A Muslim woman was spat at and racially abused in front of her children as they travelled on a train after an event in memory of victims of the 7/7 bombings. Michelle Idrees, from Luton, had on a burkha when she was targeted by a father and his two sons.
The vice-president of the European Commission Franco Frattini has said Europe can only respect Muslim traditions if they do not contradict the bloc’s own basic values, such as freedom of speech or equality between men and women. “We are not governed by sharia, after all,” he said in an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica published on Monday
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has defended the right of Muslim women to wear veils which cover their faces. It comes after House of Commons leader Jack Straw sparked a row by saying he asked Muslim women to take off their veils at his constituency surgery. Mr Prescott told the BBC he would not ask a woman to remove her veil, adding: “If a woman wants to wear a veil, why shouldn’t she? It’s her choice.”
The far-right British National party was yesterday accused of deliberately ramping up racial and religious tensions by launching a leafleting campaign with anti-Muslim messages, including controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The depiction of the prophet with a bomb as a turban was one of several images that sparked protests across the world earlier this year. The BNP’s move was criticised as a blatant attempt to reignite the controversy. Azad Ali, of the Muslim Safety Forum, said: “This is a deliberate ploy to create huge tensions … and it is adding to the isolation, fear and frustration felt by many people in the Muslim communities.” The BNP said the leaflet was part of a “coherent campaign to alert people to the Islamification of Great Britain”. It has produced another leaflet on immigration and a second on Islam, which describes the faith as “a threat to us all”. The leaflet was handed out in Sutton in south-west London. Politicians and community leaders said the BNP was trying to exploit a debate about plans to build a mosque in the area. Lal Hussain, a former Sutton councillor and the area’s first Asian mayor, said residents had been shocked. “This is not the sort of thing we expect round here but there is not a chance they will make any headway with these tactics. People here are far too literate and tolerant.” Nick Lowles, of the anti-fascist group Searchlight, said the BNP had run a concerted campaign designed to exploit anti-Muslim feeling since the London bombings last year. “Everywhere the BNP appears racist attacks increase and this leaflet will make it more difficult for Muslims and others to go about their day to day business without being threatened and intimidated.” The row began after a Danish newspaper, the Jutland Post, published cartoons mocking Muhammad. When a group of Danish imams travelled to the Middle East with the cartoons, the affair exploded into a worldwide cultural controversy. The BNP leaflet of Muhammad first appeared earlier this year. The party has also called on Muslims to be banned from flying into or out of the country. Yesterday Phil Edwards, a BNP spokesman, denied it was trying to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment and defended the “no-fly” policy. “Rather than inconvenience everybody we should ban all Muslims from flying in and out of Britain,” he said. The BNP gained 32 councillors in May’s local elections, including 11 of the 13 seats it contested in Barking and Dagenham, east London.
Radical Muslims in France’s housing estates are waging an undeclared “intifada” against the police, with violent clashes injuring an average of 14 officers each day. As the interior ministry said that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were “in a state of civil war” with Muslims in the most depressed “banlieue” estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin. It said the situation was so grave that it had asked the government to provide police with armoured cars to protect officers in the estates, which are becoming no-go zones.
A French philosophy teacher yesterday entered his third week in hiding after writing a newspaper comment piece calling the prophet Muhammad a merciless warlord and mass-murderer. Robert Redeker, 52, who teaches at a suburban Toulouse high school, this week won the support of famous French intellectuals including the philosopher Bernard-Henri L’vy, who warned that death threats against him were an attack on freedom of speech akin to the persecution of Salman Rushdie. But the case has divided opinion in France, with some human rights groups and academics condemning the death-threats but at the same time accusing Mr Redeker of deliberately writing a “stupid” and “nauseating” provocation.
Spanish villages are toning down traditional fiestas in which revelers blow up dummies representing the Prophet Mohammed for fear of offending Muslims, the newspaper El Pais reported on Monday. One eastern Spanish village, Bocairent, decided to abandon the custom of packing the head of a dummy representing Mohammed with fireworks after seeing the angry response by Muslims to a Danish newspaper’s publication last year of cartoons of him. El Pais found that several other villages in the Valencia region had also modified similar fiestas this year. It carried out the investigation after a Berlin opera house decided last week to cancel performances of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” because the production included a scene depicting Mohammed’s severed head. Bocairent’s mayor, Antonio Valdes, said blowing up the Mohammed dummy was offensive. “It just wasn’t necessary, and, as it could hurt some people’s feelings, we decided not to do it,” he said. The village may not have blown up the wood-and-cardboard Mohammed dummy this year — but it still threw it off a castle wall at the fiesta’s climax in February. Villages all over Spain hold annual festivals to commemorate the “Reconquista,” the reconquest of Spain by Christians from the Moors, which was completed in 1492 after more than 700 years of Muslim rule in much of the country. Spain is now once again home to a growing number of Muslims, mainly Moroccan immigrants, who villagers feel might be offended by some of their traditional celebrations.