UK flays Muslim Brotherhood, defends Western policy

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
Updated 08 December 2017
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UK flays Muslim Brotherhood, defends Western policy

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson singled out the Muslim Brotherhood and its associates for criticism on Thursday in a speech calling for a renewed Western diplomatic push in the Middle East to tackle extremism.
Speaking to diplomats and experts at the Foreign Office in London, Johnson called for better engagement with Muslim populations worldwide and argued that blaming Western intervention for the rise of extremism played into the jihadi narrative.
He said the West needed to collectively re-insert itself in the process toward peace in Syria and called for the US to bring fresh impetus to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Johnson said the Muslim Brotherhood — a global radical organization which started in Egypt in 1928 — was one of the most politically savvy operators in the Muslim world, but he also criticized its conduct in the Middle East and Britain.
“It is plainly wrong that Islamists should exploit freedoms here in the UK — freedoms of speech and association — that their associates would repress overseas and it is all too clear that some affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood are willing to turn a blind eye to terrorism,” he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was designated as a terrorist organization in that country in 2013.
A 2015 British government review into the organization concluded that membership of or links to it should be considered a possible indicator of extremism but stopped short of recommending that it should be banned.
Johnson admitted there had been policy missteps in Iraq and Syria interventions, but said that did not justify a diplomatic retreat from the region.
“British foreign policy is not the problem, it is part of the solution,” he said, calling for a renewed role in Syria, more work to halt conflict in Yemen and progress in bringing factions together in Libya. “We need more engagement, not less,” he said.


Italian minister sparks outcry over Roma census plans

Updated 39 min 1 sec ago
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Italian minister sparks outcry over Roma census plans

  • Interior Minister Matteo Salvini defended his plans to count the Roma community living in the country and deport those without legal status.
  • Salvini — already under fire when he refused last week to let a rescue ship carrying 630 migrants land in Italy — had floated the plan on national television.

ROME: Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Tuesday defended his plans to count the Roma community living in the country and deport those without legal status, despite outrage at home and abroad.
“I’m not giving up and I’m pushing ahead! The Italians and their safety first,” Salvini tweeted, after opposition MPs slammed the idea of a census as “racist” and “fascist.”
Salvini — already under fire when he refused last week to let a rescue ship carrying 630 migrants land in Italy — had floated the plan on national television on Monday.
A census would allow the authorities to “see who, how (they live) and how many there are,” he argued.
It would then allow the authorities to study the possibility of expelling Roma of foreign nationality without the proper documentation, he said.
But confronted with widespread anger on Tuesday, the anti-immigrant Salvini sought to clarify his plans.
“It is not our intention to record or take anyone’s fingerprints,” he said, according to a statement from his far-right League party.
“Our goal is a recognition of the situation of Roma camps. We intend to protect thousands of children who are not allowed to attend school regularly.”
But condemnation of his proposals was rapid and widespread, with not only the opposition parties but also members of the newly-established ruling coalition adding their voices.
The European Union also weighed in to the controversy.
EU Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein told journalists that “as a general rule, we cannot deport a European citizen based on ethnic criteria.”
Deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio — leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement that makes up the coalition alongside Salvini’s League — said any census based on ethnicity would be “unconstitutional.”
It is the first time that Di Maio has spoken out against his coalition partner and fellow deputy prime minister Salvini since the populist new government was sworn in on June 1.
So far, the coalition has attempted to put on a show of unity despite vast political differences. And Di Maio has allowed Salvini to impose his authority and push his hard-line immigration and nationalist stance.
Nevertheless, Italian media reported that Salvini’s plans also drew the ire of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte — even if he made no official statement on the matter.
Italy’s Jewish community said the idea of a census drew parallels with measures targeting Jews under fascist war-time leader Benito Mussolini.
The “announcement is worrying and evokes memories from just 80 years ago which are sadly increasingly forgotten,” said community leader, Noemi Di Segni.
Salvini already caused a diplomatic crisis with Italy’s EU partners earlier this month when he barred a charity-operated rescue ship with 630 mostly African migrants from docking.
He has also repeatedly taken aim at the Roma community, making promises to bulldoze Roma camps during his election campaign.
His calls for a census also drew sharp criticism from Italian opposition center-left Democratic Party (PD).
“Yesterday refugees, today the Roma, tomorrow guns for everyone. It must be tiring being nasty,” former premier Paolo Gentiloni tweeted on Monday.
The PD’s current leader Matteo Orfini tweeted: “If we really want to carry out the census, I would start with the census of racists and fascists. To better avoid them.”
According to a report by Association “21 Luglio,” which works with the Roma community, there are between 120,000-180,000 Roma living across Italy.
Salvini’s popularity is on the rise, nevertheless.
One opinion poll published by La7 TV channel on Monday put the League as Italy’s leading political force for the first time ever, with 29.2 percent support, compared with its 17 percent share of the vote in the March election.
The poll put Five Star in second place with 29 percent.