Radical Muslims must integrate, says Blair

Tony Blair yesterday told radical Muslims that they had a “duty to integrate” into British society and warned them they could not be allowed to override what he described as the country’s core values of democracy, tolerance and respect for the law. “Our tolerance is part of what makes Britain, Britain. Conform to it; or don’t come here. We don’t want the hate-mongers, whatever their race, religion or creed,” Mr Blair said. In a speech to an invited audience in Downing Street, Mr Blair offered his most explicit support yet of attempts to limit the wearing of the Muslim veil in public and said ethnic and religious groups who want grants from the state would have to show they were promoting cohesion and integration. While endorsing the concept of multiculturalism – which has been criticised by, among others, Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality – Mr Blair argued: “For the first time in a generation there is an unease, an anxiety, even at points a resentment that our very openness, our willingness to welcome difference, our pride in being home to many cultures, is being used against us; abused, indeed, in order to harm us.” Faith schools are to be required to abide by guidelines on teaching tolerance and respect for other faiths, and will be encouraged to twin with schools from different religions. The Equal Opportunities Commission is also looking at how to address the ban on women in some mosques, and the government has announced a crackdown on foreign imams by requiring them to have a proper command of English before they are allowed to enter the UK. Mr Blair admitted that “the 7/7 bombers were integrated at one level in terms of lifestyle and work” and that “others in many communities live lives very much separate and set in their own community and own culture, but are no threat to anyone”. Religions had a “perfect right to their own identity and religion, to practise their faith and to conform to their culture”. But he said: “When it comes to our essential values – belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage – then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common. It is what gives us the right to call ourselves British. At that point no distinctive culture or religion supersedes our duty to be part of an integrated United Kingdom.” Mr Blair sympathised with Jack Straw, the leader of the Commons, who provoked controversy by announcing that he asked Muslim women to remove their veils when coming to his constituency surgeries in Blackburn. He offered firmer support for Kirklees council in west Yorkshire, which sacked a classroom assistant after she refused to do the same when teaching. “It really is a matter of plain common sense that when it is an essential part of someone’s work to communicate directly with people, being able to see their face is important,” Mr Blair said. The prime minister said that in the past money had been “too freely awarded” to groups representing different religions and racial groups, as “very good intentions got the better of us”. In future, grants would “promote integration as well as help distinctive cultural identity”. But Mr Blair also offered an upbeat assessment of the progress made in race relations in the UK in the last 40 years. He praised David Cameron for delivering a turning point in political debate. “I think it is great that in British politics today no mainstream party plays the race card. It is not conceivable, in my view, that this leader of the Conservative party would … misuse the debate on immigration and that is both a tribute to him and to the common culture of tolerance we have established in this country today,” Mr Blair said. Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, told Mr Blair that he could not “agree more” with his positive remarks on multiculturalism and integration. But in a statement he added: “It was disappointing to see that the PM continues to see the phenomenon of terrorism as a clash of values rather than being prepared to examine whether some of our misguided policies in the Middle East have contributed to gravely exacerbating the threat from extremist groups. It was also worrying to see the PM using emotive language such as Britain ‘being taken for a ride’ or its good and tolerant nature being ‘abused’. That can only help reinforce a ‘them and us’ attitude, when the reality is that there are a tiny group of people – from various different backgrounds – that commit criminal acts and should be dealt with firmly using due legal process.”

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.

Muslim Students ‘More Tolerant’

Muslim pupils are more liberal and tolerant than non-Muslim pupils, a Home Office-funded study has found. The research, involving 400 15-year-olds, was carried out by Lancaster University in a two-year project after the 2001 Burnley riots. It found that nearly a third of non-Muslim pupils thought one race was superior, compared to a tenth of teenagers in a mainly Muslim school.

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.

Religious Hate Law Aimed At Protecting Muslims Passes Uk Vote

Patrick Goodenough, International Editor (CNSNews.com) – In a victory for British Muslim campaigners, the House of Commons Monday passed a bill aimed at curbing religious hatred, despite critics’ warnings that it could worsen relations between religious communities. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill passed its third reading by a 301-229 vote, just hours after Prime Minister Tony Blair’s press secretary declined to rule out using the measure, if it becomes law, against Muslim figures who may incite violence against Christians and Jews. Spokesman Tom Kelly told a Downing Street press conference he would not get into hypothetical speculation about individuals, but the law would be there and it would be applied correctly. Last Thursday’s terrorist bombings in London have focused renewed attention on controversial Muslim figures based in the capital who have long advocated jihad against the West. Islamic organizations have lobbied hardest for the legislation, saying their community needed protection, given an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment after 9/11. They argued that while Jews and Sikhs were already protected by race-hate laws – because they are seen as ethnic groups as well as religious ones – Muslims were not covered in this way, hence the need for a specific religious hatred law. Two previous attempts by the Labor government to get the law passed since 2002 failed, the first running into strong opposition in the upper House of Lords, and the second running out of time earlier this year when parliament was dissolved ahead of elections. After Monday’s Commons vote, the bill now goes to the House of Lords where it is again expected to face tough objections. If passed, the legislation will create a new offence, applying to written material and public verbal comments “that are threatening, abusive or insulting [and] likely to stir up racial or religious hatred.” Anyone convicted under the law could be jailed for up to seven years. Opposition parties – and some Labor MPs – oppose the bill for various reasons, including concerns that it could stifle free speech or infringe the right of the adherents of one faith to question the claims of another. Opposition lawmakers proposed an amendment that would outlaw religious hatred in specific cases where it is used as a pretext for stirring up hatred against an ethnic group. But the proposal was defeated Monday by 291 votes to 233. Senior Conservative lawmaker Dominic Grieve said in the Commons that the bill was “catastrophically flawed” and would not improve race relations. “If the government really wants to tackle this issue, it is going to have to get away from the promises made to various people of some equal playing field, accept that religion and race are different, start to look at the real nature of the problem and try to come up with some constructive solutions,” he said.b What About The Koran? In an earlier Commons debate, a Conservative MP raised the possibility that the law, if passed, could outlaw the reading of passages of the Koran that called for harsh treatment against Christians and Jews. Following those assertions, a delegation of prominent Muslims held talks last week with the government minister responsible for the bill, Paul Goggins, to check whether the legislation could affect reading and quoting from the Koran and other Islamic texts such as the Hadith — the traditional sayings of Mohammed and other early Muslim figures. There were concerns in the Muslim community “that dawah [proselytizing] and propagatory practices may be curtailed under the new legislation,” the Muslim Weekly reported. The delegation suggested that it may be preferable to “totally exempt” Islamic texts from the bill. “The minister assured the Muslim community that there was nothing in the bill that would prevent scholars from delivering their sermons or from reciting from the Koran,” the Muslim publication said. Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Secretary-General Iqbal Sacranie, who headed the delegation, said afterwards he was glad the confusion had been cleared. “Muslim scholars may proceed uninhibited in the performance of their duties,” he said. The MCB has led the lobbying to get the law passed. The Barnabas Fund, a British charity working among Christian minorities in Islamic countries, has played a key role in Christian opposition to the bill. Commenting on the Muslim Council’s attempt to get the Koran exempted from the law, the Barnabas Fund said Muslim leaders in Britain had done their best to have themselves protected by the proposed law. “Now faced with the anti-Christian and anti-Semitic parts of their holy books it appears some are realizing that unless they claim exemption they also will be vulnerable to prosecution,” it said. “This shows the desperate need for Islam to reform itself. Muslim leaders must have the courage to reform their faith and reinterpret the war passages of the Koran and Hadith in a spiritual and peaceable way.” The Barnabas Fund said the bill could cause disharmony among different faiths in Britain. “It also has the potential to silence those who speak out on behalf of millions of people who suffer as a result of particular religious teachings, such as Muslims who convert to another faith (who should be executed according to Islamic law) or Dalits (treated as ‘untouchables’ in the traditional Hindu caste system).” Other opponents of the bill include lawyers, civil libertarians, and actors such as comedian Rowan Atkinson who worry it would outlaw religious jokes. On Monday leaders of evangelical African and Caribbean churches in Britain rallied against the bill, saying it could affect their ability to share the Christian gospel with non-Christians. A petition signed by hundreds of British churches and handed to the government Monday warned about the effects on freedom of speech, saying that “the mere quoting of texts from both the Koran and the Bible could be captured and criminalized by this law.” Also lobbying in parliament was Australian evangelical pastor Danny Nalliah, who together with a colleague has been found guilty of vilifying Islam under a similar law in the Australian state of Victoria. The two pastors face the possibility of going to prison if they defy — as they intend to do — a judge’s order to apologize publicly. Some critics have accused the British government of pushing the bill as a sop to Muslims who traditionally support Labor but were angered by the government’s policies on Iraq. “In essence Labor aims to reward the MCB with a piece of legislation in return for the Muslim vote during the election,” says Sunny Hundal, editor of Asians in Media, a media industry magazine. In an article published last week, Hundal criticized the bill, saying that while “Islamophobia is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with” the legislation would likely affect voices within the Asian community that go against “politically correct stances.”

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)

Reactions To And Controversies About Al Qaradawi’s Visit In London

Islamic cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is due to address a conference on Sunday supported by the Metropolitan Police. Controversy has surrounded his visit to the UK amid claims by Jewish community leaders he threatens race relations. But the cleric has been allowed to speak after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it would not act over his defence of Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel as “martyrs”. He is expected to speak at the Wembley Conference Centre in London.

Muslims ‘Made To Feel Like An Enemy Within’

Muslims made to feel like an enemy within by Islamophobic attitudes, report concludes By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent Hardening prejudice against Islam is creating a disaffected underclass of young Muslim “time-bombs” likely to explode into violence, the Government was warned yesterday. The forecast of race riots followed a major investigation into “Islamophobia”, which concluded that British Muslims felt outsiders in their own country after the 11 September terrorist atrocities. A series of senior figures in the Muslim community told the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia think-tank of the aggression and hostility they regularly encountered. The commission concluded that some communities perceived themselves as ghettoised, leaving them vulnerable to the influence of extremists. It demanded urgent action to tackle discrimination against Muslims and criticised race relations organisations for acting too slowly on the problem.

Where Islam Is Popery And Muslims, The Enemy Within: The BNP Manipulates Dormant Folk Memories Of British Identity

By Jeremy Seabrook The British National party is expected to make gains in the council elections in the former mill towns of Lancashire and West Yorkshire and in Black Country sites of industrial dereliction. But its “success” should be judged less in terms of seats won than in its disturbing ability to connect with an older story of the meaning of Britishness. For the BNP, Islam is the new Popery. The superstition and malevolence once projected on to Catholicism appear to be made manifest once more in the fanaticism and extremism which new holy warriors believe they have located in Islam. Folk memory is a powerful generator of fables for those who know how to manipulate them. The tale the BNP tells today, in the rundown streets of the fearful old and the disinherited young, is about the spread of an alien creed, aided by the fifth column of an enemy within, and of hordes of migrant strangers at our border. The detail – “islands of Islam in our communities”, “a race relations industry kowtowing to the apologists for terror”, even “the imminent extinction of the white man” – however ghoulish, is less significant than the narrative of the nation in danger; for this resonates strongly with earlier versions of these islands in jeopardy.