Anti-terror plan to spy on toddlers ‘is heavy-handed’

Nursery school staff and registered childminders must report toddlers at risk of becoming terrorists, under counter-terrorism measures proposed by the Government.

The directive is contained in a 39-page consultation document issued by the Home Office in a bid to bolster its Prevent anti-terrorism plan. Critics said the idea was “unworkable” and “heavy-handed”, and accused the Government of treating teachers and carers as “spies”.

The document accompanies the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, currently before parliament. It identifies nurseries and early years childcare providers, along with schools and universities, as having a duty “to prevent people being drawn into terrorism”.

The consultation paper adds: “Senior management and governors should make sure that staff have training that gives them the knowledge and confidence to identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism and challenge extremist ideas which can be used to legitimise terrorism and are shared by terrorist groups. They should know where and how to refer children and young people for further help.”

But concern was raised over the practicalities of making it a legal requirement for staff to inform on toddlers.

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Government to withhold full UK Muslim Brotherhood report

Supporters of Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood wave Egyptian flags during a rally in protest against the recent violence in Egypt, outside of the Eminonu New mosque in IstanbulA controversial report into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain will not be published in full, the government has confirmed, with a summary likely to come out six months after it was originally meant to be released.

Downing Street has told the Financial Times that only the “principal findings” of the report will be made public, and those will not come out until January.

Number 10 insisted there was “no change” to the plans for publication. But when David Cameron announced the investigation in April, advisers said they expected it to be published in July and those close to the report had hoped it would be released in full.

Downing Street said: “The principal findings of the report will be published in the coming weeks.”

The report has been dogged by delays as officials and ministers tussle over its findings. Whitehall aides say it will not recommend proscribing the Brotherhood, an organisation that has prospered in the UK while being attacked for promoting extremism in certain Gulf states.

But ministers are concerned that this central finding could anger key commercial allies in the Gulf such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who some ministers say pressurised Mr Cameron into commissioning an investigation of the Brotherhood’s activities in the first place.

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Britain still grappling with controversial review of the Muslim Brotherhood

Supporters of Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood wave Egyptian flags during a rally in protest against the recent violence in Egypt, outside of the Eminonu New mosque in IstanbulDon’t hold your breath if you are waiting to read the British government’s controversial review of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It could be months yet before this sees the light of day – a reflection of difficulties over how to handle an extremely sensitive topic as well as wider confusion about the role of political Islam after the disappointments of the Arab spring.

Downing Street is still refusing to say when or how it will release the review, which was ordered by David Cameron in April amidst accusations that he had bowed to pressure from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt – all viscerally hostile to Islamists as well as heavyweight allies and trading partners for the UK. But the word in Whitehall is that it is still not imminent. And if it has not appeared by March it may then be too close for constitutional comfort to May’s general election – which means it might never surface at all.

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Switzerland: plans for ‘burqa ban’ win support

Walter WobmannA large majority of citizens is apparently in favour of introducing a nationwide ban on burqas for Moslem women in Switzerland according to an opinion poll.

More than 60% of respondents said they would outlaw the Muslim religious garment in public spaces, says a survey by the Léger Switzerland polling institute.

The SonntagsBlick newspaper says people of all age groups and both in the German- as well as in the French-speaking parts of the country would vote for a ban. About one in three respondents are apparently against it.

A member of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party [Walter Wobmann, pictured] is planning to launch a campaign next year for a nationwide vote on the issue.

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Muslim charities lose government help over ‘extremism’

Eric PicklesTwo Muslim charities have lost their grants after the government claimed they had links with Islamist extremism.

A spokesman for Birmingham-based Islamic Help, said it was “surprised, dismayed and angered” by the action. The Muslim Charities Forum (MCF), said the decision was based on “unfounded allegations”.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said it would not fund any group “linked to individuals who fuel hatred, division and violence”.

In a written statement the Secretary of State for the department, Eric Pickles, claimed Islamic Help had invited “an individual with extremist views” to speak at an event, and that the MCF – an umbrella organisation for Muslim charities – had “failed to reassure us that they have robust measures in place to investigate and challenge their members.”

A spokesman for Islamic Help said the speaker alleged to have extremist views had not been identified to them. The DCLG has so far refused to name him or her publicly.

The spokesman for Islamic Help, which provides emergency relief following major disasters and has worked in Gaza, the Central African Republic and Syria, has said its events are to raise money for humanitarian work and not political platforms.

He said although the amount of money they would lose [about £7,000] was a “drop in the ocean”, the move “besmirches the reputation and integrity” of people who had taken part in their campaigns. The charity had not received any notification from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the spokesman said.

Mr Pickles said only programmes which “uphold fundamental British values” would receive aid.

