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Islamophobia in UK: Ten attacks on mosques since murder of Drummer Lee Rigby

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  • Zafar Khan
    Woolwich backlash: Ten attacks on mosques since murder of Drummer Lee Rigby As the number of Islamophobic incidents continues to increase, EDL raises
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 22, 2013
      Woolwich backlash: Ten attacks on mosques since murder of Drummer Lee Rigby
      As the number of Islamophobic incidents continues to increase, EDL raises temperature with London march


      The number of reported Islamophobic attacks since the Woolwich murder has continued to rise dramatically amid warnings from Muslim community leaders that the backlash which has seen attempted firebombings of mosques is being fuelled by far right groups.

      As participants in an English Defence League (EDL) march in Whitehall were recorded giving Nazi-style salutes, Faith Matters, which monitors anti-Muslim hatred, said the number of incidents in the past six days had risen to 193, including ten assaults on mosques. The figure compares to a total of 642 incidents in the previous 12 months – meaning the last week has seen a 15-fold increase on last year’s average of 12 attacks per week.

      The spike came as Scotland Yard said it had made a tenth arrest in the investigation into the murder of soldier Lee Rigby on Wednesday. A 50-year-old man was detained on suspicion of conspiracy to murder. Earlier, three men arrested on Saturday were released on police bail.

      Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, who has been targeted by extremists posting his home address on Twitter and inviting others to shoot him, told The Independent: “There is a significant scale of backlash going on and it is extremely important that it be highlighted. We have been told time and again that the EDL and its like are not a significant issue. But what we have seen in recent days is this sharp increase in rhetoric and then attacks. Our data shows that more than one in three of attacks last year were linked to far-right sympathisers.”

      The most serious attack yet took place on Sunday night with the attempted firebombing of a Grimsby mosque. Community elders said the incident, during which three petrol bombs were thrown at the Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre while people were inside, amounted to “attempted murder”. The attack took place despite an increased police presence following an attack four days ago by a group of teenagers. Humberside Police said it had arrested two men and was investigating messages posted on social media which appeared to incite violence at named locations.

      Dr Ahmad Sabik, a member of the mosque committee, told Sky News: “I would say I can describe it as an attempt to murder because what we have got was really serious. It was a fire.”

      He added that the mosque’s chairman, who went to extinguish the first petrol bomb, had a narrow escape. “The brother who was coming out of the door, it was just a part of seconds but, alhamdulillah, nothing happened and he was not injured.”

      The Yard said it was also investigating the daubing of graffiti overnight on Sunday on two London war memorials. The word “Islam” was sprayed in red paint and inscriptions defaced on the monuments to Bomber Command and animals in war but it was not clear if the perpetrators were Islamist extremists or if it was a further attempt to stir up anti-Muslim feeling.

      Police mounted a massive operation as up to 1,000 supporters of the English Defence League staged a protest outside Downing Street.

      EDL marchers chanting anti-Muslim slogans were confronted by anti-fascist demonstrators and bottles were thrown as lines of police officers separated the two groups. Police, some in riot gear, repeatedly had to intervene to stop the rival groups clashing as the EDL marched from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street. EDL leader Tommy Robinson told the demonstration: “They’ve had their Arab Spring. This is time for the English Spring.”

      Referring to the row over Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to take a holiday this week in Ibiza, the crowd repeatedly chanted “coward” after Mr Robinson said Mr Cameron had left the country “because he doesn’t care”. Scotland Yard said three arrests had been made.

      EDL members congregated after their march. As one youth was taken away by police, the crowd began throwing bottles at them. One officer was hit on the head with a glass bottle and the mob followed the officers, chanting “who the f*** is Allah?”.

      Faith Matters said most of the incidents reported to its hotline since last Wednesday’s murder consisted of “general abuse” at Muslims on the streets or over the internet. A further 47 consisted of threats of violence with another 35 minor assaults including eggs being thrown. Elsewhere it emerged that an attempt by the EDL to march on a mosque in York on Sunday had been met by a show of solidarity from the local community when 200 people arrived to show their support.

      When only about seven EDL members turned up, they were approached by mosque members and four reportedly entered the mosque for tea and biscuits.

      UK Muslims face far-right revenge attacks
      The murder of a UK soldier has led to a spike in hate crimes targeting Muslims.
      Simon Hooper Last Modified: 29 May 2013 14:12


      London, UK - British Muslims fear they could become “sitting targets” for far-right violence following a spate of attacks on mosques and a spike in other reported hate incidents in the week since the murder of a British soldier on a London street.

      The most serious attack occurred in the east coast town of Grimsby on Sunday night when three petrol bombs were thrown at a mosque as a meeting was taking place inside.

      Other attacks were reported on mosques in the southern towns of Braintree and Gillingham within hours of last Wednesday's killing.

      Elsewhere, a petrol bomb was thrown at a mosque in Milton Keynes, bacon was left on the steps of a mosque in the Welsh capital Cardiff, and there were reports of vandalism at Islamic centres elsewhere.

