LONDON: Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that Britain would hold only “a handful” of suspects under new anti-terrorism house arrest laws that are unique in Europe and have outraged rights campaigners.But his home secretary said a first target could be four British Muslims freed overnight after returning home from the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. Britain announced the new house arrest powers on Wednesday to replace the power to jail foreigners without trial, which the highest court, the Law Lords, ruled violated basic rights. But rights campaigners say the new measures – which would target Britons as well as foreigners – were even more draconian than the laws they would replace. Blair, in a television interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, sought to play down the likely impact. “It will not apply to anything other than a handful of people,” he said “I pay great attention to the civil liberties of the country,” he added. “But on the other hand, there is a new form of global terrorism in our country, in every other European country and most countries around the world. They will cause death and destruction on an unlimited scale.” The new measures would still require Britain to declare an emergency and suspend parts of the European Convention on Human Rights, said Ian MacDonald, a lawyer who quit in protest from a panel appointed by the government to protect detainees. “That raises the question of how long is an emergency,” he added. “Why is it that no other country which faces the same threat has done the same thing?” Natalie Garcia, lawyer for two of the 11 foreigners jailed under the old measures, said the new laws were no improvement. “It’s still total loss of liberty, and total loss of liberty without due process is exactly what the Law Lords ruled is wrong,” she said. “It used to be foreigners. It can be absolutely anyone now.” Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who announced the new powers, said the targets could include the four freed Guantanamo men. “The individuals from Guantanamo are British nationals, so there isn’t any power to do anything but what we’ve done (release them),” he told BBC radio. “That’s precisely the reason why I made the announcement yesterday that we need to have a regime to deal with UK nationals as well.” The four were the last of nine Britons who returned from Guantanamo Bay after years in US custody without charge. The Guantanamo detainees are widely regarded in Britain as victims of American injustice, causing political harm to Blair for his firm support of US President George W Bush. The decision by police to treat them as suspects on their return also angered Britain’s large Muslim community.
German officials are drawing up lists of hundreds of Muslims to be deported from the country under a new law making expulsions easier, the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel said on Saturday. Der Spiegel said authorities were already using their powers under an immigration law introduced this month in conducting an operation dubbed Aktion Kehraus (Action Sweep Out). The interior ministry declined to comment on the report beyond saying that deportations were a matter for Germany’s 16 federal states. Under new rules, potential deportees will not be able to use normal legal channels to challenge an expulsion order. A special panel of the Federal Administrative Court will be responsible, with no right of appeal. Der Spiegel said judges were expected to deal with up to 2000 cases a year. Clampdown Since the revelations in 2001 that Arab students who had lived for years in Hamburg led the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, Germans have questioned their liberal laws under which some suspects even drew welfare benefits. Interior Minister Otto Schily has suggested that evidence of training at an al-Qaida camp should be clear grounds for expelling a foreign national. Distributing videos calling for “holy war” could also be punished the same way.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has warned that racist crime in the country is rising because of the ongoing War on Terror. Figures published by the CPS and reported by The Indepnedent show prosecutions of racially aggravated offences have increased by 2,500 since race-hate laws were introduced in 1999. In the past two years, those prosecutions have jumped by more than 20 per cent. Last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions warned that a growth in race-hate crime and a sharp rise in the number of young Asian men being stopped by the police threatened to alienate Britain’s Muslim communities. The CPS said there was also evidence of inter-racial religious hatred crime. Between April 2003 and the end of March 2004, the CPS dealt with 4,728 racially aggravated cases and prosecuted 3,616 of them. The figures also suggest other cases are not being prosecuted because of difficulties getting witnesses to give evidence in court. The CPS has pledged to tackle race crimes more vigorously after a report by its independent inspectorate in May 2002 found prosecutors were wrongly reducing charges in more than one in four racist incidents. Charges of racially aggravated crimes were regularly downgraded to remove the race element, while in other cases prosecutors accepted defendants’ guilty pleas to the crime minus the racial aggravation. The conviction rate for all those charged remains high at 86 per cent compared to 85 per cent in 2002-2003. The breakdown of religiously aggravated offences mirrors racially aggravated offences. Public order was the predominant offence followed by assault, criminal damage and harassment. The majority of the charges were prosecuted in the magistrates’ courts. In magistrates’, crown and youth courts the overall conviction rate was 77 per cent on religiously aggravated charges and 86 per cent on all charges. (ANI)
The president of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Organizations, Mansur Escudero, gave his endorsement yesterday to the policy to allow gay marriage. However, he protested to the executive who also regulates polygamy as a marriage option, which is allowed in countries where the Islam is the majority religion. Escudero says that the question already was broached in 1992, when the agreement of cooperation between Islam and the Spanish government was negotiated. One of the warnings contained in the report approved yesterday by the CGPJ is therefore coming true, that it is now possible that other minority groups also want to see legalized in Spain their particular forms of coexistence.
The establishment of a political party to represent Muslims in the Netherlands is as welcome as it is overdue. But it also entails very real risks. The announcement by columnist Mohammed Jabri that moves are afoot to launch a political party for Dutch Muslims by the beginning of summer should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed events in the Netherlands in recent years. The Muslim Democratic Party (MDP) could be a real force for good if it plays a positive role. It should forthrightly defend aspects of Muslim life that are worth defending; help spread understanding and acceptance of Muslims among the native Dutch and vice versa; and perhaps most importantly, expose as a lie the convenient myth that Muslims are the root of all that is wrong or bad in the Netherlands today. On the other hand, if the MDP fails to get off the ground, embroils itself in extremist rhetoric or suffers the internal disputes that have set the anti-immigration LPF on the way to an agonisingly slow self-destruction, the consequences would be terrible. Politics would be seen by many in the Muslim community as a dead-end, leaving imams and radical thugs to represent the community. Already there are daily reports of young Muslim men – a minority, but an active one – in the major cities who look on the native Dutch as the enemy and fair game for crimes of theft. It is common for unveiled women, both Muslim and native Dutch, in parts of Amsterdam to be branded “whores” and “sluts” by self-righteous Muslims. But giving Muslims a real voice on the political stage – and who knows, perhaps a seat at the Cabinet table – would go a long way to helping Muslims to look on Dutch society as their society also. A Muslim party would have real potential: there are an estimated one million Muslims in the Netherlands and the number is growing. Muslims and Islam are the topics of the hour as a decidedly one-sided debate rages about how far Muslims should be willing – and according to some critics, forced – to integrate into Dutch society. Islam’s chief Dutch critics in Parliament, Geert Wilders and Hilbrand Nawijn, are vying with each other for the title of “Champion of Liberal Democracy” who will lead a modern day reconquista to compel Muslims here to become Dutch or get out. There is no coherent voice on the Muslim side to represent the other side of the case. We hear daily from Muslim clerics who have rightly avoided getting into politics proper. And occasionally the Arab European League (AEL) issues a statement, but it seems to be more concerned about the situation in Iraq and the Palestinian issue than about what is going on in the Netherlands. Echoing the wider-scale tragedies in those parts of the world, the brutal murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh last November has brought home to people in the Netherlands the damage that even one wannabe martyr can inflict. The State security service AIVD has estimated that there are 100 to 200 extremists in the Netherlands prepared to use violence to defend Islam. But for all their apparent zeal, they remain an unrepresentative minority within the Dutch Muslim communities. And in turn these communities – Turkish, Moroccans, Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis and others – are seriously under represented in the Lower House of Parliament. The Muslims that have made the step into politics have done so under the banner of one or other of the main Dutch parties. Since their parties have been falling over themselves since 2002 to prove they can dish out tough love to Muslims, Muslims have not surprisingly lost interest. The need to balance the political scales was reinforced at the start of January when MP Nawijn – the first minister for Immigration and Integration from 2002 to 2003 – said that Muslim schools should be banned. None of the established political parties uttered any semblance of protest. Our erstwhile champions of liberal freedoms didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with Nawijn’s assertion that the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion should only apply to Christian and Jewish schools – because Dutch society, he said, was a Judeo-Christian one. He forgot to mention that until Indonesia got its independence from the Netherlands in the 1940s, Islam was the biggest religious group in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And Nawijn also went so far as to say integration was a waste of time, Muslims had to be made to assimilate. Again his colleagues in parliament didn’t bat an eye lid. He simply ignored the rights and views of the Muslims living here now. Instead, Nawijn – who is trying to ensure a political life for himself after the inevitable demise of the LPF – is flirting with the Vlaams Belang, the successor to the Flemish party that was banned in Belgium for being racist. Jabri and the others setting up the MDP have a right to be scathing about this sort of thoughtless anti-Muslim bias which seems to dominate present political debate in the Netherlands. But let’s hope the MDP chooses the high road and decides to play a positive role. To take the Nawijn-Vlaams Belang road might prove popular in the short-term, but ultimately it would be a dead end and everyone would lose out.
By AMIT ROY London: A growing number of young people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin have been so traumatised by the aftermath of 9/11 that they now prefer to identify themselves as “British Muslims” rather than as “British Asian”, a provocative BBC radio documentary claimed on Tuesday night. The programme on BBC Radio 4, Don’t Call Me Asian, was presented by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who began by admitting: “A few years ago I, too, would have described myself as a British Asian. But these days I am just as likely to say that I am a British Muslim.” He explained: “I remember that the reason I used Asian was because it offered less ammunition to racists than saying or admitting I was Pakistani.” In his quest to prove that others have also rejected the term “British Asian” and now want to be defined exclusively by their religion, Manzoor interviewed a number of young people. One man of Pakistani origin insisted: “I think the word Asian is dead. Recent events globally and for me personally have made me re-examine what my identity is and hence I call myself British Muslim. Previously I would call myself Asian or Pakistani.” When Manzoor interviewed young Hindus who apparently no longer want to be called British Asian, an Indian girl commented: “Initially, if I had to fill out a form I would say British Asian. Events like September 11 have shaken us all up and we don’t wish to be under that banner of Asian any more.” A young Bangladeshi woman at university revealed that she self-consciously tried out a hijab at home and then started wearing it outside. “I became more conscious of who I was and what I did and how that affected every area of my life,” she said. Aftab Hussain, who works for a theatre company, found himself quizzed by his non-Muslim friends, “Why does Islam say this or that?” He eventually found himself “having to go away and learn about my religion. It has made young people more proactive about being Muslim”. Mohammed Mamdani, the founder of Muslim Youth Helpline, told Manzoor: “Many young Muslims are in a very fearful state where they don’t know how they fit into a society which constantly refers to their religion in terms of terrorism or radicalisation. This is also propagating the marginalisation and alienation of young Muslims”. According to Tariq Madood, professor of sociology at Bristol University, media portrayal of young Muslims hasn’t helped. “If there are disturbances at Bradford and the BBC is describing them as ‘Asian youths’, Hindus and Sikhs will get up and say, ‘Well, actually, what is the point of calling them Asian youths when they are Pakistani Muslims?’ ” Madood went on: “People want to be more assertive of the identities that they themselves choose to prioritise and this is partly because they want to promote their own good image and partly to disassociate themselves from what they see as the bad images with which they are being confused.” Manzoor interviewed young people attending the annual conference of the National Hindu Federation in London, where a young woman told him that she was travelling on the underground when “I was asked by a young white male whether I was Muslim and whether my people were responsible for September 11. And I said, I am not Muslim and my people weren’t responsible for September 11. So going on from there I do want my own identity now”. But a more representative sample of young Asians, taken, say, at a music concert, would probably find only one out of 100 keen to be defined purely in religious terms. At Oldham College in a city rocked by riots over three years ago, a youth of Pakistani origin argued: “We are Asian and that’s what we are. I call myself British Asian.” Manzoor interviewed the academic Lord Bhikhu Parekh, who disapproved of the tendency for people to define themselves only as Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. “The tendency of a community to define itself entirely in religious terms and to collapse its complete complex identity – political, cultural and others – into a single, one-dimensional religious identity is a very worrying phenomenon,” he said. “No individual is simply a Muslim. He is also a Pakistani or an Indian, he is also a male, he is also a professor, and then for him to say, ‘All those things don’t matter at all, the only thing that matters about me is that I am a Muslim,’ is in itself worrying. That leads to a great impoverishment of an individual’s capacity to understand himself or herself.” “If somebody were to say to me he defines himself as a Muslim and therefore he sees me as a Hindu, I would feel he was not only impoverishing himself but he was doing a lot of harm by abridging my identity. It then becomes difficult to operate in a relatively secular society,” Parekh added.
LONDON, Jan. 6 (Reuters) – Muhammad joined the perennial favorites Jack and Joshua in 2004 as one of the most popular names given to British boys, a sign of growing ethnic diversity and a legacy of Muslim immigration decades ago. The Office of National Statistics said Thursday that Muhammad, meaning “one who is praiseworthy” or “exalted,” had moved up two places, to enter the top 20 for the first time. “It is all about demographics,” said Dr. Jamil Sherif, of the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella group of 400 organizations. “There are now more Muslims being born in Britain than previously. About 40 percent of Muslims here are under 25; there are a lot of young families.” Immigration from Asia and Africa surged during the 1960’s and 70’s and Britain, with about 61 million people, is home to about 1.6 million Muslims. But despite its increased popularity, Muhammad has a long way to go before it takes the laurels from Jack, which has topped the charts for 10 years. Joshua was No. 2, Thomas at 3, James at 4 and Daniel at 5. For girls, Emily held the top spot for the second year running, and Ellie was again No. 2.