muslims are pleased that the government has finally recognized them and that Muslims in the nation's capitol Chisinau can worship freely. Someday, they hope they might even be able to build a mosque. "Now we have a prayer room and for us this is our mosque. As for building a mosque in accordance with Islamic norms, with a minaret and all, maybe it is not the right time now, not now," a local worshhipper Ismail Wahab Wahab said.
© ABNA

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COUNCIL OF EUROPE’S ANTI-RACISM COMMISSION REPORT ON CYPRUS

The disproportionately high concentration of Turkish Cypriot and Roma pupils in particular schools and the continued vulnerability of foreign domestic workers, were some issues of concern for the Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission.

1/6/2011-The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published on Tuesday its fourth report on Cyprus. The report notes that Cyprus has established a comprehensive legal framework for safeguarding equality and combating discrimination. The Independent Authority for the Investigation of Complaints and Allegations concerning the Police has been set up and the Observatory against Violence records and analyses episodes of violence in schools and assesses incidents of a racist nature. Measures in favour of Turkish Cypriots have been taken, including a law adopted in 2006 allowing Turkish Cypriot residents to vote and be elected in parliamentary, municipal and community elections and to vote in presidential elections. However, Cyprus still lacks an integration policy and pursues a restrictive immigration policy, particularly concerning the granting of long term residence status.

In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations to the Cypriot authorities, three of which require priority implementation and will be revisited by ECRI in two years’ time. Cyprus authorities should take urgent steps to implement fully the programme Zones of Educational Priority, in particular in respect of the 18th Primary School, to ensure that the right to education is respected in practice, should revise their legislative plans to adopt a policy requiring third country nationals wishing to marry Cypriot or EU citizens to pass a premarital interview with the migration authorities before being given permission to marry. In addition, the authorities should develop further the Crime Report System and improve the court archiving system so that cases are classified also by subject matter and clearly indicate racist elements.
© The Famagusta Gazette

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COUNCIL OF EUROPE’S ANTI-RACISM COMMISSION PUBLISHES NEW REPORT ON SERBIA

31/5/2011- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published a new report on Serbia. ECRI’s Chair, Nils Muiznieks, said that, while there have been improvements, some issues of concern remain, for example the Law on Churches and Religious Communities and courts’ practice relating to racist crime. The Serbian authorities have adopted a law against discrimination and created a Commissioner for the Protection of Equality entrusted with monitoring compliance therewith. A Strategy for the Improvement of the Status of Roma, which includes measures in the areas of education, employment, displaced persons, personal documents, social insurance and social care, as well as healthcare, was adopted in 2009. The Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, established in 2008, is in charge of coordinating and monitoring the 13-step action plan established under the Strategy, as well as the application of the law against discrimination.

The Law on Churches and Religious Communities continues to discriminate between “traditional” and non-traditional churches and religious communities. Moreover, previously recognised minority religious communities have to re-register in what has been described as an invasive and burdensome procedure. The practice of courts regarding racist crime is problematic as there are few prosecutions and the sentences meted out are usually low, mainly consisting in very small fines. Roma continue to face high unemployment levels, discrimination in education and sub-standard living conditions. There have been evictions without prior consultation in and around Belgrade. The health situation of many Roma remains worrying and many of them lack identity papers. Very few measures have been taken to provide employment in the Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveda region where the majority of ethnic Albanians live; more than 70% of economically active people are unemployed there.

In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations, three of which require priority implementation and will be revisited in two years’ time:
# strengthen the institution of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality by ensuring that it has the human and financial resources to function effectively;
# strengthen the training provided to the judiciary on racism and racial discrimination, inter alia, to ensure better sentencing practices for racist crime;
# take immediate measures to ensure that all Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians have identity documents.

The report is available here.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI

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COUNCIL OF EUROPE’S ANTI-RACISM COMMISSION PUBLISHES NEW REPORT ON AZERBAIJAN

31/5/2011- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published a new report on Azerbaijan. ECRI’s Chair, Nils Muiznieks, said that, while there have been improvements, there are still concerns in some areas, such as the situation of unregistered religious groups and of persons seeking international protection. To simplify administrative procedures affecting migrant workers, a State Migration Service has been established and a one-stop service point for migrants has been set up. The authorities are also drawing up a Migration Code to consolidate the relevant legislation. Measures have been taken to improve refugees’ access to social rights and the authorities have begun working to remedy problems faced by stateless persons. Significant efforts have been made in recent years to improve the living conditions of displaced persons, as well as their access to other social rights. The authorities have also taken steps towards improving access to health care for persons belonging to vulnerable groups.

At the same time, some restrictive provisions and practices with respect to religious communities have been tightened and religious communities whose applications for re-registration are still pending are exposed to arbitrary treatment. There are reports of abuse by law-enforcement officials against members of minority groups and there should be an independent mechanism for dealing with complaints against the police. The rate of recognition of refugees is extremely low and no subsidiary form of protection is recognised in Azerbaijani law, leaving many persons who need it in a precarious situation. Migrant workers remain vulnerable to illegal employment practices and serious forms of abuse. Further measures are needed to remedy the difficulties faced by displaced persons in daily life. Finally, anti-discrimination legislation remains little known and rarely used, and the application of provisions of the Criminal Code regarding national security and the prohibition of ethnic hostility remains a concern.

In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations, among which the following three require priority implementation and will be revisited in two years’ time:
# swiftly complete the registration of religious communities and clarify the legal situation of communities still awaiting the final outcome in their cases;
# complete the process of adopting a Migration Code;
# establish a system for collecting data broken down by criteria coming within ECRI’s mandate, so as to detect and combat discrimination within the judicial system.

The report, including Government observations, is available here.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI

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HUNGARY FACING CRUCIAL CHALLENGES ON RACISM AND INTOLERANCE, UN EXPERT SAYS

31/5/2011- A United Nations human rights expert today urged Hungary to implement the international commitments and obligations that it has made towards tackling racism, xenophobia and intolerance. Githu Muigai, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, said crucial challenges await the Central European country on these issues, despite recent initiatives or pledges at international fora and treaties. In a press statement issued after he wrapped up a five-day visit to Hungary, Mr. Muigai voiced particular concern about the worsening situation faced by the country’s Roma minority. “They have been the most affected by Hungary’s difficult transition period from socialism to a market-based economy and they continue to face racism, racial discrimination and intolerance in the areas of employment, education, housing and health,” he said. Mr. Muigai also voiced concern about refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, and the discrimination and intolerance they suffer on a daily basis, particularly those in detention. “Immediate action is required to tackle anti-Semitism in Hungary,” he added, calling on the Government to be vigilant and to set up the necessary mechanisms to address the issue. Mr. Muigai also warned against a rise of extremist political parties, some of which have racist platforms, and he drew the Government’s attention to hate speech. “It is important to prevent such behaviour and ensure that those responsible for racist acts are held accountable and the victims provided with appropriate legal remedies,” he said. Mr. Muigai serves as an unpaid, independent expert, reporting to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
© UN News Centre

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YES, POOR WHITE BRITONS SUFFER DISCRIMINATION. BUT NOT RACIAL(uk, opinion)

'Reverse racism' or 'failed multiculturalism' are myths to deflect the real source of blame: an ever deeper economic rift
By Priyamvada Gopal


3/6/2011- As America's first black presidential couple were being toasted across Europe last week, a study released by Harvard and Tufts universities suggested that, rather than embracing a "postracial" era, growing numbers of white Americans see themselves as victims of discrimination. Progress towards racial equality is, they believe, "linked to a new inequality – at their expense" – a notion that the Tea Party movement has developed into a political platform. These findings resonate with a 2008 British government survey that suggested 29% of white Britons felt themselves to be discriminated against on grounds of race. Although Britain has no race-based quotas for education or employment, perceptions that ethnic minorities get "preferential treatment" at the expense of whites have gained traction. The statistics still show there are proportionately twice as many low-income ethnic minority households as white ones; and unemployment is much higher for black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

Myths of white marginalisation tend to be dismissed as rightwing bigotry, but the danger is that they can exert a wider appeal and stoke conflict, particularly in troubled economic times. Deployed by the BNP in impoverished Oldham in 2001, they fomented white rage and violence. On the 10th anniversary of the riots last week, a BBC Newsnight film showed that some white Oldham residents still believe that ethnic minorities get better schools and housing. The nonsensical idea that "racism cuts both ways" is peddled by the English Defence League, which has escalated violent campaigns of intimidation in the name of "indigenous" Britons. While the BNP has met electoral disaster and the EDL remains a street-fighting fringe, we must stay alert to the uses of "reverse racism" – which, along with increasingly acceptable anti-immigrant discourse, provides false explanations for worsening economic conditions. Most white Britons are not unthinking racists, so we must ask what accounts for the tendency to believe that migrants and ethnic minorities, rather than a blatantly exploitative economic order, are to blame for increasing unemployment and falling wages.

The answer lies less with the far right than the self-serving rhetoric of the political mainstream, which would have us believe that individual or cultural attitudes rather than systemic failures explain economic woes. We are exhorted to self-improvement through bland panaceas like "raising aspiration" and "greater community cohesion". It's easier for politicians to invoke an "aspiration gap" than to acknowledge an opportunity deficit. Or to insist that an ill-resourced social background doesn't matter if you work hard. That tired "social mobility" mantra emphasises piecemeal individual advancement over more fundamental steps towards fairness. This week it was reported that a token handful of the brightest youth with parental income under £26,000 will be given "highly selective" admission to a new east London college to enable them to go to top universities, while primary schools face cuts. Even this minimal proposal elicited the victimised headline: "Middle class excluded from elite school."

Race and class are pitted against each other when David Cameron denounces "separate lives" and "failed multiculturalism", now an influential cliche. Handily obscured in the process is an economic system that inflicts deprivation across ethnic communities. As the poor blame the poor, the culpable elite are shielded from legitimate anger. The truly worrying "reverse" action of our times is that which shifts responsibility for improving living conditions from government to citizens, a central plank of Cameron's "big society", endorsed this week by David Miliband. Even as the wealthy tighten their fiscal grip, the onus of "making change happen" is shunted on to the shoulders of the disempowered. It may be inspiring for a group of inner-city girls to be told by Michelle Obama that they need only believe in themselves and work hard to make it to Oxbridge, but this flies in the face of institutional realities stacked against the economically disadvantaged – particularly black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Britons, who are under-represented in top universities. Only 50 professors out of 14,000 across the UK are black Britons. These statistics point not only to institutional racism but also to the failures of an educational system skewed in favour of the economically advantaged, and which – through tripled university fees and creeping privatisation – has moved further in that direction.