      Meanwhile, about 1,000 supporters of the far-right English Defence League rallied in central London on Monday chanting “Muslim killers off our streets” and heard Tommy Robinson, the EDL's leader, call for further demonstrations.

      “They've had their Arab Spring. This is time for the English Spring,” said Robinson, whose group also saw its number of Facebook followers surge from 20,000 to more than 100,000.

      Spike in Islamophobia

      Tell MAMA (Monitoring Anti-Muslim Attacks), a helpline set up to monitor instances of Islamophobia, said it had recorded 193 incidents since last Wednesday, compared to a usual tally of about four cases a day.

      “There is a background Islamophobia that is always rumbling,” Fiyaz Mughal, a director of the Faith Matters interfaith group that runs Tell MAMA, told Al Jazeera. “But if we take the latest figures, we are looking at about 40 cases a day and a ten-fold jump all of a sudden.”

      Salim Bhorat, a community activist in Bolton, a town in northwestern England with a large Muslim minority, said one mosque had been vandalised with spray paint, dog excrement had been thrown at another, and a woman had been attacked in the street. A car outside the mosque was also daubed with the words “Terrorist inside”.

      He said the killing of soldier Lee Rigby appeared to have reawakened the EDL in the area even as its influence appeared to be waning amid group infighting.

      “Nothing like this has happened in Bolton for a long time, so these attacks are a direct response to Woolwich and the mass hysteria afterwards,” Bhorat told Al Jazeera. “We've always had the EDL in Bolton and this has given them an excuse to rally their weary troops.”

      Bhorat said many local Muslims were nervous because unfounded rumours of attacks were spreading quickly via social networking and text messaging. “There has been a lot of scaremongering. People forward on messages without verifying them and that just creates a false sense of fear in the community.”

      'We are afraid'

      Sikander Sleemy, the secretary of a mosque attacked in the Essex town of Braintree, told Al Jazeera that a smoke grenade was thrown into the building last Wednesday evening by a man armed with two knives.

      “We were very fortunate because the prayer time was only 15 minutes away but there was only one person in the mosque. He was upstairs when he heard the bang and smelt the smoke and he could hear someone shouting and swearing downstairs, but he managed to escape onto the roof,” he said.

      Sleemy said Braintree's small local Muslim community had never experienced any problems before. “We do feel part and parcel of the community and my personal feeling is that this was just an isolated rage attack. But if idiots like those guys in Woolwich, if there are any more attacks like that, God forbid that there are, then we are afraid that we will become sitting targets.”

      Amid shock and condemnation, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England, visited Leicester last week in a show of interfaith solidarity with Muslim leaders, praising the diverse city, where just under a fifth of residents are Muslim, as a “a shining example of how communities work together”.

      Suleman Nagdi, a local Muslim civic leader, told Al Jazeera he believed the city's Muslim community was well established and confident enough to face down any threats against it. “Leicester has mature relations between members of the different faith communities. We have a situation up and down the country that is concerning to us but we built those bridges many, many years ago,” he said.

      But Mughal questioned the assumption that Muslims in cities such as Leicester were better protected than those in areas with smaller and less established Muslim populations.

      “The fact of the matter is these attacks and incidents are happening in areas where Muslims are the majority as well as the minority. In Leicester we had a cluster of incidents last year. It's quite a hot spot because there is a concentration of far-right supporters in the area around the city.”

      Mughal said far-right activists were increasingly using the internet not just for recruitment and dissemination purposes but also to attack Muslims online. “If you get a woman whose avatar has a hijab they will bombard here with sexual abuse to humiliate here. That is the kind of activity we are seeing.”

      He also cited concerns about social networking sites and new guidelines for police which have raised the threshold in terms of what is considered prosecutable as hate speech online. “Our biggest issue is constantly having thousands of tweets out there that are just promoting deeply anti-Islamic feeling. We've never had that before,” he said.

      Media coverage

      Others raised frustrations about the mainstream media's coverage of the Woolwich attack, including the labelling of the perpetrators as “Islamic terrorists”. Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, apologised later that day after quoting a source who described the attackers as being “of Muslim appearance”.

      “We are the only community, in the UK certainly, which whenever an act of terrorism has taken place, the whole community is put in the dock for the criminal activities of individuals,” said Nagdi. “Acts of terrorism affect us all but it does seems odd that when it is a Muslim you always expect Muslims to condemn it. We do condemn it but there is a history of bias in the reporting mechanism that it is expected.”

      Sleemy also condemned the airtime given to Anjem Choudary, a radical cleric formerly of the banned al Muhajiroun group, on the BBC's flagship Newsnight programme.

      “He is not the voice of Muslims. He is a very extreme fringe group, and if people are watching that and they've got very little knowledge they are building a picture of a Muslim that he has portrayed,” he said.

      Mughal said positive media coverage of Muslim communities would help address Islamophobia but added that tougher police action was urgently needed.

