Race crime up after terror attack

Racist crime in the west of Scotland had increased after the suspected terror attack on Glasgow Airport, BBC Scotland has learned. Strathclyde Police have released figures on racist crime and a senior officer confirmed that there had been a noticeable rise. Community and political leaders were quick to call for calm in the aftermath of the attack. The force said the rise may have been down to a greater willingness for minorities to report incidents. Between 1 and 27 July, there were 258 reported racial attacks, 31 of which were airport-related, according to Strathclyde Police.

Tie to Islam assailed; Feds faulted over Muslim stereotyping

Federal prosecutors’ depiction of the suspects in the Fort Dix plot as “radical Islamists” drew sharp criticism from North Jersey’s Muslims, who feared that the emphasis on Islam would trigger a backlash. In a conference call, Arab and Muslim leaders from various national organizations expressed their concerns to FBI officials about the focus on Islam that officials used when announcing the charges. In a statement about the call, the leaders said FBI officials “assured that the charges … are for individuals and not for a religion or an ethnic or racial group.” Later in the day, prosecutors urged the public not to take the alleged actions of a few as a reflection of the Muslim community. But concerns persisted about the impact of the widely publicized link to Islam. Muslim leaders said the spotlight on the suspects’ religion reinforces the stereotype that terrorism is condoned by Islam, an inaccurate and harmful misperception, they say, that they have been struggling to combat. “I have no mercy for people who commit a crime, or who plan to commit a crime, as these six men are charged with,” said Sohail Mohammed, a Clifton attorney and civil rights activist. “But to make their religion synonymous with their crime is irresponsible, especially when it comes from a high-level United States official.” (…) The phrase identifying the suspects as “radical Islamists” was part of the title of the written announcement released by the office of U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie about the arrest of six men charged with plotting to attack the Fort Dix Army post. The announcement then referred to the suspects as “radical Islamists” in the first sentence, and said they had distributed videos that showed “known foreign Islamic radicals urging jihad against the United States.” Salaheddin Mustafa, of Paterson, said the tendency to link religion and a heinous act seems to disproportionately affect Muslims. “When that student in Virginia killed all those people, nobody made a big deal of his religion,” said Mustafa. “And when there have been shootings in malls and offices, we don’t immediately get told what the religion is. These are six crazy people, that’s all they are.” In a press conference later, Christie praised the Muslim community in New Jersey as being cooperative with law enforcement, and called the defendants “a few bad apples.” “This should not be taken as a generalized indictment against the Muslim community in New Jersey,” Christie said. Hesham Mahmoud, of Rutherford, and spokesman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said Christie’s efforts in the press conference to separate the suspects from Islam had prompted him to “give him the benefit of the doubt.” He said that in the past, Christie had made admirable efforts to reach out to the Arab and Muslim communities, as well as to other minority groups.

