NEWS - Archive October 2014

Headlines 31 October, 2014

Netherlands: Zwarte Piet to remain black in most towns and villages: survey

31/10/2014- Only six out of 211 local councils asked about their Sinterklaas parade plans this year say they plan to make changes to the appearance of Zwarte Piet, Nos television reports on Friday. The Zwarte Piet character, Sinterklaas’ sidekick played by white people in blackface make-up, is under fire from anti-racism campaigners. They say Zwarte Piet is a racist stereotype and needs to ditch the make-up. But while in some places the red lips and gold earrings have been dropped, the blackface make-up remains unchanged in most areas, the Nos survey found.

Soot
In Amsterdam, however, the traditional parade will include Piets with sooty smudges on their faces instead, reflecting Piet's trips down chimneys. In Gouda, Sinterklaas will be accompanied by cheese Piets and in Haarlem there will be flower Piets. Most places told Nos they are not making changes because there is no debate about the nature of Zwarte Piet in their areas. Others said they were waiting for the outcome of a court case or the storyline in the Sinterklaasjournal, the annual television series for young children ahead of the December 5 festivities.
The Dutch News

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2/3 of Dutch Mosques Attacked: Research

30/10/2014- Reflecting a worrying anti-Muslim trend in the Netherlands, a recent research on anti-Muslim violence in the European country has found that approximately 69% of mosques have experienced at least one attack or more during the last ten years. “I cannot predict a significant growth or decline of attacks against mosques for the near future,” researcher Ineke van der Valk, the author of the book ‘Islamophobia and Discrimination’, told OnIslam.net. “Many of these attacks appear to be a response to national or international events (like terrorist attacks) and obviously those cannot be predicted by me.” Focusing on the amount and characteristics of attacks on mosques, the Muslims’ houses of worship, the research closely monitor trends and development in relation to multiculturalism and Islamophobia for many years.

According to the research, the Netherlands has approximately 450-475 buildings that are in use as a mosque. It lists information of over 70 mosques in the country, indicating that approximately 69% of those mosques had experienced at least one attack or more during the last ten years. The most common attacks were smashed windows, followed by slurs or anti-Islamic comments sprayed with graffiti and arson. Other types of attacks include aggression against mosque personnel, amounting to death threats to Muslims in general or to a specific Mosque by email or phone. For example, a Rotterdam-based mosque received various letters with content like ‘Death to all Muslims’ and ‘Muslims are vomited pig-hallal’ [SIC]. Other mosques received envelopes containing pornographic content or messages that contain blasphe-my.

Other anti-mosque attacks included putting head or different other body parts or blood of either pigs or sheep at the buildings or on the terrain surrounding it. Relea-sed in 2012, Van der Valk’s book, Islamophobia and Discrimination, has since been translated to English, French, German and Italian. Muslims make up one million of the Netherlands’s 16 million population, mostly from Turkish and Moroccan origin.

New Attacks
Concerns about growing anti-Muslim attacks increased after the latest arson attack, which occurred a few days ago. On the evening of Sunday, October 26, a bag with rubbish was placed outside a mosque in the Dutch city Etten-Leur and set on fire but hasn’t significantly damaged the mosque that has been vandalized before. “I was not surprised by the news of this latest arson attack. Although we don’t know for sure what the motive was, in the light of the current international developments we can unfortunately expect to see these type of incidents,” researcher van der Valk told OnIslam.net. “Experiences with international terrorism abusing the Islamic religion are generalized to all Muslims. This is how racism operates.” However, many Muslims blamed biased media coverage and Islamophobic politicians for inciting such attacks.

A recent example is the political response from Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party to a statue of two woman wearing hijab and carrying an iPad. The statue is called ‘girl-friends’ and is part of a total number of forty statues in The Hague, showing the city’s residents. According to one member of the city counsel for the Freedom Party, the statue was a work of “shameless Islam propaganda” and proof of the “advancing Islamization of The Hague”. To make sure his stance was clear, he also referred to the statue as a “terrible object of subjugation and oppression” and an “Islamic monstrosity”. The sculptor, who made the statue, Tony van de Vorst, is a non-Muslim who stated he only aimed to show the multiculturalism within his city.

