Report on racism in the British criminal justice system finds surge in Muslim prison population

Labour MP David Lammy authored a report which found a surge in the Muslim prison population and found lack of data on why this population has surged. The report was commissioned by David Cameron in 2016. There has been a 50% rise in the share of prisoners who are Muslim in only ten years. Muslims are only 5% of the overall British population but 15% of the prison population.

Lammy notes that the trend is difficult to trace back to its origins because data is not collected on the religious identities of defendants while still in trial. So, it is unclear if the disparity arises in arrests or in sentencing.

Equality and Human Rights Commission chairman David Isaac stressed that the lack of explanation should signal that “we need more transparent data published.”

Dr Zubaida Haque, a researcher for the think tank The Runnymede Trust, said terror convictions cannot account for the size of the rise. Dr Haque also raised concern about Islamophobia within the prison system and in the criminal justice system more broadly.

Reflection on news outlets calling an attack “terrorism” after Finsbury Park

Guardian journalist, Paul Chadwick, responds to concerns about what should be considered terrorism. He said he started calling the incident a terrorist attack early but it was not premature.

He says events can be called terrorist attacks if they involve “serious harm to random innocents, a location and/or victims with symbolic resonance, apparent intent to generate widespread fear, and a political purpose.” A political purpose means aims at pressuring government or intimidating populations, often stemming from nationalism, racism, or religious fanaticism.

He argues that journalists do not need to wait for courts and official pronouncements to call something “terrorism.” Based on witness reports, journalists on the scene at Finsbury Park decided to call the incident a terrorist attack.

In the case of the Guardian, at 2:01am, about two hours after the attack, the live blog contextualised the event by referencing recent terrorist attacks. The crime correspondent arrived on scene at 3:07am. The correspondent reported at 3:54am that counter-terrorism police were there and at 4:45 am reported that the Muslim Council of Britain described the incident as a terrorist attack. At 5:15am, Prime Minister Threresa May classified the event as “a potential terrorist attack.”

 

The new European Islamophobia Report denounces a phenomenon on the rise

The second annual edition of the European islamophobia report has been published this week by the Turkish foundation for political, economic and social research (SETA). Co-edited by Farid Hafez and Enes Bayrakli, this report monitors the rise of islamophobia in 2016. 27 European countries are analysed by different scholars or NGO-activists.

For the editors of the report : « Islamophobia has (…) become the main challenge to the social peace and coexistence of different cultures, religions and ethnicities in Europe ». Unsurprisingly, reports show that Islamophobia has increased in various forms: rhetorical (hate speech, cyber-violence), physical (assaults occurring in the public space, especially towards covered women). Not to forget the consequences of anti-Muslim discrimination in terms of access to employment and accommodation.

Migration crises, terrorist attacks, the rise of the far right in many European countries are among the factors that create a stronger climate of tension towards European Muslim citizens and an increasingly negative perception of them in most countries. The reports deplore the role of political figures and media actors in the generalization of anti-Muslim discourses. However, the authors also underline the initiatives taken by the civil society and NGOs.

The reports, which contain an analysis of the situation and the chronology of major events connected to anti-Muslim attitudes in each country – also present very concrete recommendations for policy makers and NGOs on a national and supranational level. Among these recommandations : the inclusion of “ Islamophobia or anti-Muslim hate crime”  as a category in European countries’ statistics.

Though one might disagree with the authors of some reports on what exactly constitutes an “anti-Muslim” or an “islamophobic” act, this report presents a rich collection of data and events, which makes it a good resource for researchers interested in Islam in Europe.

By Farida Belkacem

 

Source :

http://www.islamophobiaeurope.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/EIR_2016.pdf

 

Muslim community poses more problems than others, according to an associate of Francois Fillon

“That which is of the greatest concern to me, it’s the growing strength each year, more and more, of communitarianism,” stated Gérard Longuet, an associate of François Fillon, even if certain communities “posed no problems.”

“The Chinese in the XIII arrondissement don’t, to my knowledge, pose any particular problem,” he said. According to Longuet, the problems “in general, are not north XVI or Issy-les-Moulineaux” but “where there are communities of Muslim origin, whether of French nationality or not.”

Asked about the “institutional racism” highlighted by the “Théo affair,” he denounced the accusation and stressed that “France is without a doubt one of the most open countries in Europe, the most conciliatory, where there are the most multiracial and multi-faith families.”

“The French are not deeply racist,” he assured.

After mosque attack in Canada, critics point to anti-immigrant ‘trash radio’

The mayor of Quebec, Régis Labeaume along with Primier Philippe Couillard acknowledged that xenophobia and hate was being spread by what they call  “radio poubelle,” or “trash radio.” Quebec City has developed the dubious reputation of being Canada’s ­capital of shock jocks, online ­radio hosts who love to provoke with outrageous talk about women, homosexuals and Muslims.

Labeaume, appeared to criticize the radio stations. Speaking at an outdoor vigil in memory of the victims Monday evening, he denounced those who “get rich from peddling hatred.”  While Couillard acknowledged Tuesday that the province has “its demons” and that “xenophobia, racism and exclusion are present here.” But he told reporters that Quebec society is generally open and tolerant.

There is no indication that the man charged in the attack, Alexandre Bissonnette, was particularly influenced by trash radio, but members of the Muslim community were quick to complain about the corrosive impact of the anti-immigrant rhetoric heard on the city’s airwaves.

Comparing Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: The State of the Field

An article by Farid Hafez, University of Salzburg, published in ISLAMOPHOBIA STUDIES JOURNAL VOLUME 3, NO. 2, Spring 2016, PP. 16-34.

ABSTRACT
In the European public discourse on Islamophobia, comparisons of antiSemitism and Islamophobia have provoked heated debates. The academic discourse has also touched on this issue, an example being the works of Edward Said, where he alludes to connections between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Following the 2003 publication of the Islamophobia report produced by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), which discusses the similarities between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, scholars in various fields began a debate that compares and contrasts anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Participants in this debate include Matti Bunzl, Brian Klug, Sabine Schiffer, Nasar Meer, Wolfgang Benz, and many others. To some degree, the academias of the German- and English-speaking worlds have conducted this discourse separately. This paper surveys, to a degree, the state of the field of the comparative approach to studying Islamophobia and anti-Semitism as a pair, and also presents some central topoi and associated questions. It aims to highlight primary insights that have been gained from such a comparison, including how this comparison has been discussed and criticized, and what similarities and differences have been identified on which levels. It questions which epistemological assumptions were made in taking such a comparative approach, and which political discourses—especially regarding the Holocaust and the conflict in Israel/Palestine (which are not part of this discussion)—have shaped this debate in many forums, including academia. Furthermore, this paper discusses which possible aspects of comparative research on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have not yet been explored, and where there could perhaps lay more possibilities for further investigation.

Read more
Hafez, Farid. “Comparing Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: The State of the Field.” Islamophobia Studies Journal, Volume 3, No. 2 (Spring 2016): 16-34.

 

Germany debates racial profiling after controversial police action targeting North Africans

Mass sexual assaults in Cologne a year ago

During the 2015/2016 New Year’s Eve celebrations, hundreds of women were sexually assaulted and robbed on the plaza outside Cologne’s main railway station opposite the city’s Gothic cathedral. Victims consistently described the perpetrators as men of Arab and/ or North African origin.

One year later, very few of these men have been convicted of any crimes, mainly due to the difficulty of identifying any particular individual and his actions in a teeming crowd caught on grainy CCTV footage. Yet the political ramifications of the mass sexual assaults have been momentous, with the events in Cologne constituting one of the turning points in Germany’s move towards a more restrictive immigration policy over the past year.

Political fallout

The sexual assaults in Cologne were not only followed by a harshened discourse on immigration, however. They also gave rise to renewed discussions about the presumed cultural or civilizational incompatibility of Arab Muslims with European or German values; a debate that was more often than not marked by the recycling of old Orientalist stereotypes.(( http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/01/19/new-year%E2%80%B2s-eve-assaults-on-women-the-cologne-outcry/ ))

The events of Cologne were also grist to the mill of the populist AfD in another sense: since the sexual assaults were not reported in the national media for days, it appeared that the mainstream media and the political establishment were covering up the offences of immigrants out of a misguided impulse of political correctness. This accusation was also directed at Cologne’s police, who were lambasted from the right for failing to immediately and explicitly identify the perpetrators as Arabs and North Africans.

Learning from past mistakes?

This year, the Cologne police department appears to have been eager to prevent any conduct that could lead to renewed accusations of intransparency or political correctness. Ahead of the New Year’s Eve celebrations, police presence was also further augmented against the backdrop of the truck attack against a Berlin Christmas market on December 19.

Subsequently, on New Year’s Eve the police stopped and surrounded up to 1,300 men of North African origin while they were trying to reach the central plaza in front of the Cathedral. Police asserted that the men resembled “last year’s clientele”. They were said to stand out by a heightened “basic aggressiveness”. Police expelled 190 men from the premises, detained 92 and provisionally arrested 27. 10 cases of sexual assault were reported.(( http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/koelner-silvesternacht-polizei-verteidigt-kontrollen-von.1818.de.html?dram:article_id=375275&utm_campaign=buffer&utm_content=buffer2fe62&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com ))

Questionable terminology

These measures have ignited a fierce debate on questions of race and racism. One of the communications made by Cologne’s police department proved particularly controversial: in a since-deleted tweet designed to keep the population up to date, police had announced that “several hundred Nafris are being checked at the central station.”(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-01/koeln-silvesternacht-polizei-nafris-vorwuerfe ))

The term “Nafri”, as police subsequently explained, serves as an abbreviation for ‘North African Intensive Criminal Offender’. The co-chair of the Green Party, Simone Peters, criticised such language as a “degrading group label” that was “completely inacceptable” due to its racist connotations.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/koeln-polizei-faengt-in-der-silvesternacht-hunderte-nordafrikaner-ab-aid-1.6497990 ))

While Cologne’s chief of police subsequently apologised for the usage of the term ‘Nafri’, he still defended the overall police operation as legitimate and proportionate. “It is simply the case”, he asserted, “that based on experiences of the last New Year’s Eve, and based on experiences gained through police operations more generally, we got a clear picture of which individuals had to be checked.” And these, he added, “were not grey-haired old men or blonde young women.”(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-01/koeln-silvesternacht-polizei-nafris-vorwuerfe ))

Public opinion supportive

Public opinion as well as leading politicians from virtually all parties have been very supportive of this stance taken by the police. Simone Peter was disparaged in Germany’s top-selling daily newspaper, Bild, as “green-fundamentalist intensive windbag out of touch with reality”.(( http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2017-01/cem-oezdemir-koeln-polizeieinsatz-simone-peter?utm_content=zeitde_redpost_zon_link_sf&utm_campaign=ref&utm_source=facebook_zonaudev_int&utm_term=facebook_zonaudev_int&utm_medium=sm&wt_zmc=sm.int.zonaudev.facebook.ref.zeitde.redpost_zon.link.sf ))

Beyond glib assertions and facile insults, however, the events of New Year’s Eve highlight that the Cologne police was caught in a real bind. The political fallout from a failure to prevent a repetition of mass sexual assaults would have been uncontrollable. Consequently, the police already announced prior to December 31 that it had lowered its “threshold of intervention” in order to guarantee a maximum of security.

And indeed, from a purely operational logic focused on the prevention of crimes, it is difficult to argue with the police’s observation that based on past experience it was not unreasonable to direct special attention to large groups of young men of North African descent. The balance between racism and discrimination on the one hand and security and necessary police work on the other hand appears exceedingly difficult to strike.

Questions of racial profiling

Nevertheless, all of this leaves behind an unsavoury aftertaste of racial profiling. The AfD Hamburg was, in fact, quick to assert that the Cologne police action showcased the need for precisely such profiling: “living in an open society means having to decide between racial profiling and mass assaults”. In a string of tweets, the AfD also gleefully picked up on the term ‘Nafri’, now using it as a racially charged catch-all phrase designating North African men in general.(( https://twitter.com/afd_hamburg?lang=en ))

Amnesty International has criticised the conduct of the police as a form of racial profiling violating human rights and likely to entrench stereotypes and prejudices. The organisation questioned whether the police had possessed enough individualised evidence against the hundreds of young men controlled.(( http://amnesty-polizei.de/massives-racial-profiling-durch-die-koelner-polizei-in-der-silvesternacht-massnahme-muss-kritisch-aufgearbeitet-werden/ ))

Tahir Dellar, chair of the Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD) noted that, in contrast to its usual practice of categorically denying any racial profiling, this time the Cologne police openly admitted to stopping individuals purely on the basis of ethnic criteria. Dellar assumed that this unusual openness about discriminatory police action was due to the fact that the police expected majority society to support discriminatory policies, as long as they were directed against North Africans.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/silvesternacht-in-koeln-wie-deutschland-mit-racial-profiling-umgeht-1.3317987 ))

Need for a broader public debate

Germany has witnessed periodic court cases on racial profiling, as well as occasional parliamentary debates on this subject matter.(( http://dip21.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/18/004/1800453.pdf )) However, in contrast to the UK or the US, there is limited public awareness of issues of race and ethnicity in connection with police work.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/silvesternacht-in-koeln-wie-deutschland-mit-racial-profiling-umgeht-1.3317987 ))

German police and security services have struggled to attract immigrants or their children to their forces. A 2011 study highlighted that high-school graduates of Turkish descent were not convinced that they would be welcome in the ranks of the police. The collective failure of police and intelligence services to uncover the National Socialist Underground, a neo-Nazi terrorist group that killed above all immigrants, has further entrenched the perception that the police is unconcerned with racism at best and itself institutionally racist at worst.(( http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2013-03/migranten-polizei-fremdenfeindlichkeit ))

The conduct of police operations in Cologne has prompted some – not just Arab Muslims – to share their stories of what they deem to be unwarranted racial profiling.(( https://correctiv.org/recherchen/flucht/artikel/2017/01/03/racial-profiling-neun-monaten-hat-mich-die-berliner-polizei-23-mal-kontrolliert/?utm_content=buffer7436b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer )) This is an important development: questions of race and racial profiling need to be openly addressed; and the police itself must become more representative of an increasingly diverse society. Only then can the police claim that its – perhaps well-meaning and necessary – actions on New Year’s Eve were also legitimate.

Karim Benzema says he is victim of racism

Source: http://fr.reuters.com/article/idFRKCN0YN3J7

 

June 2, 2016

 

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema said he was denied the chance to play for France in the Euro 2016 this month because of his Algerian origins.

 

The French Football Federation denied the accusation, but Benzema’s comments, published just nine days before France hosts the tournament, have deepened a row about alleged racism in a national team once seen as a model for ethnic integration.

 

Last week, Eric Cantona accused coach Didier Deschamps of omitting Benzema and another French-born football player of North African descent, Hatem Ben Arfa, because of their foreign roots.

 

Deschamps’ lawyer said he planned to sue Cantona for slander. The two have a longstanding rivalry since the mid-1990s when Deschamps replaced Cantona as France’s captain and led the team to World Cup and Euro successes in 1998 and 2000. Benzema is under investigation over an alleged plot to blackmail a teammate, something Prime Minister Manuel Valls said made him unfit to play for the national team. Benzema said his legal problems were being used as an excuse to drop him from the squad.

 

“They said I couldn’t be picked, but on a sporting level I don’t understand and, on a legal level, I’ve not been convicted and I’m presumed innocent,” he told Spanish sports magazine Marca.

“Deschamps succumbed to pressure from a racist part of France,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s only Didier’s decision, because I get on well with him, the president (of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet) and everybody.”

 

Deschamps was not immediately available for comment. Le Graet said Deschamps was neither for nor against Benzema and had previously picked the forward even when he was not in good form.

 

“I think he has got carried away a little bit,” Le Graet told reporters at the French team’s training camp in Austria.

 

“I would have liked him to have been a bit more kind. These are words that don’t correspond with the realities.”

 

The racism row has added to tensions in a country hit by widespread strikes over proposed changes to work contracts and fears about terrorist attacks.

Ahead of the European Championship’s June 10 kick-off, the French team has also been hit by a spate of injuries.

 

The squad has players from various ethnicities. Deschamps last week called up Adil Rami, who is of Moroccan origin. But memories of 1998, when France’s “black-blanc-beur” (black-white-Arab) team won the World Cup, have faded, especially since the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa when the players fell out with the team’s managers.

 

At the time, the far-right National Front party complained that the team did not fully reflect France, where the vast majority are still white.

 

Sports Minister Thierry Braillard dismissed Benzema’s comments as “unjustified” and “unacceptable.”

 

“The French team is selected only on technical criteria and ability. There is not an inch of racism in this federation. The time has come to stand by our team,” Braillard told BFM TV.

 

A successful striker for Real Madrid, Benzema has often failed to excel for the national team, scoring 27 goals in 81 games at international level

UK Students Hold Racist, Anti-Muslim Views

Reflecting a worrying level of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the UK, a new study has found that almost a third of school pupils believe ‘Muslims are taking over our country’, amid unprecedented level of negative attitudes towards Muslims and immigrants.

 

“This survey shows that this is fuelled by a totally distorted view of the number of immigrants and Muslims living in the UK,” Ged Grabby, chief executive of charity Show Racism the Red Card (SRTRC), told The Guardian. The agency surveyed almost 6,000 children aged 10 to 16 across England to find that negative attitudes towards migrants and Muslims were widespread among school pupils.

 

Moreover, 49 percent of the surveyed children agreed with the statement that migration was out of control or not being managed properly. The results were revealed shortly after Labour MP Tristam Hunt’s embarrassing encounter with a schoolchild, who told the shadow education minister that he would vote far-right Independence Party (UKIP) because he would “like to get all the foreigners out of the country.”