Serbia: Muslim radicals strengthen in Serbia

The discovery of a mountain cave packed with plastic explosives, masks and machine guns – and the recent arrests of men devoted to radical Islam – have fueled fears that extremists are trying to carve out a stronghold in this remote corner of Europe. Police in southern Serbia’s Sandzak region last month arrested six local Muslims and accused them of belonging to a fundamentalist Wahhabi sect – an austere brand of Sunni Islam promoted by extremists, including the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida fighters. Recently leaked Western intelligence reports allege that the tense, impoverished area, along with Muslim-dominated regions in neighboring Bosnia, are rich ground for recruiting so-called “white al-Qaida” – Muslims with Western features who could easily blend into European or U.S. cities and carry out attacks. Al-Qaida and other radical Islamic groups, the reports warn, may be trying to increase their influence in the Muslim-populated regions in the southern Europe to penetrate deeper into the continent. The presence of radical Muslims in Sandzak, the poorest region of Serbia, is linked to the advent of mujahedeen foreign fighters who joined Bosnian Muslims in their battle against the Serbs in Bosnia’s 1992-95 independence war. Sandzak’s Muslims like to be called Bosniaks because they believe they ethnically belong to Bosnia, not Serbia. A March 16 police raid on what authorities said was a mountain terrorist camp just south of Novi Pazar unveiled a large cache of weapons, ammunition, hand grenades, plastic explosives and face masks. Authorities captured four of the suspected Wahhabi Muslims in the raid, and two others four days later. TV footage of the cave broadcast in Serbia also showed a black flag with a Quran inscription in Arabic, and propaganda material that investigators said praised bin Laden and al-Qaida. “The lethal mix of inter-Muslim and interethnic tensions, poverty and organized crime definitely has a potential for trouble,” a Western diplomat, who asked not to be named in order not to interfere with the police investigation, told The Associated Press. “The ‘white al-Qaida’ certainly can find fertile ground in the region,” he said. Police claimed that up to 30 radical Muslims trained at the mountain camp, and that militants they referred to as “Wahhabi terrorists” planned unspecified actions at home and abroad. Police in Kosovo said they were searching for one of the suspects, whom they identified as Ismail Prentic – a man they warned “should be considered armed and dangerous.” Local politicians said the group initially may have been plotting to attack moderate Muslims whom its members have denounced as infidels. “There are numerous indications that something nasty was being prepared in Sandzak,” said Dragan Simeunovic, an analyst. Last autumn, young men with long beards, white skull caps and ankle-short pants clashed with security in Novi Pazar’s downtown Arap mosque. At least two people were injured in an ensuing firefight. Muamer Zukorlic, Novi Pazar’s mufti, describes the attackers as Wahhabi “extremists who want to express their domination” over local moderate Muslims. “In some mosques, they collected prayer beads and hurled them into a nearby river,” Zukorlic said. “They often shout in the mosques, interrupt prayers and provoke believers.” As the ultraconservatives increasingly make their presence known in Novi Pazar, the scene is more Saudi than Serbian. Chants of muezzins echo from minarets across the town of 100,000, which is nearly 90 percent Muslim. Beggars crowd around yellow-brick buildings, and vendors at makeshift markets peddle everything from framed Quran verses to counterfeit designer blue jeans, watches and perfumes. Many women are clad head to toe in black. Among fundamentalists like Edin Bejtovic, an unofficial spokesman for the conservative Muslim community, the mood is staunchly anti-American and in support of the radical Islamic insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. “According to the Americans, every average Muslim is a potential terrorist,” said Bejtovic, who denied claims in Serbian media that his group is financed by Saudi Arabia-based radicals and that it was plotting attacks. But he warned: “It can all become true if the Americans don’t stop their destruction of Muslim nations and Islam.” There are fears that religious tensions in Sandzak, a center for organized drug trafficking and human smuggling, could further destabilize the already volatile southern Balkans. A recent report by the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs identified Sandzak as “the center point” on a Balkan drug smuggling route that leads from Afghanistan via Turkey to Western Europe. “The ability of organized crime groups to exploit the porous borders and weak infrastructure threatens political stability and economic development” of Serbia, the report said.

Report on Racism and Xenophobia in the Member States of the EU

Executive summary: This report on racism and xenophobia in the EU is the first to be published since the creation of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on 1 March 2007, following the extension of the mandate of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). This report, although published by the FRA, is not the FRA Annual Report. It is a report which was produced on the basis of the EUMC legal base and mandate. It covers information and developments on racism and xenophobia in the EU for the year 2006, in the thematic areas of legal issues, employment, housing, education, and racist violence and crime. In addition, there is a final chapter covering developments and policies at the EU level in combating racism and xenophobia.

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.