In one of the many previous anti-Islamic slur, the Freedom Party has also tried to blame Muslims for the growing population of seagulls in the city, claiming this was a result of “the rules imposed by Islam” because Muslims feed their old bread to the birds instead of throwing it away. This caused “suffering” to “native” (i.e. non-Muslim) people living in the city, according to the politician. With increasing number of attacks, in which only one third of perpetrators is caught by the police, the government was urged to take these threats more seriously. “The government recently seems to take these types of attacks more seriously,” says Ineke van der Valk, “thanks to both research and the lobby to put them on the agenda of politicians.” “Until recently these aggressive incidents were not recognized as serious problems and not much was done to prevent them from happening at all.”
On Islam

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Belgian Muslims Decry Islamophobia

29/10/2013- Living for decades in Belgium, a growing number of Muslim women have been complaining about being excluded from the society because of their veil, blaming recent anti-niqab law for adding to their turmoil. “I’m looking for a job … and here in Belgium there is a new law we cannot work with our veil,” Hind, a 31-year-old Moroccan woman living in Brussels, told Anadolu Agency. “We have to take it off to work,” Hind, who did not want to reveal her last name, added. Women in Belgium risk a maximum fine of 150 euros if they wear a full face veil in public. Belgium and France both banned the wearing of full veils in public last year. Belgium banned the wearing of face-veil in public places in 2011. In 2012, the Belgian Constitutional Court rejected appeals and ruled that the niqab, or face-veil, ban did not violate human rights. As a result on the new law, if any woman failed to comply with the law, she will be punished with a penalty of 137.50 euros ($195) and up to seven days behind bars in jail as a punishment.

For many Muslim women, the restrictions on niqab and even hijab resulted in excluding them from the Belgian society. “When you graduate from any studies and you want any job, they ask you to not wear it,” Esma, a 31-year-old Moroccan doctor who wears a traditional hijab, said. “It’s not allowed in many activities to wear the headscarf,” she said. Belgian Muslims are estimated at 450,000 – out of a 10-million-population – about half of them are from Moroccan origin, while 120,000 are from Turkish origin. Yet, a very small portion estimated to 200 to 300 of the country’s hundreds of thousands of Muslims wear the face veil in public. While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil. Scholars believe it is up to women to decide whether to take on the niqab or burqa, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women.

Islamophobia
The recent Muslim concerns were expressed during a Sunday rally protesting the mysterious death of a Muslim in his prison cell. Youssef Tahriki, a 42-year-old father of eight was arrested Sept. 14 after an alleged family argument. He was found dead in his cell the next day. Police have not revealed the details of his death, which is being investigated by the Charlevoix district attorney in Belgium. Tahriki’s death highlights rising tensions in a country in which Muslims say they feel stereotyped and discriminated against. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation, 614 racist and xenophobic crimes were recorded by law enforcement in the first six months of 2012. Sixty-six people were sentenced to prison for such crimes. Moreover, the recent atrocities committed by the so-called Islamic State (ISIL) have put Muslims under pressure of biased stigmatization of the whole Muslim community.

Elodie, a French-speaking Belgian who attended Sunday’s protest, said the Western media needs to change the way it portrays Muslims in the news and “try to under-stand that being a Muslim is not a problem for anybody.” Esma agreed, noting that those who leave the country to fight took such decision for feeling not accepted in the society they live in. Western media need to be more objective and talk to more people, Esma said. “They have to give the voice to the voiceless,” she said.
On Islam

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Canada: Islamaphobia social experiment leaves actor bloodied by man defending Muslim

A social experiment that ended with an actor posing as an Islamophobe getting punched in the face has shown that Canadians are prepared to defend Muslims in the face of overt racist abuse in the wake of a recent terror attack.

29/10/2014- In an attempt to test whether Canadians feel safe in the presence of Muslims following the fatal shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo by an Islamic extremist last week, director Omar Al-Bach conducted the experiment in Cirillo's home town of Hamilton to see how many people would defend a supposed Muslim from verbal abuse. At the start of the video, Al-Bach introduces two actors, "Devin" as an outspoken racist and "Zack" dressed in a traditional Islamic kaftan with a white cap. The video shows members of the public standing up for the victim – with one even prepared to punch the racist in the face after Devin accuses Zack of being a potential terrorist because of the way he looks.

