‘Good for all’ that Trump, Putin plan to meet again: Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 July 2018

‘Good for all’ that Trump, Putin plan to meet again: Merkel

  • The European Union was “ready” to respond if Trump makes good on his threat to slap steep tariffs on foreign cars, a move that would hit Germany’s auto industry particularly hard
  • Putin was last invited to the White House in 2005 by then-president George W. Bush, while former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev visited in 2010

BERLIN: Meetings between the US and Russian presidents should become the “normality,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday, adding that it is “good for all” that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin plan new talks.
“That talks are held is basically good for all, in particular between these two countries,” Merkel said at her regular summer press conference.
“I find that meetings between the US and Russian presidents must return to normality,” she said.
Trump is planning to host Putin for talks in Washington later this year, after a first bilateral meeting in Helsinki on Monday.
Trump has come under fire following the Helsinki talks for what many saw as his unsettling embrace of the Russian strongman — and his seeming disavowal of his own intelligence agencies and their assessment that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election.
The talks in the Finnish capital were closed-door and with no one else present but interpreters.
The US president on Thursday listed the topics discussed as “stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyberattacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more.”
Putin was last invited to the White House in 2005 by then-president George W. Bush, while former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev visited in 2010.
Pressed by reporters on how she viewed her relationship with Trump in light of his repeated criticism of Germany’s asylum policies, defense spending and trade surpluses, a diplomatic Merkel stressed the importance of transatlantic cooperation.
Ties at the moment are “under strong pressure,” she acknowledged.
“Nevertheless the transatlantic working relationship, also with the US president, is central to us and I will continue to maintain it.”
She also expressed hope that a trade war with the US could be staved off, ahead of European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker’s visit to Washington next week to try and negotiate a solution.
Merkel said the European Union was “ready” to respond if Trump makes good on his threat to slap steep tariffs on foreign cars, a move that would hit Germany’s auto industry particularly hard.
But tit-for-tat retaliation would be “by far the worst-possible solution,” Merkel warned, describing the current trade tensions as “very serious.”
The potential car tariffs would not just violate the rules of the World Trade Organization, she added, but could also “endanger the prosperity of many people around the world.”


Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 15 December 2019

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)


Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”