Muslims warned about bogus beggers

A London Council is warning the Muslim community not to give money to beggars following reports that they are deliberately being targeted during the holy month of Ramadan. The religious festival, with its tradition of giving alms, is believed to have become a target for unscrupulous people, some of whom have even resorted to posing as Muslims by wearing prayer shawls and using prayer mats in the street. Westminster Council has put its network of City Guardians and City Inspectors on alert, particularly in the Edgware Road area and near mosques, after reports came through of the practice.

Cllr Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for community protection, said: “We’re extremely concerned that Muslims may be exploited during the holy month of Ramadan. It is both immoral and unacceptable for people to prey on the generosity and benevolence of the Muslim community at this or any time, and we would advise never to give money to beggars in the street, apart from begging being illegal, you can never be sure the funds are going to those genuinely in need. “For those who are genuinely homeless or in need of assistance the council, along with a number of charitable organisations, offers a wide network of services. There is absolutely no need for anybody to beg on our streets.” During Ramadan Muslims all over the world abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs during daylight hours, and use it as a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practise self-sacrifice. Although the Muslim community has a strong tradition of giving to charity, the giving of alms is even more significant during Ramadan with its focus on improving family bonds and friendships. Dr Abdulkarim Khalil, Director of Al Manaar, the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, said: “It is sad that anybody would seek to take advantage in this way and I strongly urge Muslims to give directly to recognised charities or their mosque so they can be absolutely certain their money is going to a good cause.

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Terrorists in Pakistan and UK linked, says minister

British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said here on Monday that there were connections between terrorist organisations operating in the UK and Pakistan. Threats to the UK had connections here, she said, adding that threats to Pakistan had been traced back to the UK. Ms Smith was speaking at the inaugural ceremony of a calligraphic exhibition held at the National Art Gallery.She said that the terrorist organisations represented a very small minority and were needed to be isolated and condemned collectively. She said Pakistan faced the major brunt and hundreds of its people died in suicide attacks last year. Many of the attacks had been against undefended targets and most of the causalities were innocent civilians. Ms Smith said that cooperation and dialogue between security agencies of the two countries were vital. Pakistani agencies have played a key role in important counter-terrorist investigations in the UK in recent years. She said that cooperation between the services of the two countries continued after the attacks in London in July 2005 and during the alleged operation to destroy airliners en route to the US in 2006. Ms Smith said she knew the new political set-up in Pakistan waned to do more. The UK had already provided extensive assistance to the Pakistani services. But, we will urgently consider what more can be done to further enhance our joint work, she added.

Terrorist leader helped prevent attack in Europe

Abdelkader Belliraj, the Moroccan-Belgian currently being held in Morocco on suspicion of leading a terrorist cell, helped the Belgian Security Service to prevent an attack in another, unnamed European country. As details come out, it appears that Belliraj lead a double life – having terrorism links, but also was a golden tip giver for Bellgian intelligence. Belliraj is credited with providing crucial information. It is not believed that his time in active political-terrorist activities and informant assistance were synchronic; however, information is still unfolding in this case.

2000 Iraqis could settle in UK

Under a _25m government programme around 2000 Iraqis may be flown over to the UK from next month to start a new life. Interpreters and other staff who have worked for the UK government are being offered a one-off payment or the chance to settle in the UK with their family. About 50 Iraqis, many of whom fear for their lives in their homeland, are due to arrive on the first flight in April. The Home Office said they would spend two days in Slough, Berkshire, before being resettled outside the south-east. The new arrivals will be given help finding accommodation and settling down from Migrant Helpline, a charity which provides advice and support to asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. The direct entry assistance scheme is intended to support those who worked for British forces and the Foreign Office in Iraq, in many cases putting their lives in danger. Only those that were working on a date last August and had been doing so for more than one year are eligible. Those that meet the criteria are being given the option of indefinite leave to remain in the UK or a financial package for themselves and their dependents. The relocation package includes temporary accommodation for three months.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Asks EU Lawmakers for Protection

