When a group of Muslims arrived for prayer at the Chemin-Bas mosque in an eastern neighbourhood in N_mes on Sunday, February 17, they witnessed a violent scene. Inside an altercation provoked one man to pull out a gun while another man tried to stop him. Several shots were fired and two men were injured. The incident is the last in a number of tensions over the past several months within the mosque, one of the largest in N_mes. The shooter, a 64 year-old man, was booked for 19 other acts of violence with a weapon.
A hospital porter was “devastated” after he was sacked following a row with a Muslim doctor over a crucifix. Joseph Protano, a devout Roman Catholic, was a regular visitor to a prayer room open to all faiths at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. But Protono, 54, became increasingly angry to find that a crucifix and a statue of the Virgin Mary were regularly being left covered up. On one visit he discovered three Muslims – two patients and a consultant – inside the prayer room with the two icons masked by a cloth. A picture of the Virgin Mary had also been placed face down. The Muslims accused Protano of using racist language and assault, but he strongly denies the charges against him and claims they verbally abused him. Protano, from Salford, was suspended four days after the incident in December and has now been fired. He said he was unable to comment because he planned to appeal, but friends admitted he was “totally shocked and devastated”. Police released him after four hours of questioning following the assault complaint and passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide if he should be charged.
A Muslim teacher who was fired from her job for wearing a headscarf has been allowed to return to her job. The Council of State declared her dismissal unlawful, saying that an individual public school or district may not impose a general ban on religious symbols. In early 2006, a Brussels school district began imposing such bans on religious symbols, including the headscarf worn by many Muslim women.
Dozens of people were injured on Thursday in a clash between immigrant families and Spanish police trying to bulldoze homes built illegally in the _Canada Real’ shantytown in Madrid. Fighting with sticks and stones, the police fired back with plastic bullets and teargas. The shantytown houses some 30,000 people, mostly of Moroccan and Romanian immigrants.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Hundreds of Muslims protesting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad tried to storm the U.S. Embassy today, smashing the windows of a guard post but failing to push through the gates. Several people were injured. Pakistani security forces, meanwhile, sealed off the capital of Islamabad to block a planned mass demonstration and fired tear gas and gunshots to chase off protesters. In Turkey, tens of thousands gathered in Istanbul chanting slogans against Denmark, Israel and the United States.
Protest related to the caricatures of Mohammed flared again in the Middle East, with the Norwegian-led observer force in Hebron forced to evacuate after a violent demonstration. About 300 protestors stormed the TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) office in Hebron. TIPH chief Arnstein _verkil confirmed that the force, which is comprised of largely Scandinavian members and includes 21 Norwegians, had to evacuate. About 60 unarmed international observers reside at the center. Palestinian police fired in the air to try to disperse the crowd, which smashed the windows of two buildings in a complex used by the observers in the city of Hebron. “We are in a state of emergency. Please call back in the afternoon,” a TIPH representative who answered the Hebron office’s telephone told Reuters. The demonstrators, mostly youths, at first managed to disperse Palestinian police guarding the building. The protestors, chanting “Denmark out of Hebron” tried to set fire to one of the buildings. The 12 Danish TIPH members have been temporarily evacuated to Tel Aviv. Palestinian police and eventual reinforcements of Israeli soldiers managed to keep the youth at bay, though by then nearly all of the windows in the three-story building and three TIPH vehicles had been destroyed. “This alone was unique – I have never before experienced armed Palestinians and Israelis cooperating like this,” said Norwegian TIPH press officer Gunhild Luise Forselv. The TIPH, staffed by personnel from Denmark, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey, was established following the killing of 29 Palestinian worshippers in Hebron by a Jewish settler in 1994. Its mandate is to monitor and report “efforts to maintain normal life” in the city. The TIPH had suspended its regular patrols in the wake of the caricature turmoil, but resumed routines on Wednesday, believing the unrest to be on the wane.
By Paul Farhi Washington Post Staff Writer Washington radio station WMAL-AM fired talk show host Michael Graham yesterday after he refused to soften his description of Islam as “a terrorist organization” on the air last month. Graham had been suspended without pay from his daily three-hour show since making his comments July 25. The station had conditioned his return to the midmorning shift on reading a station-approved statement in which Graham would have said that his anti-Muslim statements were “too broad” and that he sometimes uses “hyperbole” in the course of his program. WMAL also asked Graham to speak to the station’s advertisers and its employees about the controversy. But Graham refused both conditions, prompting the station to drop him. According to WMAL, Graham said “Islam is a terrorist organization” 23 times on his July 25 program. On the same show, he also said repeatedly that “moderate Muslims are those who only want to kill Jews” and that “the problem is not extremism. The problem is Islam.” The comments drew complaints and prompted an organized letter-writing campaign against WMAL and its advertisers by a Muslim group, the Council on American-Islam Relations (CAIR) of Washington. The protests led several advertisers to ask WMAL to stop airing their ads during Graham’s weekday show, although the station says it didn’t lose any advertisers amid the controversy. In a statement yesterday, Graham blamed CAIR for his firing and defended his comments: “As a fan of talk radio, I find it absolutely outrageous that pressure from a special interest group like CAIR can result in the abandonment of free speech and open discourse on a talk radio show.” Graham, in an interview last night, said he and the station had reached an agreement on terms of his return last week, but the station called back to withdraw. “It was a done deal,” he said. “They revoked it because, after further consideration, it didn’t contain an apology. And I will not apologize for something that is true.” Chris Berry, WMAL’s president and general manager, disputed Graham’s characterization, saying in an interview that “no one involved in this decision ever had any contact with anyone from CAIR.” Instead, he said, Graham was terminated because he violated station policy and disregarded “management direction” to redress it. Officials at WMAL, which is owned by the Walt Disney Co., had initially declined to take disciplinary action against Graham, defending his comments as part of the overheated rhetoric of talk radio. But that stance began to change as complaints about Graham’s remarks mounted. Graham, 43, is one of several conservative talk hosts featured on the station. WMAL (630 AM) also carries Rush Limbaugh’s and Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio shows. Graham’s WMAL show is not syndicated. The station had hoped to work out an agreement that would return Graham to the air, Berry said, but it was evident by early yesterday that Graham would not agree to the station’s terms. He added in a statement: “Some of Michael’s statements about Islam went over the line — and this isn’t the first time that he has been reprimanded for insensitive language and comments. In this case, as previously, Michael’s on-air statements do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of station management. I asked Michael for an on-air acknowledgment that some of his remarks were overly broad, and inexplicably he refused.” In 1999, Graham was fired from a Charlotte station for saying that the killing of athletes was a “minor benefit” of the Columbine shootings. He apologized the next day. CAIR applauded WMAL’s decision. The organization had asked the station for a retraction or an apology, but “we didn’t get specific on what [Graham] should say,” said Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman. “We were looking for an acknowledgment that his statements were anti-Muslim and hateful, and harmful to our community and our country’s image.” Berry said no permanent replacement for Graham has been chosen because the station until yesterday thought Graham would be returning to work. He said WMAL will try several hosts in Graham’s slot over the next few weeks. Graham has clashed with CAIR in the past. Last year, the group said comments he made on WMAL implicitly advocated violence against Muslims, and it cited him in a campaign called “Hate Hurts America.”