Without redressing an economic system that enriches a minority by disadvantaging many, promoting social mobility through "aspiration" foments division, not cohesion. When some communities are accused of failing to integrate or receiving preferential treatment, the economic order of our times – with its obscene income differential between the top earners and the rest – is let off the hook. Britain is sleepwalking not into a failed multiculturalism, but to a profound and damaging economic segregation.
© Comment is free - Guardian

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ARE WE THERE YET? NICK CLEGG AND DAVID CAMERON AGREE TO DISAGREE (uk)

After AV it is now the issue of extremism and multiculturalism where the two men differ on the limits of tolerance

1/6/2011- Google Maps suggests it's a 754-mile drive from Munich to Luton. It's also quite a long journey between two political philosophies if social policy road trips are your minibreak of choice. On 5 February, David Cameron went to Munich and said "state multiculturalism" was dead. Condemning Islamophobia, he issued tough love. The rules of the game should change, he said, and the government's new counter-terrorism strategy should come down hard on non-violent, as well as violent, extremists. There should be tests for groups wanting taxpayer money. And, ministers could not appear on the same platform as extremists of any hue. Advisers cheered in the wings. At last their leader had gone where they wanted on terror, community, Islam, and being British. But Cameron and Nick Clegg had some dialogue over the nature of the speech, which remained unresolved when the prime minister delivered it.

On 3 March, Clegg went to Luton, a town associated with both the extremist Islamist al-Muhajiroun group and the far-right English Defence League. He said he disagreed with Cameron: multiculturalism that "welcomed diversity but resisted division" was to be embraced. The distinction between violent and non-violent extremism was an important one to be maintained. And, by the way, Lib Dem ministers would be appearing on the same platform as extremists. To persuade, he said, you needed to engage. New spiky Clegg. The speech was Liberal, distinct. Miraculously, at this point, the car journey comes to an end without tears. Instead there is a warm fellow feeling; some healthy principles are laid down on coalition government. For all the very public spats during the AV referendum it was actually over the issue of extremism and multiculturalism, a month earlier, that the two men had decided they could and would disagree. Those who questioned the effect that government at loggerheads would have on policy making were told that two would become one in the seamless creation of government policy. So this week, or next, will herald the publication of Prevent, the government's counter-terrorism strategy.

However, Prevent is running five months late during which there has been a quiet display of prime ministerial power to tame one of Whitehall's highest-profile civil servants. Charles Farr, head of the office of security and counter-terrorism, is the kind of character the Bond-infatuated prime minister might like to watch, prone on the couch of a Sunday with a leftovers sandwich. But Cameron and his advisers have viscerally disagreed with Farr, who believes that to get to the really nasty guys, you have to engage with the not-so-nasty guys. When, in Munich, Cameron said that working with non-violent extremists to help unlock the more violent ones was "like turning to a rightwing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement", he was talking to Farr. Farr has worried the troops so much that David Maclean, now Lord Blencathra, tabled a parliamentary question to ask which "outside people" had been involved in Prevent. By which he was interpreted to mean Islamists. Less formally, Cameron's advisers have been asking whether the Munich speech could become policy or whether Farr was just too powerful.

They think they have the answer now. A process of re-education for Farr has been conducted by Cameron and Theresa May, the home secretary. "Charles Farr isn't the bogeyman that some seem to want to believe he is," one official told me who had very definitely called Farr a bogeyman at the start of the Prevent talks. "I read somewhere," said another official, "that Charles had blown a gasket on reading the PM's Munich speech. I thought that was funny, because I was with Charles as he read it. He read it in front of me. No gasket was blown." Note, though, the close surveillance of their head of surveillance.

So next week's review should be Munich heavy. The government will make good Cameron's pledge to ban foreign hate preachers and will bring in a new link between extremism and violent extremism. Then there will be proper scrutiny of groups "to make sure they are effective, not extremist, and reflect mainstream British values".  Groups that have illiberal views on women? Well, they can't be banned, but they won't be worked with. Indeed, in general, the government will accept that it will have trouble banning groups and so won't get new proscription powers. As a plaintive parting shot, one of Farr's staff wonders out loud whether the government will be sensitive in announcing Prevent, suggesting the PM's language in Munich might have been unnecessarily aggressive. Whither multiculturalism? Prevent, say allies of May, was never meant to wrap up the unresolved government debate on multiculturalism. Instead that will be left to Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, and others in government.

For Lib Dems, there is an opportunity. But there is Tory trepidation. The cabinet subcommittee dealing with integration includes Lady Warsi, the Tory co-chair, who is more respectful of the multiculturalism derided by her boss. Oliver Letwin is in there, but he is a softly-softly, consensus-seeking politician. Andrew Stunnell, the junior communities minister, is the Lib Dem on the committee and he'll give short shrift to the Munich agenda – he decided to go to the Global Peace and Unity event that Tories banned their own ministers from attending for its Islamist links. Then there is Pickles. During his time as leader of Bradford council, he had to deal with riots in the city over Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses. He was also the councillor in charge of education when the headteacher Ray Honeyford penned a piece for The Salisbury Review attacking multiculturalism. Tories suspect lingering scars from that period, which could tip Pickles on to the side of the Lib Dems.
© The Guardian

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FAN BANNED OVER TWITTER RACISM ROW (uk)

A football fan has been banned from matches for life and is being investigated by police after allegedly posting racist comments on Twitter.

1/6/2011- Norwich City fan Luke O'Donoughoe, 22, had provoked outcry from fellow Twitter users, including media pundit and former Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace striker Mark Bright, following a post on May 27. His comment, which has now been deleted, was a response to the Canaries' signing of England under-21 striker James Vaughan from Everton. The ban is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. A spokesman for Norfolk Police said the matter had now been referred to officers who are investigating any possible offence. A club spokesman said that after an investigation it had stopped the fan from coming to the Carrow Road ground for life. David McNally, club chief executive, said no form of racism is tolerated. He added: "We have a zero tolerance approach to racism and those comments are not acceptable." Kick It Out, a national campaign for equality and inclusion in football, said it applauded "the proactive stance taken by the club". Mark Bright tweeted in support of the club's decision, writing: "Thank u very much Norwich City, just taken a call from them telling me @ODonoughoe is banned from the club." Mr O'Donoughoe, who held a season ticket for nine years until 2007, declined to comment. Before his account was deleted from Twitter he offered his apologies to Vaughan and wrote: "I know that some of the stuff I have said is wrong ... there are comments I should have thought about before I posted them."
© Wales Online

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UK ACADEMIC UNION REJECTS EU DEFINITION OF ANTI-SEMITISM

The UCU is institutionally racist, Board of British Jews charges; UCU claims definition designed to deflect criticism of Israel.

1/6/2011- Britain’s largest trade union for academics has voted to disassociate itself from the EU working definition of anti-Semitism, leading to accusations it is institutionally racist. The University College Union (UCU) passed the resolution at its annual conference in Harrogate in Yorkshire on Monday, claiming that the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia definition stifles debate and is used to deflect criticism of Israel The motion, raised by activists on the National Executive Committee of the union who in recent years have led on the call to boycott Israeli academia, maintains that the charge of anti- Semitism is used to confuse criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine anti-Semitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on university campuses.

The move has been condemned by an array of community officials and beyond, accusing it of being institutionally racist. The union has refused on comment on the issue or on the serious accusation leveled against it. The UCU has been mistreating its Jewish members over the last five years, “assaulting their identity, ignoring their harassment in the Union and refusing to investigate their resignations,” said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of British Jews. “Now UCU has gone further and simply redefined ‘anti-Semitism’ itself. UCU will actually campaign for other organizations to stop fully fighting anti-Semitism, and has changed its procedures so complaints from Jewish members will be treated with suspicion. “The truth is apparent: whatever the motivations of its members, we believe UCU is an institutionally racist organization,” Benjamin said.

Ronnie Fraser, director of the Academic Friends of Israel spoke against the motion at the conference. The union has crossed a red line, and “only anti-Semites” would disassociate themselves from the EU Working Definition and vote in favor of the resolution,” Fraser said. “By adopting this resolution today it confirms what I and my colleagues have said in the past, that until the UCU takes complaints of anti-Semitism seriously the UCU will continue to be labeled as an institutionally anti-Semitic organization which pretends to be committed to fighting anti-Semitism,” Fraser said. “What gives the UCU, a group of mainly white, non-Jewish trade unionists the right to tell Jews what is and what is not anti-Semitism? “Stating that the definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine anti- Semitism is itself is a trope – the Livingstone Formulation [named after former London mayor Ken Livingstone], which states that Jews deliberately and maliciously accuse critics of Israel of anti-Semitism in order to deflect and stifle legitimate criticism of Israel,” he said.

The World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) has also condemned the decision, saying that the definition of anti-Semitism is used on a day-today basis by the National Union of Students to combat anti-Semitism, as well as by every major British Jewish communal body. “The UCU has consistently shown a total disregard for the welfare of Jewish students over an extended period of time,” WUJS chairman Oliver Worth said. “WUJS completely rejects the assertion that Jews cannot be trusted to define the ways in which they feel discriminated against, and that the Jewish community is incapable of defining anti-Semitism. “The UCU stinks of institutional anti-Semitism, and as an organization that exists to protect Jewish students all over the world, we are deeply, deeply concerned,” Worth said. The incoming campaigns director of the Union of Jewish Student, Dan Sheldon, pointed said that the UCU has never used the Working Definition, nor has it ever proposed to start doing so. “If the UCU were merely guilty of ignorance, that could be understood and – through education and dialogue – resolved. If someone had proposed that the UCU adopt the Working Definition, and the UCU were to reject it, that would be the result of ignorance. Regrettable, but understandable. “However, the UCU has never used it, and nobody proposed that it should start doing so. Instead, UCU has decided, apropos of nothing, to condemn the Working Definition whilst offering no serious alternative. In doing so, they have singled out anti- Semitism from other forms of prejudice as something only they, and not the victims, have the right to identify,” Sheldon said.
© The Jerusalem Post

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U.S. WON’T PARTICIPATE IN DURBAN III, STATE DEPT. SAYS

The United States will not participate in the United Nations-sponsored Durban III conference this September, the State Department said.

1/6/2011- In a letter to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Joseph Macmanus, acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, confirmed that the United States would not attend the conference, which in its previous iterations has been a forum for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric. JTA obtained a copy of the letter. In November, the United States voted against a U.N. resolution to establish the conference. The following month, Gillibrand led a coalition of 18 senators in signing a letter to the American ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, urging the U.S. not to participate in the conference, scheduled for Sept. 21 in New York. The Durban III conference is meant to mark the 10-year anniversary of the U.N.'s World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, during which the delegations from the United States and Israel walked out in protest as the tenor turned increasingly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. "The United States will not participate in the Durban Commemoration," Macmanus wrote in the letter. "In December, we voted against the resolution establishing this event because the Durban process included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we did not want to see that commemorated." Gillibrand applauded the decision in a statement Wednesday. "I commend the Obama Administration decision to withdraw from this event," Gillibrand said. "We all witnessed how extreme anti-Semitic and anti-American voices took over Durban I and Durban II, and we should expect the same thing to happen with Durban III." The U.S. and Israel, along with seven other countries, boycotted Durban II in 2009, during which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a keynote speech assailing Zionism. In November, Canada was the first country to announce it would not participate in Durban III. Israel announced the following month that it would boycott the conference.
© JTA News

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RIGHT-WINGER RESIGNS OVER 'BLOOD AND HONOUR' TATTOO (Austria)

A right-wing politician has stepped down after a dispute considering a tattoo.

