A man has been arrested over an arson attack outside a mosque in Manchester.
A minibus, which was used to ferry elderly worshippers, was torched outside the Manchester Islamic Centre on Regent Street, Newton Heath, earlier this month. Police were called to the building, off Droylsden Road, shortly before 11.30pm on Friday, September 5, and found two CCTV cameras had been ripped from the front of the building.
No one was present at the building, which contains a mosque and educational facilities, at the time and officers intended to return the next day to inform them of the theft. However, around two hours later at 1.20am on Saturday morning, they were called again after a minibus, parked in a secure yard at the back of the centre, was found ablaze. Investigators later found the bus, which cost around £6,000, had been deliberately torched.
Police have now arrested a 34-year-old man from Eccles, Salford, on suspicion of theft and arson.
More than 300 people have signed an online petition calling for Camden School for Girls to “stop the Islamaphobia” after a student was allegedly banned from wearing a veil.
The anonymous petition says a 16-year-old GCSE pupil had been offered a place in the Sandall Road school’s sought-after sixth-form on condition she did not wear the niqab. The niqab is a cloth veil covers part of the face, only revealing the eyes, that is worn by some Muslim women.
In a statement, Camden School for Girls said: “We have an appearance policy and students at the school may wear what they wish subject to any requirement in the interests of teaching and learning, health and safety. Inappropriate dress which offends public decency or which does not allow teacher-student interactions will be challenged.”
But the Change.Org online petition said: “The student only started to wear the niqab this year, and even sat her GCSE exams wearing the veil. But this time, when the student returned to the school, wearing the niqab, a teacher claimed that she could not be allowed to study at the school.”
The petition said the student was told “communication”, “health and safety” and “security” were the main reasons for the decision.
Although the Muslim population of Hereford is not large – according to the 2011 census there are only 360 Muslims in the whole of Herefordshire, well outnumbered by the county’s 560 Buddhists – the lack of a permanent centre for this small Muslim community has been a problem, as it has outgrown the rented premises it currently uses.
Unfortunately, the proposal to establish what would be Herefordshire’s first Muslim place of worship has faced extreme hostility from a section of the non-Muslim majority population. In 2012 the Hereford Masjid Fundraising Campaign’s Facebook page had to be taken down after being subjected to repeated abuse and threats from anti-Muslim bigots.
Despite this setback the necessary funds were raised and Hereford Islamic Society was able to purchase a vacant building on Holme Lacy Road in Putson with the aim of converting it into a small centre for the local Muslim community. In July the Hereford Times reported that a change of use planning application for the premises had been submitted. Again, this proposal was not universally well received.
Last week BBC News reported that some local residents had organised a public meeting to oppose the plan. One of them, Tracy Rock, was quoted as saying: “It’ll be overcrowded, it’s just not a suitable area for a day centre to be in.” Another opponent, Don Allan, said: “They’re going to be praying there from seven in the morning until 11 at night and we don’t really want that. It’s nothing to do with race or anything like that, just the volume of traffic.”
This objection ignores the very small numbers who would be attending the centre – a peak of around 50 at lunchtime on Friday, according to the applicants, with possibly 12 of them coming by car. There is a Tesco Express just across the road from proposed centre which is open from 6am to 11pm every day of the week and undoubtedly generates far more traffic than the small-scale activities of Hereford Islamic Society ever could.
But let us concede that Mr Allan’s objections are not motivated by “race or anything like that”. The same cannot be said of Tracy Rock, the other opponent of the centre quoted by BBC News, who appears to have played a leading role in launching a campaign against the plan after it was announced back in July. When a Facebook friend declared “We dnt nd a bloody mosc were English not bloody islamic there takin ova slowly” and suggested stealing “the fuckin shoes they leave outside”, Rock’s reaction was to laugh and agree.
A car has been damaged and daubed with offensive comments, threatening letters have been sent and women have been abused in the street.
A backlash of hate crimes against the Muslim community after the police raids last week has also sparked a rash of social media comments such as “this is how they should deal with them”, “behead them all”, “give them a taste of their own medicine for a change” and “we just need to blow up parramatta n bankstown”.
One of the founders of the Australian Arabic Council and human rights activist Joseph Wakim said “everyone should remember that no faith tells you to harm innocent people”.
“It is not open season on Muslims,” Mr Wakim said. “It is not OK to go Muslim-bashing. The raids were about stopping people feared to be terrorists, yet it is the Muslim people who are being terrorised.” Mr Wakim, a former Victorian multicultural affairs commissioner, has reminded Australians to learn from history and not to make the same mistakes, in particular by treating one group as “collectively guilty”.
Anti-Muslim sentiment has been felt around the country and people are reporting graffiti on mosques and attacks on homes. Threatening letters have been sent to businesses, bookshops and religious leaders with handwritten messages such as “we will fight you … terror for terror … blood for blood and … bomb for bomb”.
NSW Police Superintendent Mark Walton said officers would not “stand guard” outside mosques that received bomb threats, purportedly from the Australian Defence League. He said that, other than the letter from the league, there were no credible threats to security being investigated during Operation Hammerhead, a NSW operation to increase police visibility that was launched after terrorism raids on Thursday.
For anyone interested in the Islamophobic mind-set that inspired the “Trojan Horse” hysteria about an “Islamist takeover” of Birmingham schools, today’s Sunday Times is worth reading. It features a frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Islamist rant by one Jamie Martin, who worked as a special advisor to former education secretary Michael Gove during the period of the Birmingham witch-hunt.
