BBC is too scared to allow jokes about Islam, says Ben Elton

Comedian Ben Elton has said the BBC is too “scared” to poke fun at Islam. He accused the broadcasting company of allowing programmes to run jokes about Christianity and vicars. However, he claimed bosses were too politically correct and worried about a negative backlash to do the same about imams. In an interview, Mr Elton, 48, who admits he has little religious faith, said: “I think it all starts with people nodding whenever anyone says, ‘As a person of faith… “I believe part of that is due to the genuine fear that the authorities and the community have about provoking the radical elements of Islam.” Gwyneth Rees reports.

Dutch anti-Muslim film brings call for PR

Feared fallout from a new film critical of Islam has one Dutch lawmaker calling for a pre-emptive public-relations campaign by all of Europe. Alexander Pechtold, a member of the Netherlands parliament, said Monday that Europe must publicly explain the values of freedom of expression and democracy in order to prevent a backlash to the film produced by right-wing lawmaker Geert Wilders. Here we are accustomed to democracy and freedom of expression but not everyone abroad is, Pechtold told Radio Netherlands.

Dutch soldiers ‘at risk’ over anti-Koran film

Dutch soldiers serving with Nato in Afghanistan will face new threats if their country allows the broadcast of an anti-Islamic film, Bozorgmehr Ziaran, Iran’s ambassador to the Netherlands, has said. He announced his intention to rally global Muslim opinion against plans by Geert Wilders, the maverick Dutch MP, to show a short movie attacking the Koran. Mr Ziaran also fuelled fears of a violent backlash by issuing a veiled threat that Dutch troops would be regarded as “representatives of people who besmirch the Koran”… Joan Clements and Bruno Waterfield report.

New articleDoes U.S. Tolerate Anti-Muslim Speech? The latest flap: Radio-show host says Muslims should be deported, sparking a backlash

Lu Gronseth listens regularly to WWTC, a conservative talk-radio station in Minneapolis, and even advertises his mortgage-loan business on the station. But when he learned that a nationally syndicated radio show host had told WWTC listeners that Muslims should be deported and made rude comments about what they could do with their religion, Mr. Gronseth pulled his ads from the station. So have at least two other Minnesota businesses, at the urging of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C., as have a handful of national companies, including OfficeMax, JCPenney, Wal-Mart, and AT&T. But the comments by host Michael Savage in October – and previous anti-Muslim speech – have not created the furor that knocked radio icon Don Imus off of MSNBC and CBS Radio after he denigrated a black women’s basketball team. That leaves many Muslims-Americans – and non-Muslims like Mr. Gronseth – suspicious that Americans have a double standard when it comes to Islam.

In Italy, backlash against migrants grows

Hostility toward immigrants is largely directed at Muslims, making up the largest group of immigrants after Latin Americans, the article states. Described as cancers, fanatics, drug addicts and cheats, fears are amounting especially in Northern Italy, where many factories and farms employ immigrants seeking work.

Switzerland: Ministers attack minarets campaign

Three members of Switzerland’s seven-strong cabinet have publicly condemned a campaign by rightwingers to ban the construction of minarets On Monday Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, who also holds the rotating Swiss presidency, told journalists in Geneva that such an initiative “could put Swiss interests and Swiss citizens in danger”. Her comments came a day after Defence Minister Samuel Schmid said the campaign was going down the “wrong road”. Then on Wednesday it was the turn of Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin to come out against the proposal, saying that a confrontation between people of different faiths had to be avoided. Their public statements against a public initiative at such an early stage is an unusual move. Their caution is attributed to anticipation of backlash in light of the Denmark cartoon controversy and the popularity of the minaret issue in the upcoming election. Though Schmid belongs to the same rightwing Swiss People’s Party as some who back the initiative, it’s believed that he feels the initiative has gone too far.