      “The police have failed miserably dealing with some cases we've put through to them. They need to understand Islamophobia as a phenomenon that is deeply corrosive and they need to act quickly.”

      He said it was hard to predict for how long the current upsurge of anti-Muslim attacks would continue as no comparable data was available for events such as the 2005 bombings on the London transport network.

      But he added: “The fact is these effects are cumulative, and this was such a significant and barbarous attack that it will certainly add to the cumulative effect over time.”

      "We Got Your Back": Fox Host Kilmeade Endorses Tommy Robinson, Leader Of Violent Anti-Muslim Hate Group
      Blog ››› June 11, 2013 1:34 PM EDT ››› ERIC HANANOKI


      Fox News host Brian Kilmeade told the leader of a violent nationalist hate group that targets British Muslims, "We got your back" and "it's great what you're doing."

      Kilmeade offered his endorsement to the English Defence League (EDL) and co-founder Tommy Robinson, who appeared as a guest on the June 10 edition of Kilmeade's Fox News Radio program. Kilmeade's support followed an interview in which Robinson railed against the immigration of Muslims into the United Kingdom, and warned of Muslims "forcefully putting us under Sharia" Law and planning a "silent takeover" to "implement Sharia" in his country and across the world.

      Robinson (whose real name is Stephen Lennon) also said he didn't regret his recent conviction for using a false identity document to enter the United States to attend an anti-Islam event with anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller. Robinson pleaded guilty and was jailed in January and released in February. Robinson's offense was not his first brush with the law.

      Fox News has previously reported on the violent and fringe nature of the EDL. On August 28, 2010, America's News HQ anchor Gregg Jarrett noted there were "hundreds of extreme right-wing protesters rioting in northern England. Members of the so-called English Defence League tossing bottles and rocks at police in the city of Bradford. There's the map. Police penned the group in, keeping them away from a separate rally headed by a leftist group. The English Defence League opposes what it calls the spread of Sharia Law and Islamic extremism in England. Police arrested five people, but there are no reports of any injuries."

      Several other news outlets have similarly described the EDL as a violent and extreme anti-Muslim group:

      The Associated Press described the EDL as "anti-immigrant" and "a right-wing nationalist group." The AP also reported: "The English Defense League says it is a non-racist group set up to oppose the spread of militant Islam. But at previous demonstrations its members have clashed with police, chanted anti-Muslim slogans and made Nazi salutes."

      The Guardian reported that the EDL has "staged a number of violent protests in towns and cities across the country this year" and is "targeting some of the UK's highest-profile Muslim communities." The British paper reported that it "attended its demonstrations and witnessed racism, violence and virulent Islamophobia" and found "a number of known rightwing extremists who are taking an interest in the movement - from convicted football hooligans to members of violent rightwing splinter groups."
      The New York Times' The Lede blog described the EDL as a "virulently anti-Islam group" and noted it "sent a delegation to New York to attend a rally on Sept. 11, 2010 against the building of an Islamic cultural center and mosque in Lower Manhattan."
      CNN has described the EDL as "a far right extremist group."
      NPR has called the EDL "a far right anti-Muslim fringe group."
      Despite the group's extreme ideology and violent nature, Kilmeade gave Robinson an enthusiastic and unchallenged platform for nearly 15 minutes to rail against Muslims. Among Robinson's claims:

      "Sit and work out the demographics. Look at how our country's changed. I think, every ten years the Islamic community doubles ... Where does it stop?"
      "In the World War, we need America's help. Now in this country, we need America's support because we need to take our country back."
      "In thirty years' time, they will be forcefully putting us under Sharia. There will be a violent struggle across this country, complete civil breakdown and disorder."
      "I don't regret doing it at all." -- Robinson on entering the United States with improper documentation.
      "That's the tip of the iceberg. You see, the violent jihadists -- now they are a real problem and they do [inaudible] what they're doing. But this silent jihad that's going on. This silent takeover and planning to take over and implement Sharia, they're the ones I'm terrified of because they're actually sitting around tables of government. They're actually in positions of power. They've infiltrated major positions across the whole entire government. And I say don't listen to what we're saying. Listen to what they're saying. They're openly telling us they want to take over the country. They're openly committing treason. They're openly Islamifying areas, and it has to end, and that's what we're saying.
      At the conclusion of the interview, Kilmeade told Robinson: "Well Tommy, we got your back, and we'll definitely look to keep in touch and I really think it's a very -- it's great what you're doing." After the interview, Kilmeade tweeted: "Englishdefenseleague.org [sic] check out Tommy Robinson and his mission to rid brit ian [sic] of muslim extremists @foxandfriends."

      Woolwich attack: racist Facebook posts lead to suspended jail term
      Michaela Turner given suspended eight-week prison term after asking if others want to join her 'burning down some mosques'
      Press Association
      guardian.co.uk, Friday 14 June 2013 11.31 BST


      A 24-year-old woman who posted racist comments on Facebook after the death of Drummer Lee Rigby has avoided a jail sentence.

