Maher accused of Islamophobia for comparing Zayn Malik to terrorist

Elham Asaad Buaras

American political satirist, Bill Maher, has been criticised for Islamophobically comparing the former band member Zayn Malik to the Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

During his Real Time show the comedian was discussing the 22 year-old’s exit from the One Direction when he likened him to Tsarnaev.

During a skit in his show, Maher said: “I think after everything we’ve been through, I at least deserve the common respect of being told face to face [that you’d quit One Direction].

“Just tell me two things Zayn. Which one of the band were you?

“And where were you during the Boston marathon?”

At which point, the screen split to show images of Malik and Tsarnaev side by side, while Maher suggested they looked similar.

This is not the first time Malik has been the victim of Islamophobia. In 2012, rightwing American writer Debbie Schlussel accused him of “boyband jihad” when he tweeted Eid Mubarak to his fans. She claimed that the only reason why he was chosen to join One Direction was because “Islam sells in Britain.” And earlier last month she celebrated his departure from One Direction by announcing the band is “now jihad-free”.

That same year, internet trolls and racially abusive messages led him to temporarily disable his Twitter account. In 2013, American rapper Rucka Rucka Ali released the track Zayn Did 9/11, with art that superimposed Malik’s silhouette over an image of the burning Twin Towers, and lyrics that blamed him for the September 11 attacks.

And last year Malik faced a torrent of abuse and death threats for tweeting #FreePalestine.

Fans showed their support for Malik on Twitter using the #RespectForZayn hashtag, with many believing Maher was mocking his faith.

Some fans turned the table on Maher showing tweeting physical similarity between the US talk show host and right wing Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik who killed 77 people on July 2011.

This is not the first time Maher has been criticised for his comments about Muslims. In 2014, students at University of California, Berkeley, objected to the comedian giving a speech at the university’s December commencement ceremony after he likened Islam to the Mafia on his show.

Malik’s fans set up a Charge.org petition calling for Maher to apologise, which reads: “This is not about making Bill Maher a scapegoat and before you disregard this thinking 1D fans are angry because of Zayn Malik, think again. This is about how islamophobia, racism and discrimination of ANY kind is wrong, shouldn’t be ignored and must end.”

It continues: “This is completely unacceptable. Racism should not become normalised especially on national television. Bill Maher and whoever wrote the script, need to be severely disciplined and at least apologise to show that this type of behaviour is never oK.

Millions watch his TV show meaning he has an influence on many people, the fact that people in the audience laughed is proof of his negative influence.”

Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, said Maher’s joke was out of line.

“It shows that he’s really not missing an opportunity to engage in his Islamophobic themes,” Hooper says. “He serves to legitimise Islamophobia in the left which is one of the unfortunate byproducts of his intolerance of Islam and Muslims.”

Maher responded the following week in his show by branding those offended idiots.

“Two weeks ago I did a New Rule on our Internet Overtime segment about someone named Zayn Malik, who I’’d never heard of until that day,” he said. “Well, the P.C. police as usual read way more into that joke than was actually there.”

From there, Maher introduced the segment titled ”Explaining Jokes to Idiots.” During it, he did a play-by-play of the joke in question.

Muslim woman verbally abused on Sydney train defended

Elham Asaad Buaras

An Australian woman received worldwide praise after stepping in to aid a fellow passenger who was being Islamophobically abused.

Stacey Eden said she has been overwhelmed by the positive response to her video of the verbal attack on one of Sydney’s trains on her Facebook.

Unable to contain her anger at the middle-aged woman who had launched a vile verbal assault, the 23-year-old launched her own assault by defending the Muslim woman while filming the encounter on her mobile phone.

She then uploaded the incident on social media on April 15 evening.

It has since attracted almost 80,000 views and praise, including the couple she defended.

In one post on Eden’s Facebook page the victim’s husband thanks Eden adding: “I generally believe that you and many other Australians do respect all religions.”

To which Eden replied: “Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti thank you so much for contacting me.

“I wish I said more to you and your wife yesterday, but as I said when you got off the train, I’m very sorry you had to experience this. Please don’t let one woman’s ignorance change your opinions on Australia or the people who live here.

“I really hope your wife is OK, it must have been very confrontational and upsetting for you and her both. I wish nothing but the best for you both and your child.”

“So I sat there for a good 10 minutes before I started recording this while I listened to this woman bad mouth Muslims and call the lady sitting opposite me an ISIS supporter because she wore a scarf, then she told me to go join ISIS because I was sticking up for her,” Ms Eden from Mascot wrote on Facebook.

She then lists the recent attacks by the ISIS and made reference to the Martin Place siege in an attempt to justify her verbal assault.

But Eden steps in telling her that the killings have nothing to do with her or her husband.

“That is not her doing it,” she says in the video. “That is a minority of people. Not a majority of people OK?

“What’s that got to do with this poor lady? What’s that got to do with her?”

Eden also defended the Muslim woman’s dress “She wears it because she wants to be modest with her body not because of people like you who are going to sit there and disrespect her,” Eden says in the video.

