Muslims targeted by violence in wake of Daesh-claimed attacks

London Mayor Sadiq Khan (C) and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick give a statement to the media near the scene of an attack in the Finsbury Park area of north London following a vehicle attack on pedestrians on Monday. (AFP / Isabel Infantes)
Updated 19 June 2017
0

Muslims targeted by violence in wake of Daesh-claimed attacks

LONDON: The attack on Muslim worshippers outside a London mosque on Monday follows a rising wave of violence and harassment directed against Muslims across Britain and around the world.
This month alone, a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf told police in Lancashire her car was struck by a bag of vomit. Worshippers at the Omar Faruque mosque in Cambridge found strips of ham attached to their vehicles. Several Muslim families have reported receiving letters warning, “You are no longer welcome in this country.” Scores say they have been spat on.
Across Britain, Muslims say they are being targeted by a wave of animosity and violence simply because of the way they dress and worship, and because they share a religion hijacked by bloodthirsty extremists like the Daesh group, which was quick to claim responsibility for recent attacks in Britain and elsewhere. In Monday’s attack, a man plowed a van into a crowd of worshippers, injuring at least nine people — a tactic used in the recent attacks on Westminster and London bridges.
London’s Police Commander Cressida Dick said Monday’s assault outside two mosques during the holy month of Ramadan was clearly “an attack on Muslims.”
“We are easy targets because of the way we dress and when we pray,” said Hassan Ali, a 34-year-old resident of Finsbury Park, a north London neighborhood that is home to a large Muslim population and where the attack occurred. “But every time there is an attack here or elsewhere, we are blamed. When we are attacked, people look away.”
Since the wave of Daesh-inspired terror attacks in Britain, there has been a five-fold increase of hate crimes against Muslims. Tensions have also been running high since Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, a vote that was largely driven by anti-immigrant rhetoric — a message that was further reinforced by some of Britain’s right-leaning tabloids and spread by populist European politicians promising to stem immigration and tackle terrorism associated with Daesh.
“I feel unsafe,” said Emma Salem, a 15-year-old Muslim who lives in the neighborhood targeted on Monday.
Such attacks against Muslims have been on a worldwide increase. In January, a white nationalist opened fire on an Islamic cultural center in Quebec City, Canada, killing six people and wounding nearly 20. In the same month, the Islamic Center of Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, was destroyed by a fire in what authorities called a hate crime and another mosque was burned to the ground. Last year, nearly 100 mosques were attacked in Germany and dozens across Europe have been targeted by arsonists this year.

Far-right fascists and Islamic terrorists
Stirring tension plays an important part in Daesh (Islamic State) and Al-Qaeda propaganda, as well as propaganda by right-leaning political groups.
Brendan Cox, the widower of the slain British parliamentarian Jo Cox, said both the far-right and Islamic extremists are propelled by polarization.
“Far-right fascists and Islamic terrorists are driven by the same hatred of difference, same ideology of supremacy & use of same tactics,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Daesh group and Al-Qaeda have targeted Muslims living in the West, repeatedly saying they will never be fully accepted members in a society of “unbelievers.”
The idea has been to sow mistrust and drive both sides to the extremes. In the case of Daesh, the propaganda has gone even further, warning Muslims that if they failed to either join the fight in defense of the extremists’ self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria or carry out attacks in their home countries, they themselves were complicit in a system of oppression against Muslims.
Daesh supporters used Monday’s attack to fuel more tensions by noting that the attacker, identified as 47-year-old Darren Osborne, was not shot to death, unlike the London Bridge attackers. “Muslims. you need to wake up, the war is starting now in your own streets,” the message went on, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
“Muslims are repeatedly being used as a political football and pieces in a propaganda campaign,” said Mohammed Shafiq, head of the Ramadhan Foundation. “The rampant rise in Islamophobia has been perpetuated by right-wing newspapers and outlets. This has led to an atmosphere where it is acceptable to harass and ostracize Muslims. The Muslim community is constantly demonized.”
Residents of Finsbury Park said they were angry that the police seemed slow to call Monday’s incident a “terror attack.” They also expressed frustration that attacks on the Muslim community have received little coverage or sympathy.
“There has been an outpouring of sympathy for all the recent terror attacks but hardly a whisper on this attack,” said 23-year-old Ali Habib, who described how the white van swerve into a crowd of worshippers gathered outside a mosque following evening prayers. “People are both scared and angry. Parents are scared to send their children to evening prayers.”
The Muslim Council of Britain has called for extra security around mosques, describing the Finsbury Park van attack as “the most violent manifestation” of Islamophobia.
Mosques across Britain and elsewhere are expecting large crowds this week as Ramadan draws to a close.
___
Associated Press writer Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.