      Michaela Turner, of Southsea, Hampshire, was sentenced at Portsmouth magistrates court to an eight-week jail term, suspended for six months. She was ordered to pay £85 in costs and a victim surcharge of £60.

      The court heard that Turner had been drinking when she made comments about the Woolwich attack on the social networking site. They included: "Feeling like burning down some mosques in Portsmouth, anyone want to join me?"

      She also shared other comments containing racist comments following the murder, the court was told.

      Hugh Morgan, prosecuting, said the comments made and shared by Turner were of a racist nature and were of the most serious category. "These are of the higher category of its type, given the circumstances in which this incident took place.

      "Police at that time were monitoring community tension, not just in this part of the country but across the country. This also included monitoring of internet sites," he said.

      "To post such comments at any time would be unacceptable and have the potential to cause offence. It's fortunate that there were no events in the days following these comments. The very nature of these comments created the risk that something could happen."

      Rebecca Strong, defending, said: "She is extremely remorseful and ashamed of what happened. She was with a friend, they were drinking, they had watched some clips regarding what happened in Woolwich and she was extremely upset, as is most of the country at what happened."

      Strong said Turner had stopped using Facebook and deleted the comments. "She fully accepts what she did and is very ashamed of what she said.

      "She knows she dealt with her feelings completely inappropriately and accepts it shouldn't have been so public and her views were ill-informed with regard to burning down mosques.

      "There was no intention of doing that whatsoever. It was a way of trying to explain how upset she was. Alcohol had played a part in it because she had been drinking."

      Turner pleaded guilty to an offence contrary to section 127 of the Communication Act 2003.

      Darul Uloom School fire: Pupils and staff evacuated
      9 June 2013


      A fire overnight at an Islamic boarding school in south east London is being treated as suspicious by police.

      About 128 pupils and staff were evacuated from Darul Uloom School, in Foxbury Avenue, Chislehurst, on Saturday.

      Firefighters were called to the scene at 23:43 BST. Two men were treated for the effects of breathing in smoke.

      London Fire Brigade said there was minor damage to the building and 21 firefighters tackled the blaze.

      A spokesperson for London Fire Brigade said: "The fire affected a small part of a school building and there was heavy smoke throughout."

      Firefighters managed to get the fire under control by 00:37.

      Bob Neill, MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, said: "It's obviously something to be concerned about and we need to find out more about it.

      "I've spoken to the police and fire and they are investigating.

      "It's too early to jump to conclusions and they need to check out the cause."

      In a statement the Metropolitan Police asked for "members of the public to remain calm and not to speculate as to the cause of the fire."

      'Vulnerable locations'

      They added that there was also an increased police presence around "potentially vulnerable locations" across London to provide reassurance.

      Pupils and staff were able to return to the school building on Sunday morning.

      According to its website Darul Uloom London was established in 1988.

      The premises comprise of "130 boarding rooms in addition to classrooms, dining hall, assembly hall, prayer hall, gym, playing fields... Each room is shared by two boys."

      UK mosques urged to install panic alarms and safe rooms
      US Islamic group says British centres at greater risk than in other western country since the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby
      Mark Townsend
      The Observer, Saturday 8 June 2013 21.14 BST


      Muswell Hill: Counter-terror police probe firebombing after EDL graffiti sprayed on centre
      6 Jun 2013 08:27
      Six engines and around 35 firefighters took nearly an hour and a half to get the blaze under control as the building collapsed


      York mosque counters EDL protest with tea, biscuits and football
      Demonstrators who had gathered to protest at Islamic centre accept invitation to take refreshments and open a dialogue
      Ann Czernik
      guardian.co.uk, Monday 27 May 2013 20.11 BST


      Grimsby mosque targeted with petrol bombs
      Chairman of Islamic centre says attack was attempted murder, as police step up patrols after social media threats
      Shiv Malik and Ben Quinn
      guardian.co.uk, Monday 27 May 2013 19.31 BST


      EDL marches on Newcastle as attacks on Muslims increase tenfold in the wake of Woolwich machete attack which killed Drummer Lee Rigby
      BNP and EDL are accused of attempting to fuel racial hatred


      Muslim leaders have accused far-right extremists of trying to capitalise on the “sick and barbaric” murder of Lee Rigby to fuel racial hatred.

      Islamophobic hate crimes are running at more than 10 times their usual rate, with more than 140 reported to a government-backed hotline in the 48 hours since the Woolwich killing.

      They include nine attacks on mosques, assaults, racial abuse and anti-Muslim graffiti. An improvised petrol bomb was thrown at a mosque in Milton Keynes during Friday prayers, while attacks have also been reported in Gillingham, Braintree, Bolton and Cambridge.

      The British National Party leader, Nick Griffin, who visited Woolwich yesterday, provoked widespread disgust for tweeting that the alleged killers should be wrapped in “pig skin” and shot again. The English Defence League, which has said the killing shows Britain is “at war” with Islamic extremism, staged a march today in Newcastle, sparked by plans to open an Islamic school.