Martin hails Gove’s “rare moral courage” in responding to the alleged Islamist threat there: “we acted to remove the individuals responsible from any involvement in education. We then moved to make sure Ofsted inspections took place without notice, and strengthened our powers to rapidly close schools that did not promote British values”. But then, it’s hardly surprising that Martin should take such a positive view of Gove’s actions – because, as he boastfully reveals, “it was my job to co-ordinate this response”.
Claiming that the UK is under threat from “an aggressive, anti-western belief system”, Martin enthusiastically endorses Tony Blair’s bonkers assertion that “the same ideology that drove the ‘Trojan Horse’ takeover of Birmingham’s schools, leaving children at risk of radicalisation, motivates Islamic extremists from Spain to Syria”. This ideology, Martin declares, “is Islamism, which rejects every tenet of our pluralistic society and will not compromise on its belief in a totalitarian theocracy”.
According to Martin, there has been an abject failure to confront this totalitarian Islamist threat: “Our governing elite, hamstrung by political correctness, has failed to understand or tackle it. Our Muslim communities have failed to confront it. Britain has been left as a weak link in the fight against global terror.”
As is usual in such diatribes, Martin makes no attempt to define Islamism, still less to analyse the very different tendencies that can be grouped under this broad heading. Organisations ranging from terrorists like ISIS to mass reformist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood – along with non-political groupings who adopt culturally conservative interpretations of Islam – are depicted as manifestations of a single ideology which aims at the imposition of a “totalitarian theocracy”.
Despite pleas for calm from the Queensland Premier and senior police, Muslims – particularly women – have been targeted in a series of hate attacks.
The Sunday Mail can reveal Muslim women are being singled out, including one victim who had coffee thrown in her face while she was stopped at traffic lights south of Brisbane. The woman said a man in a car pulled up beside her and callously doused her in coffee before driving off along Beenleigh Rd. “I was terrified,” she said. “I feel unsafe. I feel like a stranger in my own country.”
Other Muslim women have been abused and threatened, with one told to take off her headscarf – or hijab – at West End by a man who wanted to burn it. The women did not want to be identified, and all believe they are “collateral damage” from recent police anti-terrorism raids which have fuelled fear and suspicion across the nation.
Sarah, 30, said she’d been waiting outside a shop in Logan Rd at Underwood with a 12-year-old girl when insults were hurled at her by a man riding past on a pushbike. “He yelled f— jihad, f— off, go back home you c— and continued to verbally abuse us,” she said. In the next 20 minutes she was abused twice by other men. “It’s quite frightening to hear such vile language and hatred. I was fearful,” she said.
Stacey, 27, said she had copped offensive insults online. “I’m a seventh generation Australian,” she said. “My family are as Australian as you can get and I’m scared.”
A photographer has described her horror after being alerted to a picture she said she took of Afghanistan’s first female police officer being used to promote banning the burka by Britain First.
Canadian Lana Slezic alleges that a picture she took of Lieutenant Colonel Malalai Kakar, who was shot dead by the Taliban in 2008, has been posted to Facebook without permission by Britain First.
She said she was alerted by various media outlets that the photo was being used in such a manner on Friday.
She claims that the image of Lt.Col Kakar in a burka and holding a gun has been edited with a caption that reads: “Terror attack level: severe – an attack is highly likely. For security reasons it’s now time to ban the burqa.”
Lt. Col. Kakar was a high profile policewoman who fought for women’s rights and against extremism and terrorism until she was assassinated on her way to work at a Kandahar police station.
Ms Slezic says her memory has been “desecrated” by Britain First and the Australian Palmer United senator Jacqui Lambie, who shared Britain First’s post on her Facebook wall.
Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie has struggled to explain her understanding of sharia law, as she reiterated her controversial calls for believers in the Islamic framework to leave Australia.
The Tasmanian Senator told ABC TV’s Insiders program she stood by her statement earlier this week that supporters of sharia law should “pack their bags and get out of here”. However, asked by host Barrie Cassidy to explain what she understood the concept to mean, Senator Lambie paused and appeared to stumble over her words.
“Well I think, um, when it comes to sharia law, um, you know, to me, it’s um, it’s uh, it obviously involves terrorism, it involves a power um that’s not a healthy power,” she said. “I just think sharia law you get it mixed up … if you’re going to be a supporter of sharia law, and you’re not going to support our constitution and an allegiance to our constitution and Australian law, then um …”
Today the English Defence League brought its alcohol-fuelled racist roadshow to London, “to demand the government take firm action urgently about the many Islamic threats to this country, its people, its culture, its heritage and its future”, as they put it. Coming only a week after the EDL’s Rotherham demonstration, it was always unlikely that the event would attract large numbers.
Still, this was a national mobilisation – banners from as far away as Bournemouth, Coventry, Doncaster and Clacton-on-Sea were in evidence – and the grandiose objective of the protest was “to make an EDL spectacle big enough and clear enough to echo through the media and into the hearts and minds and conversations of millions of people in this country”. By that measure it would have to be considered a flop.
Only around 250 EDL supporters gathered in Trafalgar Square – endearing themselves to the general public by lurching around drunkenly and setting off a smoke bomb – before staggering down Whitehall for a rally opposite Downing Street, where they were confronted by a counter-protest organised by Unite Against Fascism.