UK’s Conservatives urged to do more to stop Islamophobia

UK’s Conservatives urged to do more to stop Islamophobia
Two-thirds of all discrimination allegations against Conservative members involved Muslims. (AFP/File)
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Updated 25 May 2021

UK’s Conservatives urged to do more to stop Islamophobia

UK’s Conservatives urged to do more to stop Islamophobia
  • Call from anti-hate group follows publication of report on Islamophobia in party
  • ‘Anti-Muslim hate must be stamped out where it is found,’ director tells Arab News

LONDON: British-Muslim anti-hate organization Tell MAMA has told Arab News that the Conservatives need to do more to “stamp out” hate after publication on Tuesday of a report on Islamophobia in the party.

The report, compiled by former equality and human rights commissioner Prof. Swaran Singh, found that anti-Muslim sentiment “remained a problem” that “alienates a significant section of society” and “should make for uncomfortable reading for the party.”

Two-thirds of all discrimination allegations against Conservative members involved Muslims, it added, suggesting issues remain at local levels and at least one member of every party association should receive anti-discrimination training within 12 months of the report’s publication.

Tell MAMA said it had uncovered multiple cases of party members engaging in “discriminatory content or language directed at or about Muslims.”

Iman Atta, its director, told Arab News: “Many Muslims will read this report with interest. The report mentions the problems of anti-Muslim prejudice, though not at an institutional level. However, we know that the problem is with some local associations, and no one should underestimate the impact of the actions of local associations.”

She said: “We met the Conservative Party over a number of years to explain our findings and how we could voluntarily train up local associations in the spare time of our staff, so that there was no conflict of interest. No such offers were taken up.”

She added: “Any prejudice that is even seen to be tacitly accepted by re-admitting (expelled) people into local associations with a history of bigoted anti-Muslim comments risks damaging political positions and making any political party part of the problem, and not the solution.”

Atta said: “There is finally an acknowledgment that there is a problem that needs to be dealt with regarding the ‘merry-go-round’ of associations and politicians who have thought that there would be no comeback to their actions of re-accepting people who have made anti-Muslim comments before, or to those politicians who have overtly or covertly played to audiences who see Muslims as being somehow suspect or faulty.

“However, this does not end here. There is a lot more work to be done, and one element is ensuring that … Islamophobia is systematically driven out through training, policies or procedures throughout local associations and within the national party, if and when it rears its ugly head.

“We wait to see how the report can be implemented and whether Tell MAMA will be reached out to. Anti-Muslim hate must be stamped out where it is found.”

Singh’s report highlighted prominent examples of allegations of Islamophobia, including against former mayor of London candidate Zac Goldsmith, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson over a newspaper column he wrote in 2018 comparing Muslim women wearing niqabs to bank robbers and letterboxes. Tell MAMA said this was followed by a 375 percent increase in Islamophobic incidents.

Conservative MP and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said the report shows “distressing examples of anti-Muslim sentiment” but added that Johnson is not, in his view, Islamophobic, and “respects anyone from any background, any community.”

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), meanwhile, issued a “guarded welcome” to the report, praising that it recognizes that “Islamophobia has been a serious issue for the party and that concerns had too easily been denied and dismissed.”

It added: “Many of the (report’s) recommendations reflect the MCB’s longstanding concerns, and the Conservative Party must acknowledge the scale of the problem, apologize for the failures highlighted and adopt the investigation’s recommendations.”

But the MCB said the report did not do enough to “address the structural nature of Islamophobia in the party,” how it has “impacted many elements of its culture, and how the party had been disingenuous in its public responses.”

Campaign group HOPE Not Hate also praised the report for recognizing “that the party’s processes were poor, fell short of basic standards, and are in need of an overhaul.” But it criticized the report for being an “arms-length investigation.”

CEO Nick Lowles said: “The report also fails to recognize the institutional nature of the problem. It ignores the cultural issues amongst grassroots members, and how a number of members, including leadership figures, are able to make Islamophobic comments, and are aided and abetted by a complaints system not fit for purpose.

“This has led to a deep and embedded institutional problem that the Conservatives have been unable or unwilling to address.”


Islamists suspend march under agreement with Pakistan govt

Islamists suspend march under agreement with Pakistan govt
Updated 17 sec ago

Islamists suspend march under agreement with Pakistan govt

Islamists suspend march under agreement with Pakistan govt
LAHORE: A radical Islamist party agreed Sunday to suspend for three days its march of thousands toward the capital Islamabad after Pakistan agreed to drop pending charges against the party's leader.
Party supporters Saturday departed the eastern city of Lahore, clashing for a second straight day with police who lobbed tear gas into the crowd. The group began its journey a day earlier with the goal of reaching Islamabad to pressure the government to release Saad Rizvi, head of the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party. Rizvi was arrested last year amid demonstrations against France over the publication of caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Raja Basharat, provincial law minister, told The Associated Press that under the agreement Punjab will withdraw charges against Rizvi and release all those detained during the protest march by Tuesday.
Rizvi had been detained pre-emptively on a charge of inciting people to assemble unlawfully. It was unclear when he would be released.
Basharat also said the agreement stipulates that the federal government will honor a previous agreement with the TLP to address diplomatic ties with France over the publication of the caricatures.
Sajid Saifi, spokesman for Rizvi’s party, confirmed the minister’s account and said thousands of party supporters will stay in the town of Mureedke waiting for the release of party leaders and members who have been detained.
Pakistan Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed told reporters that the TLP's demand that the French ambassador to Pakistan be expelled over the caricatures would be taken to a parliamentary committee in the coming days.
Basharat, Ahmed and Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri took part in the talks with the TLP executive council.
Violent clashes erupted between security forces and the Islamists in Lahore killing at least two police and injuring about a dozen, police said. Saifi claimed four party supporters were killed by police fire and “many” others were injured. Police said the demonstrators torched several police vehicles there.
Ahmed said the government was unaware of any deaths of TLP supporters.
Rizvi’s party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 elections, campaigning on the single issue of defending the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam. It has a history of staging violent protests to pressure the government to accept its demands.

President: Deadly blast in Ugandan capital a ‘terrorist act’

President: Deadly blast in Ugandan capital a ‘terrorist act’
Updated 24 October 2021

President: Deadly blast in Ugandan capital a ‘terrorist act’

President: Deadly blast in Ugandan capital a ‘terrorist act’
  • ‘It seems to be a terrorist act but we shall get the perpetrators’

KAMPALA:  Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Sunday that an explosion in the capital Kampala that killed one and injured five was “a terrorist act” and vowed to hunt down those responsible.

“It seems to be a terrorist act but we shall get the perpetrators,” Museveni said in a Twitter post about the explosion late Saturday in northern Kampala.

Police said the “serious blast” occurred at around 9:00 p.m. (1800 GMT) at a popular street side restaurant strip in Kawempe, a Kampala suburb.

Museveni said he had been briefed that three people “left a package” at the scene that later exploded, killing one person and injuring five others.

He said investigators were still combing the bomb site and more details would be released later, including advice for the public in “dealing with these possible terrorists.”

“The public should not fear, we shall defeat this criminality like we have defeated all the other criminality committed by the pigs who don’t respect life,” Museveni said.


Strong quake strikes northern Taiwan

Strong quake strikes northern Taiwan
Updated 24 October 2021

Strong quake strikes northern Taiwan

Strong quake strikes northern Taiwan
  • Taiwan’s central weather bureau said the quake was of magnitude 6.5 while the US Geological Survey gave a lower figure of 6.2

TAIPEI: A strong earthquake struck northeastern Taiwan on Sunday, with residents reporting violent shaking in the capital Taipei but there were no immediate reports of widespread damage.
Taiwan’s central weather bureau said the quake was of magnitude 6.5 while the US Geological Survey gave a lower figure of 6.2.
It hit northeastern Yilan county at 1:11 p.m. (0511 GMT) at a depth of 67 kilometers (42 miles).
An AFP reporter who lives in Yilan said the shaking seemed to last some 30 seconds.
“The walls of the house were shaking, both sideways and up and down, it felt quite strong,” the reporter said.
There was no damage in his neighborhood.
The main quake was followed by a 5.4-magnitude aftershock and Taipei’s MRT metro system shut down as a precaution for a little under an hour before service resumed.
Tom Parker, a British illustrator who lives in Taipei, said he was riding the subway when the quake hit.
“First time I’ve felt a quake on the MRT. Like a tame rollercoaster,” he tweeted, adding he and other commuters were told to shelter in place in the station for now.
Many others reported the tremor on social media.
“I was scared to death, I screamed in my room,” Yu Ting wrote on Facebook.
“This earthquake is really big, glass has shattered in my living room.”
Some grocery stores reported food and other goods were thrown from shelves by the shaking.
Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes as the island lies near the junction of two tectonic plates.
Some earthquakes of this magnitude can prove deadly, although much depends on where the quake strikes and at what depth.
Hualien, a scenic tourist hotspot, was struck by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake in 2018 that killed 17 people and injured nearly 300.
In September 1999, a 7.6-magnitude quake killed around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s history.
However, a 6.2 earthquake struck in December 2020 in Yilan with no major damage or injuries reported.


