Two MPs to represent four million immigrants

Two immigrants have been elected to the new Italian parliament – Souad Sbai and Jean Leonard Touadi. Selegalese born Touadi has been elected as an MP for the centre-left Italy of Values Party, and Sbai, the president of Italy’s Association of Moroccan women has been elected an MP for Berlusconi’s conservative People of Freedom Party. The head of Italy’s immigrant party pledged full support for the two, saying they will have the honour of representing 4 million new citizens living in our country. Two other immigrant parliamentary candidates – Frias Merceder Lourdes and Khalil Ali, failed to win seats in the elections on Sunday and Monday.

Sarwar opposes Brown’s anti-terror plans

Previously loyal backbench Muslim MP Mohammed Sarwar turned against Gordon Brown’s counter-terrorism plans and prepared to deliver the first parliamentary defeat of his premiership. Sarwar warned that tension in Muslim communities was rising as a result of the plans. Opponents said they were “reasonably optimistic” they would be able to throw out plans to extend the time terror suspects can be held without charge from 28 to 42 days. Their case has been strengthened by around a dozen MPs who voted in favour of similar laws in 2005, including Sarwar, who have changed their minds. Speaking about his decision for the first time, Sarwar reportedly said that he regretted supporting a 90-day limit and was concerned the legislation would unfairly target the Muslim community. The Glasgow Central MP said: “Last time I voted out of loyalty with the Government. “But since then there has not been a single case where prosecutors or the police have asked for an extension beyond 28 days. Only six people have been held for 28 days – three of whom were released without charge. The Government should think twice about doing this.”

British Muslims Fully Support Catholic Leaders In Their Opposition To The Embryo Bil

Muslims, as well as many Christians, MPs, doctors and parents, are very concerned about the new EMBRYO BILL, which will shortly be voted on in the House of Commons. The bill, called The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, will if enacted allow for many immoral, inhumane and undesirable procedures and outcomes.

Anti-Terror Bill is ‘Anti-Muslim’

An assessment published along with the Government’s revised Counter Terrorism Bill charged it as “anti-Muslim” yesterday as Prime Minister Gordon Brown pushes to controversially extend the detention period to 42-days without trial. Despite a torrent of criticism from opposition MPs and civil liberties groups including the possibility of a humiliating first Commons defeat for Brown, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith resorted to scaremongering in an attempt to bolster support by warning of “mass casualties” from a future terror attack. But the Home Office’s official assessment admitted that there existed “strong concerns” that the legislation is “anti-Muslim”. Although the Home Office was told to do more to win the “hearts and minds”, the consultation conceded that the bill risked alienating Muslims. “Muslim community representatives expressed a concern that this may lead to increased reluctance among their communities to provide vital co-operation and assistance to the police and security services,” the equality impact assessment on the Bill said. Hamza Bajwa reports.

Support for anti-immigration party grows

The number of MPs for the anti-immigration party PVV led by Geert Wilders would double to 18 if elections were held today, according to the latest internet poll by Maurice de Hond. The poll gives the PVV one more parliamentary seat than a week ago before Wilders’ call for a ban on the Koran was published in the Volkskrant. A Maurice de Hond poll last Thursday, a day after the letter was published, indicated that 75% of the population are against banning the Koran and 19% support the call. It also emerged at the weekend that Wilders’ letter was originally offered to NRC Handelsblad which refused to publish it because of its _offensive tone’ and lack of argumentation.