EU Report: Muslims Face ‘Islamophobia’

Muslims across Europe are confronting a rise in “Islamophobia” ranging from violent attacks to discrimination in job and housing markets, a wide-ranging European Union report indicated Monday. The study, compiled by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, urged European authorities to strengthen policies on integration. But it also noted that Muslims need to do more to counter negative perceptions driven by terrorism and upheavals such as the backlash to cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The 117-page survey details the many divides between the EU mainstream and the estimated 13 million Muslims – now at least 3.5 percent of the 25-nation bloc’s population – and seeks to offer a street-level view of the complexities blocking efforts to bridge the differences. The report urged EU nations to develop more clear legal frameworks for Muslim cultural and religious institutions, including ways to make more public funds available to Islamic community groups and help train local imams. The report also said Europe’s Muslims are “often disproportionately represented” in poor housing conditions, unemployment statistics and in lower education levels.

Race crime charges in England rise by 28%

The number of people charged by police with racially aggravated offenses rose by 28% last year, figures have shown. Out of a total of 7,430 cases, 6,123 defendants were taken to court between April 2005 and April 2006, the Crown Prosecution Service said. Statistics also showed 43 people were charged with religiously-aggravated offenses, a rise of almost 27%. Ken Macdonald QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said fears of a backlash after the London bombs were unfounded. He said: “After the 7 July bombings it was feared that there would be a significant backlash against the Muslim community and that we would see a large rise in religiously-aggravated offenses. “The fears of a large rise in offenses appear to be unfounded. He said although there were more cases in July 2005 than for any other month, the rise did not continue into August. There were 12 cases in July after the bombings, and in half the defendants referred specifically to the London bombings, he added. One prosecution involved a man from South Yorkshire throwing a brick through his Muslim neighbor’s window and blaming Muslims for the bombings on the day they went off. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine months in prison for religiously-aggravated public order and criminal damage. In another case, a man was given a six-month sentence for religiously aggravated common assault after he physically and verbally assaulted a Muslim waiter in an Indian restaurant. The figures showed that the actual or perceived religion of the victim was known in 22 out of 43 religiously-motivated offenses. Of those, 18 were identified as Muslim, three as Christian and one as Sikh. In race offenses, the number of defendants pleading guilty rose by 2% to 71%. Overall 87% of race cases resulted in a conviction, while for religiously-aggravated charges, 98% of defendants were convicted. Mr Macdonald said: “Racist and religiously-aggravated crimes are particularly nasty because victims are targeted solely because of their identity or beliefs. “These crimes don’t just affect individual victims and their families but whole communities.” He said since January of this year, the CPS has held a series of evenings with Muslim communities across the country, offering reassurance and information.

Muslims In Spain Live Under Cloud Of Suspicion

MADRID, Spain (AP) – At Mussa Bachiri’s butcher shop, the customers used to include a man now jailed on suspicion of playing a role in the Madrid terror bombings of 2004. The alleged bomber was just a casual acquaintance who ran a cell-phone store down the street. Still, Bachiri wonders if he is not somehow tainted by association – simply for sharing the man’s Moroccan roots and Islamic faith. My Spanish neighbors look at me the way they always did, Bachiri said, pausing on an afternoon of chopping beef and slicing liver in Lavapies, an immigrant-rich district of Spain’s capital. But deep down inside, who knows? Two years after the massacre that killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,500, human rights groups and Muslims themselves say with relief that there has been no significant backlash against Spain’s estimated million-strong Muslim community. But Muslims feel targeted in subtler ways – a rise in job application rejections, trouble finding housing, grumbling from neighbors when they want to set up a mosque. This is not something you can measure. But people live it. They notice it, said Begonia Sanchez, spokeswoman for immigrant aid group SOS Racism. They notice it when they get on the bus. They notice it when they seek work. They notice it when they run into neighbors in the stairwell. Islamic militants claimed responsibility for Spain’s worst terrorist attack, saying they acted on behalf of al-Qaida to avenge the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq.