Straw Under Fire for Linking Ethnicity to Sex Attacks

A row around race and sexual exploitation flared last night as opponents and supporters reacted to a suggestion by former home secretary Jack Straw that Pakistani men were grooming white girls for sexual abuse. The Blackburn MP made his comments on Friday night after two Asian men were sentenced that day for a series of rapes and sexual assaults on vulnerable young girls. Abid Mohammed Saddique, 27, was jailed for a minimum of 11 years at Nottingham Crown Court and Mohammed Romaan Liaqat, 28, was given eight years. The men were ringleaders of a gang who befriended girls as young as 12 in the Derby area and groomed them for sex.

Mr Straw told BBC’s Newsnight it was a “specific problem” in the Pakistani community. “These young men are in a Western society. In any event, they act like any other young men: they’re fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet for that. But Pakistani-heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a girl from Pakistan, typically. So they seek other avenues and they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care… who they think are easy meat.”

Qatar donates £1.5m for mosque after intervention from Jack Straw

Jack Straw, Britain’s Justice Secretary, wrote a letter of introduction for his friend and political ally, Lord Patel of Blackburn, who persuaded the emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani, to spend £1.5m, half the total needed to build the five-story mosque.

Liberal Democrats in Blackburn, Mr. Straw’s constituency, claimed the Labour party had used the donation to the Bicknell Street mosque in order to garner votes from local Muslims.

Haras Rafiq, co-founder of the Sufi Muslim council, said large foreign donors expected mosques to reflect their beliefs, and this was squeezing out moderate Muslims. “This has been a huge problem for the last decade. Some of the biggest mosques and institutions in the UK have been funded by foreign money and have been proven to be portraying extremist viewpoints.

The Emir of Qatar has an image as a pro-western reformist and modernizer and his country is the base for a significant US military presence. However, Qatar has also provided aid to Hamas and offered support to the extremist Muslim Brotherhood and to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan who has been indicted for war crimes in Darfur.

English law reigns supreme over sharia, says Straw

The Lord Chancellor confirms that sharia ‘courts’ will remain subservient to common law. There is ‘no room for parallel legal systems’ and the law has not changed, he says: Earlier this week, I said here that the Lord Chancellor should deliver a major speech addressing people’s fears about Islamic law in Britain. Never let it be thought that this writer is without influence in high places. Yesterday Jack Straw did just that, addressing the Islamic Finance and Trade Conference in London. This, in full, is what he said on the subject of sharia: “As a Government, it has always been our aim to extend opportunity and prosperity to all – to all parts of the country and to all different communities. This is not about preferential treatment. It is about fairness. This is not about political correctness. It is about respect. “Whether it is employers with prayer rooms; faith schools; kosher and halal food in work places and public services like hospitals; laws to tackle hate crimes; or the provision of financial products that fit with religious beliefs – we have worked to provide a space in which the rights and diversity of people of all faiths are protected, whilst at the same time setting a clear framework of acceptable behaviour for all citizens. “This is the thinking which underpins our approach to sharia law. Of course those who live in this country will always be governed by English law and will be subject to the jurisdiction of English courts. “But there has been much speculation over sharia law in recent weeks, so it may be worth me setting out the true position. “Many dreadful things have been done in the name of mainstream religions. Barbaric practices such as stoning have been – quite wrongly – justified by reference to Islam, for instance. The same was true in earlier periods, for instance when the state apparatus was used to run Inquisitions in countries like Spain. Joshua Rozenberg reports.

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British doctors told to keep beliefs out of surgery

Muslim doctors have been advised not to wear a veil because it could restrict free communication and serve as a barrier to building relationships of trust with patients, a medical council has said. The guidelines, developed by the General Medical Council (GMC), cover topics including abortion, wearing a face veil and male circumcision. The call is similar to the controversial reasons given by the then home Secretary Jack Straw who said the veil served as a barrier to intergration. Doctors have been told to keep their personal beliefs out of the surgery to ensure they do not compromise patient care. The GMC says doctors “must be prepared to respond to a patient’s individual needs”. “In some situations this may require you to set aside your personal and cultural preferences in order to provide effective patient care,” the guidelines said. Although doctors are advised not to discuss personal beliefs with patients they can do so if they are directly relevant to patient care. The guidelines direct: “Whatever your personal beliefs may be about the procedure in question, you must be respectful of the patient’s dignity and views.” Dr John Jenkins, chair of the GMC standards and ethics committee, said: “The GMC recognises that personal beliefs, values, and cultural and religious practises are central to the lives of doctors and patients.