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As Pickles’ commissioners arrive, Tower Hamlets hits back at bungling Tories

Tower Hamlets Town Hall protest against government commissionersSenior figures have slammed the decision to send commissioners into Tower Hamlets, whilst Communities Secretary Eric Pickles describes spending £1600 a day of local residents’ cash on them as ‘modest.’

Yet apparently Eric Pickles thinks that £1600 a day (plus generous expenses) of Tower Hamlets residents’ money on the Commissioners is a ‘modest sum.’ It might be very modest for Pickles who spends £500,000 of our money on limos, or for PwC who run multi-billion tax avoidance schemes while being slammed by Transparency International for ‘undue influence’ on Whitehall. But in Tower Hamlets where half of our children live below the poverty line,£1600 a day plus the £1million cost of the PwC report is anything but modest.

As Pickles’ hit squad arrived today, they were greeted with local trade unionists gathering at the Town Hall to oppose their appointment (video here). It is a sinister development and seems no coincidence that Tower Hamlets as the council which has most successfully resisted austerity is being singled out by the Tories. In spite of serious concerns with multiple local authorities, Pickles has gone for the one that blocked the hated bedroom tax, reinstated EMA and stood up to him over cuts.

In a disproportionate measure, twenty-six inspectors were deployed for seven months with few checks and balances following a questionable recruitment process, and the £1million cost to Tower Hamlets residents has been described as ‘punitive.’ And now they’re sending in commissioners.

But no failings have been found in Tower Hamlets’ high performing, multi award winning frontline services.

Tower Hamlets welcomed the PwC report’s clarification that they have not found evidence of undue publicity spending, of inappropriate property sales, bias in grant funding or of corruption. A good rebuttal from one of our councillors can be found here. But Pickles appointed commissioners to watch these functions anyway, and we’re paying for it.

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Austrian Muslims accuse government of rights violations

Austria’s Muslim organizations said the government violated the rights of an estimated 600,000 Muslims in the country after officials sent a proposed law, dubbed the “Islamic Bill,” to parliament without first consulting the Muslim community.

“The government has sent the bill to parliament without considering our viewpoint,” Mouddar Khouja, founder of Austrian Muslims Initiative, said at a press conference Monday. “The draft had to be examined during the Austrian Muslims Initiative meeting on Dec. 21.”

Khouja said Muslims are considered second class citizens in Austria and the government does not take into account the existing laws on religious freedoms and UN laws on freedom of religion and belief.

According to the bill, employing preachers from abroad would be prohibited. Imams would instead be trained at Austrian universities. Currently, some 300 imams work in the country, including 65 Turkish preachers. The proposed legislation also contains a new overseas funding ban.

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Answering the attacks on Lutfur Rahman’s administration

Lutfur Rahman banner


Stephen Beckett, expelled from Labour for supporting internal party democracy, responds to the attacks on independent Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman

On 4th November 2014 Eric Pickles, the Tory Communities Secretary, made a statement in the House of Commons regarding Tower Hamlets. His com­ments, using parliamentary privilege, went beyond the findings of the Price Waterhouse Cooper’s (PwC) best value report that was published at the same time. The report, based upon an extend­ed six month intensive audit, found no evidence of fraud or criminality – a bit­ter disappointment to those local politi­cians who have conspired to degrade Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s legitimate democratic mandate.

An episode of Panorama, “The Mayor and Your Money”, was broadcast on 31st March, just a few weeks before the local elections in May. Local Labour and Tory politicians collaborated with the programme-makers hoping it would be able to inflict a fatal blow to Mayor Rahman’s re-election campaign. To strengthen the blow, Eric Pickles commissioned the PwC audit (at a cost of £1.3m to the Council’s already hard hit budget). The blow was the reverse of fatal: Mayor Rahman was re-elected.

In Parliament Eric Pickles conjured up an image of Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman presiding over corrup­tion and pursuing divisive community politics (it was disappointing that Labour MPs joined in). This is not the Tower Hamlets I know. The PwC report has raised questions which deserve to be answered, so let’s get stuck in with some facts.

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Germany: CDU politician calls for ban on veil

Julia KlöcknerA regional official of Germany’s ruling CDU has demanded a ban on burkas in public places. The Rhineland-Palatinate official has reasoned that the veil is more a sign of suppression of women than of religious diversity.

On Monday, Julia Klöckner, deputy chief of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Rhineland-Palatinate, spoke in favor of banning the burka, a head-to-toe veil worn by women in some Islamic cultures that covers the whole body other than the eyes.

She told the German newspaper Rheinische Post that, for her, burkas “did not stand for religious diversity, but for a degrading image of women.” She said that the German constitution emphasized that women and men were of equal value and that “looking at people’s faces” also belonged to the culture of an open society.

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