      The march was already scheduled before Wednesday's murder.

      Police arrested two people from Gateshead and another from Stockton, Teesside, ahead of today's march, for allegedly making racist tweets.

      More than 1500 people marched with the EDL - three times as many as was expected earlier this month. Chants of "Whose streets? Our streets" rang out, as well as "RIP Lee Rigby." Flags from Teesside, Coventry and Bournemouth were on display, along with one marked "Taliban Hunting Club."

      Meanwhile, a nearly 400-strong counter-demonstration called Newcastle Unites, which was separated from the EDL by a police line sang: "Nazi scum, off our streets."

      Chief Superintendent Gary Calvert said there had been "a number of arrests" during the day, mainly for drunkenness or to prevent public order offences, but there was no major trouble. The EDL is also planning a demonstration in central London on Monday.

      Amid heavy security, Mr Griffin visited the site of the killing following a series of provocative tweets in which he claimed the attack was the result of “mass immigration”.

      The BNP leader, whose party’s electoral support has collapsed in the past three years, has also called for a show of strength by activists in Woolwich next Saturday under the banner “United against Muslim terror”.

      In an unprecedented open letter, the heads of nearly 100 mosques said they shared the “absolute horror” felt by the rest of British society at the crime committed “in the name of our religion”.

      But they warned that across Britain “hate-fuelled individuals” had already attempted to attack mosques and individuals in the wake of Wednesday’s killing. They urged the public “not to be taken in” by the “mindless rantings” of extremists on both sides who, they said, should be “isolated and subject to the full force of the law”.

      The Muslim leaders said they wanted to make clear that the murder of Drummer Rigby was a “heinous atrocity worthy of nothing but contempt”. But they warned they had already seen extremists “seeking to capitalise upon Wednesday’s terrible act”.

      “The hate-fuelled individuals behind such attacks wish to polarise and tear apart our great country for their own sick ends,” they wrote. “They should be isolated and subject to the full force of the law.”

      A spokesman for the hate crime hotline Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks said reported incidents were running at “a level we simply haven’t seen before”. He said: “Muslims at this moment are feeling a real and pervasive sense of fear.” Calls for action on the capital’s streets by the EDL and the BNP will leave the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, with the dilemma of whether to apply to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to have them banned. A planned EDL march through Tower Hamlets in London, home to one of the country’s largest Muslim communities, was blocked by Ms May two years ago.

      Far-right websites are linking the murder to population growth among ethnic minorities, while a number of social networking sites also carried messages calling for Muslim sites to be attacked. The “True British Patriots” Facebook page carried calls for mosques to be burned down. The official website of the National Front party berates “Muslim scum”.

      Sunder Katwala, director of the British Future think-tank, said: “The BNP and EDL, both in a state of near collapse, have little chance of using Woolwich to recover politically but their activities do often stir up local violence. Yet again the absurdly extreme Islamist clown Anjem Choudary shows he is a more effective recruiter for the far right than Nick Griffin has ever been. How much these two extremes need each other.”

      In a speech in London, alongside representatives of the Army and the Muslim community, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg expressed fears that the Woolwich atrocity could lead to long-lasting damage to community relations. “Fear is an extraordinarily powerful emotion and when it takes root,” he said, “it has a very, very corrosive effect on every part of our lives. We have a choice to either allow that powerful corrosive feeling of fear to seep into every second and minute and hour of our lives or we can make a choice that we’re not going to change our behaviour.”

      The Archbishop of Canterbury called for community unity. Speaking after a meeting of faith leaders in Leicester, the Most Rev Justin Welby said: “I want to recognise the response of churches, mosques and other faith and civil society groups as well as those of brave individuals who have done so much to bring our communities together at this time.

      * A 22-year-old man will appear in court today after being arrested on suspicion of making malicious comments on Facebook following the murder of Lee Rigby. Benjamin Flatters, of Lincoln, was arrested after complaints made to Lincolnshire Police that alleged the comments were of a racist or anti-religious nature.

      Attacks on Muslims spike after Woolwich killing
      Police deploy extra patrols to Islamic sites as people report verbal, physical and online abuse, including threats to kill
      Haroon Siddique and Sam Jones
      The Guardian, Thursday 23 May 2013 19.35 BST


      Fears of a prolonged backlash against Muslims have intensified after dozens of Islamophobic incidents were reported in the wake of the murder of the British soldier Lee Rigby in south London.

      The Tell Mama hotline for recording Islamophobic crimes and incidents recorded 38 incidents over Wednesday night, including attacks on three mosques, with more reported on Thursday.

      The Metropolitan police put 1,200 more officers on the street on Thursday, with extra patrols deployed to mosques and religious sites as far-right groups reacted to the tragedy.

      The Tell Mama co-ordinator Fiyaz Mughal, from Faith Matters, said the service usually recorded three or four incidents on an average day, but the spike after Wednesday's killing reflected simmering resentment against Muslims and was unlikely to fizzle out.

      "What we are seeing is concerted action from individuals across the country," he said. "We are really concerned. When you see a wider picture of resentment and retribution, this is telling us it's an increasing problem. Something is moving in a very disturbing direction."

      A 43-year-old man was being questioned on Thursday on suspicion of attempted arson and possession of an offensive weapon at a mosque in Braintree, Essex. The local MP, Brooks Newmark, tweeted that the man was carrying "knives and an incendiary device".

      Another man was held on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage after Kent police were called to an incident at a mosque in Gillingham, Kent.

      Graffiti attacks were reported on mosques in Bolton, where cars parked outside were also vandalised on Wednesday night, and in Cambridge on Thursday.

      The incidents compiled by Tell Mama, which monitors news feeds and social media as well as taking calls from the public, included seven incidents of Muslims being abused – including being spat at or threatened in the streets – another five mosques being threatened, and dozens of other online threats.

      On the "True British Patriots" Facebook page, there were calls for mosques in Watford in Hertfordshire and Morden, south London, to be burned down.

      The incidents came despite prompt and unequivocal condemnation of the murder by leaders of Muslim groups, including the Muslim Council of Britain, the Ramadhan Foundation and the Islamic Society of Britain, as well as individual Muslims, a number of whom took to social networks to express their disgust.

      "We can't allow the voices of [the British National party leader] Nick Griffin and the far right to become louder than ours in the coming days," Julie Siddiqi, of the Islamic Society of Britain, told Radio 4's Today programme. "All of the Muslim organisations have come out with the strongest possible terms to say there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever, no justification for anything like this."

      But Mughal warned: "I think the damage has been done." He said his own address had been posted on Twitter, with users invited to shoot him. In response to the heightened tension, he has contacted mosques and police ahead of Friday prayers amid fears that far-right groups may try to confront worshippers.

      Hours after the murder, the English Defence League held a demonstration in Woolwich, during which supporters, some wearing balaclavas printed with "EDL", engaged in running battles with police for almost an hour. They have since announced another gathering, to be held outside Downing Street on Monday, ostensibly to show support for British troops.

      The league's Twitter account went into overdrive and thousands of people "liked" its Facebook page after the killing, although some people posting were challenging its ideology and ridiculing its beliefs. The BNP announced its own demonstration in Woolwich on 1 June.

      The Met assistant commander, Mark Rowley, revealed that officers were monitoring social media for signs of people trying to exploit the attack to foment trouble. "Anybody seeing this as an opportunity to protest, cause mischief, or create tension is unhelpful and unwelcome, and we'd rather it did not happen," he said.

      David Cameron and the London mayor, Boris Johnson, said the beliefs of the suspected attackers were alien to Islam.

      "This was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life; it was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country," the prime minister said. "There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act." Johnson said it was "completely wrong to blame this killing on the religion of Islam".

      Dr Matthew Feldman, co-director of the soon to be launched Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and Post-Fascist studies at Teesside University, said extremist Muslims and groups such as the EDL "need each other". He said he feared they could engage in tit-for-tat attacks, with each side justifying its existence in terms of the other.

      "We need to call out people who use this violence to advance what are clearly prejudicial agendas," he said.

      Pig's head left outside centre used by Muslims
      Three people arrested in Leicester where Islamic group faces protests over plans to open centre in disused Scout hut
      Haroon Siddique
      guardian.co.uk, Friday 28 December 2012 14.51 GMT


      Three people have been arrested after a pig's head was left outside a community centre used for prayers by Muslims in an area of Leicester that has seen heightened far-right activity in recent months.

      The head of the pig, which is offensive to Muslims who consider the animal unclean and are forbidden from eating pork, was discovered by worshippers from the As Salaam group at the Thurnby Lodge centre at 7.30am on Boxing Day. A 40-year-old woman and two men, aged 37 and 46, were arrested on Wednesday.

      The incident came amid tension over the group's plans to open an Islamic centre in a disused Scout hut neighbouring the community centre. There have been months of protests, including involvement by the English Defence League and the British National party, whose leader, Nick Griffin, visited the area in August.

      The As Salaam imam Mohammed Lockhat told the Guardian that the incident had only increased the group's commitment to stay: "We were shocked and saddened by this development. It's deeply discriminating and religiously offensive … Every single day we have got people standing outside, protesters hurling insults, racist abuse. We weren't expecting this to happen but it was only a matter of time."

      As Salaam was initially given the go-ahead for the hut, which the Scouts no longer use, last year. It said it planned to provide food-sharing services, and drug and alcohol advice and education.

      But some residents complained that the hut should be available for the wider community. Protests were held against As Salaam, and a group calling itself the Committee for the Forgotten Estates of Thurnby Lodge and Netherhall handed a petition with 1,500 signatures opposing the plans to the city council. As a result, earlier this month, the council put As Salaam's plans out for consultation and said a decision would be made in January.

      Lockhat said the Islamic community's work in the hut would be aimed at improving life for everyone and that Thurnby Lodge centre would still be available for the local community.