Myanmar says it’s committed to ASEAN peace plan, despite military leader’s snub

Myanmar says it’s committed to ASEAN peace plan, despite military leader’s snub
Updated 24 October 2021

Myanmar says it’s committed to ASEAN peace plan, despite military leader’s snub

Myanmar says it’s committed to ASEAN peace plan, despite military leader’s snub
  • Junta says it upholds the principal of peaceful coexistence with other countries and would cooperate with the ASEAN
  • Myanmar leadership accuses ASEAN of departing from its principals on consensus and non-interference

Myanmar’s military rulers pledged on Sunday to cooperate “as much as possible” with a peace plan agreed with ASEAN, despite a stern rebuke of the regional bloc for excluding the country’s top commander from a summit this week.
In an announcement in state media on Sunday, the junta said it upholds the principal of peaceful coexistence with other countries and would cooperate with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in following a five-point “consensus” agreed in April, a plan backed by the West and China.
ASEAN foreign ministers decided on Oct. 15 to sideline Min Aung Hlaing, leader of a Feb. 1 Myanmar coup, for his failure to implement that plan, which included ending hostilities, initiating dialogue, allowing humanitarian support and granting a special envoy full access in the country.
The junta struck back late on Friday, accusing ASEAN of departing from its principals on consensus and non-interference. It refused to agree to send a politically neutral Myanmar representative instead of Min Aung Hlaing.
ASEAN chair Brunei has not responded to Myanmar’s rejection.
A spokesman for Thailand’s foreign ministry declined to comment on Saturday, citing the sensitivity of the matter, while Indonesia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Teuku Faizasyah, said ASEAN’s consensus on who would represent Myanmar at the summit was the “common guide for all ASEAN members.”
The exclusion is an unprecedented snub from a bloc long criticized for being tardy and ineffective at dealing with member governments accused of atrocities.
More than 1,000 civilians have been killed in a post-coup crackdown in Myanmar, with thousands more detained, many tortured or beaten, according to the United Nations, citing activists. The junta is accused of using excessive military force against civilian populations.
The junta has insisted many of those killed or detained were “terrorists” determined to destabilize the country. The junta chief last week said opposition forces were prolonging the unrest.
ASEAN’s special envoy, Erywan Yusof of Brunei, had sought a meeting with ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but the military government said that was impossible because she was detained and charged with crimes.
The junta warned Erywan not to engage with opposition forces it has outlawed, including the shadow National Unity Government, an alliance of pro-democracy and armed ethnic groups, Japanese broadcaster NHK said, citing an unpublished report.
A Myanmar military spokesman and Erywan’s office did not immediately respond to separate requests for comment on Sunday on the reported warning.
In Sunday’s announcement, Myanmar’s rulers first reaffirmed their own five-point plan for restoring democracy, which they announced after the coup.
The military insists it is the legitimate authority in Myanmar and its takeover was not a coup, but a necessary and lawful intervention against a threat to sovereignty posed by Suu Kyi’s party, which it said won a fraudulent election last year.


US urges North Korea to stop missile tests

US urges North Korea to stop missile tests
Updated 24 October 2021

US urges North Korea to stop missile tests

US urges North Korea to stop missile tests
  • Tuesday’s launch was the latest in a series of recent weapons tests by Pyongyang

SEOUL: The US on Sunday urged North Korea to stop “counterproductive” missile tests, but expressed hope Pyongyang would respond positively to Washington’s call for dialogue.
It comes after North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Tuesday, prompting an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
US special representative on North Korea Sung Kim met his southern counterpart Noh Kyu-duk after a meeting with their Japanese counterpart in Washington.
He labelled Tuesday’s launch a “provocation,” and urged Pyongyang to stop “concerning and counterproductive” missile tests.
“We hope the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach,” Kim told reporters in Seoul, using the acronyms of North Korea’s official same.
Tuesday’s launch was the latest in a series of recent weapons tests by the country, including a long-range cruise missile, a train-launched weapon, and what it said was a hypersonic warhead.
Earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un blamed the United States for sanctions, dismissing Washington’s assertions that it does not have hostile intentions.
Kim met three times with former president Donald Trump, who boasted of stopping a war but failed to reach a comprehensive agreement on ending the country’s nuclear program.
President Joe Biden has promised to keep seeking diplomacy but with a more low-key approach.