Far right ‘posed as journalists to spread anti-Muslim lies’

A Muslim cleric leaves the Regent’s Park Mosque in London after attending a meeting called by the Muslim Council of Britain. (AFP/File)
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Updated 12 May 2020

Far right ‘posed as journalists to spread anti-Muslim lies’

  • Some extreme right-wing groups are trying to use the pandemic to create division

LONDON: Far-right activists in the UK are posing as journalists to spread fake news about Muslims breaking coronavirus lockdown restrictions during Ramadan, a prominent British imam has said.

Far-right extremists are exploiting the lockdown “to spread hatred of Muslims,” Qari Asim, chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board and the government’s adviser on Islamophobia, told The Telegraph newspaper.

“We’ve had reports that people have been going around mosques (in West Yorkshire) pretending to be independent journalists and talking to people, and effectively again trying to gather information and trying to make some footage saying Muslims are still congregating,” said Asim, the imam at Makkah Mosque in the northern city of Leeds.

Churches, mosques and other places of worship have been closed since the lockdown began in March to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. The restrictions have coincided with Muslims celebrating Ramadan.

Under normal circumstances, Muslims would visit their local mosque, fast during the day and share iftar. But while this is not possible, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has urged people to celebrate iftars over online video call software.

There have been cases of social media posts alleging that Muslims are ignoring the rules to gather in the evenings and flout restrictions on funerals.

“It’s extremely disappointing that even during such unprecedented times of national emergency, some people have continued to spread hatred of Muslims and unsubstantiated claims that an increase in coronavirus cases will happen during Ramadan because most Muslims tend to have social gatherings,” the MCB said.

“Some extreme right-wing groups are trying to use the pandemic to create division. So they’re targeting Muslims, in a way which is deplorable … We call on people to stand united and say that such unsubstantiated claims are fake news and should be challenged robustly.”

Asim said Makkah Mosque was closed before the lockdown, but “there are still some people going around and spreading some videos and images to say that Muslims are still congregating — but those images and videos were from well before the pandemic.”

Zimbabwean film industry makes Netflix debut with ‘Cook Off’

Updated 02 June 2020

Zimbabwean film industry makes Netflix debut with ‘Cook Off’

  • The romantic film is about a struggling single mother who finds love during a cooking competition

HARARE: Zimbabwean film Cook Off, a romance about a struggling single mother who finds love during a cooking competition, premiered on Netflix on Monday, a debut that its makers hope will propel the country’s small film sector to global audiences.

Zimbabwe often grabs headlines for its economic woes and political crises, but producer Joe Njagu said the film sought to project a different image.

“I wanted the world to know that there is more to Zimbabwe than what they hear. We also fall in love, we also enjoy nice food. We also have very nice stories,” said Njagu.

With a production budget of only $8,000, Njagu said he used his personal relationships with the cast and crew to sign deferred contracts and to bring on board studio owners and equipment hire companies without making immediate payment.

The low budget film was shot in 2017 but very few people in Zimbabwe had heard of it, even after it won several awards at international film festivals, including in the Netherlands, South Africa and US. Everything changed two and half months ago, when Netflix, the world’s leading entertainment streaming service with 189 million paid viewers, came knocking on the door.

“It’s a big ‘hello, this is Zimbabwe we are here.’ It’s an opportunity for us to introduce our content to the rest of the world. It’s really a big deal for us,” Njagu said.

He would not say how much the Netflix deal was worth but that it was enough to pay the deferred expenses and make a profit.

The film creators are now in talks with Netflix about possible future productions while television stations in Europe, Africa, US also want to air Cook Off.

“It’s a different story, it’s no longer deferred payments, it’s now commissioned work, it’s now getting budgets to do productions,” he said.

“We can’t fall short anymore. This is the world stage.”