Pregnant Muslim woman hospitalised after assault in Toulouse

Elham Asaad Buaras

A heavily pregnant French Muslim woman has been hospitalised in Toulouse after being assaulted in an Islamophobic act in the early hours of March 24. The attack was one of three assaults on hijab wearing women in less than three weeks in France.

29-year-old Kedidja, who was wearing a hijab was hit several times by two men and thrown to the ground as she dropped her two children off at school.

Her husband Munir, 33, says they grabbed her hair and pulled at her headscarf while yelling “none of that here” at the nine-months-pregnant woman.

Her unborn baby is believed to be unharmed, but her husband revealed that she has been left severely traumatized.

He added: “My wife had just put our two daughters to school, one in kindergarten and one in elementary school. Upon leaving, she met two young men. One of them grabbed her hair, pulled on her veil and insulted her.”

“After the final few blows and some more insults – including death threats – the two men ran away, leaving her extremely shocked.”

The assailant’s friend reportedly stopped the attack from continuing before the pair shouted racist abuse and threatened to kill her.

Munir said the men took offence to his wife’s hijab even though she was dressed conventionally in tracksuit bottoms and a jacket.

The couples’ MP Christophe Borgel condemn the “cowardly” attack which he said was “without a doubt” a hate crime. “I was shocked to learn of this attack. This French woman of Muslim faith was attacked because she was wearing the traditional headscarf.”

“France does not tolerate any kind of racist attack, France will not tolerate any kind of aggression based on the religion of one of its citizens.

There was a similarly violent incident in June 2013 when a pregnant Muslim woman was assaulted in the suburbs of Paris by two alleged “skinheads” for wearing a face-veil. The woman tragically suffered a miscarriage but it remained unclear if she lost her baby directly because of the attack.

French authorities have been concerned by a rise in Islamophobia since the horrific terror attacks in Paris in January.

France’s anti-Islamophobia group Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF) has documented a record 116 Islamophobic attacks in the space of just three weeks (January 7 – 20) following the terrorist attacks. To put things into perspective it had recorded 110 similar acts in the whole of 2014.

CCIF Spokeswoman, Elsa Ray, told The Muslim News the attack on Kedidja was not an isolated incident.

“A woman in Saint-Etienne was assaulted by another woman who actually violently grabbed the arm of the victim’s 11 months old baby girl and a mother violently assaulted by a man near the school (also a student’s parent) who actually snatched her hijab to the point where she had to pick it up from the ground.”

These three women are not isolated cases but definitely a manifestation of the raise of physical Islamophobic violence in France, which the CCIF said the recent attacks on Muslim women was a manifestation of the raise of physical Islamophobic violence in France which they have warned about for the past 2 years.

Pigs’ heads dumped on Islamic centre

Elham Asaad Buaras

Four pigs heads were been dumped on the doorstep of a new community centre in Hermitage Road, Solihull, Birmingham, which protesters claim is being used as an unauthorised mosque.

West Midlands Police say windows were smashed at Solihull Community Hub the previous day.

Officers were called to the former ambulance station at 9.30pm on Sunday April 12 by a trustee who discovered the heads.

West Midlands Police say CCTV cameras caught the culprit in the act.

He is seen leaving the animals’ heads on the doorstep before driving off in a light-coloured saloon.

A carrier bag, believed to have been used in the crime, has been seized and is currently being examined by forensic experts, along with other evidence taken from the scene.

A number of witnesses have also spoken to local officers.

A 1,000 people signed an on-line petition calling for The Hub to be closed following allegations it is being used, without permission, as a mosque.

Solihull Council confirmed it is investigating whether the terms of the planning consent had been broken.

The details emerged as the anti Islam EDL revealed it was planning a demonstration in Solihull town centre on April 18 over proposals for a Muslim cemetery at nearby Catherine-de-Barnes.

Proposals for the scheme were submitted to Solihull Council last month after the scheme was turned down twice last year.

Chief Superintendent Alex Murray said, “We’ve secured good quality CCTV of the culprits and my detectives are making good progress with the investigation. The forensic evidence we have is also very strong and we expect a result from that in the coming days.”

Supreme Court shows sympathy to woman denied job due to hijab

Support: Elauf is pictured with her mother Majda Elauf, left, and P. David Lopez, General Counsel of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as they leave the Supreme Court in Washington

Elham Asaad Buaras

A majority of US Supreme Court justices have shown sympathy for a Muslim woman who was denied a job at Abercrombie & Fitch because she wore a head scarf.

On February 24, the nine justices heard an appeal brought by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Samantha Elauf.

Elauf, who was denied a job at an Abercrombie Kids store in Oklahoma in 2008 when she was 17, attended the Supreme Court in Washington for the hearing with her mother.

It appeared the court’s four liberal justices were likely to vote in Elauf’s favor, while at least one of the court’s conservatives, Justice Samuel Alito, seems set to follow suit.

The legal issue is whether Elauf was required to ask the company to accommodate her religious practice.

Abercrombie & Fitch said she did not ask them to change their policy and so they cannot be sued under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The company said it has previously granted religious accommodations when they have requested.

Elauf was wearing a hijab, at her job interview but did not specifically say that, as a Muslim, she wanted the company to give her a religious accommodation.

But her interviewer assumed she was wearing it for religious reasons. She was impressed by Elauf but when she consulted a manager, they did not give her the job.

The company denied Elauf the job on the grounds that wearing the scarf violated its image for staff.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the civil rights law requires certain people to be treated differently to other applicants if they have a religious requirement.

“They don’t have to accommodate a baseball cap. They do have to accommodate a yarmulke,” Ginsburg said, in a reference to the cap worn by some Jewish men.

Justice Samuel Alito said employers like Abercrombie could easily find out if prospective employees need a religious accommodation by simply asking if they are able to abide by work rules.

He noted that Abercrombie had assumed Elauf would wear the head scarf every day simply because she wore it at the interview. “Maybe she just had a bad hair day,” Alito said.

Other conservative justices were more skeptical about the Government’s arguments.

Chief Justice John Roberts speculated that putting the burden on the employee to assess whether a religious accommodation is needed “may promote stereotypes to a far greater degree” by requiring interviewers to inquire about applicants’ religious beliefs.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

Mo Farah endures Plastic Brit dig by team-mate

Mo Farah claims it was during the celebrations for their first and second 10,000m wins in the European Champion ships in Zurich last year that Andy Vernon made a dig about being the true European champion

Nadine Osman

Despite winning Olympic, World and European titles for Britain, Somali born Mo Farah has had to endure the “plastic Brit” charge from the Daily Mail, twitter trolls and far-right groups. But last month Farah revealed that even a GB team-mate has questioned his nationality.

The revelation came after Andy Vernon irritated Farah by suggesting the field for his two-mile race at the Birmingham Indoor Grand Prix was a “joke”. Farah responded by breaking the two-mile indoor world record.

Farah claimed that tensions festered since last year’s European Championships in Zurich, following a comment Vernon made when the pair were celebrating after finishing first and second respectively in the 10,000m.

“We were sitting down together with a number of staff and athletes,” said Farah. “One comment he made, which I didn’t really like, was to say that he should have won the gold. I was like: ‘What, the gold should have been given to you?’ And I was like: ‘Because he was the only European guy?’

“You can’t say something like that. I was just kind of biting my tongue at the time.”

The conversation quickly escalated as the two middle-distance runners aired their views on Twitter

But Vernon accused Farah of playing the racism card adding that Farah had made an “outrageous misrepresentation of the chat” they had – and that he was sorry for any offence caused.

“What I did say was complete tongue-in-cheek,” said Vernon. “I said: ‘I’m European champion.’ That was it. I don’t discard him as British – it’s complete lies. His management team have been very snide at making me out to be a bad guy. He laughed at the time. If he did take it out of context, it wasn’t meant that way and I apologise.”

“I’ve known Mo for 12 years. We weren’t best of friends but we were pals. I was delighted when we finished first and second in the 10,000m and I celebrated with him. There’s nothing more I would like right now than a two-way press conference when we can discuss what happened because what he said is not what I said. He has played the cheap shot. He has played the card. I don’t know what I can do.”

Vernon also claimed that Farah’s tweets had been sent by a third party, adding: “I don’t think he is that kind of person. His Twitter account is managed by someone else.”

Meanwhile Farah has admitted that his tweets, during which he branded his rival “an embarrassment” who had not won anything “decent”, should not have been sent. “I do apologise,” he said. “I shouldn’t have reacted that way. We do have some history in the past, me and Andy. In terms of making it public, that was never the right thing to do. My frustration just got the better of me.

“But with an athlete like him, one I’ve been on the podium with, it was difficult to bite my tongue,” he said. “I couldn’t do it. Andy has a history of disrespecting athletes. You know me and Andy, we’re not best friends, we’ll never be best friends. That’s just how it is. I just have to concentrate on my running and do what I have to do.”

It is not the first time Vernon has been embroiled in a twitter row with a British athlete. Last summer he apologised to Lynsey Sharp, who called him “Andy Vermin” after he claimed she kept going on about winning 800m silver in the Commonwealth Games.

Judge criticised for hijab removal demand

Nadine Osman

A Canadian judge has been criticised by both the Prime Minister and the Premier of Québec after demanding a witness remove her hijab (headscarf), before giving her testimony.

The judge told Rania El-Alloul that appearing in a Montreal, Quebec, courtroom on February 24 she would not hear her case until she removed her hijab.

In an audio recording obtained of the proceedings, Judge Eliana Marengo was heard telling El-Alloul that the courtroom is a secular place, and that she was not suitably dressed.

“Hats and sunglasses for example, are not allowed. And I don’t see why scarves on the head would be either,” Marengo says in the recording.

El-Alloul, who moved to Canada from Kuwait 13 years ago, said the incident made her “feel afraid” and that she was not being treated as “a human being”.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said that “if someone is not covering their face, we believe they should be allowed to testify.” Earlier this month Prime Minister Stephen Harper upset Muslim Canadians saying the niqab is “rooted in a culture that is anti-woman”.

Premier Philippe Couillard said religious clothing should be removed only if it creates a problem for communication or security. “I’m a little bit disturbed by this event, I must say.”

The mother of three said: “When I came the first day when I made landing in Canada, I was wearing my hijab.

“When I swore by God to be a good Canadian citizen I was wearing my hijab, and the judge, I shook hands with him the same day I became Canadian. I was really very happy. But what happened in court made me feel afraid. I felt that I’m not Canadian anymore.

“When she insisted I should remove my hijab, really I felt like she was talking with me as … not a human being. I don’t want this thing to happen to any other lady. This is not the work of a judge. She doesn’t deserve to be a judge.”

El-Alloul was in court to apply to get her car back after it was seized by Quebec’s automobile insurance board.

A spokeswoman for Elizabeth Corte, the chief judge of Quebec Court, said the court has no plan to intervene to clarify the rules relating to religious symbols in courtrooms. “In the regulation for Quebec Court, there is nothing that talks of wearing religious symbols. It talks of decorum and of being suitably dressed. There are no other guidelines,” Annie-Claude Bergeron said.

Support has been pouring in for El-Alloul, including a crowd funding campaign that raised more than $50,000 to help her buy a car after a judge refused to hear her case to retrieve her seized vehicle.

El-Alloul expressed her gratitude for the campaign but declined the gift by what she called a “generous and warm hearted campaign”.

“The awareness raised by this campaign has brought us people from all over, who have offered support to carry this issue forward. As a result, I believe that these funds can be put to better use helping those whose rights have been forfeited and stories left untold,” she said.

Campaign co-funder, Nouman Ahmad, said he was “dismayed” when he heard media reports that El-Alloul was told that her case against the province’s auto insurance board would not be heard unless she removed her headscarf.

Council apology over Palestinian terrorism homework

Elham Asaad Buaras

 

A Scottish Council was forced to apologise after one of its primary schools assigned homework to11 year-old children describing Palestinians as “terrorists”.

The assignment, which is part of the social studies programme, went viral after it was handed to Year 6 pupils at New Stevenston Primary, which is run by North Lanarkshire Council.

The assignment reads; “Palestinians feel they have the right to use terrorism against Israelis” and asks pupils to give two reasons for this. The homework also asks pupils to “describe two examples of Palestinian terrorist activities.”

In the accompanying information pupils are told that: “Palestinians have turned to terrorist methods for over 30 years.”

It adds: “Recently terrorists have carried out suicide bombings on buses and public places. They are respected by their own community as martyrs. A solution to this extremism is hard to find.”

It also refers to the Munich hostage crisis where nine Israeli athletes were killed during the 1972 Olympic Games.

Teachers at the Motherwell school have already held a meeting with parents over the worksheet.

Association of Palestinians Communities in Scotland (APCS) condemned the council.APCS Chair, Issam Hijawi, said he was “shocked” by the assignment.

“We are calling for this to be withdrawn immediately and we want to have a meeting with the education department at North Lanarkshire Council to discuss how this situation arose. It is unbelievable that they are giving 11-year-old pupils information asserting that our struggle for freedom is pure terrorism. The questions are not only biased but they are contradicting the legal framework of the Palestinian cause.”

He added “We also ask that all materials used in schools relating to the teaching of the history of Palestine is discussed between Education Scotland and the Palestinian community.

“At a time when Muslims are being demonised for the actions of a tiny minority, our children need to gain a proper understanding of the occupation of Palestine and learn compassion rather than fear and hatred.”

The issue came to light after the sister of a pupil at the primary school posted about it on Facebook.

Aliyah Shafiq posted a copy of the homework on her facebook and wrote: “How is my little sister being made to answer questions like this for her homework? This is completely unacceptable and has to be complained about to North Lanarkshire Council.”

The original image has been shared hundreds of times and the council has been inundated with complaints.

A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council’s Learning and Leisure Services told The Muslim News the homework was part of a now obsolete teaching pack and that they “are contacting all schools to ensure this particular material is no longer used. The description of Palestinian people is entirely inappropriate and apologise unreservedly for the offence caused.”

The council also said this was an “isolated incident” and that they not aware of any other school using the material. But said it was in the process of contacting all schools within its area to ensure that the worksheet would no longer be used.

Farage defends UKIP MEP who called Muslim politician Abu Hamza

Elham Asaad Buaras

UKIP Leader, Nigel Farage, is at the centre of a row after refusing to condemn UKIP’s only elected politician in Scotland for comparing a Muslim SNP Minister to Abu Hamza who was convicted of supporting terrorism.

Farage claimed that David Coburn’s controversial remark was merely a “joke in poor taste” and has rejected demands to kick the MEP out of the party.

Coburn, who is also bidding to become an MP in the General Election, said in conversation: “Humza Yousaf, or as I call him, Abu Hamza.”

Yousaf, the Scottish Minister for Europe and International Development, said Farage’s response was “pitiful” and challenged him to sack Coburn.

Scotland’s party leaders and politicians have joined forces to condemn Coburn.

An online petition calling for Coburn to resign has been launched, with nearly 300 signatures.

In the wake of the controversy, the SNP has called on Prime Minister, David Cameron, to rule out a post-election deal with UKIP.

Coburn, who has insisted his remark was made “in jest”, made the comment during a conversation with the Scottish Daily Mail earlier this month, in which he spoke about his appearance on BBC Two show The Big Immigration Debate.

He claimed that Yousaf was supposed to appear on the programme, and said: “Humza Yousaf, or as I call him, Abu Hamza, didn’t seem to turn up.”

Responding to the news that Yousaf has called for disciplinary action against Coburn Farage replied: “What, for telling a joke in poor taste?”

Yousaf said Farage’s response revealed “he doesn’t have a clue of what’s going on in his own party” or “at worst it indicates he doesn’t see anything wrong in what Mr Coburn has said.”

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said the slur was “reprehensible”.

Scottish Labour Leader, Jim Murphy, said of the UKIP MEP: “People across Scotland, including even those who voted for him, will now want to see the back of him.”

Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, tweeted: “Totally unacceptable. Our country is better than this. And he’s got form. Mindless idiot.”

Scottish Lib Dem Leader, Willie Rennie, called Coburn “an offensive fool” while the Scottish Green Party has called for Coburn’s resignation.

President of Glasgow Central Mosque, Asid Khan, said: “Muslims have spent years rightly distinguishing the true teachings of Islam against the actions of terrorists. For an elected member to refer to Humza Yousaf as a convicted extremist is beyond the pale. David Coburn’s remarks have deeply insulted the entire Muslim community in Scotland.”

In a statement to The Muslim News Muslim Council of Scotland (MCS) said it was appalled at Coburn and called on Nigel Farage, “to do the right thing and take immediate action against David Coburn, such a person is not fit to represent Scottish people in the European parliament.”

“The stereotyping of Muslims as extremists and terrorists, is one the most shameful forms of Islamophobia, and the manner constantly used by right-wing groups such as the BNP and the English/Scottish Defence League at caricaturing Muslims. For a leader of a mainstream political party to make the same type of insult is frankly disgraceful and reprehensible” said a MCS spokesman.

Liverpool fans hit back at Islamophobe

Nadine Osman

A Liverpool fan has been branded a “bigot” after he tweeted a photograph of two Muslim fans praying at Anfield, calling the act a “disgrace”.

Stephen Dodd posted the photo on March 9, a day after Liverpool 0-0 draw with Blackburn Rovers, with the caption “Muslims praying at half time at the match yesterday #DISGRACE”.

The tweet was instantly met with disdain and criticism by many Liverpool fans who pointed to the fact that he supports a club that has two Muslim players within its squad – Emre Can and Kolo Toure.

liverpool fan

Harryfre wrote: “How is that disgraceful in the slightest?”

RollsonShabbos accused Dodd of being a “raging bigot”, while another man asked: “Is this a joke? What did these guys do to harm anyone?”

Referring to the religious beliefs of prominent Liverpool players, Marwan Elsaifi added: “Do you want to see Can and Kolo stop praying at beginning of each game too?”

Dodd remained unapologetic tweeting that, “The world’s gone mad” adding, “Been going the match for 30 years and I’m being told I’m a disgrace to the club by people from Bristol.”

 

The incident occurred a month after a group of Chelsea fans were filmed shoving a black man off a Paris metro.

The video shows the man make multiple attempts to board a train at Richelieu-Drouot station, only to be pushed away each time by a group of passengers.

The group, who appear to be Chelsea supporters, can then be heard chanting: “We’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it.”

UNESCO criticises gun club for snubbing Muslim

Abdul Adil

The decision of Germany’s largest gun club to disbar a title-winner over his Muslim religion came back to bite members after their bid for UNESCO cultural heritage status was suspended.


Mithat Gedik was crowned Schützenkönig

Last July, 33-year-old Mithat Gedik was crowned Schützenkönig (marksman king) by his local club in Werl, North Rhine-Westphalia – only to have his title withheld because the organization’s ancient statute meant that non-Christians were ineligible to claim the crown.

The Federation of Historic German Marksmanship Brotherhoods (BHDS) club then granted him the prize as an ‘exception’ after the case was taken up and condemned by anti-discrimination authorities.

Because the actions of the BHDS did not reflect “accessible and open fostering of tradition”, its application to receive UNESCO World Heritage status was suspended citing a letter sent to Europe’s main shooting association, the EGS.

The BHDS condemned the ruling.

BHDS spokesman, Rolf Nieborg, said, “We have espoused Christian values for more than 800 years, not just in Germany but in many other European countries.”

“We expect the same tolerance from them as they expect from us,” he said.

Strictly speaking, Gedik is not even allowed to be a member of his shooting society because section two of its statute dates that it is an “association of Christian people”.

Gedik, who was born to Turkish parents and grew up in Germany, studied Catholicism at school and lives with his German wife and four children in Werl.

He also volunteers at the fire department and is on the board of his local shooting club, all of which made it “incomprehensible” to him that such a situation should arise in the 21st Century.

The BHDS then convened a special meeting at which it made an exception in Gedik’s case, allowing him to keep his title. But he was disbarred from competing at the county shooting championships, despite winning his town’s competition.

