The Orchestra di Piazza Vittoro is an orchestra based out of Rome, made up mostly of immigrants. The orchestra’s founder, Mario Tronco, states that The orchestra was conceived as a challenge to the government… I was interested in these people, and then in their music. Mixing languages and instruments, the orchestra plays to sold-out crowds and provides Italians with evidence about immigrants contrasting the typical stereotypes.
Channel 4 came under fire from Muslim groups yesterday after the Crown Prosecution Service accused it of “completely distorting” an edition of its documentary strand Dispatches that went undercover in some of Britain’s biggest mosques. Following the latest allegation of underhand editing to hit broadcasters, Channel 4 defended the film and said it was “shocked and baffled” at the accusations from West Midlands police and the CPS. The police force said that after investigating three preachers featured in the film for potentially inciting racial hatred and concluding there was insufficient evidence, it turned its attention to the programme makers. Bethan David, a CPS lawyer, reviewed 56 hours of footage and concluded: “The splicing together of extracts from longer speeches appears to have completely distorted what the speakers were saying.” While the CPS said there were not sufficient grounds for charges against Channel 4, it had passed the matter to media regulator Ofcom as an official complaint.
ITALY/ GERMANY: Italy and Germany experienced fresh concerns about Islamic terrorist activity over the weekend. Three Moroccans accused of running a “terror school” were arrested near Perugia, central Italy, last Saturday. On the same day Germany’s deputy interior minister August Hanning warned that al-Qaeda activists are targeting Germany for attack. Imam Korchi El Mostapha (41) and two aides, Mohammed El Jari (47) and Driss Safika (46), were arrested in a dawn raid in the village of Ponte Felcino, 7km north of the well-known Umbrian university town, Perugia. Anti-terror police reported they had found evidence of training in explosives and poisons, chemical supplies including cyanide and acids and instructions on how to fly a Boeing 747. “The evidence has shown that, in the Ponte Felcino mosque, there was sustained training for terrorist activity. We have discovered and neutralised a real “terror school, part of a widespread terrorist system made up of small cells that act on their own”, commented anti-terror police chief, Carlo De Stefano. According to police, activities at the mosque included the storage of potentially dangerous chemicals and the screening of films which contained instructions on bomb making, the detonation of bombs via mobile phone and on how to stage a bomb attack. Police also said that the three men arrested on Saturday had been in contact with the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group, GICM, in Belgium two years ago. GICM is believed to have ties to al-Qaeda and may have had a role in attacks in Casablanca in 2003 and the Madrid train bombings of 2004. Saturday’s arrests were the result of a two-year investigation based in Perugia, a popular tourist destination and home to a prestigious University For Foreigners, where hundreds of international students are enrolled. In a related raid, 20 foreign students were also arrested whilst police have a warrant for another man, believed to have left Italy.
There is no evidence that imams preaching at mosques are doing anything to radicalise young British Muslims, according to a research conducted by the University of Chester. The findings published on Friday contradict the British government’s controversial claim of blaming mosques as part of its strategy to defeat the threat of terrorism. But the research for BBC, surveying 300 mosques carried out by Chester University in north-west England, suggested some of the imams lack the language and skills to help tackle the threat from extremism. “Imams face competition from groups who wait outside mosques to hand out leaflets and are prepared to talk to young people in English about issues such as discrimination and UK foreign policy in the Middle East,” it said. The findings included that only 6 per cent of imams who preach at mosques speak English as a first language and almost 45 per cent had been in the UK for less than five years. The majority speak Urdu as a first language, with 50 per cent of imams from Pakistan, 20 per cent from Bangladesh and 15 per cent from India. Only 24 of the 300 imams surveyed were born and educated in the UK, which the report said did not reflect the percentage of British- born South Asian Muslims who represent more than half of Britain’s two million community. It also found that at Friday prayers, although 52 per cent of imams gave sermons in Urdu, the use of English was becoming more prevalent and suggested more investigation is required to assess the frequency and quality. The report’s author Professor Ron Geaves said the aim was to look at the ability of imams to adapt to modern Britain and that the study revealed “a deeply conservative body of individuals” qualified in the traditional Islamic curriculum. “Although there are social religious and political reasons that drive a need to transform the imamate to a 21st century British context there is as yet little sign of the mosque imams or their employers being ready to professionalise,” Geaves said. Before stepping down from power last month, Prime Minister Tony Blair unveiled plans to provide significant funding to train imams in Britain and change the teaching of Islam at UK universities. “We need to do to encourage the right intellectual and academic debate,” Blair said at the opening of a two-day international conference on Islam in London on June 4. It came after Attorney General Lord Goldsmith announced that specialist prosecutors were beginning to work with police officers to improve how they target extremist preachers. The government also separately announced the creation Faith and Social Cohesion Unit at the Charity Commission, aimed to strengthen governance in mosques to make them less susceptible to takeover by minority groups.
One in three people in Belgium is bothered by women wearing headscarves in public spaces. Over half would prefer that they be banned in certain places. Intolerance and racism are at the root of negative views on headscarves. This was the conclusion drawn by the religious faculty’s Center for Psychology at the Catholic University of Louvain-La-Neuve after two studies into Belgians’ attitude towards headscarves. Some 69 percent of those questioned see the headscarf as a sign of oppression and 53.3 percent thinks wearing one goes entirely against modern western values. Some 44.6 percent are disturbed by someone wearing a headscarf at school. The researchers said that this study is evidence that society still has a long way to go in the fight against racism and intolerance.