Since it was uploaded 24 hours ago, the video has garnered nearly 300,000 views and the filmmakers went on Canadian channel Global TV yesterday to talk about their social experiment. The film begins with the two actors standing outside a bus stop. "Are you planning on taking a bus? I suggest you take another ride," Devin tells one bystander in the video. The man instantly defends Zack, telling Devin: "You can't stereotype and judge people by their clothes. Or their nationalities or anything else. "What happened there [in Ottawa] was an incident of fanatics. Everybody cannot be punished like that," he adds before becoming so concerned for Zack's safety that he pretends to be his friend.

"I'm sorry, but this is a friend of mine. I'm with him too," he says, adding "true Muslims do not believe in that sh*t, it's fanatics, it's crazy people."  "But he could be armed with explosives," argues Devin, to which the man exclaims "so could I!" And when Devin tries to escort Zack away from the bus stop, the travellers ask him to leave instead and warn they will call the police. In another scene, a woman hits back at Devin and argues while Corporal Cirillo's death was tragic "I don't think that's any reason to persecute someone just because of what they're wearing." When Devin accuses Zack of "looking like a terrorist," the woman shouts "f*** you man, what the hell?! Why would you call him a terrorist just because he's dressed like that?"

The film culminates in Devin receiving a swift punch to the face after telling Zack to move away from a nearby building as he "believed" he had explosives strapped to him. Another man who was defending Zack against Devin's inflammatory comments says: "Get the **** out of here bud. You're going to get ****** up." The actor then shouts "it's a social experiment!" to ward of his attackers. Devin addresses the camera at the end, with blood running down his face from his nose, to say that he "appreciates" that various members of the public stood up for Zack even though he got assaulted in the process. Al-Bach ends the film with a tribute to 24-year-old Cirillo. The funeral procession for the soldier was held yesterday with 4,500 people led by his five-year-old son Marco.
The Independent

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Spain: 'Swindler' Gypsies slam Spain's new dictionary

Roma rights groups are to protest against the decision by Spain's Royal Language Academy (RAE) to include a definition of a 'gypsy' as a 'swindler' in their new official dictionary.

29/10/2014- Spain's Association of Roma Feminists for DIversity (AGFD) are planning a demonstration in Madrid on November 7th after learning of the new definition, included in the 23rd edition of the RAE's massive new dictionary of the Spanish language. The previous edition was criticized by the Romani Union in 2012 for defining the word 'gitano' (gypsy), also the name for Spain's Roma community, as 'someone who scams or works through deceit'. As a result of the complaints, the RAE agreed to amend the definition but Roma community groups were outraged when they read the updated version. The offending definition had been removed but a new, 5th definition now described 'gitano' as meaning 'trapacero' (swindler). RAE's dictionary in turn defines 'trapecero' as 'From "swindle": deceptive and unlawful artifice used to harm or defraud someone in a purchase, sale or exchange.'

According to Spanish daily ABC, the AGFD described the use of the word 'gypsy' in that way as "obsolete" and added that it would fuel "a series of prejudices and stereotypes that already exist about our people". They claimed that the inclusion of the definition led them to believe that the RAE's directors "like it, given that they have agreed to legitimize it even though only in a linguistic sense". The association said that the definition's inclusion would help with the "manipulation, segregation and marginalization of an entire people and their culture." Spain's Gypsy Secretariat Foundation (FSG) published the 2012 and 2014 definitions on its website in an article lambasting the RAE's decision. "It must be noted that the gypsy community, both in Spain and across the EU, is one of the least valued social groups and one of those most burdened by old, negative stereotypes and prejudices, with serious discriminatory consequences in daily life," it wrote.