After spending the last two years in the US and recently requesting French citizenship, Ayaan Hirsi Ali went before a group of 100 EU lawmakers to request assistance in protecting her life from Muslim jihadists who vowed to hunt her down. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch lawmaker whose criticism of Islam (more…) has kept her on the run since 2004, was in front of the European Parliament on Thursday pleading for a measure to help her fund a personal security detail. “The threats to my life have not subsided and the cost is beyond anything I can pay,” Hirsi Ali said to a group of European Union lawmakers on Thursday. “I find myself in a very desperate position. I don’t want to die. I want to live and I love life. I’m going to do anything legal to get help.” Hirsi Ali went before a gathering of 100 EU lawmakers who signed a declaration requesting EU member nations to assume the costs of Hirsi Ali’s security. Support by more than half of the 785 members of the European Parliament is needed by mid-March for the EU to formally take up the request.

Anti-Terror Bill is ‘Anti-Muslim’

An assessment published along with the Government’s revised Counter Terrorism Bill charged it as “anti-Muslim” yesterday as Prime Minister Gordon Brown pushes to controversially extend the detention period to 42-days without trial. Despite a torrent of criticism from opposition MPs and civil liberties groups including the possibility of a humiliating first Commons defeat for Brown, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith resorted to scaremongering in an attempt to bolster support by warning of “mass casualties” from a future terror attack. But the Home Office’s official assessment admitted that there existed “strong concerns” that the legislation is “anti-Muslim”. Although the Home Office was told to do more to win the “hearts and minds”, the consultation conceded that the bill risked alienating Muslims. “Muslim community representatives expressed a concern that this may lead to increased reluctance among their communities to provide vital co-operation and assistance to the police and security services,” the equality impact assessment on the Bill said. Hamza Bajwa reports.

People-smugglers in court over British connection

A trial opened on November 15th in Paris, for some 25 men – mainly of Afghani and Iraqi Kurdish background – who allegedly smuggled thousands of illegal immigrants into Britain up until 2005. The network, nicknamed the Pashto Network has been described by prosecutors as the biggest immigration scam uncovered in recent years in France, with the alleged facing up to 10 years in jail. Believed to have been operating the network since as far back as 1999, an estimated 4,000 people have crossed the channel with the assistance of the 25 accused men.

Five held in France suspected of sending Islamic fighters to Iraq

Five men have been arrested in the cities of Toulouse and Lot, under suspicion of helping recruit Islamic extremist fighters for combat missions in Iraq. The men are accused of providing combat training and supplying material assistance, though a search of their homes did not turn up any evidence. The men were arrested in a joint mission by both French and Belgian police.

Merkel Hails Integration Milestone, Hits Back at Critics

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday called Germany’s new integration plan for immigrants “a milestone” and rejected criticism from ethnic Turkish groups who boycotted a key summit on the issue. Merkel was speaking at a press conference following a meeting with ethnic leaders in Berlin to announce government assistance to minorities which are widely seen as becoming increasingly detached from the mainstream German society. The 90 community leaders at the summit adopted a “national integration plan” containing 400 promises for improvements — ranging from aid for ethnic sports clubs to making more German-language classes available — which Merkel said was the first in Germany’s post-Second World War history. The summit, however, was held under a cloud after four major Turkish groups boycotted the event in protest at legislation passed last week which raises the hurdles for newly wed Turkish citizens moving to Germany to live with their spouses.

A Look At France’s Draft Immigration Bill

Key points of a bill making its way through parliament: _ Create a renewable, three-year work permit for highly skilled foreigners. _ Do away with a provision that allows foreigners who have been in the country for more than 10 years – even those here illegally – to apply for French citizenship. _ Require the government to submit to parliament an annual report specifying the number and kind of residency permits to be authorized over a three year period. Although the draft bill avoids using the word ‘quotas,’ critics say the provision amounts to a quota-system. _ Stiffen requirements on foreigners requesting to bring family members to France, requiring them to show their salary alone – and not government assistance – would suffice to support their families. _ Double the current two-year period foreigners married to French nationals must wait before applying for French citizenship. _ Require foreigners applying for long-term residency permits to attend French language and civics classes. _ Make obtaining 10-year-residency permits contingent on speaking French and respecting of the “values of the French republic.”