Former UK member of European Parliament claims he was victim of Islamophobia by government minister

Sajjad Karim says his allegations were ignored by Singh report into Islamophobia in Tory party. (Twitter Photo)2ee
Sajjad Karim says his allegations were ignored by Singh report into Islamophobia in Tory party. (Twitter Photo)
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Updated 07 February 2022

Former UK member of European Parliament claims he was victim of Islamophobia by government minister

Former UK member of European Parliament claims he was victim of Islamophobia by government minister
  • Karim prepared to name names if a new investigation opens, weeks after separate Conservative MP claimed she was sacked on account of her faith

LONDON: A British Conservative politician has accused his party of failing to investigate allegations of Islamophobia against a fellow Tory who has since risen to the ministerial level in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.

Sajjad Karim, a former member of the European Parliament for North West England from 2004 to 2019, told The Independent that he was prepared to place identities on record after an investigation into Islamophobia in the party failed to take his claims into consideration.

Karim said that in 2013 he overheard a conversation in which two Tory politicians, including the individual now serving as a minister, plotted to use Karim’s faith as a weapon against him.

“It’s politically motivated. It was entirely a political exercise to try and undermine me — to use my religion as a means to undermine me,” he said.

His claims come just weeks after Tory MP Nusrat Ghani alleged that her Muslim faith was cited by a party whip as a reason for sacking her from a ministerial position in 2020.

“I don’t know Nus Ghani’s case or situation,” Karim said. “All I know is in my case the discussion was about how my religious and cultural background could be engineered politically and used against me.”

Karim said that he stayed quiet about overhearing the conversation at the time, adding that he had “just got on with it,” but later revealed it in September 2019 to the BBC, after which the party invited him to make a formal complaint.

However, he demanded that he be allowed to speak in person to the party chairman, James Cleverly MP, only to be told that Cleverly was too busy.

“I responded, and said: ‘No I’m not going to use the standard process, this is not appropriate.’ And then I was emailed back saying that, actually, the … inquiry was going to be taking place … and that the inquiry would contact me and that I should give my evidence to the ... inquiry.”

The inquiry in question, headed by Prof. Swaran Singh into Islamophobia in the party, published its report in May 2021, which failed to mention the incident. Furthermore, Karim said that he was never contacted for questioning.

“So they’ve gone ahead and concluded all of this but I’d been excluded from this,” he said. “So in terms of my complaint, it was neither dealt with by the chairman, nor was it a part of the Singh inquiry, and therefore it just has not been a part of any process in dealing with Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.

“I think it’s demonstrative of a lack of real, genuine seriousness in the party to actually treat Islamophobia as a serious issue,” he added. “It’s seen more as a nuisance that in some way has got to be dealt with.

“Do I have any confidence that the current setup has any interest in actually dealing with my complaint? No, not at all. But that’s not to say that the Conservative Party per se — the board — ought not to be interested in what has actually happened here.”

Karim added that he would name the individuals involved in the allegation. “I will tell the party the full facts of what I experienced,” he said. “The party has then got to decide, are they (the minister) a fit and proper person?

“I think that there is a need for the Conservative Party to think long and hard today about how we once again become a party that is actually fit for governance,” he said, adding: “Whilst Boris Johnson is at the helm, I just don’t see how you can carry out the necessary reforms — he’s just too much of a distraction.”

A Conservative Party spokesperson told The Independent: “We committed to holding an investigation … following accusations of discrimination within the party.

“An independent investigation was undertaken by Prof. Swaran Singh, with individuals submitting evidence via a public call for evidence. Prof. Singh’s investigation concluded that there was no evidence of institutionalized racism or a systemic issue.

“The Conservative Party has a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination of any kind, and has always acted to deal with any incidents of hatred, abuse or intimidation.”


Erdogan says will meet Biden on sidelines of NATO summit

Erdogan says will meet Biden on sidelines of NATO summit
Updated 26 sec ago

Erdogan says will meet Biden on sidelines of NATO summit

Erdogan says will meet Biden on sidelines of NATO summit
ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he would meet US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid for talks on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Analysts believe the meeting could play a crucial role in lifting Turkey’s resistance to bids by Sweden and Finland to join the Western defense alliance in response to the war.
The two leaders have had a chilly relationship since Biden’s election because of US concerns about human rights under Erdogan.
“We spoke with Mr.Biden this morning and he expressed his desire to get together tonight or tomorrow. We said it was possible,” Erdogan said.
He was speaking to reporters before flying to Madrid for talks that will start with his meeting with the leaders of the two Nordic countries and the NATO secretary general.
Erdogan said he wanted to see the results of preparatory talks held on Monday in Brussels before deciding whether Sweden and Finland had done enough to lift his objection to their membership of the military alliance.
Turkey is a NATO member and could veto both countries’ applications at the summit.
“We are a 70-year-old member of NATO. Turkey is not a country that randomly joined NATO,” Erdogan said.
“We will see what point they (Finland and Sweden) have reached,” he added. “We do not want empty words. We want results.”
Ankara has accused Finland and more particularly Sweden of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish militants, whose decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state has resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of lives.
The Turkish leader has also called on Sweden and Finland to lift arms embargoes imposed on Turkey in 2019 over Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.

China halves quarantine time for overseas travelers

China halves quarantine time for overseas travelers
Updated 28 June 2022

China halves quarantine time for overseas travelers

China halves quarantine time for overseas travelers
  • New guideline is drastic reduction from 21 days of quarantine and home monitoring combined

BEIJING: China on Tuesday reduced the length of mandatory quarantine for inbound travelers, in the biggest relaxation of entry restrictions after sticking to a rigid zero Covid policy throughout the pandemic.
The new guideline cuts the length of mandatory quarantine for overseas travelers to seven days plus three more of home monitoring — a drastic drop from about 21 days of quarantine and home monitoring combined.
China closed off its international borders at the beginning of the pandemic and the number of international flights is still tightly restricted in an effort to tamp down “imported” virus cases as the pandemic rages elsewhere.
Since then overseas arrivals have faced weeks of strict monitoring and costly quarantine in hotels and designated centers.
Under the latest Covid prevention and control policy guidelines announced by the National Heath Commission and the State Council, inbound travelers entering China will now be required to quarantine centrally for just seven days.
Starting from April, a growing number of “pilot” cities have already slashed mandatory centralized quarantine for overseas travelers to 10 days, with Beijing reducing quarantine as well last month.
However, scarce international flights are frequently subject to cancelations, as Beijing operates a “circuit breaker” system where routes are temporarily canceled if enough positive passengers are discovered on board.
According to the latest guidelines, the new quarantine requirement also applies to people identified as close contacts inside China, where strict quarantine is imposed on communities with positive cases.


North Korea on high alert for torrential floods amid COVID-19 crisis

North Korea on high alert for torrential floods amid COVID-19 crisis
Concerns about the downpour come as North Korea is battling its first domestic coronavirus outbreak. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 June 2022

North Korea on high alert for torrential floods amid COVID-19 crisis

North Korea on high alert for torrential floods amid COVID-19 crisis
  • Concerns about the downpour come as North Korea is battling its first domestic coronavirus outbreak

SEOUL: North Korea said Tuesday it is making all-out efforts to prevent potential damages caused by heavy rains this week that outside observers worry could aggravate the country’s economic hardships amid its COVID-19 outbreak.
Summer floods in North Korea, one of the poorest countries in Asia, often cause serious damage to its agricultural and other sectors because of its troubled drainage and deforestation.
Typhoons and torrential rains in 2020 were among the difficulties that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said had created “multiple crises” at home, along with strict pandemic-related restrictions and UN sanctions.
North Korea’s weather authorities predicted this year’s rainy season would start in late June and issued alerts for torrential downpour in most of its regions from Monday through Wednesday.
The official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that authorities in the North’s central and southwestern regions are mobilizing all available resources to cope with possible flood-related damage.
Officials and workers there were engaging in works to protect crops, factory equipment, power plant facilities and fishing boats from heavy rains, KCNA reported. It said the country’s anti-disaster agency was reviewing readiness of emergency workers and medical staff.
KCNA said North Korean officials are urging residents and laborers to abide by pandemic-related restrictions during the country’s monsoon season.
It said more than 106,000 medical workers and hygienic workers have been ready to deal with potential major health issues caused by flooding. KCNA said officials are taking steps to ensure anti-epidemic security at shelters for those evacuated from flood-damaged areas.
South Korea’s weather agency said most of North Korea has been receiving heavy rains since Sunday.
Concerns about the downpour come as North Korea is battling its first domestic coronavirus outbreak. Since North Korea last month admitted to the outbreak, it said about 4.7 million out of the country’s 26 million people have fallen ill with feverish symptoms, but only 73 died, a fatality rate that is widely disputed by outside experts.
Given its entire population officially remains unvaccinated and its health care system is broken, observers speculate that North Korea must have suffered greater deaths and that it’s likely manipulating its death count to help Kim avoid any political damage.


Philippines Supreme Court rejects last bid to thwart incoming president Marcos Jr

Philippines Supreme Court rejects last bid to thwart incoming president Marcos Jr
Updated 28 June 2022

Philippines Supreme Court rejects last bid to thwart incoming president Marcos Jr

Philippines Supreme Court rejects last bid to thwart incoming president Marcos Jr
  • Marcos Jr won the May 9 election in a landslide and will be sworn in on Thursday for a six-year term

MANILA: The Philippines Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a final bid to disqualify President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr from last month’s election, local media reported, clearing the way for his inauguration later this week.
Marcos Jr, 64, the son and namesake of Philippines’ late leader who ruled for two decades, won the May 9 election in a landslide and will be sworn in on Thursday for a six-year term.
Activists had appealed to the top court to overturn the election commission’s dismissal of their petitions, which sought his disqualification before the ballot on the grounds of decades-old tax violations, which they argued made him ineligible to run.
The Supreme Court justices unanimously dismissed the consolidated cases, media reported. The court did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation and details of its decision had yet to be published.
The Marcos camp had long dismissed the petitions as efforts by his opponents to hobble his campaign. His team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.
The Marcos family’s patriarch ruled for 20 years, during which time he, his family and cronies amassed an estimated $10 billion in ill-gotten wealth, a government commission found.
The Marcos family has denied wrongdoing.
They have been the subject of numerous court cases since their return from self-imposed exile in the 1990s having fled a 1986 “people power” revolution that overthrew the last Marcos administration.