Rushdie knighted in honours list

Salman Rushdie, who went into hiding under threat of death after an Iranian fatwa, has been knighted by the Queen. His book The Satanic Verses offended Muslims worldwide and a bounty was placed on his head in 1989. But since the Indian-born author returned to public life in 1999, he has not shied away from controversy. A devout secularist, he backed Commons Leader Jack Straw over comments on Muslim women and veils and has warned against Islamic “totalitarianism”. The son of a successful businessman, Sir Salman was born into a Muslim family in Mumbai in 1947. He was educated in England at Rugby School and studied history at Cambridge University.

Germany pushes Muslim integration

Germany’s interior minister has called for an EU-wide dialogue with Muslims in an effort to integrate them better. Wolfgang Schaeuble suggested that the EU should promote the training of imams to encourage Muslim leaders who were comfortable with European values. He compared parts of the Islamic world to pre-Enlightenment Europe, and criticised both the burka veil and traditional Muslim attitudes to women. He pledged to use his country’s EU presidency to promote integration. He wanted training for imams that could “strengthen those who can live with the European rule of law, universal rights and the achievements of the Enlightenment”, he said, referring to the 17th Century European movement that put reason and universal rights ahead of tradition. “There are still parts of the Muslim world where historical enlightenment still needs to be implemented,” he told Brussels-based journalists on Thursday. “We should not be arrogant but only helpful. After all, Christianity waged terrible conflicts for a few centuries until the process of Enlightenment took root.” He echoed senior British politician Jack Straw when he said he thought the all-over burka worn by some Muslim women was “an element that hinders communication”. But he said he did not believe it was politicians’ role to decide what people should wear. However, equal rights for women was a universal principle that should be defended everywhere, he said, not just “some peculiarity” of Europe.

2007: Moving on after the veil row

The year 2006 saw much debate over Islam and multiculturalism in England. From the global row over cartoons of the prophet Mohammad in a Danish newspaper, to the public British debate over the veil, Islam and its role in European society was constantly making British headlines. So where are we heading in 2007? Jack Straw once again raised the question of the veil’s role in integration, in such a tone that even Muslims who do not veil (which is by far the majority) were threatened by the defensiveness of his words. A key test for the government in the coming year will be to see how much action is taken to follow through on its rhetoric. The government is supporting British Muslim organizations in an effort to cultivate a new generation of British-raised and British-educated Muslim leaders.

Prescott Backs Right to Wear Veil

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has defended the right of Muslim women to wear veils which cover their faces. It comes after House of Commons leader Jack Straw sparked a row by saying he asked Muslim women to take off their veils at his constituency surgery. Mr Prescott told the BBC he would not ask a woman to remove her veil, adding: “If a woman wants to wear a veil, why shouldn’t she? It’s her choice.”

Rice Hears Complaints From British Muslims

BLACKBURN, England – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heard passionate complaints Saturday from British Muslims about U.S. polices in Iraq, toward the Palestinians and at the U.S.-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Some of the complaints were voiced respectfully by Muslim leaders who met with Rice. Others were chanted, shouted and screamed by anti Iraq-war protesters, who were present almost everywhere the secretary went during what her team planned as a goodwill visit. Local commentary on Rice’s two-day outreach visit to northwest England has been harsh. Saturday morning’s Guardian newspaper carried a half-page cartoon showing Rice and her host, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, holding a banner that said: The Case for War. The banner was riddled with holes and the caption read, Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, a wry reference to the words of the Beatles song A Day in the Life. Kam Kothia, one of the Muslim community leaders who met for an hour with Rice, said the group respectfully told her we want to see change in U.S. policies in the Muslim world. He said he told Rice that the Bush administration should engage, not isolate, the new Hamas government in the Palestinian areas, because it was democratically elected in a process Washington, D.C., backed. The anger at U.S. policies shows the hurdles Rice and her public diplomacy chief, Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, face as they aggressively try to improve the U.S. image in the Muslim world. Their message is usually drowned out in a torrent of complaints about U.S. policies that affect Muslims. Asked what she’d learned from the visit, Rice said, I certainly think you hear a passion about a number of issues. She defended the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, where some terror suspects have been held for years without trial. She said the United States did not want to keep the prison open longer than necessary, but added: If the alternative is to release people back on the street so they can do harm again, that we’re not going to do.