      He also said, despite denials by protesters, that opposition has been driven by far-right groups. The petition was handed in by self-proclaimed Leicester EDL member Chris Hopewell and Griffin attended a protest to express his support for opponents of the plans.

      The campaign against As Salaam has not just affected Muslims, with members of the bingo club at Thurnby Lodge complaining of intimidation. Lockhat said protesters shouted "traitors" at people in their 70s and 80s. Leicestershire police said nine people had been arrested in connection with the protests in recent months.

      "We are very, very peaceful … We are not here to take over anyone's land," he said. "We work in the community."

      Superintendent Mark Newcombe said: "The only people using the community centre on Wednesday were from a local Muslim group and it's easy to draw the conclusion that the pig's head was meant for them, and is the reason we believe this to be religiously motivated … We have no tolerance for discrimination in Leicester, be that racially or religiously motivated, and we want members of the public to help us do all we can to find those responsible and bring them to justice."

      Ethnic minority women face jobs crisis
      Women remove hijabs or make names sound more English to beat discrimination, says parliamentary report
      Vikram Dodd
      The Guardian, Friday 7 December 2012


      Large sections of minority ethnic women are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts, with some removing their hijabs or making their names sound more English to try to beat discrimination, a report from MPs and peers says.

      Furthermore, the rate of joblessness for ethnic minority women has failed to come down in the past three decades, finds the report from the all-party parliamentary group on race and community.

      The report finds that prejudice and discrimination explains a quarter of the higher unemployment rate faced by women from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black communities.

      The report finds some employers assume Muslim women would stop work after having children and the MPs and peers say the government must end its "colour blind" approach to improving employment equality.

      The report from the cross party group is an attempt to put discrimination issues back on the agenda, coming at a time when the official equalities watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, is facing large budget cuts and criticism over its effectiveness.

      The report found: "Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are particularly affected, with 20.5% being unemployed compared to 6.8% of white women, with 17.7% of black women also being unemployed."

      The higher unemployment rate covered all ages, dashing hopes that more enlightened attitudes mean the problem is lessening for younger women.

      The report cited research from Professor Anthony Heath of Oxford University: "The unemployment rate of black women has remained at roughly double that of white women since 1972. There has been no decrease over time or over generations in ethnic minority unemployment rates overall (both men and women), and that the second generation still experience unemployment rates which are as high as those of the first generation."

      Research by Professor Yaojun Li found the same was true for predominantly Muslim Pakistani and Bangladeshi women trying to find work: "After 1983 the unemployment rate of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women has remained consistently and substantially higher than the rate for white women."

      The report found:

      • Some employers' attitudes worsened when they realised women with European-sounding names were black.

      • Some Muslim women were removing their hijab to increase their chance of getting work.

      • Black and Asian women complained of being asked during job interviews about their plans for marriage and having children.

      • Fewer Pakistani and Bangladeshi women were taking up their children's free nursery places than white women.

      The report found ethnic minority women "deselecting themselves" from the jobs market and deciding not to apply because of the extra barriers they faced.

      The MPs said the approach of successive governments must change: "We believe that evidence shows that there are varied and complex barriers facing Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women which are different from those facing white women or ethnic minority men.

      "Based on this, we would argue that the government's 'colour-blind' approach to tackling unemployment is not appropriate in dealing with the specific issues facing women from these groups."

      Labour MP David Lammy, who chairs the all-party group, said: "It is staggering that in 21st century Britain there are women who felt they had to remove their hijab or change their name just to be able to compete on the same terms as other candidates when looking for jobs.

      "All unemployment is tragic but we simply can no longer remain so casual about women that are simultaneously the victims of both sexism and racism when they are competing in the labour market. It has massive implications for families and society as a whole.

      "Getting women into jobs is the best way to break families out of the poverty cycle so it is time for the government to make addressing this a priority."

      How do I deal with my daughter, 7, being told she is the 'wrong colour'?
      Surely seven-year-olds aren't racist? But after a classmate told my daughter why she couldn't come to her party, I was shocked


      My seven-year-old daughter was discriminated against last week in the school playground for having "the wrong skin colour". Admittedly, I was more upset about it than she was. Growing up in 1980s Bradford, I had a regular dose of racism directed at me in school. It might have been a generation ago, but the experience was deeply hurtful. So much so that it shaped my identity as well as my values as a parent.

      I was the British-born daughter of migrant mill workers from Pakistan, living on the Canterbury estate in Bradford. School was difficult. I had little in common with my mostly white classmates. If they weren't calling me "garlic breath" in the school canteen, then they'd be sharing a particular joke with me in the playground. It was based on a TV ad for a popular mint with a hole in the centre:

      "What's the difference between a Paki and a Polo?" my classmates would ask cruelly. "People like Polo!" went the punchline.

