Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham has rejected criticism that the broadcaster’s decision to air the Muslim call to prayer at 3am was “patronising”. Abraham told MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday that the daily broadcast fit “absolutely” with its public service remit and that it has attracted 181,000 viewers – almost triple its usual audience at 3am. Conservative MP Angie Bray questioned whether Channel 4 was “patronising” Muslims by airing the ritual at 3am, when most of the nation is asleep. Abraham countered that the timeslot is “just a practicality” of the three-minute call to prayer.
Last week, religion has dominated an important discussion in the UK. Following a High Court rule banning prayers from formal council meetings, Conservative MP Baroness Warsi, Britain’s first female Muslim Cabinet minister, has urged the British people to embrace their (Christian) religion and to not let a “militant secularisation” take hold of British society. In an official meeting in the Vatican with six other British ministers, Baroness Warsi has called for religion to be given a greater role in public life to push back a wave of “intolerant secularisation”. Warsi has complained that religion is being sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in Europe. Overall, she would like to see Europe to be more confident in its Christian roots, rather than denying its religious heritage. Warsi considers religion and strong religious identities to be particularly important in order to encourage social harmony.
Conservative MP Mike Freer was threatened by members of Muslims Against Crusades while holding an advice surgery in a mosque in Finchley, north London, on Friday afternoon. Freer reported that a group of about 12 people forced their way inside the mosque, called him a “Jewish homosexual pig” (BBC) and screamed that someone who is gay was “not welcome in a house of Allah” (Express). Prior to the incident, Muslims Against Crusades had published a message on their website, making reference to Labour MP Stephen Timms, who was stabbed while holding a surgery in East London last year (as reported), and reminding any MP that their presence in Muslim areas was no longer welcome. <as the BBC reports, the message also urged MAC supporters to target Freer, Finchley and Golders Green MP and not a Jew himself, but member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, as he allegedly “had the blood of thousands of Muslims on his hands”. During the abuse in the mosque, Freer was escorted to a locked part of the building by members of staff, where they waited until assistance arrived. Freer had not been aware of the online announcements prior to the incident. It is assumed that he was targeted by the group, as he demanded that the Palestinian Sheikh Raed Salah be banned from the UK earlier this year. He now re-emphasized that he would continue to condemn all forms of religious intolerance and added that he wanted Home Secretary Theresa may to closely monitor the actions of Muslims Against Crusades.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney doesn’t believe in banning the burqa. But Mr. Kenney does think Canadians, Muslim or otherwise, should have to identify themselves visually when voting in federal elections. These comments emerged relating to Bill C-623, a private member’s bill from Conservative MP Steven Blaney. Bill C-623 mandates that “en elector shall have an uncovered face when the elector is proving his or her identity.” But it does not change the acceptable ways of proving one’s identity. One can still provide either a driver’s licence or health card (as long as it has your photograph, name and address on it), or “two pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer each of which establish the elector’s name and at least one of which establishes the elector’s address” — a hydro bill and a bank statement, for example.
MPs are trying to require voters to show both photo ID and their faces, so a poll worker can compare the former to the latter. However, it’s true that it’s illogical to worry about Muslim women hypothetically voting while veiled even as 250,000 people vote by mail, but that discrepancy already exists: We demand identification of people who vote in person, but not of those who vote by mail.
25 November 2010
An All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia has been launched in the House of Commons. At its inaugural Annual General Meeting, members elected Keighley and Ilkley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins to serve as its Chair with Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Simon Hughes and Labour peer Lord Janner of Braunstone as Vice-Chairs. The Group has so far attracted the interest of more than 20 MPs and peers from across both Houses of Parliament.
Mr Hopkins thanked attendees for being part of what he described as a “momentous occasion.” He said: “Whilst challenges will undoubtedly arise in the weeks and months ahead, my colleagues and I are hugely committed to the task in hand. I believe there is already a very strong resolve amongst members to better understand the complex issues involved, and to propose considered, evidence-based policies to tackle Islamophobia wherever it exists.”
A Conservative MP says he will refuse to hold meetings with Muslim women wearing full Islamic dress at his constituency surgery unless they lift their face veil. Last night Muslim groups condemned Philip Hollobone and accused him of failing in his duty as an MP.
In an interview with The Independent, the Kettering MP said: “I would ask her to remove her veil. If she said: ‘No’, I would take the view that she could see my face, I could not see hers, I am not able to satisfy myself she is who she says she is. I would invite her to communicate with me in a different way, probably in the form of a letter.”
A Conservative MP is attempting to pass a law which would ban people from wearing burkas and balaclavas. Philip Hollobone has put forward parliamentary legislation to regulate the use of “certain facial coverings” in public. Hollobone said this “would obviously have a big impact for those who wear full-face Islamic veils”. He has previously described the burka as “against the British way of life”.
The proposal has stirred much criticism, although it also received some support. A burqa-ban would be un-British, commentators have said.
French Prime Minister François Fillon has asked the top court to help the government draft a law banning the face-veil after a parliamentary panel recommended a partial ban on the wear in hospitals, schools, public transport and government offices.
The anti-burqa camp is gaining grounds in Britain, with calls for a ban. For instance, Philip Hollobone, Conservative MP for Kettering, told the Daily Telegraph, “In my view, and the view of my constituents, wearing the burqa is not an acceptable form of dress and the banning of it should be seriously considered.” Hollobone said the face-veil “goes against the British way of life.” The far-right British National Party has also called for banning it in schools.
Local governments are enforcing a new law which calls for every Dutch person born to a Moroccan mother, to be compelled to accept Moroccan nationality.
For many years, Moroccan law stipulated that children born to a Moroccan father are automatically Moroccan nationals. The legislation is being tightened further, now calling for children of a Moroccan mother – and the father of a different nationality – to also automatically obtain Moroccan citizenship.
Local authorities in the Netherlands are obeying the new law from Rabat. In accordance with Morocco’s wishes, Dutch municipalities are registering children of at least one Moroccan parent as Moroccan. Such cooperation is drawing criticism from a number of Dutch politicians. Conservative MP Paul de Krom says that the move is “bizarre and shocking that the Dutch government is pro-actively cooperating with the territorial inclinations of another country, even when parents have not requested it themselves.” Dual nationality is not usually permitted in the Netherlands, but Moroccan citizens are among those exempted from this rule, as Morocco does not allow for its citizens to renounce their Moroccan nationality.
Conservative Italian MP Isabella Bertolini called for authorities to clamp down on Internet website which have been found to propagate jihadist messages and encourage terrorist activities. Don’t under-estimate the danger posed by the internet said Bertolini. Such websites, including one by the name ‘Ekhlas,’ has been guilty of death threats against PM Berlusconi and Italian journalist Magdi Allam. Bertolini also warned against the dangers of terrorism infiltrating illegal immigrants and the equally alarming incitement of hatred against Catholicism propagated in mosques in the country.