Stockholm imam receives death threats

Elham Asaad Buaras

The imam at Stockholm’s largest mosque received death threats and a white powder was sent to the religious centre on February 6. President of the Islamic Association of Sweden, Omar Mustafa, said, “The police have taken several steps and we have contact with them. We hope that they clear this up very quickly.”

The death threats were reported to have been made after a package containing white powder was sent to Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan mosque near Medborgarplatsen in central Stockholm.“I can’t go into detail but it was a direct death threat which the police have taken seriously,” Mustafa said.


Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan mosque near Medborgarplatsen

The powder turned out to be harmless although police said that security at the mosque has been strengthened. The mosque has previously been targeted in a white powder attack and Muslim leaders have advised all mosques in the country to be extra vigilant.

 

Muslim school vandalized

Ahmed J Versi

Vandals sprayed painted anti-Islamic graffiti on an entrance and back walls of the Islamic School of Rhode Island in West Warwick on February 13. President of the school’s Board of Trustees, Hilmy Bakri, said that racial slurs were spray-painted on the school, with the words, “Now this is a hate crime” and “pigs,” along with expletives referring to Prophet Muhammad and to Allah.

Vandals sprayed painted anti-Islamic graffiti on an entrance and back walls of the Islamic School of Rhode Island in West Warwick on February 13

On Facebook, the Islamic School said the defacement “is not something that we take lightly,” and that evidence has been supplied to local law enforcement as authorities investigate. The perpetrators went “beyond normal vandalism” and wrote “senseless, hateful comments,” West Warwick Police Captain Donald Archibald.

“I find it very upsetting,” said Rabbi Sarah Mack, of Temple Beth-El in Providence. “The Muslim community in Rhode Island is very open and peaceful.” The independent School opened 11 years ago for students of all cultures and backgrounds. Of Rhode Islanders with a known religious affiliation, less than one percent is Muslim, according to a 2008 Pew study.

Man confesses to arson at Houston Islamic center

Elham Asaad Buaras

A Houston man has apparently confessed to arson in a fire that destroyed a building at an Islamic center on Friday February 13, officials said.

Officials at the Quba Islamic Institute mosque and school say there became aware through media reports that 55 year-old Darryl Ferguson had been arrested and charged with first-degree felony arson in connection with the blaze that erupted before morning prayers in the storage area of the mosque and Muslim school.

However mosque officials say they have not been notified by authorities of the arrest.

Imam Ahsan Usman Zahid told The Muslim News the Institute in southeast Houston, Texas, was also forced to cancel classes the following Monday and Tuesday “due to violent threats received on Facebook page and in interest of the safety of our children.”

“We think the fire is connected to the rise of Islamophobic crimes that are unfortunately dominating society these days.” said Zahid.

Investigators with the Houston Fire Department ruled an accelerant was used in the fire.

Worshipers described the incident as particularly troubling following the Chapel Hill murders of three young Muslim American students.

Officials said the blaze burned the extension at the back of the main building. Mosque officials say $200,000 worth of damage was caused. The building was closed at the time of the fire, and no one was inside. No injuries were reported.

Swedes rally after series of arson attacks on mosques

Elham Asaad Buaras

Thousands of Swedes participated in anti-Islamophobia and anti-racism demonstrations in their country’s major cities on January 2 following three arson attacks on mosques. The crowds in Stockholm gathered outside the Royal Palace in the Old Town hold banners reading: “Don’t touch my mosque”.

Anti-Islamophbobia campaigner Yasin Ahmed said he was “surprised and thrilled” that so many people had turned out for the event.“They are not only attacks on mosques but also against Swedish democracy. I am a Swedish citizen first and I am also a Swedish Muslim seeking to protect my rights and to show solidarity with others to deal with this Islamophobia.”

There have been at least a dozen confirmed attacks on mosques in Sweden in the last year and a far larger number are believed to have gone unreported.Spokesman for Sweden’s Islamic Association (SIA), Mohammed Kharraki, said, “We want to send the message that these attacks on mosques… are a problem for all of society and not just Muslims.” “People are afraid, they fear for their safety,” added Kharraki.

“We’ve seen through history that people use violence as a way of polarising society against minorities.”
Culture and Democracy Minister, Alice Bah Kuhne, said that Sweden should still be seen as “a paradise” for immigrants from different nations despite the current tensions.

Police are searching for suspects linked to the third arson attack against a mosque in a week, which took place in Uppsala on January 1 amid growing tensions over the rise of a far right anti-immigration movement.

The mosque has since been covered in paper hearts from people pledging their support to Muslims.
“People saw a man throwing something burning at the building,” said a police spokesman, adding that the mosque in eastern Sweden did not catch fire and that the suspect had left behind “a text on the door expressing contempt for religion.” SIA posted a photo online of the main door of the mosque, which was emblazoned with the slogan “Go home Muslim shit”.