Energy wells plugged as Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano sends lava nearby

Updated 26 min 22 sec ago
0

Energy wells plugged as Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano sends lava nearby

PAHOA, Hawaii: Production wells at a geothermal plant under threat by lava flowing from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano have been plugged to prevent toxic gases from seeping out.
Lava from a nearby, new volcanic vent entered, then stalled, on the 815-acre property where the Puna Geothermal Venture wells occupy around 40 acres. Residents have been concerned about hazards if the lava flowed over the plant’s facilities, or if heat generated would interact with various chemicals used on-site.
Ten wells were “quenched,” which cools them with enough cold water to counter the pressure of volcanic steam coming from below, said Hawaii Gov. David Ige. The last well was plugged with mud, because it had remained hot despite the infusion of water. Metal plugs in the wells, which run as deep as 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) underground, are an additional stopgap measure.
“All wells are stable at this point,” said Ige. County officials are also monitoring various gases that may leak into the atmosphere.
A spike in gas levels could prompt a mass evacuation, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno. Officials, however, have not discussed specific scenarios that would lead to such an emergency.
Puna Geothermal, owned by Nevada’s Ormat Technologies, was shut down shortly after Kilauea began spewing lava on May 3. The plant harnesses heat and steam from the earth’s core to spin turbines to generate power. A flammable gas called pentane is used as part of the process, though officials earlier this month removed 50,000 gallons (190,000 liters) of the gas from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions.
The plant has capacity to produce 38 megawatts of electricity, providing roughly one-quarter of the Big Island’s daily energy demand.
Lava destroyed a building near the plant late Monday, bringing the total number of structures overtaken in the past several weeks to nearly 50, including dozens of homes. The latest was a warehouse adjacent to the Puna plant, Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Snyder told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The building was owned by the state and was used in geothermal research projects in the early days of the site.
Native Hawaiians have long expressed frustration with the plant since it came online in 1989; they say it is built on sacred land. Goddess of fire, Pele, is believed to live on Kilauea volcano, and the plant itself is thought to desecrate her name.
Other residents have voiced concerns over health and safety.
Scientists, however, say the conditions on Kilauea make it a good site for harnessing the earth for renewable energy.
“There’s heat beneath the ground if you dig deep enough everywhere,” said Laura Wisland, a senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. But in some places in the US “it’s just hotter, and you can access the geothermal energy more easily.”
Geothermal energy is also considered a clean resource as it doesn’t generate greenhouse gas emissions, said Bridget Ayling, the director of Nevada’s Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy.
Ormat said in a May 15 statement that there was a low risk of surface lava making its way to the facility. The company also said there was no damage to the facilities above-ground and that it was continuing to assess the impact. The plant is expected to begin operating “as soon as it is safe to do so,” according to the statement.
The US Geological Survey said sulfur dioxide emissions from the volcano have more than doubled since the current eruption began. Kilauea’s summit is now belching 15,000 tons (13,607 metric tons) of the gas each day up from 6,000 tons (5443 metric tons) daily prior to the May 3 eruption.
Scientists say lava from Kilauea is causing explosions as it enters the ocean, which can look like fireworks. When lava hits the sea and cools, it breaks apart and sends fragments flying into the air, which could land on boats in the water, said US Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall.