Front National bans halal school meals

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said on Friday it would prevent schools from offering special lunches to Muslim pupils in the 11 towns it won in local elections, saying such arrangements were contrary to France’s secular values.

France’s republic has a strict secular tradition enforceable by law, but faith-related demands have risen in recent years, especially from the country’s five-million-strong Muslim minority, the largest in Europe.

“We will not accept any religious demands in school menus,” Le Pen told RTL radio. “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that’s the law.”

The anti-immigrant National Front has consistently bemoaned the rising influence of Islam in French pubic life.

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Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic war on terror

Arun Kundnani The Muslims Are Coming“Arun Kundnani’s book, vastly more intelligent than the usual ‘war on terror’ verbiage, focuses on the war’s domestic edge in Britain and America. His starting point is this: ‘Terrorism is not the product of radical politics but a symptom of political impotence.’ The antidote therefore seems self-evident: ‘A strong, active and confident Muslim community enjoying its civic rights to the full.’ Yet policy on both sides of the Atlantic has ended by criminalising Muslim opinion, silencing speech and increasing social division. These results may make political violence more, not less, likely.”

Robin Yassin-Kassab reviews Arun Kundnani’s The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror.

Guardian, 3 April 2014

See also Syed Hamad Ali, “‘The Muslims are Coming!’: Arun Kundnani explains terrorism”, Gulf News, 3 March 2014

Ken Livingstone throws backing behind Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Lutfur Rahman and Ken LivingstoneKen Livingstone today threw his support behind the controversial Mayor of Tower Hamlets after a BBC Panorama investigation into his administration. The former Labour Mayor of London defended Lutfur Rahman’s record since he became the borough’s first directly-elected Mayor after beating a Labour rival in 2010.

Mr Livingstone said his close friend and ally had been “forced out of the Labour Party quite unfairly” just months before the election in 2010 amid allegations of links to the Islamic Forum of Europe, and called for his re-admittance. Mr Rahman denied the alleged links.

Asked if he was a supporter of Mr Rahman, who is standing against Labour Assembly Member John Biggs for the Mayoral nomination, Mr Livingstone – a current Labour Party member – replied: “I am, I think he has done very well.”

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Airport security tried to yank off Swedish Muslim’s hijab

Samaa SarsourA Swedish woman wearing a Muslim headscarf claims security staff at a small northern airport tugged on her hijab in public rather than take up her offer to take it off away from prying eyes.

“The female guard asked me ‘What’s on your head’,” recalled state employee Saama Sarsour, who told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper about her treatment at Arvidsjaur airport in northern Sweden.

After the metal detector beeped, Sarsour was asked to remove the cloth. She responded by asking if the guard could first scan the rest of her body and if she could remove her scarf in a different room, not in public. “Then the woman grabbed the scarf and started yanking it,” Sarsour told SvD. “I was totally shocked.”

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FBI smashes alleged radical-right terror plot in Texas – US media show little interest

American Insurgent MovementFBI agents in Texas have arrested a man who allegedly was plotting to use C-4 explosives and weapons to kill police officers, rob banks and armored cars, and blow up government buildings and mosques, authorities announced today.

Robert James Talbot Jr., 38, of Katy, Texas, was arrested Thursday on federal charges of attempted interference with commerce by robbery, solicitation to commit a crime of violence and possession of an explosive material, the FBI said.

After setting up a Facebook page called American Insurgent Movement (AIM), Talbot allegedly sought to recruit five or six like-minded people who wanted “to restore America Pre-Constitutionally and look forward to stopping the Regime with action by bloodshed.” He wrote this year on the AIM page that he was seeking people interested in “walking away from your life … to stop the regime.”

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John Ware – a record of tabloid-style smears and witch-hunts

Lutfur Rahman and John Ware“The Mayor and Our Money”, the Panorama documentary on Lutfur Rahman’s administration in Tower Hamlets that was broadcast this evening (being carefully timed to damage Lutfur’s reputation in the run-up to the mayoral election in May) failed to pin any charges of financial or political corruption on Lutfur, despite advance publicity suggesting otherwise. What we got instead was unsubstantiated smears and innuendo. This was much as expected, given that the reporter was John Ware, whose shoddy journalistic methods have previously been exposed by media analysts.

Readers of Islamophobia Watch will probably remember that Ware was responsible for the notorious 2005 Panorama programme attacking the Muslim Council of Britain, entitled “A Question of Leadership”. In a detailed analysis of this documentary in their book Pointing the Finger: Islam and Muslims in the British Media, Julian Petley and Robin Richardson accuse Ware of engaging in “smear journalism, an odious form of journalism that either lacks the proof for the points it wishes to make, or the courage to say what it means and face the legal consequences, or both. This is exactly the kind of journalism one expects from the tabloid press (for which Ware, entirely unsurprisingly, once worked), but to find it in full flower on what is supposed to be the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme is surely quite unacceptable.”

The authors conclude: “‘A Question of Leadership’ can be described as a classic example of thesis-driven journalism. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this kind of reportage, but problems arise when it tips over into tendentiousness, when one has the distinct impression that the journalist is grinding an axe, that they’ve gone out to find the facts to fit – as opposed to test – their thesis, and that nothing they discover will sway them from the view with which they set out in the first place. This is the distinct impression left by this particular edition of Panorama….”

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Reports and comment from Islamophobia Watch 24‑30 March

Reports and comment from Islamophobia Watch 24‑30 March 2014

Warsi plots Islamification of UK government, NSS warns

Yesterday the Huffington Post published an interesting and wide-ranging interview by Mehdi Hasan with Tory politician and government minister Sayeeda Warsi.

The interview opens with Warsi, who was in the middle of chairing a high-level international meeting of the prime minister’s Global Islamic Finance and Investment Group, explaining how she has persuaded David Cameron that it makes good business sense for the UK to become a world centre for sharia-compliant finance. This is the only reference to sharia in the entire article.

The National Secular Society website features a daily news round-up compiled by NSS president Terry Sanderson. Here is how Sanderson reports the HuffPo interview with Warsi:

NSS Warsi advancing sharia