"We at FSG believe that it does not help to depict the Roma people and culture in such a negative sense in an educational reference publication as popular as the RAE dictionary," it added. The academy declined to comment on the issue to news agency AFP, but cited the introduction to its dictionary, which says it takes care to avoid "gratuitously slanted or offensive" definitions. It says it seeks definitions that reflect genuine "linguistic usage" and insists that language "reflects beliefs and perceptions that remain present in society". The new Diccionario de la Lengua Española (Spanish Language Dictionary) has a record 93,111 entries, including around 5,000 new words, many of which proceed from English or other languages, often filtered through the great world of variety which is Spanish as spoken across the American continent.

With new words ranging from 'birra' to 'yihad', the dictionary draws from the worlds or culture, politics and technology to provide a snapshot of the language at large.
The Local - Spain

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Foreign partners more likely to be jobless, isolated in the Netherlands

29/10/2014- People who come to the Netherlands to marry a Dutch national often end up without work, particularly well-educated women, according to a new report from the government’s socio-cultural think-tank SCP. At the same time, the percentage of foreign partners brought to the Netherlands by people from the Turkish and Moroccan communities has gone down sharply. In 2001, 60% of people with a Turkish origin found their partner in their country of origin but this has now dropped to 15%. In the Moroccan community, the percentage has fallen from 55% to 17%.

Careers
In particular, women who had good careers are likely to be disappointed with their experiences in the Netherlands, the report says. ‘The Dutch language often forms an obstacle and foreign qualifications are often not highly regarded,’ the report states. ‘Following an educational programme in the Netherlands can also be difficult: they are expensive and there is often no time because of the need to work or take care of a child.’

Russia
Twice as many women than men come to the Netherlands as marriage migrants. Native Dutch men are most likely to marry people from the former Soviet Union, Thailand, Indonesia, China and Brazil. Broadcaster Nos quotes the example of Russian national Sacha Swyatkyna who married Dutchman Jan Schuurman four years ago. Sacha, who had a good job in Russia, has been unable to find work in the Netherlands, even as a cleaner. ‘I’m getting depressed by all that staying at home. I want to talk to people, learn things,’ she told the broadcaster. Even offering her services as a free intern has not resulted in any takers. In addition, physical abuse, isolation and abandonment are issues which confront foreign partners, the SCP said. The report is based on interviews with partners and experts but does not include the experience of EU residents who marry Dutch nationals.
The Dutch News

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Russians re-write history to slur Ukraine over war

Vladimir Putin has turned the idea of fascism into a political tool, and now Russian historians are adapting to the Kremlin line.

29/10/2014- The trio of German historians, as well as a handful of their colleagues from Eastern Europe, flew into Moscow last week for what they thought would be a conference on the history of Nazi war crimes. It was the fifth in a series of international summits held every other year since 2006, first in Berlin and Cologne, then in Slovakia and Belarus, to keep alive the memory of the towns and villages destroyed during World War II. But the German co-chairman of the conference, Sven Borsche, began to feel that something was amiss in Moscow as soon as he met his Russian hosts. “All they wanted to talk about was the conflict in Ukraine,” he says. Even without the simultaneous translations provided for the foreign guests, they would have gotten the political message. The photographs shown by several of the Russian speakers put the atrocities of the Nazi SS right alongside pictures from the current war in eastern Ukraine. There is not much difference, the Russian historians suggested, between the actions of the Ukrainian military in its war against separatist rebels and the atrocities that Hitler’s forces committed during World War II.

“Right now, fascism is again raising its head,” declared Yaroslav Trifankov, a senior researcher at the state historical museum in the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine. “Right now,” he said from the podium, “our brother Slavs in Ukraine have been so thoroughly duped and brainwashed by their puppet government, which answers only to the U.S. State Department, that they truly have come to see themselves as a superior race.” This rhetoric—calling it an argument would overstate its relation to facts—has recently come into vogue among Russian historians. Under their interpretation of history, the struggle that began with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 continues for Russia today, in a direct line through the generations, with the conflict in Ukraine. That is the connection President Vladimir Putin first presented to the Russian people in March, when he sent his troops to invade and annex the Ukrainian region of Crimea. The Russian-speaking residents of that peninsula, he said in a speech on the day of the annexation, need Russia’s protection from Ukraine’s new leaders, whom he referred to as “neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.” Ukraine’s ensuing war to prevent Russia from seizing any more of its territory has likewise been branded a fascist campaign against ethnic Russians.

Practically every arm of the Russian state, from the education system to the national police, has since taken up this message. The state media have consistently painted Ukrainian authorities as “fascists” in the service of the U.S. government. In late September, Russia’s main investigative body even opened a criminal probe accusing Ukraine’s leaders of committing “genocide” against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. But the more recent involvement of the nation’s historians has marked a worrying turn in this endeavor. It suggests a willingness to reinterpret even the most sacred chapters of Russian history, as the venue for last week’s conference seemed to suggest. With the exception of the Kremlin’s gilded halls and, perhaps, the nearby tombs of Soviet leaders on Red Square, few places in the Russian capital inspire such awed respect among the locals as the Central Museum to the Great Patriotic War. Its curved colonnade stands on a hill near the center of the city called Poklonnaya Gora, which in rough translation means, “the hill where one bows in respect.” In the center of its inner sanctuary, the white-domed Hall of Glory, an enormous statue of a Soviet soldier stands with a sword at his feet; its sheath bears this inscription: “He who comes to us wielding a sword shall die by the sword.”

The vast rotunda, done up in marble and gold, would be something like the Temple Mount if Russian patriotism were a religion, while the official history of World War II that the museum embodies would be at least a portion of its scripture. By various official estimates, between 20 million and 30 million Soviet citizens died during the war against German fascists – more deaths than any single nation suffered in World War II – and the history of Soviet valor in that war still lies at the core of Russia’s sense of identity. But it has, like any dogma, proven malleable in the mouths of its contemporary preachers. “Nazism is again coming to us from Europe,” says Mikhail Myagkov, one of Russia’s leading historians of the Second World War and a professor of history at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where most of Russia’s top diplomats are educated. “The bacilli of Nazism have not been destroyed. Unfortunately, they have infected, among other countries, our brotherly nation of Ukraine,” he told a press briefing on the eve of the conference at the museum on Poklonnaya Gora.

The following day, in one of its auditoriums, Russian historians took the stage one after the other to draw an explicit link between the Hitler’s Reich and today’s Ukraine. None of them mentioned Russia’s military support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine or the encouragement they got from Russia in rising up against the government in Kiev this spring. Nor did the speakers dwell on the fact that the far right is hardly the driving force of Ukrainian politics. The country’s new President Petro Poroshenko is a liberal Westernizer with no links to Ukrainian nationalist parties, and the supposed popularity of those parties in Ukraine was exposed this week as a Russian fabrication; in the parliamentary elections held on Oct. 26, they failed to win a single seat in the legislature. But from the speeches presented at the conference in Moscow, one would assume that Poroshenko and his allies are all just resurrected Nazis in disguise.

As these speeches were translated for the foreign delegates, including guests from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, their faces turned gradually from confusion to disgust. Joerg Morre, the director of Berlin’s Karlhorst Museum, which focuses on the history of the eastern front in World War II, began to fidget in his seat. “I mean, to show the photographs of the Second World War and then switch in the next slide to what’s happening in Ukraine,” Morre told me during a break in the conference, “No way is that right. Now way!” Borsche, the co-chairman, agreed with him: “It’s polemical!” he said.

As the conference drew to a close, the two of them decided to voice their objections. Morre, springing from his seat, took hold of the microphone and told the hall that he did not agree with the final declaration of the conference, which had been written by its Russian organizers. Specifically, he took issue with the clause that declared, “Our generation is facing the task to deter [the] revival of Fascism and Nazism,” a thinly veiled reference to Ukraine, the German delegates felt. “It has become clear that we have different views on what fascism means today,” Morre told the hall in nearly perfect Russian. “Your point of view is not mine. So I call for this part of the resolution to be removed,” he added. “I do not want to sign it, and I am not the only one.”

After some noisy debate, the delegates agreed to put the matter to a vote. Practically all of the foreign participants raised their hands in favor of deleting the reference to a “revival” of European fascism. All of the Russian participants, including a large group of high school students who had been herded into the auditorium about 15 minutes earlier, had the clear majority in voting to leave the text of the declaration unchanged. So the hosts of the conference won out—a small but telling victory for the cause of Russian revisionism.