31/5/2011- Carinthian Freedom Party (FPK) Councillor Gerry Leitmann announced today (Tues) he informed Franz Felsberger, the Social Democratic (SPÖ) mayor of Ebenthal, Carinthia, about his decision to resign yesterday. Leitmann came under fire by political rivals for a tattoo saying "Blut und Ehre" (Blood and Honour) on his upper arm. Town Hall delegates saw the slogan when Leitmann turned up short-sleeved for a meeting last week. "Blut und Ehre" was the slogan and motto of the Nazis’ Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth). The term has been used by neo-Nazis and fascists ever since. Local FPK officials acknowledged Leitmann’s decision to step down over the controversy. They argued it was the right move to spare the party from suffering in reputation. Judicial experts said today Leitmann – who promised to have the tattoo removed – could be prosecuted for breaching the federal anti-Nazi mindset law. Citizens face fines and jail terms for spreading or supporting Nazi propaganda under the bylaw which is considered being one of the most stringent in the world.

The FPK was founded by former Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) members in Carinthia last year. The decision to set the faction up was preceded by a severe party-internal rift at the BZÖ which was established by late Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Jörg Haider in 2005. A growing number of BZÖ officials were unhappy with the liberal course of their party. They decided to create the FPK which is now cooperating with the FPÖ in the federal parliament in Vienna. The FPK currently forms a coalition government in Carinthia with the People’s Party (ÖVP) of Deputy Governor Josef Martinz. The southern province was the BZÖ’s stronghold before hundreds of members quit their membership to join the FPK. Polls have shown that the BZÖ could fail taking the four per cent hurdle into government in the next general election due to the lack of support in many areas across Austria it has been suffering from. The BZÖ garnered 10.7 per cent in the most recent federal ballot in 2008 when Haider celebrated a comeback as front runner. He died in a car crash a few weeks later. The FPK is headed by Uwe Scheuch and Carinthian Governor Gerhard Dörfler.

Meanwhile, the FPÖ is engulfed in an internal discussion over its future agenda. Party members backing chairman Heinz-Christian Strache want the faction to focus on a less harsh course considering foreigners to attract people who previously supported the SPÖ and the ÖVP. Far-right circles around third parliamentary president Martin Graf and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Andreas Mölzer are in favour of a strict anti-immigration policy. Mölzer recently appealed to Strache not to deny the party’s "roots." The FPÖ leader angered far-right FPÖ members by calling for his attendance at a controversial meeting of student fraternities earlier this month. Strache was set to hold a speech at the gathering in Vienna in which the groups deplore the German soldiers killed in World War Two (WWII). The event sparked street protests by non-government organisations (NGOs), representatives of the Jewish community in Austria and moderate and left-wing politicians as the far-right student fraternities claim Germany did not start WWII. The meeting traditionally takes place in early May to mark the surrender of the Third Reich. Holocaust survivors attend commemoration events at former concentration camps in Germany, Poland and Austria at the same time.

Strache claimed an urgent and top secret meeting with right-wing leaders from all over Europe in Italy would keep him from holding a speech at the event organised by the controversial student fraternities. The right-winger – who is member of Vandalia, a so-called fighting fraternity himself – did not give any further information on the meeting he attended instead of the Vienna gathering. Political magazines doubted that the meeting mentioned by Strache actually took place, while reports have it that he cancelled a request for police protection ahead of the WWII commemoration gathering in Vienna only hours before it started. Analysts claim Strache made a U-turn on the student fraternities’ event to avoid falling out with less radical voters. Surveys have shown that the FPÖ (17.5 per cent in general ballot in 2008) has a good chance to come first for the first time in history in the next federal election if the SPÖ-ÖVP government continues to exchange accusations for a lack of progress in urgently needed state reforms. Researchers have stressed that only a small number of FPÖ supporters have a far-right attitude, while the majority of party members think that way. Half of the party’s 32 MPs are members of far-right student fraternities.

The FPÖ looks back on a slew of strong performances in various provincial elections. The party did well after having suffered a bitter defeat in last year’s presidential election won by Heinz Fischer. The FPÖ nominated ultra-conservative Barbara Rosenkranz. The mother-of-ten garnered just 16 per cent although the ÖVP did not nominate an own candidate. The Greens and the BZÖ did not nominate anyone for the position either. Strache was reportedly willing to challenge Fischer – a former SPÖ MP and science minister – himself before the FPÖ’s far-right branch had the last say. Rosenkranz failed to convince young and modest voters. She was criticised for failing to disassociate herself from WWII era crimes. Polls held before Rosenkranz was nominated revealed that Strache had the potential to bag more than twice the number of votes she garnered – although his rhetorical skills are much weaker than those of Haider, his political role model and personal idol. Strache stayed away from many crucial election campaign events in the run-up to the presidential ballot in what was seen as a signal that he disagreed with the decision to pick Rosenkranz as the party’s candidate.

The FPÖ recovered well from the blow suffered in the presidential vote of 2010. The party has focused on attacking the government’s decision to assist debt-stricken Eurozone members Greece and Portugal. The FPÖ has not stopped hitting out at "immigrants unwilling to integrate" either. Especially Muslims have become a target of the party. Around 500,000 of the 8.5 million residents of Austria are Muslims.
© The Austrian Independent

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MALTA-ITALY MIGRANT SPAT GOES QUIET

31/5/2011- After the Italian media reported last Sunday that Italy intends to lodge a formal diplomatic complaint with the EU over what it says was Malta’s latest failure to rescue a boatload of migrants in distress, a spokesman from the Justice and Home Affairs Ministry reacted by commenting that the Ministry “has nothing to add to what it had already said in a statement issued on the same day.” The spokesman did not say whether Malta intends to lodge its own complaint to the EU to rebut to Italy’s accusations. Over the past few years, the two countries have regularly clashed in diplomatic disputes over search and rescue responsibilities over illegal migrants in distress at sea.

The latest spat occurred two days ago when Italy accused Malta of doing little to rescue 209 persons from a vessel in distress which was heading in waters close to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Minister Maroni was reported to have said that the boat was in Malta's search and rescue area and a potential tragedy was only prevented thanks to Italy’s intervention. However, the Justice and Home Affairs Ministry later rejected Mr Maroni’s argument, stating that when the Maltese Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC) got hold of information that a vessel loaded with migrants was in troubled waters, the boat was located 51 nautical miles south south-west of Lampedusa and 126 nautical miles southwest of Malta.

“Contrary to media reports,” the ministry said, “Malta coordinated this search and rescue operation in close collaboration with the Italian and Tunisian authorities. In fact, it was the Italian authorities which had asked the Maltese RCC whether their assistance was required in this case. The Italian assets eventually deployed from Lampedusa were in effect considerably closer to the vessel in distress and enabled them to be in a better position to effect the rescue operation in a timely manner. “Once again, Malta has adhered to all of its duties and international obligations.”
© The Malta Independent

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OPENLY GAY NEIGHBORS STILL AN ISSUE FOR MOST CZECHS

People in the Czech Republic are increasingly more accepting of gays and lesbians, but only two in five don’t see ‘coexistence’ as an issue

31/5/2011- A slight majority of Czechs said that coexistence with open gays and lesbians in their city or community created an issue, while almost two-fifths said that it did not. This attitude has held fairly steady since 2008, when the question was first asked in an annual survey by the Public Opinion Research Center (CVVM). In total some 18 percent of Czech respondents said that gays or lesbians coexisting with them in the same town or city would “certainly cause” issues. This was 2 percentage points higher than in 2010, but the same as 2009 and ’10. In addition, 36 percent in the most recent survey said that coexistence would “rather cause” issues. This was the same as in 2010 but down 1 percentage point from 2009 and 2 percentage points from 2008. In total for 2011, some 54 percent saw problems in coexisting with gays or lesbians. “Problems in coexistence with homosexuals … was particularly significant for those who are committed to the Roman Catholic Church (with 64 percent seeing problems and 29 percent not). In terms of age, problems in coexistence were more often seen by people over 60 years old, while people up to 30 years old increasingly believe that it should not cause problems,” CVVM analyst Jan Červenka said in the report.

The size of the community was also a factor, with people in villages with populations of 800 to 2,000 seeing the most problems. In Prague, the largest city in the Czech Republic, gay and lesbian people living openly was a “problem-free issue.” University graduates and people with a high standard of living also tended not to see any problems with coexistence, as did people with gay or lesbian friends. A majority of respondents— altogether 72 percent — think that gays and lesbians should be allowed to enter into registered partnerships. As for actual marriage, though, only 45 percent are in favor and 48 percent oppose it. “The lowest level of support is for the right to adopt children, with three-fifths (59 percent) of respondents holding a negative view. However the proportion of those who agree with adoption is not negligible; it is one-third (33 percent) of the population,” Červenka said.

Support for letting gay and lesbian couples adopt rose 4 percentage points from the previous year’s survey, while support for marriage dropped 4 percentage points and for registered partnerships it stayed the same. “In the longer term, we can see an increase in support between 2005 and 2011 for gay rights in all the examined topics,” Červenka said. The poll took place May 2–9, 2011, with 1,115 respondents above the age of 15 answering questions from a standardized questionnaire during a personal interview. The results were adjusted according to demographic models. Separately, a recently released report from the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago in the US came to a different conclusion, according to news agency AFP. It found that the Czech Republic was among only four countries — along with Cyprus, Latvia and Russia — where approval of homosexuality decreased between 1988 and 2008. Approval increased in 27 countries.
© Czech Position

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CZECH REPUBLIC: NEO-NAZIS TAKING OVER PUBLIC SPACES - THROUGH DANCE

31/5/2011- A new entertainment is spreading among Czech neo-Nazis, following the model of their Russian counterparts. In Ostrava and other cities, groups of neo-Nazis are dancing in public spaces to electronic music. Recently many video recordings have been posted to the internet of these dancing sprees. The phenomenon of "hardbass", which has been popular for some time among neo-Nazis in Russia, has now reached the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. Dozens of men wearing ski or wrestling masks have been filmed in Ostrava doing the comical, jerky dance not only in the streets, but also in shopping malls and in front of public buildings. News server Novinky.cz reports that one such group was ejected from a busy traffic circle by patrolmen after dancing there for several minutes and lighting firecrackers. In Ostrava-Poruba, security escorted them out of a department store, where their frantic dancing was bothering shoppers.

Experts in extremism agree that hardbass, a musical style from the Netherlands now embraced by radicals in Eastern Europe, is not an innocent entertainment, but involves ultra-right symbolism. The provocative street dancing, which Novinky.cz reports is being called "chacharbass" in Ostrava, is not a Czech neo-Nazi creation. "The inspiration came from Russia, where hardbass has recently been very popular. Dancing as a group with these disruptive movements symbolizes the dominance and unity of the extreme right and is supposed to terrorize the enemy," Miroslav Mareš, an expert on ultra-right movements, told the Czech daily Právo. Further proof of eastern inspiration is that the song the Ostrava neo-Nazis are dancing has Russian lyrics. One video filmed in Ostrava and posted to the web also shows the dancers giving the Nazi salute. "In Russia the ultra-right scene is very strong and Czech neo-Nazis see it as a potential partner in their struggle against Zionism. We have followed rather close ties between the Czech and Russian ultra-right recently," Mareš told the Czech daily Právo.

Dana Klišová, spokesperson for the Ostrava Municipal Police, said that on Sunday eight police officers had to intervene to remove a group of hardbass dancers from a traffic circle in Ostrava-Hrabůvec, where they were performing their choreography. "About 20 people played loud music there and set off pyrotechnics," Klišová confirmed, adding that the dancers had to immediately cease their activity. "One of them was fined CZK 1 000 for damaging a public space," she said. "We know a similar group is also active in the Poruba quarter, but for the time being we haven't had to address any incidents there." Miroslav Mareš believes most members of the Czech public will have no understanding for such excesses. "In the long term it evidently will not make them any more popular," he told the Czech daily Právo. The first online responses to the videos posted to the web seem to back his prediction.
© Ceske Noviny

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WILDERS’ PVV LINKS DRIVE OFFICIAL TO QUIT (Netherlands)

3/6/2011- Infuriated at the anti-Islam rhetoric promulgated by the Dutch far-right PVV party which has strong ties with the Dutch coalition government, a senior government official resigned and said she did not want to be a part of anything associated with the party. "The PVV describes 1.6 million of my fellow countrymen as fundamentalists who are threatening the rule of law," Annemieke Nijhof, a senior official with the infrastructure and environment ministry, told local NRC newspaper, Dutch News portal reported Friday, June 3. The far-right Freedom Party (PVV) of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders is the third largest in parliament and provides crucial support to the minority ruling coalition made up from liberal WD party and the Christian Democrat party (CDA). Although the deal saw Wilders’ party remain outside the government, it takes in exchange for a tougher line by the government on Islam and immigration from non-Western countries. Wilders himself faces charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Islam and Muslims through a series of offensive comments and a notorious anti-Qur’an movie. He has also called for banning the Noble Qur’an, describing the Muslim holy book as “fascist”. In 2008, Wilders released a 15-minute documentary accusing the Qur'an of inciting violence. Addressing judges before the Amsterdam regional court on Wednesday, Wilders demanded an acquittal on the charges, saying he was "defending freedom" in the Netherlands. The court will give a judgment on June 23, Amsterdam court spokeswoman Yndra Poel told AFP. If convicted, Wilders faces up to a year in jail or a 7,600 euro (10,300 dollar) fine.

Taboo
The government's approach against Islam and immigration left Nijhof with no option but to bow out. "It is becoming taboo to warn about this," she said. "I worry things will go downhill even more, and am very worried about the next election." Nijhof said Iraqi friends she has known for 15 years are now complaining about the more unpleasant social climate in the Netherlands. Finding it increasingly difficult to work under such hate-mongering atmosphere, she tendered her resignation. And she is not the only official to face this dilemma. Last year, a research by civil service magazine Binnenlands Bestuur showed 60% of government officials had difficulty with the involvement of the PVV in government. Muslims make up one million of the Netherlands’s 16 million population, mostly from Turkish and Moroccan origin. During last year's general elections, Wilders’ anti-immigrant party campaigned to "stop the Islamization of the Netherlands", and called for a ban of Muslims’ Noble Qur’an and on the building of new mosques. His party’s anti-Islam campaigns, however, have helped it make its biggest gains since Wilders has founded it in 2006. Wilders later managed to secure the support of a minority government for a deal that would see the new government seeking to ban the Muslim face veil and halve the number of Muslim immigrants.
© AFP

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ANTI-ISLAM LAWMAKER DEMANDS HIS ACQUITTAL(Netherlands)

2/6/2011- Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders on Wednesday demanded an acquittal on charges of racial hate and discrimination, saying he was "defending freedom" in the Netherlands. "Acquit me. I do not encourage hatred, I do not encourage discrimination," Wilders, 47, told judges before the Amsterdam regional court, broadcast on Dutch public television. The court will give a judgment on June 23 at 9:00am (0700 GMT) Amsterdam court spokeswoman Yndra Poel told AFP. Wilders, whose PVV party gives parliamentary support to a right-leaning Dutch coalition said: "I defend the character, the identity, the culture and the freedom of the Netherlands." He risked up to a year in jail or a 7,600 euro (10,300 dollar) fine for comments made in his campaign to "stop the Islamisation of The Netherlands" should he be found guilty.

The flamboyant politician went on trial last October for criticising Islam and notably likening the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf". He made the statements between 2006 and 2008 in Dutch newspapers, on Internet forums and in his 17-minute film "Fitna" (Arabic for Dissention) in which he mixes Koranic verses with footage of extremist attacks. "I am obliged to speak, because the Netherlands is under threat of Islam," he said, adding "Islam is opposed to freedom." "Mr President, members of the court, do not let the lights go out in the Netherlands," he concluded. Last week prosecutors also asked for Wilders' acquittal, saying that while his comments may have caused anxiety and insult, they were not criminal.

The Dutch MP originally went on trial October 4 but it ended abruptly after three weeks when the judges trying him were ordered to step down by a panel of their peers who upheld claims of bias by the politician. The trial resumed in March, with prosecutors again stating their position last week. Prosecutors initially dismissed dozens of complaints against him in June 2008 but appeals judges in January 2009 ordered that Wilders be put on trial as his utterances amounted to "sowing hatred" -- compelling an unwilling prosecution to mount a case against him.
© AFP

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WILDERS' TRIAL WINDS UP, VERDICT DUE LATER THIS MONTH (Netherlands)

1/6/2011- The trial of MP Geert Wilders on inciting hatred and discrimination charges wound up on Wednesday with the MP breaking his near silence to address the judges directly and call on them to find him not guilty. Wilders said he was in court because of things he says, had said and would continue saying. 'May have kept silent, but Pim Fortuyn did not, Theo van Gogh did not and I have not,' Wilders said. Populist politician and anti-Islam campaigner Pim Fortuyn was murdered by an environmental activist in 2002. Film maker Theo van Gogh was killed by a fundamentalist Muslim in 2004 after making a short film attacking Islam.

Western values
Wilders went on to liken himself to Dutch historical figures Johan de Witt and Johan van Barnevelt who were murdered in the 17th century while defending what they believed in. 'I am putting my life in the balance for freedom. Remaining silent would be betrayal,' news agency ANP quoted him as saying. 'If you find me guilty, you are finding freedom of speech guilty and the light will go out in the Netherlands.' The public prosecution department has already called for Wilders to be found not guilty on all charges. It was ordered to take the case to trial by the appeal court after a number of ethnic minority lobby groups pressed for legal action. Erik Olof, representing a number of those groups, told the court that there was a real threat of discrimination in Wilders' statements that the Koran be banned and that no more Muslims should be let into the country. The trial will formally close on June 9 with the verdict due on June 23.
© The Dutch News

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LAWYER: DUTCH ANTI-ISLAM POLITICIAN 'NEVER GOES TOO FAR'

30/5/2011- Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders often "went far" in his criticism of the Muslim religion, but he never overstepped acceptable boundaries, his lawyer said in court Monday. "He goes far, but he never goes too far," lawyer Bram Moszkowicz told the Amsterdam district court where the flamboyant politician faces hate speach charges. "He doesn't speak out because it's funny. He speaks out over the gravest danger facing our Western civilisation: an increased Islamisation," Moszkowicz told judges. "Acts of terror have been committed... with the Koran in hand, in London, in Madrid," he added, referring bombings in the two capitals. "If there's a threat, Mr Wilders speaks out about it," said Moszkowicz in the trial, broadcast live on Dutch national television's website.

Dutch prosecutors also last week argued for Wilders's acquittal, saying that while his comments may have caused anxiety and insult, they were not criminal. Wilders, the leader of the right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV), went on trial on October last year for criticising Islam and notably likening the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf". The trial ended abruptly after three weeks when the judges were ordered to step down by a panel of their peers who upheld claims of bias by the 47-year-old politician. The trial resumed in March, with prosecutors again stating a previous position that there was no case against Wilders as he was critical of Islam as a religion and not Muslims as a people, and therefore committed no criminal offence.

Wilders, 47, became notorious in 2008 by making a short film, "Fitna", mixing Koranic verses with footage of extremist attacks. The parliamentarian, whose PVV party gives parliamentary support to a right-leaning coalition, risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro (10,300-dollar) fine for comments made in his campaign to "stop the Islamisation of The Netherlands". Prosecutors initially dismissed dozens of complaints against him in June 2008 but appeals judges in January 2009 ordered that Wilders be put on trial as his utterances amounted to "sowing hatred" -- compelling an unwilling prosecution to mount a case against him.
© AFP

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GROWING JEWISH UNEASE (Netherlands)

Interview with Andrew Baker, personal representative on antisemitism to the OSCE Chair in Office.
By Wilfred van de Pol

30/5/2011- Anti-Semitism, says Rabbi Andrew Baker, is the weak spot of West. "As the war sinks into the past, old habits rear their heads again."
Jews in the Netherlands lack a basic trust in society. And that deep distrust does not just disappear, says Rabbi Andrew Baker of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). "The government must therefore do its best to win the trust." The American Rabbi Baker (1949) is regarded internationally as an expert on anti-Semitism. He travels around the world to gauge the current state of anti-Semitism everywhere. Besides his job as director of International Jewish Relations of the American Jewish Committee, he also acts as advisor to the OSCE. A few months ago, he also visited the Netherlands to see how the situation is with regard to racism against Jews. He spoke with prominent members of the Jewish community - which has some 50.000 members - and with politicians, including Home Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner.

Ritual slaughter
In a newly published report, Baker summarizes his findings and he also does a number of recommendations. The main ones: ritual slaughter must remain possible, concrete measures should be taken to counter the mass-chanting of hate slogans during soccer matches ("Jews to the gas'), and the Dutch government should take upon themselves the financial costs of extra security for Jewish buildings. Although he found the Jewish community in the Netherlands to be 'stable' and 'well integrated', Baker noted a growing unease. He is concerned about that. "Among the Jewish people I spoke with, I saw a lot of concern. Incidentally, I see that not only in the Netherlands, but throughout Western Europe”. “Also in other Western European Capitals Jews feel compelled to increase the security of their synagogues and buildings. It’s a sad thing. Ten, fifteen years ago we had not thought this possible. Anti-Semitism, that’s something of the past, we thought then."

Jew-hatred
That anti-Semitism rears its head again in Western Europe, Baker blames in particular – on the –largely- Muslim minorities, which quickly increase in size. As a second reason he sees the 'increasingly desperate' situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories. "Anti-Israeli sentiments are becoming more broadly based. These feelings do not automatically have to lead to anti-Semitism, but they can. We really need to be alert. Look, I'm having trouble with the Chinese regime, but that doesn’t mean that I will molest my Chinese neighbours. But when Israel invades the Gaza Strip, you see the number of anti-Semitic incidents skyrocket fast. "

Old habits
Anti-Semitism, says Baker, is the weak spot of the West.”It is difficult to face the less flattering parts of your history. The Dutch were not all heroes in the war. Most were opportunists and cowards. Only in recent years there has been attention for that”. And anti-Semitism in Europe - even in the Netherlands - dates from long before Hitler. It was even fashionable. After the war there was a taboo, but anti-Semitism was not thoroughly removed. As the war sinks into the past, old habits rear their heads again."

