UK terror attack survivors warn politicians over anti-Muslim hate

UK terror attack survivors warn politicians over anti-Muslim hate
A photograph taken on March 22, 2022 shows a wreath of flowers laid on Westminster Bridge in front of Palace of Westminster, home to the House of Parliament and House of Lords, in London, to mark the fifth anniversary of the Westminster Bridge terror attack (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 10 March 2024
Follow

UK terror attack survivors warn politicians over anti-Muslim hate

UK terror attack survivors warn politicians over anti-Muslim hate
  • Open letter: ‘Vast majority’ of British Muslims ‘deplore such violence’
  • Survivor: ‘People need to consider the power of their words because they have the power to incite further hatred’

London: A group of more than 50 survivors of Islamist terror attacks in the UK have signed an open letter warning politicians against tarring British Muslims as extremists.

The letter against anti-Muslim hate was coordinated by Survivors Against Terror, a network of people in the UK and British people overseas who have been affected by terrorism.

Signatories include Rebecca Rigby, the widow of Lee Rigby, a soldier who was stabbed to death in London in 2013, as well as Paul Price, whose partner Elaine McIver was killed in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

The letter reads: “To defeat this (extremist) threat the single most important thing we can do is to isolate the extremists and the terrorists from the vast majority of British Muslims who deplore such violence.

“In recent weeks there have been too many cases where politicians and others have failed to do this; in some cases equating being Muslim with being an extremist, facilitating anti-Muslim hate or failing to challenge it.”

The signatories say defeating Islamism and extremism should be a “national priority” and they are “only too aware” of the threat posed by terrorism.

But they are saddened by a series of controversies in which major political figures in the UK have conflated Islam with extremism.

Last month, the former deputy chair of the governing Conservative Party, Lee Anderson, was suspended after claiming that Islamists had “got control” of Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor.

Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, also faced controversy after warning that “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now,” referring to pro-Palestine protests that have taken place in London amid the Gaza conflict.

Their comments are “playing into the hands of terrorists,” signatories to the letter believe.

Darryn Frost, who fended off a terrorist who had killed two people near London Bridge in 2019, said: “I think it’s dangerous when any of our leaders marginalise communities and paint a very broad brush.

“People need to consider the power of their words because they have the power to incite further hatred.”

The letter is being published ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Christchurch mosque killings on March 15.

The attack, carried out by a far-right terrorist, led to the murder of more than 50 Muslims in the New Zealand city.

Brendan Cox, co-founder of Survivors Against Terrorism, said: “Anyone using the issue (of extremism) to seek tactical party advantage risks undermining that consensus and making our efforts less successful.

“The message from survivors of attacks is clear: you can play politics all you like, but not with the safety of our country.”

Among the 57 signatories is Magen Inon, whose parents were killed during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

The letter coincides with UK government plans to update the official definition of extremism, which will allow authorities to suspend ties or funding to groups found to have exceeded the new definition.

Currently, extremism is defined by the government as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

Communities Secretary Michael Gove, who is leading the change, has claimed that pro-Palestine marches in London have included groups who are “trying to subvert democracy,” and that some pro-Palestine events have been organized by “extremist” organizations.


India begins voting in fifth phase as Mumbai, Gandhi family boroughs head to polls

India begins voting in fifth phase as Mumbai, Gandhi family boroughs head to polls
Updated 6 sec ago
Follow

India begins voting in fifth phase as Mumbai, Gandhi family boroughs head to polls

India begins voting in fifth phase as Mumbai, Gandhi family boroughs head to polls
  • World’s largest election began on April 19 and will conclude on June 1
  • Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Raebareli, Wayanad seats 

MUMBAI: India began voting in the fifth phase of its mammoth general elections on Monday, with seats in the financial capital Mumbai and the opposition’s Gandhi family bastions set to be sealed in the last few legs of the seven-phase vote.

The world’s largest election began on April 19 and will conclude on June 1, with votes set to be counted on June 4.

Monday’s phase has the least number of seats being contested, with 89.5 million voters set to choose representatives for 49 seats.

Several high-profile candidates are in the fray on Monday — including defense minister Rajnath Singh from Lucknow and trade minister Piyush Goyal from Mumbai — cities which have suffered from a dismal voter turnout in the past.

The Election Commission on Sunday specifically called upon residents of those cities “to erase the stigma” of urban apathy.

“At the core of our vision for Mumbai is – better infrastructure and more ‘ease of living,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while campaigning in the city last week, just days after at least 14 people were killed when a massive billboard fell during a rainstorm.

Two boroughs of the Congress party’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in the politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh are also going to polls, with scion Rahul Gandhi contesting the seat of Raebareli, in addition to Wayanad in the south which has already voted. India allows candidates to contest multiple constituencies but represent only one.

Sonia Gandhi, Congress party chief and former lawmaker from Raebareli, made an emotional appeal to voters asking them to vote for her son in a region that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has dominated in the last 10 years.

Smriti Irani, minister for women and child development, is contesting from Amethi. In 2019, she defeated Rahul Gandhi in a seat his family held continuously for the last four decades.

Among other keenly watched electorates in the state is Kaiserganj, where the BJP is fielding a former wrestling federation chief’s son, despite his father being charged with sexually harassing female wrestlers.

Poor voter turnout became a concern for the ruling BJP initially, and analysts believe the low numbers cast doubts on the landslide victory the party and its allies sought.

After an initial poor performance, more people started casting their vote with an average turnout of 66.95 percent in four phases, and 69 percent in the fourth one on May 13.

Modi, widely expected to return as prime minister for a third consecutive term, has been accused by opponents of targeting minority Muslims to please hard-line voters.

Modi has repeatedly accused the Congress party of planning to extend welfare benefits to Muslims at the expense of disadvantaged tribal groups and Hindu castes, a claim the Congress has denied.

In a recent television interview aired after the fourth phase, Modi said it was his resolve to “not do Hindu-Muslim (in politics).”

The opposition INDIA alliance, consisting of Congress and a dozen political parties, got a major boost after fierce Modi critic and Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal was given temporary relief by the court and allowed to campaign in the elections.


Pope Francis calls anti-migrant attitudes at US border ‘madness’

Pope Francis calls anti-migrant attitudes at US border ‘madness’
Updated 41 min 50 sec ago
Follow

Pope Francis calls anti-migrant attitudes at US border ‘madness’

Pope Francis calls anti-migrant attitudes at US border ‘madness’
  • Record numbers of migrants fleeing poverty and violence have been seeking to enter the US, largely from Central America and Venezuela
  • The matter has emerged as a top political issue in the November US election, with Biden and challenger Trum, pushing the topic front and center

WASHINGTON: Pope Francis made a foray into the US election season with a rare television interview Sunday, calling harsh anti-migrant attitudes “madness” and criticizing right-wing US Catholic figures for overly conservative stances against his social teachings.

Speaking in his native Spanish through a translator for more than an hour, Francis told CBS News program “60 Minutes” that the closing by the state of Texas of a Catholic charity offering humanitarian assistance was absurd.
“That is madness. Sheer madness. To close the border and leave them there, that is madness. The migrant has to be received,” the pope said.
“Thereafter you see how you are going to deal with him. Maybe you have to send him back, I don’t know, but each case ought to be considered humanely,” Francis said.
Record numbers of migrants have been seeking to enter the United States, largely from Central America and Venezuela, as they flee poverty, violence and disasters exacerbated by climate change.
The matter has emerged as a top political issue in the November US election, with President Joe Biden’s Republican challenger, former president Donald Trump, pushing the topic front and center.
“The globalization of indifference” on migrants, Francis said, “is a very ugly disease.”

Francis, 87, also addressed criticisms by conservative US bishops who oppose his efforts to revisit certain teachings and traditions.
A “conservative is one who clings to something and does not want to see beyond that,” he said when asked about the bishops, adding “it is a suicidal attitude.”
Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has insisted on the importance of a church open to all, including member of the LGBT community, but he has faced strong resistance from conservative Catholics.
There was a particularly strong reaction when Francis opened the door to the blessing of gay couples last year, especially in African countries.
Calling gay people “a human fact,” Francis said in the interview: “To bless each person, why not? The blessing is for all.”
The pontiff also touched on the controversial topic of sex abuse within the Catholic Church.
He has made combatting sexual assault in the Church one of the main missions of his papacy, and insisted on a “zero tolerance” policy following multiple wide-reaching scandals.
“Unfortunately, the tragedy of the abuses is enormous,” he told CBS, adding that abuse “cannot be tolerated.”
“When there is a case of a religious man or woman who abuses, the full force of the law falls upon them,” Francis said.
But, he added, “there has been a great deal of progress.”


Biden tells Morehouse graduates that scenes in Gaza from the Israel-Hamas war break his heart, too

Biden tells Morehouse graduates that scenes in Gaza from the Israel-Hamas war break his heart, too
Updated 20 May 2024
Follow

Biden tells Morehouse graduates that scenes in Gaza from the Israel-Hamas war break his heart, too

Biden tells Morehouse graduates that scenes in Gaza from the Israel-Hamas war break his heart, too
  • “Your voices should be heard, and I promise you I hear them,” Biden said as protesters called for end to war in Gaza and liberation of Palestinians
  • Biden also condemned Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants as he stepped up effort to reach out to Black constituents

ATLANTA: President Joe Biden on Sunday offered his most direct recognition of US students’ anguish over the Israel-Hamas war, telling graduates of historically Black Morehouse College that he heard their voices of protest and that scenes from the conflict in Gaza break his heart, too.

“I support peaceful nonviolent protest,” he told students at the all-male college, some of whom wore Palestinian scarves known as keffiyehs around their shoulders on top of their black graduation gowns. “Your voices should be heard, and I promise you I hear them.”

Biden said there’s a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, “that’s why I’ve called for an immediate ceasefire to stop the fighting” and bring home hostages still being held by Hamas after its militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7. The president’s comments came near the end of a commencement address in which he also reflected on American democracy and his role in safeguarding it.
“It’s one of the hardest, most complicated problems in the world,” Biden said. “There’s nothing easy about it. I know it angers and frustrates many of you, including my family. But most of all I know it breaks your heart. It breaks mine as well.”
To date, Biden had limited his public comments around the protests on US college campuses to upholding the right to peaceful protest.
The speech — and a separate one he gave later Sunday in Detroit — are part of a burst of outreach to Black constituents by the Democratic president, whose support among these voters has softened since their strong backing helped put him in the Oval Office.
Biden spent much of the approximately 30-minute speech focused on the problems at home. He condemned Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants and noted that the class of 2024 entered college during the COVID-19 pandemic and following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Biden said it was natural for them, and others, to wonder whether the democracy “you hear about actually works for you.”
“If Black men are being killed in the street. What is democracy?” he asked. “The trail of broken promises that still leave Black communities behind. What is democracy? If you have to be 10 times better than anyone else to get a fair shot.”
Anti-war protests have roiled America’s college campuses. Columbia University canceled its main commencement ceremony. At Morehouse, the announcement that Biden would be the commencement speaker drew some backlash among the faculty and those who oppose the president’s handling of the war. Some Morehouse alumni circulated an online letter condemning administrators for inviting Biden and solicited signatures to pressure Morehouse President David Thomas to rescind it.
The letter claimed that Biden’s approach to Israel amounted to support of genocide in Gaza and was out of step with the pacifism expressed by Martin Luther King Jr., Morehouse’s most famous graduate.
The Hamas attack on southern Israel killed 1,200 people. Israel’s offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to health officials in the territory.
In the end, there were no disruptions of Morehouse’s commencement while applause for Biden mostly was subdued. At least seven graduates and one faculty member sat with their backs turned during Biden’s address, and another student draped himself in a Palestinian flag. Protesters near the ceremony carried signs that said “Free Palestine,” “Save the Children” and ”Ceasefire Now” as police on bikes kept watch.
On stage behind the president as he spoke, academics unfurled a Congolese flag. The African country has been mired in a civil war, and many racial justice advocates have called for greater attention to the conflict as well as American help in ending the violence.
During his speech, valedictorian DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher, of Chicago, said it was his duty to speak on the war in Gaza and recognize that both Palestinians and Israelis have suffered. He called for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.”
Graduate Kingsley John said, “the temperature on campus was expected given we had the president of the United States come and speak.” John said he stood “in solidarity” with his classmates and that Biden “seemed to be reflective and open to hear the feedback.”
Morehouse awarded Biden an honorary doctor of laws degree. After accepting the honor, he joked that, “I’m not going home” as chants of “four more years” broke out in the audience. Biden then flew to Detroit to address thousands attending the local NAACP chapter’s annual Freedom Fund dinner.
Georgia and Michigan are among a handful of states that will help decide November’s expected rematch between Biden and Trump. Biden narrowly won Georgia and Michigan in 2020 and he needs strong Black voter turnout in Atlanta and Detroit if he hopes to repeat in November.
Biden spent part of the past week reaching out to Black constituents. He highlighted key moments in the Civil Rights Movement, from the 70th anniversary of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education that outlawed racial segregation in public schools to the Little Rock Nine, who helped integrate a public school in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. He also met with members of the “Divine Nine” Black fraternities and sororities.
At the NAACP dinner, Biden told a largely Black crowd that numbered into the thousands that Trump wants to pardon those who were convicted of crimes during the insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and calls them “patriots.” He suggested that Trump would not have been so kind had they been people of color.
“Let me ask you, what do you think he would’ve done on Jan. 6 if Black Americans had stormed the Capitol?” Biden asked. “What do you think? I can only imagine.”
The speech gave Biden a chance to reach thousands of people in Wayne County, which historically has voted overwhelmingly Democratic but has shown signs of resistance to his reelection bid.
The county also holds one of the largest Arab American populations in the nation, predominantly in the city of Dearborn. Leaders there were at the forefront of an “uncommitted” effort that received over 100,000 votes in the state’s Democratic primary and spread across the country.
A protest rally and march against Biden’s visit took place in Dearborn in the afternoon.
In Detroit, guests at the NAACP dinner were met by over 200 pro-Palestinian protesters outside the entrance to the convention center. They waved Palestinian flags, held signs calling for a ceasefire and chanted “free, free Palestine.”
“Until Joe Biden listens to his key constituents, he’s risking handing the presidency to Donald Trump,” said Lexi Zeidan, a protest leader who help spearhead a protest effort that resulted in over 100,000 people voting “uncommitted” in February’s Democratic primary.
 