The attack in Sweden’s fourth-largest city came just three days after arson attack at a mosque in Eslöv in the south.On Christmas Day, five people were injured when a petrol bomb was thrown through the window of a mosque in Eskilstuna, west of the capital Stockholm.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven led condemnation of the latest attack. “The most important thing now is that everyone distances themselves from this,” he said.
“In Sweden no one should have to be afraid when they practice their religion,” he added, saying the government would increase funding for securing places of worship.

The attacks come as debate intensifies in Sweden over immigration and the integration of asylum seekers in the country, which is expected to receive more than 100,000 asylum applications this year, breaking all previous records.

The far right Sweden Democrats – which doubled its support to 13 percent in September elections – came close to bringing down the Social Democrat-Green Government in protest over the coalition’s liberal refugee policies. The Party’s support in opinion polls has risen to around 16 percent.

However in an eleventh hour accession on December 27, the Gvernment and centre right opposition parties bartered denying the Sweden Democrats influence over major policy – including over immigration.
Kharraki said the arson attacks could be carried out by “Sweden Democrats people who are angry because they’ve been pushed aside.”

“They think Muslims are the problem,” he said, while “mainstream political parties have taken a stand against racism and Islamophobia.”

A spokesman for the Sweden Democrats said there was no reason to consider the attacks to be politically motivated. “This is not political, it’s criminal. It’s criminals doing this and it’s a police matter, not a political question,” said Henrik Vinge.

Anti-Islam protesters swarm anti-Islamophobia conference in Texas

Elham Asaad Buaras

An anti-Islamophobia conference in Dallas, Texas, US, was met with demonstrators holding American flags and signs railing against Shari’a.

Attendees of the Stand With the Prophet Against Terror and Hate conference on January 17 were met with protesters carrying signs with slogans that called Islam the “enemy of freedom” and who told the attendees they were “not welcome” in their country.

Some of the protestors took issue with Shari’a, while others targeted the public school system for allowing the event to be held at one of its buildings in the area northeast of Dallas.
“We pay our taxes to that school, and I don’t want them here,” said one woman holding a “God Bless America” sign.

The event drew a heightened police presence and also some counter-protesters who also turned up outside, carrying their own signs with messages that read: “Jesus is not a hater.”

The event featured a panel of prominent speakers, including Georgetown University Professor John Esposito and Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid from Chicago.

It is one of many events planned by organising group, Sound Vision, which has scheduled conferences in several cities around the country as part of the “Stand with the Prophet” tour.

The group has already held events in a number of cities, including Boston and Chicago, and aims to raise money for a strategic communication center to help eliminate negative public opinion of Muslims.
“I go to Muslim countries, and I speak all over the United States,” Esposito said during his speech.
“What’s interesting to me is that this is the first time that I’ve been in a situation that I’ve come to speak and I’ve seen this level of hate.”

Pig’s head hung on Austrian mosque

Elham Asaad Buaras

A part of a pig’s head and some pork tripe were attached to the door of a Kocatepe mosque in Vienna’s 21st district on December 25.

The head of the Turkish-Islamist Union in Vienna (ATIB), Fatih Karadaş, condemned the attack saying that “this is not an attack against Muslims but the whole of humanity. We, as Muslims, will preserve our calm and collective attitude.”

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Pig tripe attached to the door of Kocatepe mosque in Vienna

This is not the first incident of its type, as Austria’s Muslim community has been attacked several times this year in similar hate crimes. An Imam Hatip school in Vienna was also similarly vandalised. A pig’s head was left in front of the school’s door during Ramadan in early October.

And in August, a pig’s head was impaled on a fence at a construction site for a new Muslim school.

Muslims are forbidden from eating pork or touching pig carcasses.

The planned school has been unpopular in Austria, with Foreign and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz saying the idea “is completely the wrong approach”.

Another mosque called Eyüp Sultan, located in the town of Telfs, was repeatedly vandalised with graffiti. An elderly Muslim woman was attacked in a bank, apparently the victim of a hate crime motivated by religious intolerance. In September, a Muslim woman was attacked by another woman on a train, apparently because the former was wearing a headscarf.

In August two elderly Muslim ladies wearing headscarves were attacked in Favoritenstrasse. Police were reportedly slow to respond to this incident, and only began questioning suspects days after.

Austria’s Islamic Religious Community Association said that Muslims often experience discrimination in Austria but that “it is not well documented”.

Spokeswoman Carla Amina Baghajati said that the Association plans to start collecting data on all religiously motivated incidents. However, she said she did not believe that the police lacked sensitivity to the issue.

Islamophobic attacks in Birmingham mosque, university and shops

Elham Asaad Buaras

West Midlands Police have said they are linking two Islamophobic vandal attacks in south Birmingham. A series of Muslim-owned shops and businesses are reported to have been attacked by men armed with guns and hammers.

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Islam must die graffiti daubed on University of Birmingham walls

A number of Swastikas and ‘Islam must die’ graffiti were daubed on walls at the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston and a mosque in Selly Oak overnight between January 16 and January 17. Police said the graffiti has since been removed from the old university gym, in Edgbaston Park Road and the Jahalabad mosque, in Dartmouth Road.

Students have raised their concerns that religions and minority groups, particularly Islam and Judaism, are being targeted. Jewish students have expressed concern over the graffiti, with many seeing it as anti-Semitic as well as Islamophobic.

“We are deeply saddened and shocked at this Islamophobic campaign, which condemns all Muslims without justification. This is a prime example of racist propaganda, designed to stir up hatred and only serves to alienate Muslim students from the rest,” said a spokesman for the University’s Islamic Society.
The University of Birmingham has removed the graffiti.

A spokesman for the University told The Muslim News, “The University of Birmingham is a community of 150 nations situated in a vibrant multi-cultural city. While we respect the right of all individuals to exercise freedom of speech within the law, we will actively challenge discrimination of any kind and strive to strike a balance that protects these freedoms and ensures vigilance against any forms of potential extremism or discriminatory behaviour.”

In a statement to The Muslim News West Midlands Police Sergeant for Edgbaston, Pete Sandhu, said: “Mindless hate of this kind has no place in 21st century Birmingham and work is underway to find the person responsible. Evidential photographs have been taken and CCTV which may have captured the vandal is currently being reviewed.”

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said it is monitoring unfolding developments in Birmingham where a series of Muslim-owned shops and businesses are reported to have been attacked by men armed with guns and hammers.

“Whilst detectives are not yet able to be certain of a link between the attacks, we hope that these remain isolated incidents and do not escalate to the levels seen in France, which saw a spike in anti-Muslim attacks across the country following the recent brutal murder of journalists at the French publication, Charlie Hebdo.”

In a statement to The Muslim News MCB called for “calm as the police authorities conduct their investigations, and encourage mosques and British Muslims to be vigilant, report any attacks to the police and take the necessary steps to protect your institutions. In the meantime it is important for all communities to come together in solidarity, support and vigilance.”

Turkey’s president tells Europe to tackle growing Islamophobia

Elham Asaad Buaras

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on January 6, warned the EU it should tackle “Islamophobia” amid rising anti-Muslim protests. Erdogan said Islamophobia is on the rise in Europe, complaining that racist organisations won sympathy in some Western societies with “each passing day”.

“The Islamophobia, which we constantly draw attention to and warn of, represents a serious threat in Europe. If the issue is not dealt with seriously today, and if populism takes European politicians captive, the EU and European values will come into question,” he said.

His comments came a day after controversial German group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident or PEGIDA rallied 18,000 people in Dresden for a demonstration against “Islamisation” of Europe and “criminal asylum seekers.”

Many people ignored a call by Chancellor Angela Merkel to snub such street protests.
PEGIDA movement began with just a few hundred in October.

Extreme right-wing parties have grown in popularity across Europe in the past decade, surfing on anti-immigrant sentiments amid widespread discontent over the dismal economic situation.

Thousands also joined counter-demonstrations in several cities against PEGIDA. Ten thousand people joined a Muslim community rally against Islamophobia in Berlin where Merkel said her Government would do everything in its power to fight intolerance amid a growing anti-Islamic movement in the country. Merkel used the occasion to deliver her strongest condemnation yet of PEGIDA.

“What we need to do now is to use all the means at our disposal…to combat intolerance and violence,” Merkel said.

“To exclude groups of people because of their faith, this isn’t worthy of the free state in which we live. It isn’t compatible with our essential values. And it’s humanly reprehensible. Xenophobia, racism, extremism have no place here,” she added.

Bahray, a 20-year-old Eritrean Muslim man, was killed in a knife attack in the same day in the eastern German city of Dresden. Saxony’s Left Party Deputy Juliane Nagel pointed that the potential Islamophobic background of the murder should be taken into consideration.

Pork or nothing, French mayor tells Muslim schoolchildren

Elham Asaad Buaras

A mayor in a north-western town in France has introduced a “pork or nothing” code at school, even for 27 students who will get no meat substitute.

The rule applied from January 1 in the town of Sargé-lès-Le Mans, and may apply to Jewish pupils as well – though there aren’t any in this particular school.

Marcel Mortreau bases his decision on the “principle of Republican neutrality.”
“The mayor is not required to provide meals that respond to religious requirements. This is the principle of secularism,” said Mortreau.

His rules were supported by the Town Hall on the grounds that the food providers face extra work if they have to deliver meat substitutes. The initiative has been supported by some public school officials.
“We didn’t open school canteens for partisan, religious, philosophical, cultural reasons,” said Eric Le Moal, Director of a public school in Lezignan-Corbieres in the Aude, which also passed the one-dish policy last year.

Muslim parents and pupils expressed their fury at the mayor’s decision, especially due to the fact that a second meal doesn’t cost any extra.

“Eating two starters is not the same as eating a meat dish. Meat is something the body needs to work and to think. I need meat, it’s important,” a pupil, Tarik, told Europe1 radio.

Tarik’s mother Yasmine called the new policy “discrimination” and voiced her anger that she has to tell “a small child that “you will eat less today because there’s pork on the menu.”

“You hear comments like, ‘if you don’t like it, take your children home.’ It hurts,” she added.
The parents and children were supported by some high officials including the Mayor of Paris Jean Tiberi who said that the move aims to “stigmatize Muslims.”

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.


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