Distrust
Because of past the Jewish community in the Netherlands harbours a deep mistrust against society, observes Baker. "That suspicion is there. Are you surprised? Everything that there was for their sake: the bureaucracy, politics, police, suddenly turned against them during the war.” “To regain trust, you must do much more than just remain neutral, as the government does now. There must be some more effort. You have to give Jews special treatment. As a gesture, a sign of recognition. "
The current Dutch government, Baker found, has insufficient attention for this.”Minister Donner does not want to set more money aside for the protection of Jewish buildings. He also does not do that for other minorities, he says. In itself a reasonable position, but hey, those other minorities do not have the same history." ronically, how things really should be he experienced in Germany. "A few years ago I visited the leader of the Jewish community in Germany. His Mercedes was - at public cost - extra protected with bullet-proof glass. A police car followed him wherever he went. He looked at me almost apologetically, smiled, and said "This is for them, not me." In other words, it would be terrible for Germany if anything happened to me: a total disgrace. This attitude is what I miss the Netherlands. "

Such preferential treatment could have a counterproductive effect.
"Maybe, but I'm not afraid of that. It's not special treatment without a reason. History is there after all, and the Jews also did not want that."

Which other concrete steps could Dutch government take to win the trust of its Jewish citizens?
"Take the National Remembrance Day on May 4. There is no separate mention of the Holocaust during that ceremony. Jews feel ignored because of that. Other countries have a separate Holocaust memorial. It would be good if there also would be one the Netherlands. Such a measure is appropriate for you. You have a tradition of tolerance. You are even proud of this."

translation by Ronald Eissens for ICARE.
© Trouw (Dutch)

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ANTI-RACISM CAMPAIGNERS SLAM FINNISH COLOUR-CODED ID CARDS (Finland)

1/6/2011- European anti-racism campaigners have criticised moves by Finnish authorities to colour-code the country's ID cards, with bright blue cards for native-born citizens and brown cards for all foreign nationals, calling the new scheme "legalised ethnic profiling". The scheme, to go into effect from 1 June, aims to make it easier for border guards and police to distinguish individuals. Colour-coding existed previously, with the two cards a light blue and light pink respectively, but, according to the National Police, it was not easy for authorities to make the distinction. Minors are also now to be given purple ID cards. While the blue cards used by adult Finns can also be employed as a travel document throughout the EU and Nordic countries instead of a passport, the brown, foreigner card may not.

Although within the EU identity cards meeting a European standard can also be used by European citizens as a travel document in place of a passport, the European Commission said on Tuesday that there is nothing it can do about the matter as the issuance of ID cards remains a national responsibility. "We have no competence over ID cards. Anything to with passports, ID, how individuals are assessed to be citizens - it's all left up to the member states," EU justice spokesman Matthew Newman told EUobserver. While ID cards are not mandatory in Finland, anti-racism NGOs say that the scheme could deliver "legalised ethnic profiling". "Would blue be referring to the stereotypical eye colour of Finns and brown to the skin colour of foreigners? While there are so many colours available, such a choice definitely raises questions," Michael Privot, the director of the Brussels-based European Network Against Racism, a pan-European alliance of NGOs, told this website.

"More seriously, we question the argument put forward by the Finnish government with regard to the fact that different colour ID cards would ease control work," he continued. "Would this be a subtle attempt to legalise ethnic profiling by transferring facial identification to ID card colour identification?" ID cards are widely used for for other purposes, such as opening a bank account, age checks when buying tobacco or entering a nightclub. "This will probably raise unexpected discrimination in other areas of life such as access to services: people will have to show their brown ID card when they might not want to make their foreigner status known," Privot said. "Discrimination can also happen on the basis of your ID's colour and a simple glimpse at one's ID is often the starting point for unacceptable differential treatment."

As a result of the development, the group is calling for a complete EU-wide ban on "differentiating documents on the basis of legal status through the use of colour codes or any other implicit or symbolic means." Ismo Parviainen, of the Finnish National Police Board, rejected the idea that there was anything untoward in the new scheme. "This was part of the new card tendering and we wanted colours that were more distinct. We wanted to make the colours easier for police, to make it easier to remember and to distinguish what is not a travel document," he said.
© The EUobserver

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LEGAL EXPERTS: ASPECTS OF TRUE FINNS ANTI-RACISM DECLARATION WOULD VIOLATE CONSTITUTION (Finland)

“Positive discrimination” condemned by party commonplace in Finland

30/5/2011- A number of legal scholars in Finland say that a declaration by the Parliamentary group of the True Finns party against discrimination, racism, and violence contains elements that would go against the Finnish constitution, and would also be in violation of certain international human rights agreements that Finland is committed to. Kaarlo Tuori, Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Helsinki, sees the declaration as “very problematic”. Tuomas Ojanen, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Helsinki, denounces the declaration as “terrible”, and urges other Parliamentary groups to ignore calls from the True Finns to join it. “On the contrary, it should be condemned”, Ojanen says. Veli-Pekka Viljanen, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Turku, says that the implementation of the declaration would lead to a significant deterioration of equality in Finland.

The True Finns’ declaration includes the following sentence: “We condemn any discrimination or favouritism on the labour market, in education, or in other connections based on language, culture, religion, or similar factors.” In this, the declaration condemns racist discrimination as well as “positive discrimination”, or special treatment for members of a certain group as a way of rectifying an imbalance. “We have traditionally thought that to improve the position of women in society and in working life it is possible to implement special measures to this end. For instance, in certain appointments to civil servants’ jobs it is possible to deliberately choose a woman, thereby favouring a candidate on the basis of gender”, Tuomas Ojanen says. Another example involves language quotas at universities, where a certain proportion of places for study are reserved for students with a good knowledge of Swedish.

The Finnish constitution states that nobody should be treated differently on the basis of gender, age, origin, language, religion, political or philosophical conviction or opinion, state of health, disability, or other similar grounds without a valid reason. The government initiative that is linked with the part of the constitution in question notes that this does not impede positive treatment – that is, measures aimed at securing the position and conditions of a certain group. “Linked with the idea of equality is that groups in the weakest position in society can be supported”, Veli-Pekka Viljanen says. “Finnish legislation is based on this idea to a significant degree.”

“The idea of not allowing positive special treatment is blind on a societal level. Legislation can become indirectly discriminatory, if we think that there are no differences between groups”, Viljanen says. Tuori says that the Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee has often noted that positive discrimination is legal.
“For instance legislation on the disabled is full of special treatment”, Tuori says. Veli-Pekka Viljanen cites as an example of positive discrimination the various benefits enjoyed by war veterans.
© The Helsingin Sanomat

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LECTURERS BACK STUDENTS' RIGHT TO WEAR THE BURKHA (uk)

Banning religious clothing would discourage diversity in higher education, union leaders warn

29/5/2011- Students should have the right to wear religious attire, such as burkhas, in colleges and universities, lecturers will be told tomorrow. Leaders of the University and College Union (UCU) will pledge their support for the right of people of all faiths "to wear the religious head-dress and other religious attire appropriate to their faiths". The union argues that the move is essential to encourage participation in further and higher education among ethnic minority groups – particularly women. Delegates will also debate an amendment condemning what it calls "the alarming precedent" of a UK college prohibiting students from wearing the veil in college. Burnley College in Lancashire took the decision last year on security grounds. In 2009, it had also refused a student permission to enrol at the college while she was wearing a veil.

The debate comes on the heels of the French government's decision to ban the wearing of the veil in public – a move criticised by the union as evidence of increasing Islamophobia. Other countries, such as Austria, are said to be considering similar moves to France if the number of women wearing veils grows. "Anybody should be free to wear what they choose to follow their beliefs," said Alan Whitaker, president of the UCU. "That has been a principle of the union. We are a secular union but that doesn't mean we're anti-religion. "We're in favour of people's freedom to practise any religion they choose, and to be able to follow the customs of that religion – and that includes what clothing they wear." Delegates will cite as further evidence of Islamophobia the Swiss referendum decision to forbid the construction of minarets on mosques.

A further amendment, tabled by lecturers at the London School of Economics, says that "an important principle of education is to combat superstition and prejudice". The LSE lecturers stress that allowing people of all faiths to wear what they want would help to achieve this. The amendment adds: "People of all faiths, or of none, have the right to dress as they personally consider appropriate." Meanwhile, the conference was yesterday expected to back calls for a 24-hour general strike by public sector workers over the threat to reduce pensions. University lecturers look likely to join teachers and civil servants – both of whom are currently balloting their members on strike action – in a 24-hour stoppage on 30 June over the threat.

They are also being asked to back strike action over public spending cuts, which have already provoked one college to consider making 25 per cent of its staff redundant. In her address to the conference yesterday, Sally Hunt, the union's general secretary, warned that the UK risks becoming "yesterday's country, equipped with yesterday's skills" if spending cuts – which include the abolition of grants of up to £30 a week to encourage disadvantaged youngsters to stay on in education after 16 – continue in colleges and universities. "When you shut the door on opportunity for our young people you don't just waste lives, you waste money," she will argue. "When you weigh the cost of keeping kids on benefit versus giving them a chance in life, it is ignorance that is the expensive option, not education."
© The Independent

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SERBIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT BANS THE NATIONAL FRONT

2/6/2011- The Serbian Constitutional Court has made the neo-Nazi organization Nacionalni stroj (National Front) illegal, labeling its activities unconstitutional. According to reports by the B92 television station, the court banned the promotion of its ideas and any kind of group activity by its members. The court also tasked the Serbian executive branch with using its forces to ensure the verdict is implemented. The National Front is a semi-secret organization in Serbia with many adherents among extremists and violent football "fans". Their members profess anti-Semitic and militant nationalist opinions. In recent years they have committed many acts of violence and pogroms. Many of the organization's activists have been given lengthy prison sentences. Serbian Justice Minister Snežana Malović welcomed the Constitutional Court verdict. "The Nazi ideology is unacceptable to our democratic society and runs counter to our cultural and historical heritage," she said. National Front leader Goran Davidović was sentenced last year to one year in prison but fled to Germany. Authorities there apprehended the neo-Nazi, known by the nickname "Hitler", and escorted him back to Belgrade. Serbian football "fan clubs" are known to have neo-Nazis and other anti-Western extremists among them. The growth in their influence has been attributed to the economic crisis and high unemployment after the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
© CTK

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SERB NATIONALISTS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF RATKO MLADIC (Serbia)

Protesters in Belgrade chant slogans against president as ex-general denies responsibility for Srebrenica in message from son

29/5/2011- Thousands of Serbian ultra-nationalists have rallied in Belgrade to protest against the arrest and proposed extradition of Ratko Mladic, on charges of genocide. The protesters sang nationalist anthems and chanted slogans against President Boris Tadic, who ordered Mladic's arrest on Thursday. An estimated 3,000 riot police took up positions at government buildings and western embassies. The protests came as the 69-year-old former Bosnian Serb general denied, through his son, responsibility for the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, the worst atrocity Europe has witnessed since the Nazi era. Mladic's lawyer is fighting his extradition to the international criminal tribunal at The Hague on health grounds and said he would send the appeal by post to gain as much time as possible. A ruling is not expected before Tuesday at the earliest.

The protest rally in Belgrade was called by the Serbian Radical party, whose leader Vojislav Seselj is in The Hague also facing war crimes charges. The demonstrations were aimed at Tadic's government which orchestrated the manhunt for Mladic and his arrest at his cousin's house in the northern Serbian village of Lazarevo, after 16 years on the run. Vjerica Radeta, a Radical party official, told reporters the rally would be held under the title: "Co-operation with the Hague tribunal is a betrayal of Serbian national interests." Radeta said she did not expect riots as "members and supporters of the Radical party have never been in any extremist groups". The government deployed riot police in the capital in an effort to avert the violence that followed the arrest of the former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic two years ago, when demonstrators ransacked the US embassy in Belgrade.

Serbia's labour minister, Rasim Ljajic, who is head of a national council for relations with The Hague acknowledged that Mladic's arrest could cost the ruling party the next election. "We knew that a majority of citizens were against his extradition to The Hague," Ljajic told the Bosnian newspaper, Dnevni Avaz. "All polls showed it, including the last one we did about 10 days ago. It showed that 51% of Serbian citizens opposed his extradition and that 34% were for it." Ljajic said that far-right groups would most probably benefit from the discontent but he said the government had decided it was in the interests of Serbia, as it would bring nearer reconciliation in the region.

Meanwhile in Bosnia, about 3,000 of Mladic's admirers gathered at his childhood home in the eastern town of Kalinovik, and many also went to the shack where he was born in the nearby village of Bozanici, where relatives regaled them with stories of Mladic's childhood. In Belgrade, Mladic's son Darko, said that the ex-general had denied responsibility for the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995, despite the fact that he commanded the Bosnian Serb troops that over-ran the Muslim enclave. "He said that whatever was done in Srebrenica, he had nothing to do with it," Darko Mladic said after visiting his father in his police cell. "He saved so many women, children and fighters ... His order was first to evacuate the wounded, women and children and then fighters."

Mladic's lawyer, meanwhile, is fighting extradition on the grounds of his mental state, arguing he is not fit to stand trial. "It is impossible to talk to him sensibly about usual things, to talk about his defence case," the lawyer, Milos Saljic said. "Because he is really in bad shape psychologically."Saljic said that the former commander repeatedly demanded to visit the grave of his daughter, Ana, who committed suicide with one of his pistols in 1994. "He says if he can't go there, he wants his daughter's coffin brought in here," Saljic added. "His condition is alarming." A Serbian official said that there had been a provisional court ruling allowing Mladic to visit the grave, but that the security services would probably veto the decision.

Serbia's deputy war crimes prosecutor, Bruno Vekaric, rejected the suggestion there was anything wrong with Mladic's mental health. "He understands everything, he speaks about everything," Vekaric told the New York Times. "My impression is that there is no problem for a trial." A former Hague prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, said on Sunday she expected the arrest of the last Serb war crimes suspect still on the run, Goran Hadzic, who is wanted for war crimes allegedly committed when he ran a rebel Serb enclave in Croatia from 1991 to 1995. Del Ponte told the Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung that when she left the prosecutor's office in 2007 it was thought that Hadzic was in Serbia. Del Ponte said that Serb authorities had "concentrated on Mladic" and that now he had been arrested " Serbia will certainly be looking intensively for Hadzic." She says that if Hadzic is still in Serbia "then one can assume he will be arrested".
© The Guardian

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TURKEY REJECTED NOTE OF PROTEST FROM BULGARIA OVER CRITICISM OF RACISM

30/5/2011- Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arýnç has said there were racist attacks on Turks in Bulgaria and revealed that a diplomatic note of protest from Bulgaria over Turkish criticism on the treatment of Turks had been rejected by Ankara. Arýnç said he had condemned what he called racist practices at the hands of the Bulgarian authorities against Turks in Bulgaria in a speech about a month ago. “I repeat the same thing today,” he said during a visit to the Bulgarian Mestanli Culture and Solidarity Association in the northwestern province of Bursa, his election district, on Sunday. “That speech was criticized in Bulgaria, particularly by [far-right ATAKA Party leader] Volen Siderov. They wanted to deliver a note of protest but we rejected their note,” Arýnç said. Bursa is home to Turks who migrated from Balkan countries during the loss of the Ottoman territories in Europe between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The most recent arrival of Balkan Turks took place in 1989, when the communist regime in Bulgaria expelled approximately 300,000 Bulgarian Turks to Turkey. About one-third of these 300,000 Bulgarian Turkish refugees eventually settled in Bursa. Arýnç complained that racist attacks on Turks continue in Bulgaria. “Unfortunately, there are racist attacks in Bulgaria. ATAKA members are harming our people with their actions and words,” he said. Arýnç's remarks came after far-right extremists from ATAKA attacked praying Turks in Sofia earlier this month. The Bulgarian group, attending a rally staged by ATAKA near the Banya Bashi mosque, attacked the Turks to protest the use of loudspeakers by the mosque. Reports said several people were injured and several ATAKA supporters were apprehended by the police.
© Today's Zaman

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RUSSIAN CHURCH CONCERNED WITH CHRISTIANOPHOBIA

31/5/2011- The Russian Orthodox Church is concerned with the growing number of cases of persecution against Christians in the world. It calls on the world community to defend the rights of Christians. This was the main topic discussed at the meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church’s supreme body, the Holy Synod, which took place on May 30th in St. Petersburg. The meeting was chaired by the head of the Russian Church Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill. In an interview with the Voice of Russia, a spokesman for the Russian Patriarch’s office Vladimir Legoyda said:
“The Synod listened to a report by the Chairman of the Church’s Department for Public Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. The metropolitan was very concerned with the growing anti-Christian sentiments in the world. The meeting adopted a resolution which said that the Russian Orthodox Church has always condemned any manifestations of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other religious hatred.”

One of the latest examples of activation of anti-Christian moods is the unrest in the Egyptian city of Giza, where several Christian churches were set on fire and several Christians of the Coptic rite were killed. “Unfortunately, the number of similar incidents is growing,” said Vladimir Legoyda. “I think this is hardly incidental. One can speak of a growing trend for anti-Christian moods in several countries.” Christians may be discriminated against in diverse ways. In countries where Christians are a minority, their freedom is sometimes limited by bans on church services, on building new churches or inability to get theological education. In some countries, being a Christian means facing a risk of severe persecution and even a death penalty. However, even in some countries where Christianity is a traditional religion, Christians may face discrimination, sometimes under most absurd pretexts. One of the examples is the recent demand of the Italian government not to expose crucifixes and other Christian symbols in schools. And this happens in Italy, where 98% of the population position themselves as Christians!

The resolution adopted by the Russian Synod calls on all the people of common sense to condemn such cases of persecution. The Russian Church believes that to stop religious discrimination, a dialogue of governments and of religious and public organizations is needed. “Russia can serve as an example of religious tolerance,” Vladimir Legoyda said. “In Russia and other countries which are under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, diverse denominations have been coexisting quite peacefully for many years. We are ready to share our experience of tolerance with all who want to build a free and just society.” The Russian Church believes that to defend the rights of Christians, a better legal base is needed. Secular authorities must respect people’s right to confess any religion and protect the security of religious communities.
© The Voice of Russia

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GAY PRIDE GOES PUBLIC (Russia)

Moscow’s Gay Parade Once Again Falters as Experts Blame Police for Failing to Provide Enough Security

31/5/2011-  For the sixth year running, Moscow police disbanded the annual Moscow gay pride parade held in the Russian capital. There was hope among gay activists that with Moscow under new leadership, the parade might escape the fate it suffered under ex-mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who famously called the parades “satanic” and refused to sanction them. While the crackdown raised awareness of gay rights in Russia through the press, it seems that a successful (violence-free) gay parade in Moscow won’t be seen in the near future. Less than 12 hours before the start of Moscow’s gay pride parade last Saturday, Yelena Kostyuchenko, a journalist from the liberal newspaper Novaya Gazyeta, published a blog post titled “Why I am going to the gay-parade today.” In it, Kostyuchenko follows two threads – in one, she writes about her close relationship with her partner, a young woman named Anna, in loving terms, while in the other she rails out an invective against homophobic rhetoric on the Internet and promises that circumstances in Russia will change for the gay community for the better. “And this [change] is going to happen, you bastards, even if you split my head open with a baseball bat today.” Yelena’s predictions were accurate. She ended up in the hospital the same day after being attacked at the rally by anti-gay activists and suffering a serious blow to the head.

Russia’s unsanctioned gay parade barely got off the ground before it was shut down by riot police, who arrested close to 20 gay protestors, including several high-profile activists from abroad, along with nearly the same number of anti-gay activists. Heated arguments have broken out over the parade, which opposing groups call “propaganda” for the gay lifestyle, while LGBT activists see it as a means of harnessing tactics that have been effective elsewhere to promote gay rights. It is undeniable that the parade, which has been banned for the past six years and has been repeatedly disbanded by police, is a far cry from its Western brethren – often so few activists attend the event that journalists almost equal their number. Yet the parade remains one of the few yardsticks for progress on gay issues in Russia and the way the authorities handle it draws strong international condemnation every year. Part of the issue for the pride parade, said Tatyana Lokshina, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, is that parades and demonstrations as a protest format in Russia are compromised. “In Russia there is a huge problem with freedom of assembly as such. Not only for the LGBT community, but in general, civic representatives and political opposition are also experiencing trouble organizing demonstrations in large urban centers,” said Lokshina.

Difficulties in sanctioning demonstrations like the gay pride parade or the Strategy 31 rally, as well as small turnout, have raised the question of how effective a gay pride parade can be in Russia. In a comment for Snob magazine yesterday titled “Why We Need Gay Parades,” Masha Gessen compared the parades to the Stonewall riots in New York’s Greenwich Village in the 1960s, but it is clear that the Russian movement has not yet hit the critical mass it did in the West during that period. Opposition groups have also successfully labeled the parades as “provocations” that are disruptive to society and have provided the violence to back up those claims. Members of certain groups, such as the Orthodox Brotherhood, who were held accountable for the violence against Kostyuchenko on Saturday, are “well known” since they come to the events for several years in a row and beat up the protestors, said Maria Rozalskaya from the SOVA center, which monitors extremist groups in Russia. The police, as a result, have claimed they can’t run the events because they can’t guarantee the safety of the protestors. While eyewitnesses noted that police were indeed protecting activists from violent anti-protestors on Saturday, Rozalskaya argued that protecting the protestors is the duty of the police and that they are fully capable of providing a safe environment for the parades. “The government has the obligation to protect demonstrators from violence, and what we saw yesterday was simply a weak response to the problem of violence at the parades,” she said.