      I felt my Pakistani heritage and British upbringing couldn't co-exist. I had to choose which side I was on. So I daydreamed about being a proper English girl. I wanted to whitewash my brown complexion, dye my dark tresses blonde, have a stylish haircut and change my foreign name to something more straightforward. Surely, then I would be just like everyone else; I would look like everyone else, I would smell like everyone else, I would fit in, I would be accepted.

      Sensing my anxiety, my straight-talking older brother would remind me of the classic scene from our favourite English film, Some Like It Hot, in which Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon masquerade as women. My well-intentioned sibling would recount the amusing scene where Jack Lemmon tries to compose himself, after inadvertently finding himself in Marilyn Monroe's intimate company. "I'm a girl. I'm a girl. I'm a girl," he reiterates frantically. Detecting that I was losing sight of my roots, my brother would counsel me to stand in front of the mirror for a few minutes every morning and repeat to myself: "I'm a Paki. I'm a Paki. I'm a Paki".

      Straddling two cultures felt like living in a halfway house. We didn't dare to make ourselves at home because we were holding on for something else. Consequently, I didn't realise until my thirties that this is where I belonged, that Britain was in fact home. Mum left it even longer, spending some 30 years working to earn a pension, so she could retire to Pakistan to be with her nearest and dearest. Poignantly, it was only after she got there that she realised that the people she yearned for had all passed away or moved on. So she returned to Bradford, finally finding peace on British soil in her mid-sixties.

      I don't want that for my daughter. Although I hope to instil in her a strong sense of identity and self-esteem, I'd like her to feel at home in Britain, and not just exist on the peripheries like I sometimes felt I did. My daughter shouldn't have to choose between "us" and "them". Maybe that's why I didn't bother to teach her Urdu, my mother tongue, despite mum's protests that without it, my daughter would lose a part of her heritage. But I don't want to raise her with imagined ties to Pakistan, with illusory burdens about a possible return to a country, which means little more to her than the place where her grandparents were born. I'd like my daughter to be free to set down roots – emotional and physical – in Britain, in her place of birth.

      This is also why I value my daughter's education at a Church of England school. I'm grateful that, unusually for some parts of Bradford, the school is more multi- than monocultural. It's important that my child appreciates other faiths, as I do. I also believe that exposure to the school's spiritual ethos and different religions will complement her Muslim heritage. So much so actually, that I let the school introduce her to Jesus before I got around to telling her about Mohammed.

      It never even occurred to me to have the colour conversation. Besides, it sort of happened organically. I remember the precise moment my daughter realised she was a darker skin colour to most of her classmates. She was lining up in the playground waiting to be led into class. Her friend was holding up a poster of the main characters from High School Musical. The girls were choosing which one they wanted to be.

      "I'll be Sharpay" piped up my daughter enthusiastically. With a serious look, her classmate replied: "You have to be Gabriella because she's got the same skin colour as you." I watched as my daughter, then barely five-years-old, raised one hand in front of her face and examined it closely, as if for the very first time.

      Of course the girl had done nothing wrong. She'd merely made reference to my daughter's skin tone. But last Friday, a classmate told my daughter she wasn't invited to her birthday party because she was "the wrong skin colour". It's the first thing my daughter told me about on Friday afternoon, when I picked her up from school and rushed her to the pool for a swimming lesson. She'd told the teacher who had reiterated to my daughter that skin colour is irrelevant. This my daughter knows all too well; only last year, her class learned about Nelson Mandela and his fight against discrimination.

      Given the young age of the class, I'm really not sure if there's any more that a teacher can do. Should the matter be discussed with the offending party's parents? Is that for me to do or the teacher? To be honest, I'm really not sure if I'm making a mountain out of a molehill myself, although I'm also aware that this could be down to my own experiences of racism going completely unreported. It never occurred to me to tell my teachers or my mum. Perhaps that's why I haven't done anything about it yet. I might be a parent and one that's previously experienced racism, but it's shocked me to realise that I still feel ill-equipped to confront the issue.

      And so I've dwelled on this latest episode and the unease just won't dissipate. Surely seven-year-olds aren't racist? Surely this was just an unfortunate episode of casual playground cruelty. Surely the classmate's remark could just as easily have been about the colour of my daughter's hair. But I feel troubled by the notion that my daughter's skin colour was somehow perceived to be "wrong".

      I've also been wondering how other parents would react to something like this. Would they perceive it as something sinister and rush to report the incident, or is that being too heavy-handed? Prejudice isn't instinctive though; isn't this something we learn? Otherwise, how could a seven-year-old possibly articulate that some skin colours are "wrong" while others presumably are not? And if these attitudes are learned, then whose responsibility is it to teach young children about race?

      Perhaps the school does have a role to play but surely this kind of education has to start at home. The onus is surely on all of us, particularly in a city like Bradford, to teach our children to value and celebrate diversity, so they grow up ready to embrace difference rather than being afraid or ignorant of it. This I am trying to teach my child, but how do I ensure that her classmates adopt the same values?

      Irna Qureshi is an anthropologist and writer on British Asian culture. She blogs about being British, Pakistani, Muslim and female in Bradford
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