Lies, Myths And Falsehoods: A Day In The Life Of The Bnp’s Stronghold

{Two months after council elections, far-right party says it has launchpad for Westminster} by Steve Boggan LONDON – The man from the BNP breezes up in a white linen suit looking like some latter-day Martin Bell and says: “Can you believe it? Two of our schools are having Muslim days tomorrow – on 7/7! It’s like chucking mud in people’s faces.” Fresh-faced and brimming with enthusiasm, this is Richard Barnbrook, the leader of the second-largest party in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham. In May’s local elections, Mr Barnbrook caused a big political upset by leading a group of BNP candidates to electoral victory in 11 wards. In political terms, it sent a message on immigration that the main parties are still struggling to come to terms with. For the BNP, it was something of a watershed – a foothold in Greater London that the party feels will pave the way for its first foray into the House of Commons. Two months on and there is no sense of shame among the people who voted BNP. It was no spur of the moment decision that was regretted the next day. If anything, there is a sense that the party might do even better next time. What is emerging, however, is that the election success was based on a campaign of misinformation and rumour-mongering on a huge and continuing scale. Housing ? Before the election, the party focused its efforts on promulgating the claim that the borough’s housing stock was being given to people from outside its boundaries, mainly asylum seekers and refugees. Mr Barnbrook and his colleagues also leafleted the electorate, telling them grants of up to _50,000 were being given by nearby Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney to encourage people to move into Barking and Dagenham, thus helping them to buy the cheapest housing stock. It is a claim all three boroughs deny. Hackney’s deputy mayor, Jamie Carswell, said yesterday: “I can say categorically that we do not give, and have never given, grants for people to buy houses in Hackney, Barking and Dagenham or anywhere else. It is an utter fabrication.” Unlike some BNP councillors around the country, Mr Barnbrook, a personable 45-year-old former teacher, takes his new role seriously. We accompany him during an “emergency surgery” at Barking town hall. He describes it as emergency because it is his first since taking office – no schools or community centres have so far allowed the BNP to use their premises. “It’s scandalous,” he says. “We have been democratically elected yet we are not being afforded our democratic rights and privileges. The ruling Labour group haven’t even given us computers that we are entitled to. And we are being denied information when we request it on matters like housing. When I asked for one set of figures, I was told they were on a need-to-know basis, and I didn’t need to know.” The only visitors to the surgery are Sandra, a 43-year-old mother of three, and two of her friends. Sandra is in tears because she is being evicted from rented accommodation as the owner wants it back. The situation has brought her marriage to the brink and one of her daughters is so worried that her hair is falling out. “I asked the council to help house us but I was told to wait until the day the bailiffs come, put our possessions into a van and then, once we’re homeless, to come to the council offices and they’d see what they could do,” she says. “But the worry is killing us.” In fairness to Mr Barnbrook, he does not play the race card, but after the interview, Sandra says: “If I was a refugee or an asylum seeker, you can bet I’d be housed by now. They’re taking up all the council houses, being given grants and furniture while local people go to the back of the queue.” And Mr Barnbrook nods in agreement. In fact, according to Barking and Dagenham, of its 20,250 council homes, just four are occupied by asylum seekers or refugees. “They’re flooding in,” Mr Barnbrook says later. “We checked the additions to the electoral roll and between May and July 5 there were 1,600 new additions and I can’t even begin to pronounce their names. They sound African.” Charles Fairbrass, the council leader, says he is exasperated by the BNP’s continuing claims that outsiders – usually foreigners – are being given housing stock before local people. The council has a policy of putting its residents first. “They are making these claims and whipping up racial tension,” he says. “Often, it is based on the colour of a person’s skin. There is a growing black middle class in London and many of them want to get on the property ladder. Because we have some of the cheapest housing in London, they choose to buy here. And when they buy ex-local authority property, people often assume that those properties are still local authority and they’ve been allowed to jump the queue.” Mr Fairbrass describes BNP council attendance as intermittent and their councillors’ performance as useless. “They have never debated anything or challenged committee reports. We have even set up induction classes for new councillors, but they have hardly attended any.” Mr Barnbrook admits that he and his colleagues are on a steep learning curve but they are taking lessons from more experienced BNP councillors from the north of England. “It’s true we don’t debate with them because there is no point,” he argues. “They make us put all our questions in writing and then the replies we get are pathetic.” Outside the chamber, however, the BNP seems to be winning the battle for many hearts and minds. Before the election the party put out leaflets claiming that burglaries were up 79%, robberies up 80%, violent crime up 61% and that 33% of the borough’s residents were now from minority ethnic groups. The Barking and Dagenham Post checked the figures and found that burglaries were down 11.7%, robberies up by 5%, rapes were down 10.8%, violent crime was up by 1.2% and around 15% of residents were from an ethnic minority. “The problem,” says the Post’s editor, Barry Kirk, “is that people seem to believe them. I don’t believe that the people of Barking and Dagenham are racist, but some of the claims the BNP are making about housing are causing a lot of upset.” Propaganda ? On the streets, the propaganda is working. Tommy Mann, 57, a steel erector, says: “I think the BNP are doing a good job. I didn’t vote for them because I was away, but I will in future. There are just too many immigrants and they all seem to be coming here. Other councils are buying houses here and shipping them in.” Emma Lewis, 18, has a mixed race daughter and does not like the racist element of the BNP, but she, too, says she would be more likely to vote for the party in future because of the housing issue. Her mother, Theresa Barnett, 43, says: “There are so many foreigners – asylum seekers and illegal immigrants – ahead of you when you try to get a council house. Local people just don’t get a fair crack of the whip.” Mr Barnbrook said his party campaigned first on housing, second on crime, third on education and only fourth on immigration. But it is impossible to separate the housing issue from race and that, in turn, fuels more disturbing – if incorrect – rumours. Chuma Mwanakatwe, 29, is shopping with her son, Moses, two and a half. Her husband, Paschal, is a staff nurse at a London hospital. “Someone told us that if they get more power the BNP would like to introduce a system of apartheid – separate schools for blacks and whites,” she says. “And that really scares me.” Backstory The BNP focused its Barking and Dagenham campaign on local concern over housing and changing demographics. It falsely claimed that the council had a secret scheme to give African families _50,000 to buy local houses . Attention on the area intensified after Barking MP Margaret Hodge claimed that eight out of 10 voters in her constituency were thinking of voting for the BNP – a warning widely criticised by Labour organisers who said it gave the party unwarranted credibility . The BNP picked up 11 of the 13 seats it contested and became the second biggest group on the council. Nationally the party gained 32 councillors i
n May.