There was growing hope among activists that with the exit of Moscow’s ex-mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who famously referred to the parades as “satanic,” the parade would be sanctioned this year. This hope was further bolstered by an important decision made by the European Court of Human Rights last October that fined Russia for putting a blanket ban on gay parades in the capital. Yet Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin spoke out against the parade in mid-February, crushing hopes amongst gay activists for a renaissance in relations with the government. While Moscow still has not witnessed a successful and non-violent gay parade, Lokshina noted that important progress is being made by including the issue in the wider discussion of human rights in Russia. “Naturally if you compare the gay rights movement in Russia to the gay rights movement in Sweden, you would say that the movement is fairly weak and disorganized. But I would say that over the past few years, the movement has actually gotten stronger. There are an increased number of supporters within mainstream human rights organizations, for instance the Moscow Helsinki Group, and that’s an important step,” she said.
© Russian Profile

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US 'CONCERN' OVER VIOLENT END TO RUSSIAN GAY RALLY

30/5/2011- The United States voiced "concern" Sunday over the violent end to a gay rights rally in Moscow, and called on Russian authorities to better safeguard "fundamental freedoms" of assembly. "We note with concern... that a peaceable demonstration of Russians advocating for the rights of gays and lesbians, joined by international supporters, was forcefully disrupted by counter-protesters, and that Russian security forces then detained people from both groups," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. Russian security forces had also detained American citizens at the march, Toner noted. "We call on Russian authorities to work with municipal officials to find better ways to safeguard these fundamental freedoms" that members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are committed to, Toner said.

Moscow police on Saturday detained three global gay rights leaders, including renowned US gay rights activists Dan Choi and Andy Thayer, and dozens of Russians in a violent end to a rally that activists tried to stage near the Kremlin wall. The small crowd of young marchers was attacked by members of an ultra-Orthodox group who successfully lobbied Moscow to ban the event. An AFP correspondent saw security forces move in and wrestle activists and religious group members to the ground before detaining them. "Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right all members of the OSCE committed to, including in the Moscow declaration and as recently as the Astana summit," said Toner. "As nationwide legislative elections approach, constraints on the ability of Russian citizens peacefully to gather and express their views will be closely watched in evaluating the integrity of the electoral process," he added.



Organizers said three Westerners -- Choi, Thayer and French activist Louis-George Tin -- and most of 30 Russians were released after a few hours of detention. Human Rights groups have repeatedly condemned Russian police for being more lenient with nationalist forces than with demonstrators supporting minority rights and freedoms.
© AFP

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THREATS AND ARRESTS AT A GAY RIGHTS RALLY IN MOSCOW (Russia)

28/5/3011- Amid shouts from gangs of men and threats of beatings, police officers arrested more than a dozen gay rights activists, including a few foreigners, who attempted to hold a rally in Moscow on Saturday. Among the arrested were Dan Choi, an American Iraq war veteran and gay rights campaigner, and Andy Thayer, a Chicago-based activist, who were in Moscow to support the rally. They were later released. “Right ear ringing, small bleeding,” Mr. Choi wrote in a text message shortly after he was grabbed by several police officers and shoved into a police van. Other activists reported minor injuries from scuffles with the police and other unidentified men. The Moscow authorities, who rarely tolerate antigovernment demonstrations, have vowed never to allow Russia’s small community of gay rights activists to hold a rally in the capital, though similar events have been permitted in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. Last year, the European Court of Human Rights fined Russia more than $40,000 for its refusal to allow gay rights supporters to hold peaceful demonstrations in Moscow. This year’s rally was banned, nevertheless.

“The Moscow authorities have once again behaved like cavemen,” said Nikolai Alekseyev, the organizer of Saturday’s attempted protest. He said 18 demonstrators had been arrested. By Saturday evening, however, all had been released. The protesters tried to gather amid a group of journalists and police officers just outside the walls of the Kremlin. As soon as they unfurled flags and banners, the officers pounced, hustling the protesters into waiting buses. There were also several groups of men — some wearing fatigues and combat boots, though apparently unaffiliated with the police — who said they had come to disrupt the rally. Chanting “Down with Sodom,” one of the men tore up a photo of Elton John and jumped on it. “This is a protest against perverts,” said Vladislav V. Kuroptev, a member of Union of Orthodox Flag Bearers, a conservative Christian group. “It is a violation of our moral values.” Asked what he planned to do to stop the planned gay rights protest, Mr. Kuroptev said: “We are prepared to use all measures possible.” Several men attempted to kick and punch the gay rights activists before police officers could grab them. In some cases, it looked as if the police were trying to shield the protesters from the violence.

The police said they arrested 18 gay activists and 14 people involved in attacks on the gay rights protesters, though they seemed to do nothing to disrupt several groups of muscle-bound men with shaved heads from chanting slurs against gays.
© The New York Times

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GAY PRIDE LEADER SKIPS MOSCOW MARCH (Russia)

28/5/2011- Nikolai Alexeyev, leader of Russia’s gay rights movement, was conspicuous by his absence at Saturday’s latest attempt to stage a Gay Pride march in Moscow. The cast of defiant gay rights protestors, jeering far right counter demonstrators and grim-faced riot police was a familiar one, but Alexeyev’s unexpected absence left a big gap at the heart of proceedings. The absence of the key player in Moscow’s gay rights movement did not, however, diminish the drama and there was the usual spate of arrests. “There are eight of us here in this partition, going by the sounds I’d say there are five neo-Nazis in the next partition,” Daniel Choi, front man against the US army’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, told The Moscow News by phone from a prison van.

From a prison van
“Myself and Louis Georgestin [founder of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO)] were put in isolation and now we’ve returned,” Choi said. Georgestin, pictured above with Alexeyev at a press conference on Friday, gave a rendition of Toreador from Bizet’s Carmen that did not go down well with the guards. “One of the neo-Nazi arrestees acted as an interpreter to ask the questions, they were much more harsh and threatening to Louis [who is black – ed.] than to any of the other foreign protestors,” Choi said, listing some of the obscene language that had been used.

Lowered hopes
Anna Komorova, transgender activist and a Gay Russia organiser was also taken. Identifying as a man, Komorova told The Moscow News before the march that protesting for sexual minority rights was an uphill struggle in Russia and that arrests were inevitable. “Unfortunately in the current circumstances we can only go on to the street and unfurl a banner before it gets taken away, it’s all we can do,” Komorova said. Alexeyev’s absence may have disappointed those who did come to the march but he had injured his foot when he left a live TV debate in a fury on Thursday night. Choi said in a tweet that he was safe and in hiding.

Gay activists targeted
Official reports listed almost equal numbers of arrests among the ranks of gay activists and of right-wing protestors, “18 activists from the so-called gay movement were arrested and 16 opposed to holding the minority parade,” a police source told RIA Novosti. Choi and other high profile foreign visitors were arrested outside Alexandrovsky Sad soon after proceedings kicked off, along with the counter-protestors arrests who tried starting a fight. By the time those few remaining at liberty had moved up Tverskaya to City Hall police attention had moved onto gay rights demonstrators. A young woman was grabbed from the middle of an interview with reporters and bundled into a waiting police van, while right wing agitators walked around unimpeded. A middle aged man in the middle of a heated argument was likewise snatched up and marched away, his antagonist was left alone.

Word on the street
“I am against this Gay Pride march,” a young man in combats snarled. “Men should be men and women should be women,” he spat. Student Vladimir did not agree. “I am not gay but I came to support the march because civil rights are for everyone,” he told The Moscow News. And he does not see the march as rubbing a person’s sexuality in the public’s face, “If you want to change something then change it. You can’t just sit at home…The civil rights movement in America was a template for this. You’ve got to say ‘I’m queer and I’m here’.” Gay Pride marches has a place in tolerant societies too, he added. “It is like an inoculation, to stop things going backwards.” People do talk about the issue of homosexuality but there is still some way to go before attitudes ease, “In Russia calling someone gay is the greatest slur,” he said.
© The Moscow News

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EUROPE FACES CRISIS BECAUSE OF RISING ISLAMOPHOBIA, SAYS COE'S HAMMARBERG

Europe's point man on human rights warned that the continent is facing what he calls a “crisis situation” because of rising xenophobia and Islamophobia.

31/5/2011- Thomas Hammarberg, commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe (CoE), has said that “a lack of courage among the politicians to stand up and defend the values that we have agreed upon in Europe, since quite some time” is the reason why Europe failed to stem Islamophobia and xenophobia. “In this period of more than five years in which I have been in office, I have seen Europe facing a crisis situation. We have still not escaped it, it is still there,” he added. In an interview with the CoE's press service, Hammarberg underlined that “some politicians are not clear about human rights principles and the fact that we cannot accept xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism.” He went on to say: “This is seen by some people as legitimizing their prejudices, which in turn has unfortunately led to the growth of some extremist movements who feel that their position, their propaganda has actually been more or less approved by the leading politicians. So there is a combined crisis here when it comes to basic values, fear among the people and the lack of principled positions by the politicians.”

Hammarberg also lamented on European countries' failure to develop a sensible migration policy. “Unfortunately I have had to notice that there are problems when it comes to how Europe receives the migrants among whom there are quite a number of people who ask for asylum because they are in fear of being killed or tortured if they're sent back. I have had to conclude that Europe is still not able to have a refugee friendly policy towards the migrants and this is one of the major problems we have today,” he explained. The human rights commissioner noted that minority peoples tend to be afraid that they are not respected in society. “There is a fear also that as a consequence of the economic crisis, which hits large parts of Europe, the austerity budgets being proposed in parliaments will undermine the social rights and the standard of living for people,” he said, adding that “unfortunately the most vulnerable people are the most exposed here.”

He mentioned that the elderly, people with disabilities and one-parent families are facing grave risks because of economic challenges. “Quite a number of children are growing up in Europe today in poverty, which is of course a problem. This crisis situation has to be addressed. Unfortunately it also seems to have some repercussions in the attitudes that people show towards those who are different: minorities and people with disabilities, for example,” Hammarberg said. As for the track record of the CoE, the commissioner said that the organization has achieved a lot in the past fifty years, despite the remaining challenges ahead. “Perhaps the most important thing is that we have a wide recognition now that human rights are absolutely crucial. It's high up on the political agenda,” he remarked. Hammarberg emphasized that there is also recognition among even the wealthiest European countries that they too have human rights problems. That's a positive step.

As for the six-month Turkish chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe that ended in May, Hammarberg has praised it as “strikingly professional chairmanship.” “What I appreciate is that the Turkish government has avoided putting forward their own favorite projects and trying to convince the others about their positions. They have instead tried to see what the CoE should further discuss in order to be more relevant in today's Europe. So we had one discussion in Ýstanbul about migration, in particular on minors, young people who are migrating, many of them unaccompanied. We had a discussion about prison conditions, which is also a major problem in Europe, and we have had one discussion about racism. All of those are extremely important matters and I was very positive to the fact that the Turkish government used their chairmanship to promote these types of discussions, which are important for everyone,” he noted. The commissioner did not shy away from expressing critical remarks for Turkey, however. “I have a constructive dialogue with the Turkish authorities on respect for minorities and their rights, on the media and the need to secure media freedom and avoid that journalists and others who write are put in prison because of what they have written. The good thing is that there is a dialogue and there is listening on both sides and a serious discussion on what ought to be done. The downside, of course, is the fact that there are remaining problems,” he said.