The wearing of the Muslim veil in court was backed by new official guidelines today. Senior judges who examined whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear the full facial covering, known as the niqab, said it should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Muslim women should be permitted to wear the garment providing it did not interfere with the administration of justice, the Judicial Studies Board’s Equal Treatment Advisory Committee said. The guidance follows a case at an immigration court in Stoke-on-Trent last November where the judge, George Glossop, ordered an adjournment because he was having difficulty hearing legal executive Shabnam Mughal. The guidelines said: Each situation should be considered individually in order to find the best solution in each case. Forcing a woman to choose between participating in a court case or removing the veil could have a significant impact on that woman’s sense of dignity, it added, and could serve to exclude and marginalise her. Committee chairwoman Mrs Justice Cox said: At the heart of our guidance is the principle that each situation should be considered individually in order to find the best solution in each case. We respect the right for Muslim women to choose to wear the niqab as part of their religious beliefs, although the interests of justice remain paramount. If a person’s face is almost fully covered, a judge may have to consider if any steps are required to ensure effective participation and a fair hearing – both for the woman wearing a niqab and for other parties in the proceedings. This is not an issue that lends itself to a prescriptive approach – we have drawn on a wealth of cases that demonstrate that, and we have drawn up guidance for different court personnel and parties. If the wearer is appearing as a victim, it should not be automatically assumed that the niqab would create a problem, the guidelines said. Nor should it ever be assumed without good reason that it is inappropriate for a woman to give evidence in court wearing the full veil, it added. If a judge felt it necessary to ask a victim to remove her veil, he or she should consider the request carefully, and be thoughtful and sensitive. The courtroom could even be cleared of anyone not directly involved in the case for her to proceed with her evidence, it said. Asking a witness or defendant to remove the garment may be appropriate but careful thought should be given to any such request, the guidelines said. Regarding a Muslim woman appearing as a barrister, solicitor or other advocate, judges should assume they are entitled to wear the veil, it went on. There are few instances where an advocate or representative appearing in a niqab would be likely to present any real issue, it said. Just as in any case where a judge might have difficulty in hearing any party, witness or advocate, sensitively inquiring whether they can speak any louder or providing other means of amplification should suffice and such measures should be considered with the advocate before asking her to remove her veil. Regarding jurors in niqabs, a judge may wish to consider excusing her if a challenge is made by one of the parties, it said, providing there is a genuine basis for the objection. The guidelines come after widespread concern over the wearing of the niqab in schools – by both children and staff – as well as in other areas. In February, a 12-year-old Muslim girl who wanted to wear a full-face veil in class lost her legal battle when a High Court judge dismissed a challenge to her school’s uniform policy. Mr Justice Silber rejected her claim that the school in Buckinghamshire had interfered with her right to freedom of religion under the Human Rights Convention.
By Madeline Chambers and Matthew Jones British police said they would deport seven Algerians seized as national security threats, hours before the Government unveiled plans to hold terror suspects without charge for up to three months. A Home Office source said the men were former defendants, accused but never convicted, of involvement in a 2002 plot to manufacture the deadly ricin poison. The dawn arrests were the latest to follow four July 7 suicide bombings in London which killed 52 people and wounded 700 and prompted a Government crackdown on Islamist militants. Home Secretary Charles Clarke said they would not be deported to any place they would face torture. Human rights group Amnesty said the detainees must be allowed to challenge the deportation. One Algerian was convicted of charges relating to the ricin case in April but four others were acquitted and cases against the other three were dropped. The seven will be deported because their presence in Britain is “not conducive to the public good for reasons of national security,” a Home Office official said. Most controversial among the latest proposals is an extension of the time police have to detain terrorism suspects without charge to up to three months, from 14 days. “I want to do my best to protect the country and here are the police saying we need to extend the period of detention, well okay as long as there is judicial oversight,” Prime Minister Tony Blair said at a United Nations summit in New York. Police have long argued they need more than 14 days to cope with the volume of cases, the need to trawl through electronic evidence and work with overseas agencies. Clarke, however, raised concerns about his own plans in a letter to opposition parties, saying that there was “room for debate as to whether we should go as far as three months”. The Government is expected to push the plans into law this year. “The facts are that the modern world of terrorism requires a long time to ensure particular cases are looked at properly,” Clarke said. “I’m saying let’s extend 14 days. We are working on the basis that up to three months is the right time.” But civil rights campaigners say three months would be draconian. “These measures, coupled with faulty British intelligence, will increase the witchhunt against Muslims,” said Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission. The Government has already had to back down from a policy of detaining foreign suspects indefinitely without trial after it was ruled illegal last year by Britain’s highest court. Rights group Liberty said the plans would affect attempts to engage with ethnic communities. The Government also plans to outlaw the indirect incitement of terrorism and to ban organisations which glorify terrorism. Critics Say Such Measures Could Pose Definition Problems Despite resistance from security services, ways are being explored to allow the use of phone-tap evidence in court, bringing Britain in line with other European countries. The announcement came with the disclosure that scientists withheld vital evidence in the “ricin plot’ case that was used by Blair to justify the war with Iraq. Tests demonstrating that was no ricin found at a London flat linked to the case were not disclosed to police and Government ministers. The “plot” was cited by Blair and former US Secretary of State Colin Powell in the weeks leading up to the decision to go to war with Iraq. A breakdown in communication was blamed for the failure to pass the information on to Government. On February 3, 2000, Blair told MPs in the House of Commons that the “ricin terror plot” was “powerful evidence of the continuing terrorist threat”. Two days later Powell used the case to warn about the spread of terrorism to western countries. Tough Security Proposals – The ability to hold suspects for three months without charge. – A new offence of “glorifying” terrorism attacks in Britain and abroad, which will carry a five-year jail sentence. – It will not be an offence to glorify any events which happened more than 20 years ago, except those specified. The draft bill also creates an offence relating to the “dissemination of terrorist publications”, which is seen as a crackdown on Islamist literature.
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)