UC Berkeley student group votes to disinvite Bill Maher; college overturns it

University of California BerkeleyThe controversy over having TV host Bill Maher speak at the University of California Berkeley has taken another turn. Well, make that two.

If you remember, the outspoken comedian was selected as the school’s 2014 fall commencement speaker, until students incensed by his anti-religious comments – particularly his views on Islam – started a petition to have him removed.

On Tuesday night, the student group that’s tasked with selecting commencement speakers met and voted to withdraw Maher’s invitation.

That would have been the end of the matter except the very next day, the college said it won’t honor the vote. “This university has not in the past and will not in the future shy away from hosting speakers who some deem provocative,” the school said.

The student group is called The Californians. It’s a committee of undergrads whose role is to come up with graduation speakers. In August, the Californians selected Maher. On Tuesday, it decided to unselect him.

But the college says the Tuesday night meeting was held without administration participation. “The UC Berkeley administration cannot and will not accept this decision, which appears to have been based solely on Mr. Maher’s opinions and beliefs, which he conveyed through constitutionally protected speech,” the school said in a statement.

It added that the school’s decision shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of Maher’s views. “Indeed, the administration’s position on Mr. Maher’s opinions and perspectives is irrelevant in this context.” As so, it said, the invitation stands; Maher will speak at the December event.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations expressed disappointment at the college’s ruling, saying it disrespected students “by casting aside the long-standing process for selecting commencement speakers and instead imposing its own will.

“While Mr. Maher has the right to speak whenever and wherever he likes, he does not have the right to have his hate-filled views honored and tacitly endorsed by a prestigious university,” said Zahra Billoo, of the group’s San Francisco chapter.

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Canadian actor punched in face after ‘Islamophobia’ experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting

A social experiment that ended with an actor posing as an Islamophobe getting punched in the face has shown that Canadians are prepared to defend Muslims in the face of overt racist abuse in the wake of a recent terror attack.

In an attempt to test whether Canadians feel safe in the presence of Muslims following the fatal shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo by an Islamic extremist last week, director Omar Al-Bach conducted the experiment in Cirillo’s home town of Hamilton to see how many people would defend a supposed Muslim from verbal abuse.

At the start of the video, Al-Bach introduces two actors, “Devin” as an outspoken racist and “Zack” dressed in a traditional Islamic kaftan with a white cap.

The video shows members of the public standing up for the victim – with one even prepared to punch the racist in the face after Devin accuses Zack of being a potential terrorist because of the way he looks.

Since it was uploaded 24 hours ago, the video has garnered nearly 300,000 views and the filmmakers went on Canadian channel Global TV yesterday to talk about their social experiment.

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Albuquerque ‘peace walk’ to support Islamic Center

Islamic Center of New Mexico attackedSeveral local organizations are sponsoring a “peace walk” in support of the Islamic Center of New Mexico following an attack last week in which someone threw a Molotov cocktail at the center’s building.

The walk will start at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, at the intersection of Harvard and Silver SE. It will proceed along Silver to Yale and head south on Yale to the Islamic Center at 1100 Yale SE, said Sue Schuurman of the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice.

This will be a family friendly walk open to anyone who wishes to participate, including children. Those who participate are asked to bring a candle and, if they wish, flowers.

At the Islamic Center a statement of support will be given to Imam Shafi Abdul Aziz, signed by groups and individuals within the community. The Islamic Center has invited the walkers to a reception at the center after the walk.

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FT profiles former far‑leftist turned far‑right Islamophobe

Fabien Engelmann du gauchisme au patriotismeThe Financial Times has published a profile by Roula Khalaf of Fabien Engelmann, a leading figure in the Front National who in March this year was elected mayor of Hayange in northeastern France.

Engelmann is described as a “one-time leftist union activist”. But that isn’t the half of it.

He is a former longtime militant in the revolutionary socialist organisation Lutte Ouvrière, which he joined in 2001 and remained a member of until 2008, when he contested the municipal elections as an LO candidate. Engelmann then left LO and joined another far-left organisation, the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste. He broke from the NPA in 2010 in protest at its decision to stand a hijab-wearing Muslim woman candidate, Ilham Moussaïd, in that year’s regional elections.

Having gravitated to the far-right “secularist” organisation Riposte Laïque – led by another ex-Trotskyist, Pierre Cassen – Engelmann joined the FN later in 2010, becoming a member of its political committee and an adviser to Marine Le Pen.

Roula Khalaf writes:

As you would expect, Mr Engelmann has strong views about immigration and the supposedly menacing Islamisation of French society. His problem is the Kosovar and Albanian migrants housed in the town and living on benefits. They are, he says, a “new immigration”, families that produce five to seven children, feed off the French state and want to impose a “middle ages dogma and a religion that is not ours”.

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Wheatfield, New York: plan for Islamic cultural center provokes hate calls

WHEATFIELD — Town Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe released a letter to his constituents Wednesday, saying the town has no role in approving or blocking an Islamic cultural center at a former restaurant. The letter was issued in reaction to a few strongly negative comments from residents. “I’ve received two of what I would consider hate calls, and one email,” Cliffe said.

Town Attorney Robert J. O’Toole said he got some calls, too. “What we got are calls that were opposed to the center because of who the people are and because of their religion,” O’Toole said. “There was one call from a person who said he didn’t consider Islam a religion.”

Cliffe told The Buffalo News, “One crazy or two crazies in this world, that’s not too surprising.” He wrote in his letter that one of the comments he received was, “Don’t you know we are at war with these people?” O’Toole, who said he is a lay preacher at local Presbyterian churches, commented, “We’re not at war with all Islam. We’re at war with some people who happen to be Muslim who may not have the proper understanding of their own faith.”

Suzanne Guenther, who was co-owner of the former Suzanne’s Fine Dining, said she has gotten quite a few calls, too. “I just think people are getting out of control,” she said. “How can you hate someone you don’t even know? Every nationality deserves a chance.”

The head of the Islamic Center of Western New York, Mohammad Salem Agwa, said he intends to hold a public meeting at a time and place to be determined. “This would be a center for interfaith gatherings, for Muslims and non-Muslims,” Agwa said.

Cliffe wrote in his letter, “Simply put, neither I nor the Town Board have any function in the sale of this property. We did not invite Mr. Agwa to make this purchase, nor do we envision a problem with this purchase.” Cliffe said the sale to the Islamic Center of Western New York was a private transaction and required no town approval.

Agwa made an application to the town Planning Board, which determined Oct. 1 that there was no need for a vote under the terms of the town’s planning and zoning code. “It’s a conforming use,” Cliffe said. The Islamic Center’s plan calls for banquets and gatherings, similar to Suzanne’s.

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Israeli MP proposes banning Islamic prayer call

Robert IlatovIsraeli Right-wingers have revived highly contentious plans that could effectively silence the Muslim call to prayer, known as the muezzin.

In a move that risks stoking already simmering tensions in Jerusalem between Jews and Arabs, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition is tabling legislation that could put strict limits on Islamic prayer calls from mosques in the city and across Israel.

Robert Ilatov [pictured], a parliamentarian with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, is sponsoring the bill with the support of Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister who is also the party’s leader.

While the legislation is being justified on the grounds that prayer calls often produce “intolerable noise” that disturbs many citizens’ sleep, it is bound to prompt accusations of religious intolerance and prejudice against Israel’s Muslim minority.

A similar proposal – also put forward by Yisrael Beiteinu – was shelved in 2011 despite having the explicit support of Mr Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, after several cabinet members criticised it as likely to cause division.

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Perth: racist vandals mistake Sikh temple for mosque

Bennett Springs graffiti

A Sikh temple in Perth’s north-east has been spray-painted by vandals with anti-Muslim graffiti.

Sikh Gurdawara Perth treasurer Amandeep Singh said CCTV captured two vandals spray-painting the Bennett Springs temple, which is under construction and due to be finished in February, about 1.30am on Wednesday. He said he believed it was a case of mistaken identity. “I think they have confused us with Arabs or Muslims,” he said.

“They have spray-painted abuse at Muslims and Arabs, and they have sprayed ‘Aussie Pride’ and other rubbish like that, lots of bad language. They’ve covered a big area and we will probably have to do a lot of re-painting, and they’ve sprayed it on granite and marble and that could be really expensive to replace.”

The Sikh religion originated in the Punjab area of India in the 15th century, and is not related to Islam or associated with Arabs.

Mr Singh said the vandals had to realise that spray-painting their temple not only hurt the Sikh community, but also the nation as a whole. “I would like to tell these people, they need to realise that Australia is a multi-cultural society and they need to respect the beliefs of others, we all need to respect each other,” he said.

“This sort of thing it damages us as a nation, we need to be more accepting and whether people are Arab or Muslim or Sikh or, whatever a person looks like or their religion, they need to treat that person as they would like to be treated, with kindness and respect.”

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‘Go back to your f****** Muslim country': Kiwi couple charged over Brisbane assault

A Kiwi couple who told a father and son to “go back to your f****** Muslim country” have been charged with assault in Australia.

Bronson Tamarama, 24, and Jayne Rikkiti, 25, allegedly punched a 15-year-old boy in the face during an fight at a local produce market in Brisbane in September. According to News Corporation, a father and his son were allegedly told by Tamarama to “go back to your own country…I will call my boys.”

Police said the victims were yelled at and sworn at by a carload of men. A punch was allegedly thrown at the father but missed and he fell back into a counter. Those who witnessed the attack and tried to intervene were also attacked.

Both Tamarama and Rikkiti have reportedly appeared in a Brisbane court and have been charged with two counts of assault occasioning bodily harm.

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Muslim funeral home in Orléans defaced with Islamophobic graffiti

Orléans Islamophobic graffiti (2)Saphir News reports that last Friday night racist vandals broke into the office of the Muslim Assistance funeral home in Orléans and defaced the walls with Islamophobic graffiti.

The graffiti featured swastikas and Celtic crosses, and a drawing of a pig’s head, accompanied by slogans such as “Islam out”, “close or die” and “dirty Arabs”. Computer equipment was stolen and a photocopier damaged.

The manager of Muslim Assistance, Abdessamad Errich, later received anonymous phone calls boasting of the attack. Last month he had been subjected to telephone threats.

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Front National resists ‘kebabisation’ of France

In a country whose national identity is so closely connected to its cuisine, France’s hard right has seized on a growing appetite for kebabs as proof of cultural “Islamisation”.

Four kebab houses opened last month in Blois, bringing the total to over a dozen in the pretty Loire valley town where tourists come to see the castle. The far-right National Front party railed: “The historical centre of Blois, the jewel of French history, is turning into an Oriental city”.

The implicit message is clear: the now ubiquitous kebab, popular with the young and cash-strapped, is a sign that Middle Eastern culture has taken root in France, where not everyone is happy about the presence of 5 million Muslims.

“The kebab is a bit of a reflection of all the problems with immigration and integration in France,” says Thibaut Le Pellec, founder of KebabFrites.com, a website that ranks kebab houses across the country and seeks to raise the reputation of the “kebabistes” who make and sell the food.

Damien Schmitz, who runs a kebab shop in Paris, puts it more bluntly: by criticising the kebab, he says, “you can speak ill of Muslims without speaking ill of Muslims.”

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