Turkey: Turkish PM: Erdogan: We Have To Define The Limitations Of Freedom

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on the Al Jazeera television channel yesterday evening, delivered a strongly worded message regarding what the caricature crisis coming out of Denmark may have in store for certain freedoms. “Freedoms are not without some limitations, these first must be recognized,” said Erdogan, who also noted that he was thinking about starting a process within Turkey of defining what the limitations are to certain freedoms, and ensuring that people and organizations respected them. “I am of the mind to start this process in my country. There are limits to every area, and these must first be defined, they must be recognized, and people must stay within them,” said Erdogan. On other fronts, Erdogan noted that while anti-semitism was counted as a human rights crime, “Islamaphobia” should also be counted as such, and that he wanted to work with the United Nations on this question. Erdogan also underscored the importance of calm at this time throughout the Middle East, delivering a “Friday warning” to Al Jazeera audiences about how critical it was that Friday mosque prayers not be exploited for the purposes of crowd incitement.

Police Reveal Attacks On British Muslims

By James Blitz and Jimmy Burns in London Senior police officers on Sunday revealed that they had recorded several incidents of “hate crime” following the London bombings – including one that had led to “serious injury”. As one of Britain’s leading Islamic figures insisted the London bomb attacks had been “contrary to Islam”, the police acknowledged that the terrorism had triggered reprisals against Muslims in recent days. “We have had some incidents of hate crime – racially and religiously motivated offences – and we take those kinds of offences very seriously,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick said in London. “But thankfully none of these has been the cause of major damage, although there was a serious injury reported in one of those incidents.” Senior government figures have been concerned about the possibility of reprisals against ethnic minority groups because of the London bomb attacks. However, leading religious figures from across the faiths on Sunday met in London to stress their common values and to condemn the attacks. Sheikh Zaki Badawi, head of the Council of Mosques and Imams, said the attacks were “totally contrary to Islam”, adding: “Anyone claiming to commit a crime in the name of religion does not necessarily justify his position in the name of that religion.” Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, said the fact that Britons were worried about reprisals after the bombings was a sign of the “normality” of inter-faith relations in the country. Some senior government officials expressed concern about the possible impact on community relations after Sir John Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police commissioner, warned that the London bombers were “almost certainly” British and that there were many more born and bred in the UK willing to attack. Sir John said last Thursday’s bombers were “totally aware of British life and values” and although international terrorists might have provided the expertise, it was “wishful thinking” to suspect the perpetrators came from abroad. In an article entitled “Young, clever . . . and British” written in the News of the World newspaper on Sunday, he said: “I’m afraid there’s a sufficient number of people in this country willing to be Islamic terrorists that they don’t have to be drafted in from abroad.” Such a warning, while privately shared by some security officials, is condemned by others as politically dangerous when uttered in these terms and publicly. “The British police and government are very worried about community tensions getting out of control. These kind of comments risk being counter-productive,” said one European police insider. Senior police officers and security chiefs believe the support of British Muslims could be critical in finding those responsible for last Thursday’s bombings. They believe that information provided from within the Muslim community could provide intelligence on the bombers’ movements since the explosions. But police are also appealing for information on individuals who might have been acting suspiciously in recent weeks, including those arriving from abroad. While MI5, the security service, is thought to have boosted its recruitment of individuals with specialist cultural and language skills since the 9/11 attacks on the US, the current search for the bombers – thought to be supporters of the aims of al-Qaeda – is likely to be aided if they are not provided with safe havens.

31,800 Islamist Radicals In Germany: Schily

BERLIN – The number of mainly Turkish Islamist extremists based in Germany increased slightly last year, Interior Minister Otto Schily said on Tuesday at a news conference releasing the 2004 report by the country’s domestic security agency. There were 31,800 Islamist radicals resident in Germany at the end of 2004, up from 30,950 in 2003, said the report, which stressed that this was a mere one percent of the three million Muslims living in the country. Police and prosecutors are currently investigating 171 cases linked to Islamist terrorism, he said. The biggest group in Germany is the Turkish Islamic Community Milli Goerues, with 26,500 members, which wants to create an Islamic republic in Turkey. Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network is present in Germany but the report admitted there were no concrete figures on the number of Al- Qaeda sleepers still present in the country. Several of the extremists responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington lived in Germany disguised as students before travelling to the US. The report said about 850 members of the radical Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah are based in Germany, as well as 1,300 members of the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood and 350 member of various Algerian Islamist groups. Schily also reported that neo-Nazi crime in Germany increased last year, but that the overall number of rightists declined. There were 12,051 rightist crimes reported in 2004, up from 10,792 in 2003. Violent neo-Nazi crime was up slightly with 776 reported cases in 2004, compared to 759 cases in 2003. The biggest increase was in propaganda offences, such as display of banned Nazi symbols and giving the Nazi salute, which is prohibited under German law. There were 8,337 such offences last year, up from 7,551 in 2003. Germany’s leading right-wing extremist party, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), is recruiting from the skinhead and neo-Nazi movement, said Schily. The NPD grew to 5,300 members, up from 5,000 in 2003, the report said. This, however, is still less than its previous high of 6,100 members in 2002. An attempt by Schily to ban the NPD was struck down by Germany’s highest court in 2003 – to the minister’s great anger. “The (NPD) party leader describes the super-criminal Hitler as a great statesman,” said Schily with a dismissive wave of his hand. Schily expressed alarm over growth of the neo-Nazi and skinhead movements. While the number remains small – 3,800 people – this is a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Overall, there was a decline in the number of Germans in right-wing extremist parties and movements. At the end of 2004 there was 40,700 people in such groups, down from 41,500 in 2003, the report said. Schily also expressed anger on Tuesday over repeated linking of his policies with those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler by a Turkish newspaper. “I think it’s a scandal,” said Schily, who called on the Turkish government to take action against the radical Islamist newspaper, Vakit, adding that if Ankara lacked legal means to do so, it should consider creating them. Vakit was banned in Germany by Schily earlier this year owing to its anti-Semitic content. Since then, the paper has featured Schily and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on its front page in photomontages with a swastika armband or a Nazi flag.

War On Terror Contributing To Growing Race Crimes

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)