Balancing Protection And Freedom

MPs have approved a bill to outlaw inciting religious hatred, although the government’s original plans were partially defeated after Lords and then MPs forced through amendments. The government’s attempts to give religious groups the same protection from incitement to hate crimes as racial groups have split opinion. Last year the proposed legislation was defeated in the House of Lords. And attempts to strike a compromise prompted a double defeat in the Commons on Tuesday. Amendments to the plans reflect the strength of feeling among critics, many of whom felt the proposals – which will now become law – would infringe freedom of speech. The amendments means threatening language will be outlawed, but not words that are insulting and abusive. They also require the offence to be intentional. In the run-up to Tuesday’s vote, Blackadder star Rowan Atkinson has been one of the most high profile critics of the measures. He said they were a “sledgehammer to crack a nut” and urged that existing race hate laws be amended rather than hampering the right to criticise ideas. He welcomed the government’s defeat, saying the resulting law was a perfect compromise. Different countries around the world adopt varying approaches in an attempt to balance freedom of speech and protecting individuals from hate crimes. Dr Agnes Callamard, the executive director of international human rights group Article 19, says there is “a real patchwork of approaches worldwide”, although methods tend to fall into three distinctive categories. She identifies the “American model” where the state “will not hamper freedom of speech except under extreme circumstances”. The other extreme involves countries where “freedom of speech is curtailed” and there is widespread censorship. Dr Callamard says the UK, as with much of Europe, falls into a third category in which the state “attempts to strike a balance between the right to freedom of speech and the right to equality, and therefore freedom from discrimination.” Holocaust denial Despite the UK’s presence in this category, she says other western European countries have a stricter stance where hate crimes are concerned. “France and Germany, in particular, have far stronger laws in terms of protecting people against religious hatred,” she says, pointing out that the introduction of such legislation will bring the UK in line with other European nations. “For example, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have Holocaust denial laws and laws that prohibit the expression of particular ideas that might be seen as anti-Semitic.” The case of controversial historian David Irving is a recent example of a situation in which these laws have been tested. Mr Irving, 67, was arrested on 11 November in connection with two speeches he gave in the country in 1989. He could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty of Holocaust denial charges. “Laws in other European countries are more detailed than in the UK. Much of this is due to historical differences because they experienced national socialists,” says Dr Callamard. Under current UK laws, Sikhs and Jews have full protection from incitement because the courts regard them as distinct races. The new laws will give protection to Christians, Muslims and others. The bill adds to the racial hatred offences in Part III of the Public Order Act 1986 by banning the stirring up of hatred against persons on religious grounds. In October, the government suffered a huge defeat at the hands of opposition peers, when the Lords voted to protect “discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions”. This was followed by the government’s two shock defeats by MPs when they voted on the bill on Tuesday. ‘Causal link’ Luitgard Hammerer, a consultant at Article 19, suggests caution should be exercised where the new laws are concerned. “The danger with religious hatred laws is that they tend to define legislation very broadly,” he says. “There has to be a definite causal link between a speech and a violent incident. And the legislation should protect the person rather than prohibiting comments. “If you prohibit criticising a belief system, you are entering very dangerous territory that can be abused.”

Cameron Tries Reaching Out To Muslims

David Hogg TORY leadership candidate David Cameron yesterday warned his party to engage with Britain’s Muslim community but was immediately accused of offering little more for ethnic minorities than the Government. On a whistlestop tour of West Yorkshire, Mr Cameron met community leaders at the Leeds Islamic Centre to discuss the aftermath of the July bombings in London and their response to the South Asia earthquake. Offering a number of ideas designed to prevent alienation of British Muslims, but lacking any sweeping policy initiatives, the Witney MP failed to impress after he was challenged over his stance on the war in Iraq. When asked by Arshad Hanif, 45, whether he was in favour of the war Mr Cameron said: “I did support the war. I thought it was the right decision at the time. I don’t think there’s a link between 7/7 and the Iraq war.” He added: “Clearly some people make a link between the war in Iraq and the anger they feel but there is absolutely no justification for turning that anger into violence.” Mr Hanif, who sat with other Asian leaders in a semi-circle either side of the Tory leadership contender, said: “He wasn’t giving us a clear choice between himself and Mr Blair. It is troublesome that he is saying that the war in Iraq was not related to what happened in London.” Mr Cameron also said more could be done to encourage Muslims to join the Conservatives party and stand as MPs.

Dutch MPs Hit Out At Anti-Semitic Arab Television

AMSTERDAM — Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk promised the Dutch Parliament Thursday the government would raise the issue of anti-Semitic broadcasts with Arab countries. A majority of parliamentarians voiced concerns that the Netherlands is being flooded with anti-Semitic propaganda by Arab television stations popular with Middle Eastern immigrants.