Spanish PM blames traffickers, migrants for deaths at border

Spanish PM blames traffickers, migrants for deaths at border
Updated 28 June 2022

Spanish PM blames traffickers, migrants for deaths at border

Spanish PM blames traffickers, migrants for deaths at border
  • PM says Spain’s security forces and Moroccan guards defended Spain’s borders
  • Human rights organizations deplored police treatment of migrants on both sides

MADRID: Spain’s prime minister is defending the way Moroccan and Spanish police repelled migrants last week as they tried to cross the shared border into the north African enclave of Melilla, depicting the attempt in which at least 23 people died as “an attack on Spain’s borders.”
“We must remember that many of these migrants attacked Spain’s borders with axes and hooks,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said during an interview with The Associated Press. “We are talking about an attempt to assault the fence that was evidently carried out in an aggressive way, and therefore what Spain’s state security forces and Moroccan guards did was defend Spain’s borders.”
Authorities in Morocco have blamed the deaths on a “stampede” of people that formed early Friday as hundreds attempted to scale or break through the 12-meter (29-feet) iron double fence.
The barrier surrounds Melilla, a town of 85,000 separated from the Spanish mainland by the Strait of Gibraltar.
Nonprofits working in northern Africa and human rights organizations have deplored the treatment the migrants received from police on both sides. But they have also directed their blame at Spanish and European Union officials who they say have essentially outsourced border controls to Morocco and other states.
Sánchez, whose left-to-center government is trying to improve ties with Morocco following an acrimonious diplomatic dispute over Western Sahara, has refused to criticize the crackdown.
Speaking at the palace on the outskirts of Madrid that hosts his office and residence, Sánchez told AP that his thoughts were with the families of those who died. But he blamed the tragedy on “international human trafficking rings who are profiting from the suffering of human beings who only want to seek a better life.”
“I insist, these are international mafia groups that are not only damaging the territorial integrity of Spain but also that of Morocco, which is a country suffering that irregular migration.”
Sánchez spoke to AP on the eve of hosting NATO leaders in a summit that aims to redraw the defense alliance’s strategy for the next decade. While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will take center stage at the Wednesday and Thursday meeting, the group will also debate its posture on Africa, where Russian mercenaries are adding to concerns about migration, extremism and the impacts of poverty and climate change.
Footage uploaded to social media shows how a large number of migrants approached a section of the fence and began scaling it. Some of the migrants hurled rocks at Moroccan anti-riot police trying to stop them. At one point, the fence collapses, sending many of the migrants to the ground from a height of several meters.
In at least one video released by Spanish online news website eldiario.es, Spanish guards can also be seen escorting migrants back to the Moroccan side, a practice that human rights activists say denies the right of refugees to apply for asylum on European soil.
More gruesome videos and photos posted online appear to show the aftermath of the crossing attempt, with scores of young men, some of them motionless and others barely moving and bleeding as Moroccan security forces stood over them.
At least 76 civilians and 140 security officers on the Moroccan side, and 60 National Police and Civil Guard officers on the Spanish side, were injured, according to their respective governments. A small group of African men who did make it across the fence were taken to a migrant holding center in Melilla.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, head of the continent’s largest grouping of countries, the African Union, has called for an investigation into the deaths. In a tweet, Mahamat said he wanted to “express my deep shock and concern at the violent and degrading treatment of African migrants,” adding that all countries have “obligations under international law to treat all migrants with dignity and to prioritize their safety and human rights while refraining from the use of excessive force.”
While Moroccan authorities say 23 people died in addition to scores of injuries both among the migrants and border guards, activists claim that the death toll is higher and denounce the EU’s policy of striking deals with Morocco and other states like Turkey to control migration flows.
A group of 51 human rights groups said Monday in a joint statement distributed by Spanish NGO Walking Borders that the deaths “are the tragic example of the European Union’s policies of externalizing its borders, with the complicity of a southern country, Morocco.”
“The death of these young Africans at the borders of ‘Fortress Europe’ is a warning of the deadly nature of the security cooperation on immigration between Morocco and Spain,” the statement added.
Spanish authorities in Melilla, meanwhile, are using the most recent attempt by migrants to cross over in mass numbers to make an appeal for even greater guarantees on their territorial security. Last year, when relations between Spain and Morocco were frayed, Moroccan border guard let thousands of people cross in a few hours in Ceuta, Spain’s other enclave city in Africa.
Since then, the Spanish media has been rife with debate about whether NATO would help Spain out if its hold of Melilla and Ceuta was ever in jeopardy.
“Melilla is Europe’s southern frontier, and that is why Europe must look to the south,” Melilla chief Eduardo de Castro said Monday.