His criticism was not limited to Turkey though. “I'm a rather critical person. I feel that no government actually in Europe today is behaving as it should when it comes to all aspects of human rights. It's very important to be aware of recognizing the problems and not to be arrogant when it comes to human rights, being more self-critical,” Hammarberg underlined.
© Today's Zaman

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JEWISH AND MUSLIM LEADERS URGE EUROPEAN UNION HEADS NOT TO PANDER TO EXTREME-RIGHT

30/5/2011- n Brussels, leaders of Islamic and Jewish communities from several European countries today presented a joint declaration to the presidents of the three main European Union institutions. Ahead of a meeting of European religious leaders representing all major faiths in Europe, Bosnian Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric and Brussels Chief Rabbi Albert Guigui handed the document on behalf of the 33 signatories to Commission President José Manuel Barroso, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. The declaration stresses that “Jews and Muslims live side-by-side in every European country and our two communities are important components of Europe's religious, cultural and social tapestry. Both Muslims and Jews have deep roots and historical experience on this continent.” It raises concern about “increasing manifestations of Islamophobia (anti-Muslim bigotry) and anti-Semitism in countries across Europe.” The joint declaration goes on to say: “Bigotry against any Jew or any Muslim is an attack on all Muslims and all Jews. We are united in our belief in the dignity of all peoples” and urges “all Europeans of conscience to put a stop to any group that espouses racist or xenophobic ideologies long before they are in a position to gain legislative or other power. We must never allow anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia or racism to become respectable in today’s Europe. In that regard, we call upon all political leaders not to pander to these groups by echoing their rhetoric.”

The signatories also declared: “We remember together the horrors that took place on this continent in the 1940s - a campaign of mass murder, unique in history, which resulted in the annihilation of one third of world Jewry in the Holocaust. That atrocity and others, such as the mass killing of Muslim civilians in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1990s, resulted from the triumph of racist and xenophobic ideologies that demonized those that they targeted.” This Europe-wide interfaith initiative – the first of its kind – was set in motion last December with the first Gathering of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders in Brussels. It is modelled on a similar cooperative effort in the United States organized by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. Co-sponsors are the European Jewish Congress, the FFEU, the Muslim Jewish Conference the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations and the World Jewish Congress.

EUROPEAN MUSLIM AND JEWISH LEADERS: JOINT DECLARATION ON THE OCCASION OF EUROPE DAY 2011
On the occasion of Europe Day, 9 May 2011, we the undersigned representatives of Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe have come together to make this joint declaration.

Europe is our common home. Jews and Muslims live side-by-side in every European country and our two communities are important components of Europe's religious, cultural and social tapestry. Both Muslims and Jews have deep roots and historical experience on this continent. Our two faiths and communities are an integral part of Europe: past, present and future. As Jews, Muslims, and as Europeans, we are deeply concerned about the increasing manifestations of Islamophobia (anti-Muslim bigotry) and anti-Semitism in countries across Europe. We are troubled by the growth of racist and xenophobic movements. We believe that individuals and organizations espousing such malign and hateful ideologies represent a grave threat to the fundamental European values of pluralism, democracy, mutual respect and cooperation.

In response to this growing threat, we Muslims and Jews resolve to work together to counter efforts to demonize or marginalize either of our communities. Bigotry against any Jew or any Muslim is an attack on all Muslims and all Jews. We are united in our belief in the dignity of all peoples.

On this Europe Day we remember together the horrors that took place on this continent in the 1940s - a campaign of mass murder, unique in history, which resulted in the annihilation of one third of world Jewry in the Holocaust. That atrocity and others, such as the mass killing of Muslim civilians in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1990s, resulted from the triumph of racist and xenophobic ideologies that demonized those that they targeted.

We wish to work together with all Europeans of conscience to put a stop to any group that espouses racist or xenophobic ideologies long before they are in a position to gain legislative or other power. We must never allow anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia or racism to become respectable in today’s Europe. In that regard, we call upon all political leaders not to pander to these groups by echoing their rhetoric.

We recognise that the issues of identity, integration, multiculturalism and immigration are complex ones which need to be addressed properly and in consultation with the minority communities in Europe. However there must be no tolerance for the demonization of entire faith communities.

We dedicate our efforts on Europe Day 2011 both to the memories of past victims of genocide and to our own children and children’s children. We take this stand today so that all the children of Europe will grow to maturity in friendship and mutual trust in a continent finally and blessedly free of hatred, fear and violence.

Signed by:
Imam Marzouk Aulad Abdellah, Professor of Islamic Theology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Rabbi Joseph Abittan, Chief Rabbi of Nice, France
Grand Mufti Dr. Mustafa Cerić, Interreligious Council of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, Drancy Mosque,France
Mrs. Ayse Cindilkaya, Vice-President, Council of Muslim Students and Academics in Germany
Mr. Serge Cwajgenbaum, Secretary General European Jewish Congress, France
Sheikh Prof. Mohamed El Sharkawy, Dean Al-Azhar College of Islamic Studies, United Kingdom
Mufti Izzedine Elzir, President Union of Islamic Italian Communities
Rabbi Raphael Evers, Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Dr. Mohamed Fernane, President Judeo-Muslim Friendship Association of the Alpes Region, France
Rabbi Herschel Gluck, Chairman Muslim-Jewish Forum, United Kingdom
Rabbi Marc-Raphaël Guedj, Chairman Roots and Sources, Switzerland
Chief Rabbi Albert Guigui, The Great Synagogue of Brussels & Europe, Belgium
Mrs. Aicha Haddou, President Belgian Women of Faith Network, Belgium
Mrs. Nadine Iarchy-Zucker, Chair of the Interfaith Standing Committee International Council of Jewish Women, Belgium
Mr. Mohamed Kajaj, Vice President European Council of Moroccan Clerics, Belgium
Dr. Moshe Kantor, President European Jewish Congress, Russian Federation
Sheikha Halima Krausen, Initiative for Islamic Studies, Germany
Rabbi Joseph Levi, Chief Rabbi of Florence, Italy
Rabbi Reuben Livingstone, Chairman Children of Abraham, United Kingdom
Imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, President Italian Islamic Religious Community
Dr. Richard Prasquier, President French Jewish Institutions Representative Council, France
Imam Fatih Şahan, Spokesperson Turkish Islamic Religious Union, Germany
Imam Dr. Abduljalil Sajid, Chairman Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony, United Kingdom
Prof. Anas Schakfeh, President Islamic Community of Austria
Rabbi Marc Schneier, President Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, United States
Rabbi Michel Serfaty, President French Judeo-Muslim Friendship Association, France
Mr. Ilja Sichrovsky, Secretary General Muslim Jewish Conference, Austria
Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, President and Founder, Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values, Netherlands
Rabbi Benjamin Soussan, Chief Rabbi of Baden, Germany
Dr. Maram Stern, Deputy Secretary General World Jewish Congress, Belgium
Mr. Benjamin Zagzag, Chairman European Union of Jewish Students, France
Mr. Mohamed Munaf Zina, Co-Chair of Muslim Jewish Forum, United Kingdom
Jewish Students Association of Austria 
Union of Muslim Students of Austria 
Federal Union of Jewish Students, Germany
Council of Muslim Students and Academics, Germany
© World Jewish Congress

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IS MULTICULTURALISM IN EUROPE DEAD? (opinion)

By Amanda Paul

29/5/2011- After the economy, the issue of immigration in country after country in Europe is affecting and influencing the outcomes of elections and usually not in a positive way. These days multiculturalism seems to be a dying policy among most European leaders who have for years seemingly encouraged separation and segregation rather than integration. This is a dangerous trend.

Indeed, a number of prominent EU leaders have been rather vocal on the topic. Last summer French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that multiculturalism was dead in France going on to crack down on immigrants. According to Sarkozy, those who come to France need to accept that they have to melt together into a single community, which is the national community, and if they do not want to accept that, they will not be welcome. Meanwhile British Prime Minister David Cameron slated the UK’s doctrines of state multiculturalism, stating: “We have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. …We even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.” His counter-part in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, gave her two cents worth when she announced that multiculturalism in Europe had failed amid a national debate sparked by a racially loaded bestseller written by German bank official Thilo Sarrazin that criticized Arabs. The main argument of the book was that Islam did not fit comfortably with Western values. The message coming out of Germany is that the country does not want to integrate into its culture Islamic values but rather to retain its own cultural identity, which those newly arriving should make greater efforts to adopt.

Furthermore the “Arab Spring” has sparked heated arguments and discussions within countries in the EU. Panic spread across Europe as tens of thousands of economic refugees arrived in boats (mainly from Tunisia) in Italy. Italy, not wanting to deal with them, pushed them on to France, an act that led to a massive debate over whether the EU’s entire borderless Europe “Schengen Policy” should be resconsidered and some border controls reinstated. It seems to be increasingly fashionable to question the concept of multiculturalism. By embracing the narrative of failed multiculturalism and championing the need for greater integration of immigrants, leaders such as those of France and Germany are executing a strategy of attempting to limit the discursive ground of the right-wing parties by widening their own scope. This has certainly been the case in France where President Sarkozy has jumped on the anti-migrant bandwagon, becoming almost as xenophobic and Islamaphobic as the leader of the far-right, Marine Le Pen, in order to garner votes in the 2012 presidential elections. Even less prominent leaders such at Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme have now joined the critics cautioning that multiculturalism divides and weakens society, hinting that it should be done away with.

While the inflow of immigrants presents a serious political and economic challenge, it is usually manageable unless certain red lines are crossed, such as lack of tolerance towards another race, religion or culture at the hands of immigrants. There is no universal agreement on the concept of multiculturalism, but the idea of tolerant treatment of others is clear and has been a cornerstone of modern Europe. Economic growth in Europe was not only a magnet to attract foreigners, but was also a significant consequence of their presence. Whenever we witness economic improvement, increased immigration usually follows quickly afterwards. However, on the flip side, migration and tolerance usually become the first victims of an economic crisis and downturn, as has been witnessed numerous times in history. What may begin as a simple lack of tolerance can quickly escalate into something far more dangerous? Furthermore, it is also difficult to eradicate extreme xenophobia once the seeds have been sown. It usually snowballs as has been the case in countries like the Netherlands, which has gone from being seen as a tolerant nation to one of the post racist and, in particular, anti-Muslim in Europe thanks to political figures such a Dutch MP Geert Wilders.

Unfortunately, for the time being the increase of regression in tolerance, austerity measures and frugality is increasingly leading to a mindset of nationalism and xenophobia across Europe which is being manipulated by politicians. This paints somewhat of a bleak picture. It can only be turned around if both sides begin to take greater steps to tackle the problem. Successful integration is a two-winged plane: While of course it is the job of the country concerned to implement successful integration, anti-racist and anti-discrimination policies, at the same time, immigrants that arrive need to understand that they must do more to integrate into their new country and that they simply cannot only cling onto the values and customs of the country they have just left. Immigrants also have their own obligations and must accept that they need to adopt the core values of European society: liberalism, secularism, gender equality, etc.
© Today's Zaman

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