UK and Finland to deepen ties in face of ‘Russian aggression’: London

UK and Finland to deepen ties in face of ‘Russian aggression’: London
Updated 20 May 2024
Follow

UK and Finland to deepen ties in face of ‘Russian aggression’: London

UK and Finland to deepen ties in face of ‘Russian aggression’: London

LONDON: Britain and Finland will sign a new strategic partnership on Monday to strengthen ties and counter the “threat of Russian aggression,” the UK foreign minister said.
The two countries will declare Russia as “the most significant and direct threat to European peace and stability,” according to a Foreign Office press release.
The agreement will be endorsed by Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron and his Finnish counterpart Elina Valtonen in London.
“As we stand together to support Ukraine, including through providing military aid and training, we are clear that the threat of Russian aggression, following the war it started, will not be tolerated,” said Cameron.
“This strategic partnership, built on our shared values, will see the UK and Finland step up cooperation to bolster European security as well as seize new opportunities, from science and technology to closer energy ties,” he added.

The countries will work together to counter Russian disinformation, malicious cyber activities and support Ukraine’s recovery, reconstruction, and modernization, according to the Foreign Office.
Since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Finland has joined the NATO military alliance and shut off much of its border with Russia. Britain is a major military supporter of Ukraine.
 


Spain recalls ambassador after Argentina’s Milei calls PM’s wife ‘corrupt’

Argentina's President Javier Milei. (AFP file photo)
Argentina's President Javier Milei. (AFP file photo)
Updated 20 May 2024
Follow

Spain recalls ambassador after Argentina’s Milei calls PM’s wife ‘corrupt’

Argentina's President Javier Milei. (AFP file photo)
  • Spain’s main opposition party, the conservative People’s Party (PP), refused to support Madrid’s stance, with party sources saying that Sanchez should have provided explanations about the alleged corruption case weeks ago

MADRID: Spain recalled its ambassador to Buenos Aires for consultations on Sunday after Argentina’s President Javier Milei made derogatory comments about Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s wife during a far-right rally in Madrid.
Milei had called Sanchez’s wife Begona Gomez “corrupt” during a rally in Madrid organized by the far-right Vox party and attended by many of its international allies.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said he expected an apology from Milei.
Other ministers also condemned Milei’s speech, in which he described socialism as “cursed and carcinogenic.” Sanchez leads Spain’s Socialist Party.
“With his behavior, Milei has brought the relationship between Spain and Argentina to its most serious state in recent history,” Albares said in a video statement.
Milei would not apologize, his spokesperson said in an interview with an Argentine TV channel later Sunday. Spanish officials should retract insults they have made against him, he added.
Milei’s visit broke with diplomatic protocol as he refused to meet Spain’s King Felipe and Sanchez, instead preferring to promote his book alongside Vox leader Santiago Abascal at the party rally.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a post on social messaging app X that “attacks against family members of political leaders have no place in our culture.”
Spain’s main opposition party, the conservative People’s Party (PP), refused to support Madrid’s stance, with party sources saying that Sanchez should have provided explanations about the alleged corruption case weeks ago.
“His silence generates internal doubts, but also distrust abroad,” a PP source said, adding that the party’s job was to oppose the Spanish government and not Milei.
A city court said in April it was looking into accusations of influence peddling and business corruption against Sanchez’s wife, brought in a private complaint by Manos Limpias, or Clean Hands, an anti-corruption activist group.
However, Madrid’s prosecuting authority later said it was appealing to have the case thrown out for lack of evidence.
Sanchez decided to stay in office after five days of weighing his future once the probe against his wife was announced.