Outside the hall, Borsche seemed at a loss for words as he waited in the coat-check line. He had served as one of the initiators of the conference and its co-chairman, flying in from Germany for the occasion to discuss a shared history of suffering during World War II. But he says he had no idea that his Russian colleagues would use it as a chance to promote their political agenda against Ukraine. “That’s not correct,” he told me. If there is some lesson to be learned from the experience, it’s a familiar one, he said: “The more people are convinced of their own opinion, the more they become estranged from other opinions. That’s a real difficult problem.” And as Russia sets out to redefine what Nazism means, it is a problem that Western historians will somehow have to face.
Time Magazine.

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Russia: "Project Runway," Nazi Edition

"Aryan Girls" tries to design the best white supremacist logo for its Russian Facebook group 

27/10/2014- VKontakte (VK), Russia’s Facebook, seems to be a breeding ground for creative and looks-conscious Nazis. First the Nazis hold a Miss Hitler pageant. Then they launch a Project Runway-style search for the best Nazi designer. And now a VK group called Aryan Girls, which has close to 7,000 followers, is currently holding an online poll to decide on its new logo. The group is pretty much what you’d guess—women with interests in the White Power movement—and posts images and opinions such as: “A white woman shouldn’t be ashamed of her ancestors, their knowledge, their talents, her naivety [sic] and her own shyness. White girls are the cutest in their natural manifestations.” It also disseminates swastikas and other Nazi imagery along with Ukrainian nationalist statements. The page’s latest development is a logo competition wherein the winner’s design will be used as the group’s official avatar and eventually printed on T-shirts. Proceeds from the branded apparel will go to “prisoners of conscience,” or Nazi prisoners who these users believe are being wrongfully detained.

Despite the pro-Ukrainian imagery on Aryan Girls, VK data shows at least 60 percent of the group’s members are from Russia; one of the group’s leaders wrote on her VK profile that she was born there. This contradicts President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda war against pro-Ukrainians, where he called them Nazis and fascists to justify the Russian rebels’ presence in eastern Ukraine. In a statement to a Serbian newspaper on Oct. 15, Putin likened Nazism to a “virus” and said the “vaccine” of the Nuremberg trials and other denazification efforts of the post-World War II era were losing their effect. “The situation in Ukraine,” he said, “where nationalists and other radical groups provoked an anti-constitutional coup d’état in February, causes particular concern in this respect.”

If this group and Miss Hitler’s community, which VK shut down a few days after Vocativ publicized it, are any indication, Nazism is growing in Russia’s own backyard. The reaction from RT, a Russian state-funded cable and satellite channel, to Vocativ’s article on the Miss Hitler pageant illustrates an attempt by the Kremlin-backed press at portraying Ukrainians as evil by labeling them as Nazis. The RT story, which aired Oct. 22, pretty much denied that the Miss Hitler group was Russian and also said that if VK was Ukrainian the site might not have been taken down. “Hate is a problem in many countries. It’s how you deal with it,” the reporter said. “I’ll tell you one thing: The page was taken down because it’s a Russian site. For a Ukrainian, I’m not sure we could say the same.”

Well, Aryan Girls is not Ukrainian. It is clearly Russian-led, and the majority of its members are Russian. Yet it still thrives on Russia’s watch, along with 300 other pro-Hitler groups on VK. Nazis on VK even have a place to buy expensive Nazi jewelry. A page that sells gold and silver swastika pieces has over 20,000 members. Is Russia declining to shut down pro-Hitler groups such as Aryan Girls because it doesn’t want to draw attention to its own Nazis? The good news is, as long as Aryan Girls is still in business, you can browse the 20-plus entries for best group logo. And boy, are they trashy. Each one looks more like a Hot Topic sale item from 2007 than the next.
Vocative

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Russian actor who called for gays to be put in ovens banned from entering Latvia

A Russian sitcom actor, who had previously proposed burning all gay people alive in an oven, has been banned from entering Latvia to give a one-man show about religion.

27/10/2014- St Petersburg Times reports Ivan Okhlobystin was banned from entering the country on Friday over anti-gay comments. He was due to give his show about religion in Riga on November 7. Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics initially tweeted Friday night that he would issue the entry ban due to statements which he assessed “as ethnic hatred.” In a follow-up tweet he clarified he was referring to Okhlobystin’s claim last year about putting gay people in ovens. “I’d put them all alive in the oven … it’s a living danger to my children,” he was quoted to have said in December, going on to rant about “gay fascism”, and, calling gay people “faggots” and a “physical anomaly”, saying they should be stripped of voting rights. In January, he wrote an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, urging him to restore a Soviet-era law banning homosexuality.

Last week he also said that some victims of the Ebola virus were turning into zombies, explaining that he had heard of many cases in which those who died from the virus mysteriously came back to life several days later. He added he “was not joking” and said he had purchased a crossbow “just in case.” Responding to Rinkevic’s decision, a number of Latvian politicans endorsed the ban. However, Riga’s mayor Nils Usakovs said he felt “very ashamed” for the Foreign Minister. A federal bill banning gay “propaganda” was signed into law by President Putin last year. It prescribes fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under the age of 18 – ranging from 4,000 roubles (£78) for an individual to 1m roubles (£19,620) for organisations.
Pink News

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Christian Democrat leader Päivi Räsänen has said that she will not lead her party out of government over a citizen’s initiative to legalise same-sex marriage. She says a newspaper misinterpreted her remarks, which referred rather to any potential government bill to allow gay marriage.

26/10/2014- Päivi Räsänen, Finland’s Interior Minister and leader of the Christian Democrat party, has denied saying that she would leave the government if a citizen’s initiative to allow gender neutral marriage was passed by parliament. She was quoted by Turun Sanomat as saying that her party could leave government if gay marriage was legalised, but she now says that she would only leave government if the measure was introduced and passed as a government bill. The current attempt to bring in same-sex unions is a citizens’ initiative that received 166,000 signatures and is likely to be voted on by parliament in November. Räsänen says that parliament is free to decide on the matter and her party’s continued participation in government does not depend on the vote. However she notes that the government agreement stipula-ted that the cabinet would not drive through a bill to allow same-sex marriage. “We are keeping our side of the bargain and naturally we trust that our government partners will also keep to our agreement,” said Räsänen. “The government has to concentrate on vital questions about the Finnish economy,” said Räsänen.

Matter of principle
Earlier on Sunday it had looked as though Finland’s four-party coalition government, which has seen the departure of two parties from the original six-party lineup, could come under renewed strain if parliament votes in favour of a bill on gender-neutral marriage that’s due to come before parliament in November. Christian Democrat leader Päivi Räsänen said in an interview with the Turun Sanomat newspaper on Sunday that the issue was especially important to her party. “It’s a matter of principle and it could see us leave,” said Interior Minister Räsänen. Her government colleague, Defence Minister Carl Haglund, was quick to respond in a statement sent out by his Swedish People’s party’s press office.

"Finland needs responsible government"
“Finland is in an unusually challenging economic situation,” Haglund was quoted as saying. “Now there’s a need for responsibility, not political defections from the government. It cannot be that our country’s government’s ability to operate is brought into question just because of a principled opposition to a citizen’s initiative.” There have been several attempts to bring in a same-sex marriage law in Finland. The first to fail was a bill co-signed by National Coalition party MPs Lasse Männistö and Alexander Stubb, who is now Prime Minister—and therefore Räsänen’s boss. When that was rejected at the committee stage, campaigners utilised Finland’s law on citizens’ initiatives. That law means MPs have to consider a proposal that receives at least 50,000 signatures, and the proposal on same-sex marriage received 166,000.

Gov't MPs support gay marriage
The public support was not enough to get the measure through the committee stage, however, and the same Legal Affairs Committee voted against the bill once more. That committee will now prepare a consultation document, but recommend MPs reject same-sex marriage. A full sitting of parliament will consider and vote on the bill at the end of this year, most likely in early November. In February of this year an Yle survey found that majorities of NCP, SDP and Swedish People’s Party MPs said they supported gender-neutral marriage. All six Christian Democrat MPs, meanwhile, said they were firmly opposed to the idea.
YLE News.

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