Fighting hate crime in Manchester

May 28th, 2010 by Dave Rich

Today’s Jewish Chronicle has an interview with Chief Constable Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police. GMP have made great efforts to tackle antisemitic hate crime in recent years, and work closely with CST and the Jewish community.

The JC quotes Chief Constable Fahy emphasising the need to report incidents to CST and the police, while also working to improve relations between communities:

In an exclusive interview, Chief Constable Peter Fahy said individuals must be more proactive in reporting incidents, and pledged to increase police numbers on campus significantly to thwart attacks such as the one suffered by Israel’s deputy ambassador at Manchester University last month.

Mr Fahy, 50, and two years into his job, said: “It’s very, very clear, the level of hate crime towards the Jewish community is unacceptable. Stopping it is more of an issue of dealing with the causes of it.

“We are seeing quite a lot through ignorance, which turns into antisocial behaviour. Clearly, some people who do it have an ideological hatred towards Jews. That’s worrying. We would like to do more to make sure events in the Middle East don’t play out on the streets of Manchester. My message to the Jewish community would be to report issues to the CST, to be willing to make statements and continue the work of lots of individuals to strengthen community relations whatever tensions exist, so as not to inflame them.”

CST Elections Report 2010

May 26th, 2010 by CST

CST’s report into the performance of extremist and fringe parties in the recent elections is now available on the CST website. The report includes full result tables for the BNP, National Front, some smaller far right parties and Respect in the general and local elections.

The BNP stood a record number of candidates in the general election, thereby increasing their share of the national vote, but their average vote share in the seats they contested fell when compared to the 2005 general election. They also lost a higher proportion of their deposits than in 2005. In terms of organisation, manpower and votes, they are in retreat across the south of England; their best poll results came in Yorkshire & The Humber, the West Midlands and the North West. They managed to stand a large number of candidates in the North East, but the BNP vote was relatively poor in that region.

In the local elections, the BNP had a catastrophic night: they lost 26 of their 28 councillors who were up for re-election and did not win any other seats, cutting their total number of local councillors almost in half. Having lost all their councillors in Barking & Dagenham, their biggest council group is now in Stoke where the party has five councillors.

This does not mean that the BNP will go away; however, it was a good night for anti-fascism and there are many lessons for anti-BNP campaigning in the future.

The report also includes an analysis of Respect’s poor election performance, and some of the campaigning efforts by organisations with an Islamist or anti-Zionist orientation.

Elections Report - General Elections 2010 - 25.5.10:Layout 1.qxd

Thanks to Hope Not Hate for providing elections data for the BNP and other far right parties.

Numerus Clausus

May 25th, 2010 by Dave Rich

Stuart Littlewood at the anti-Zionist website Redress has spotted a problem with the composition of the new Parliament:

“Proportional Representation” is a big buzz-word in the UK these days. It implies fairer voting and fairer government. It is claimed to give minorities a better chance of being heard and therefore, they say, it should be incorporated into the “new politics” our shiny new coalition government has promised us.

But one minority group needs no help in that direction.

The Jewish Chronicle has published a list of Jewish MPs in Britain’s parliament. It names 24 – Conservatives 12, Labour 10 and Liberal Democrats two.

I thought it was more. But let us for the sake of argument accept the Jewish Chronicle’s figures.

The Jewish population in the UK is 280,000 or 0.46 per cent. There are 650 seats in the House of Commons so, as a proportion, Jewish entitlement is only three seats.

[...]

Jewish over-representation is only part of our problem. An even bigger worry is the huge number of non-Jew Zionists that have stealthily infiltrated every level of political and institutional life.

Things get even more serious when you look at the Party leaderships:

Meanwhile two Jews – the Miliband brothers – are battling for the leadership of the beaten Labour Party … [David] Cameron, 43, had no significant achievement under his belt but was able to manoeuvre himself, with the help of Jewish backers, into Britain’s prime minister slot.

The Jewishness of the Miliband brothers has so far played no role in the public debate over the Labour leadership, and is unlikely to do so beyond the pages of the Jewish media. So it is noteworthy to see which websites, fringe groups and conspiracy-mongers feel compelled to point it out.

UPDATE: We are not the only ones to have noticed Littlewood’s article: it has been reproduced in full on the website of the neo-Nazi British People’s Party. They have captioned it with the quote by the conspiracy theorist Nesta Webster that, “England is no longer controlled by Britons, we are under the invisible Jewish dictatorship, a dictatorship that can be felt in every sphere of life“, and illustrated it with this flag:

flagukj

The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement – Part two

May 25th, 2010 by CST

In this extract from The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement, Dave Rich looks at the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and parts of the far left in Britain:

In April 2002, with the second intifada at its height, the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) organized a demonstration and rally against Israel in central London. This brought a level of public anti-Israel and even antisemitic sentiment onto the streets of Britain that had rarely been seen before. Many demonstrators carried the flags of Hizballah, Hamas, and the MB itself; some even dressed as suicide bombers or carried placards equating the Star of David with the swastika. Muslim Brotherhood (MB) speakers including Azzam Tamimi—a former spokesman for the MB in Jordan and now the most vocal supporter of Hamas in Britain — and Kamal Helbawy joined speakers from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other left-wing organizations.

The MB flavor of the event was summed up at the end, when Rashid Ghannouchi led prayers for the whole demonstration. The MAB’s claim to have drawn 100,000 demonstrators from around the country left an impression on many inside and outside the Muslim community, including the senior officers from the Stop the War Coalition (STWC), a new organization formed to oppose the war in Afghanistan and the impending war in Iraq, who spoke at the event.

The main constituent part of the STWC was the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a Trotskyite group that dominates most far-left activity in Britain. While the SWP normally manages to outmaneuver other far-left factions, they met their match in the MAB. After initially refusing an invitation to affiliate with the STWC, the MAB proposed instead an equal partnership, on the MAB’s terms. According to one MAB leader, Anas al-Tikriti:

 MAB “spoke to Stop the War and we said to them, we will join you; however we will not become part of your coalition, we will be a separate and independent entity but we will work together with you on a national basis as part of the anti-war movement.” This reassured MAB that it would not “melt into that big coalition” that was known to be “led by the Left.” They would remain a distinct and autonomous bloc, able to shape the agenda.

This equal partnership meant that MAB could ensure that the previously secular environment of a far-left political campaign now made faith-sensitive accommodations, such as gender-segregated meetings and halal food. They also stipulated their limits on who could join the STWC. Although they were now in partnership with far-left groups with whom they disagreed on most fundamental issues, and with whose comrades they had at times been in violent conflict in their own countries, they made their limits clear: “While they could overcome misgivings about sharing platforms with some groups (such as socialists and atheists), they could never do so with others (Zionists and Israelis in particular).”

For the anti-Zionist SWP this would not be a problem. One question over which the MAB differed with their new partners in the STWC was whether Iraq or Palestine should be the dominant issue of their campaigns. It is an indication of the importance that this issue played in the worldview of the MAB that for their demonstration in September 2002, they viewed the dual slogan of “no war in Iraq, justice for Palestine” as a compromise, distracting from the centrality of Palestine as “the cause of all problems in the Middle East.” At the demonstration itself, the MAB leaflets placed “Freedom for Palestine” above “Stop the war in Iraq,” while the STWC leaflets had the slogans in the opposite order. Despite these differences of emphasis, anti-Zionism and opposition to Western foreign policy were the founding principles of the left-Islamist alliance and remains its energizing core.

Both sides of this alliance have been influenced by the analysis, prescriptions, and language of the other. This is not just another example of the political opportunism and adaptability common to both Islamists and the far left. Many Islamist participants in the antiwar movement were profoundly affected by their collaboration with non-Muslims from leftist, Christian, and other groups. Salma Yaqoob, a close political ally of MP George Galloway and Soumaya Ghannouchi, daughter of Rashid Ghannouchi, are two British-based Islamists who have merged the language of leftist anti-imperialism with their own Islamist outlook. Yaqoob speaks for many when she argues that this offers a new pathway for Muslim political engagement:

The dominant character of Muslim radicalization in Britain today points not towards terrorism or religious extremism, but in the opposite direction: towards political engagement in new, radical and progressive coalitions that seek to unite Muslim with non-Muslim in parliamentary and extra-parliamentary strategies to effect change. What is unique about British Muslim radicalism in the European context is the degree to which it has overlapped, intertwined and engaged with indigenous non-Muslim radicalism post-9/11 … [a] sea [of] change … has taken place in the transformation of Muslim ideas of citizenship through participation in the anti-war movement.

Despite their common ground, the relationship between Islamists and the left has not always been an easy one. Tariq Ramadan—Said Ramadan’s son and Hasan al-Banna’s grandson—is perhaps the most prominent Islamist in the European anti-globalist movement. He has been, at times, wary of the way the old left has approached this relationship:

Convinced that they are progressive, they give themselves the arbitrary right to proclaim the definitively reactionary nature of religions, and if liberation theology has contradicted this conclusion, the possibility that Islam could engender resistance is not even imagined … unless it’s to modernity. In the end, only a handful of “Muslims-who-think-like-us” are accepted, while the others are denied the possibility of being genuinely progressive fighters armed with their own set of values.

This is an extract from The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement, edited by Professor Barry Rubin and published by Palgrave Macmillan. Part one of this blog series can be read here.

The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement

May 24th, 2010 by CST

Today’s Open Democracy features an interview with Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, by Manuela Paraipan. Paraipan introduces the interview by describing the development of Hamas in this way:

Hamas began life as a paramilitary group. That had some temporary appeal but was bound to be a short to medium term plan of action. Rockets sent into Israel may boost some egos, but what do you do when the people you claim you represent become targets because of your actions? Is there any cogent  strategy behind sporadic attacks against an entity that is many times your military superior ? Further more, what can be accomplished by a party for its followers if it offers nothing but violence?

Had they continued down that sole path, Hamas would hardly have distinguished itself from any Islamist group that has a street, maybe two, or ten streets in its clutches, and a self-declared Emir to rule over them. Aside from being a dangerous pastime, that is not the way to become an influential power, able to represent your interest as a group and convince others that your agenda is good for them too. Hamas seem to have understood that they needed to do less to become more. Less attacks, more political involvement and hopefully more responsibility.

This is completely wrong: Hamas began life as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and still belongs very much to the Brotherhood  school. Article 2 of the Hamas charter includes this as a statement of fact:

The Islamic Resistance Movement is the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine . The Muslim Brotherhood is a global organization and the largest Islamic movement in modern times. It excels in profound understanding and has an exact, fully comprehensive perception of all Islamic concepts in all areas of life: understanding and thought, politics and economics, education and social affairs, law and government, spreading Islam and teaching, art and the media, by that which is hidden and by martyrdom and in the other areas of life.

This is apparent not just from the Hamas charter, but from the way Hamas has developed a range of activities, violent and non-violent, since its formation in 1988. The Brotherhood is a tactically flexible movement that operates differently in the different countries where it exists, depending on the local conditions. Terrorism has always been just one facet of Hamas’s approach, and Hamas itself is just one representation of how the Muslim Brotherhood operates. A new book, The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement, edited by Professor Barry Rubin and with a contribution from Dave Rich of the CST, compares for the first time how the Muslim Brotherhood operates in different countries in the Middle East, Europe and North America.

book cover small

To mark the publication of this book, we are publishing extracts from Dave Rich’s chapter, which looks at how the Muslim Brotherhood operates in the United Kingdom. The first extract describes their efforts to influence the political thinking of British Muslims at the beginning of the 1990s, after the fall of the Communist bloc and with victory proclaimed in the Afghan jihad:

—-

The start of a new decade provoked a bout of this new thinking in the Federation Of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) magazine, The Muslim [January-March 1990]. Titled “Islamic Work 1990’s: A Decade of Challenge,” the opening article set the scene:

While capitalism and communism are now setting suns, a historical turning point is about to knock on the door of the world. This ageing world is poised to embark upon a new era under the leadership of an entirely new civilization dawning on the horizon. Indeed for that matter, any ideological system which is able to offer hope and the required leadership will eventually lead mankind to the path. Could it be Islam? This is a challenge.

The article went on to warn that the Muslim world was still beset by too many internal problems and divisions to achieve this goal. The plan for how to overcome these obstacles and meet the challenge, however, was set out by another article in that issue by the leading MB theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Islamic work, he explained, means “the organized collective work which seeks to attain a certain status for Islam by virtue of which it becomes the director of life as a whole and as a leader of society in all aspects.” For this, he clarified for his British Muslim audience:

Islamic workers [need] to understand that the future is theirs, that the future belongs to this religion, and that Islam will inherit all these civilizations. These civilizations may have reached the moon but they have certainly failed to provide humanity with happiness.

In a work plan that consciously echoed Communist strategy, al-Qaradawi identified “laborers” and women as key groups to target for “Islamic awakening,” in addition to identifying and training an elite vanguard “culturally, spiritually, militarily, socially and politically …. Islamists must pay special attention to the preparation of competent cadres.”

The development of “competent cadres” was a problem for the MB in Britain that was beginning to be solved by this time. By the late 1980s, the phenomenon that later came to be known as “Londonistan,” whereby Britain gave refuge to Islamists from across the Arab and Muslim world, was under way. Both violent jihadists and nonviolent Islamists settled in London and other British cities. There, they were able to continue their opposition to Arab regimes from under the shelter of British democracy. Many of these activists were senior MB figures from the Arab world, and their presence in the United Kingdom quickly led to the formation of Islamist political, propaganda, and fundraising activities in Britain.

The attitude of the British government was that so long as the focus of the Islamist exiles remained their home countries, and they did not plan to set off bombs in the United Kingdom, they were free to continue their activities unmolested by the British authorities. Many of the exiles had arrived via France, where the authorities were much less tolerant of Islamist political work, a difference between Britain and France that endures to this day.

British governmental neglect was compounded by a naive curiosity within civil society about Islamism. Many of the new arrivals sat alongside British policy-makers to hear Rashid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Tunisian al-Nahdhah party and one of the more important MB-aligned Islamist scholars in the United Kingdom, address the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House in 1995. Ghannouchi expressed his wonder at “The scene of a fundamentalist, who prefers to be described as an Islamist, addressing an audience of prominent political thinkers and policymakers in the United Kingdom.” Yet, few of those thinkers and policy-makers possessed, at that time, the critical tools to understand or challenge the global vision of Ghannouchi and his Islamist comrades, still less their local impact on the politics of the British Muslim community.

Two decades later, the MB had moved from the margins to build relationships with political figures of national importance. This extract describes their organisation of Islam Expo, political and cultural events in London that attracted tens of thousands of people:

By 2004, the [MB-linked] Muslim Assocation of Britain (MAB) was already moving away from Respect and into the orbit of a far more powerful figure of the British left: the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. A relationship that would eventually do a great deal of damage to both parties first came to public attention in July 2004, when the City Hall hosted the MAB-arranged visit to London of Yusuf al-Qaradawi. When Livingstone came under attack for this, his stubborn defense of al-Qaradawi as a moderate—despite the latter’s homophobia, anti-semitism, theological justification for suicide bombings, support for female genital mutilation, and other views—appalled not just many of Livingstone’s political allies on the left, particularly gay rights’ groups, but also much of the London electorate in general.
[…]
Although the MB has failed to exert political influence in terms of votes, it has been much more successful in influencing opinion, both inside and outside the Muslim community. In October 2004, Muhammad Sawalha, then a director of the MAB, established Islam Expo, a project to create a combined political conference and Islamic cultural festival on a massive scale. The first Islam Expo event took place in summer 2006, by which time Sawalha and the other organizers had left the MAB to form the British Muslim Initiative (BMI). A second Islam Expo was held in summer 2008. Both drew tens of thousands of Muslims, attracted as much by the cultural attractions as the religious and political speeches. While the Islam Expo website for 2008 concentrated on the cultural and educational purpose of the event, the goals of those behind Islam Expo, listed in Companies House documents, include the overtly political purpose: “To change the perception of key decisionmakers from the world of politics, media and commerce about Islam.”

At the 2008 event, this took the form of a seminar on “Understanding Political Islam,” which featured a host of MB and other Islamist speakers. The seminar was co-organized by several groups, including BMI and the left-leaning think tank Demos and was a clear expression of the MB’s new political position: after the London subway bombing, and with a growing terrorist threat from home-grown Salafist-jihadist networks, the MB are the Islamists with whom you can do business. The seminar included non-Muslim advocates of cooperation with the MB: Robert Leiken was one speaker, while the seminar was co-organized by Alistair Crooke’s Conflicts Forum.
[…]
The scale of Islam Expo certainly impressed many. Tens of thousands of people, mostly but not exclusively Muslims, passed through the doors of the event in both 2006 and 2008. The 2008 event was even promoted via advertisements on the sides of London buses. However, this was not a reflection of any increased grassroots capacity of the MB in Britain; rather, it was a consequence of their political organization and their ability to access funding that is rarely available to moderate, non-Islamist groups.

The 2006 Islam Expo cost over £1.1 million to produce, which was paid for entirely by grants from the following: the Qatari National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage (£967,442), in reality, an arm of the government of Qatar; and the Greater London Authority (£200,000), then under the control of Ken Livingstone. The 2008 event was paid for by a second Qatari grant of £2 million. Similar grants have been given by the Scottish government to the BMI’s equivalent in Scotland, the Scottish Islamic Foundation, to hold similar events in Scotland. This external funding is the reason why the BMI, a political clique with no membership beyond its core activist group, can organize an event in London that attracts tens of thousands of British Muslims. Similarly, the activities of the [MB-linked bodies] the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) and the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) are funded by Middle Eastern money, mainly from Dubai and Kuwait. There is much resistance in the British Muslim community to the idea that the British government should use its patronage to try to shape the future of British Islam; meanwhile, there are foreign governments pouring huge amounts of money into doing just that.

BNP Councillor: “about 300,000 people died in the Jewish Holocaust”

May 21st, 2010 by Mark Gardner

On 5 May, the Nothing British About the BNP group revealed this ugly photograph, showing Stoke on Trent’s first BNP councillor, Steve Batkin, posing in front a war memorial. 

BNP Councillor - Steven Batkin, Pictured with Neo Fascists

Batkin is on the far right of the photograph. (Any pun here is entirely accidental. Besides, you can see in the photograph that from Batkin’s perspective, the three men with stiff arms are all to his right.)

Now, local Stoke on Trent news blog, Pits n Pots has interviewed Batkin about the photograph and also about his views on the Holocaust. The interview may be read in full here and a very easy to use audio link is given at the foot of the article. On the photograph, he had this to say: 

The people in the Photograph, although they are genuine patriotic people, I believe their strategy is wrong…It was a risk, which has certainly backfired on me

Batkin assured his interviewer that he didn’t think the men in the photo saw it as a Nazi salute, but rather a “Fascist salute”. He also had the political insight to accept that people “won’t be very happy about it”.

When asked if he was a Holocaust denier, Batkin showed rather less political insight. (The audio for this is at the very end of Part 2.)

I’ve always believed about 300,000 people died in the Jewish Holocaust, not 6 million

The interviewer very calmly asks Batkin what he bases this upon. (The audio for this is at the very beginning of Part 3.) Batkin replies

I have read quite a lot about European history, about the second world war, and although I realise a lot of Jews died, in my opinion there’s no way there was that many Jews in Europe at that point in time which could have possibly sustained that amount of deaths

Batkin serves as a School Governor in two Stoke on Trent Schools, Edensor Technical College and Mitchel High School. Perhaps he can arrange to attend some history classes.

Desecrations in Greece, arson in Germany

May 18th, 2010 by Dave Rich

In Greece, a Holocaust memorial on the island of Rhodes has been damaged by unknown assailants:

The unidentified vandals used a heavy object in their attempt to smash the Magen David on one façade of the granite-made Rhodes monument, which was damaged and cracked.

In letters to the Justice Minister, the Board expressed the outrage and the concern of the Greek Jewry about the increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country, urging all competent authorities and democratic citizens to react firmly against the phenomenon.

Last week, a Jewish cemetery in Salonica (Thessaloniki) was desecrated with neo-Nazi slogans and graves were damaged with molotov cocktails:

On the early morning of Friday, May 14th 2010 persons belonging to the nationalist/neonazi area, attacked the new Jewish Cemetery of Salonica (Thessaloniki). Besides the spraying of graffiti with stock antisemitic slogans like Juden Raus, Burn the Jews, Sieg Heil, Hitler and the depiction of the nazi swastika and the number 88 which is linked to the SS, they attempted to destroy  the jewish tombs using molotov cocktails as incendiary devices. Fortunately the damage inflicted was light, besides the graffiti filling the exterior walls and the walls of the auxiliary buildings inside the cemetery.

salonika-vandalism1

Three neo-Nazis have been arrested for the attack.

In Worms, Germany, a synagogue has fortunately escaped serious damage after an arson attack on Sunday:

Jewish institutions in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz are receiving increased protection following an arson attack on the synagogue in Worms.

Fires reportedly were set Sunday night at eight spots around the synagogue, which is one of the oldest in Germany, dating back to the year 1034. The Fire Department quickly extinguished the flames.

There was some damage; no one was injured.

Police reported finding eight copies of a letter at the scene that read, “Until you give the Palestinians peace, we will not give you peace.”

According to a report on the Web site of Dom Radio, police could not confirm whether the letters had anything to do with the actual attack. The Associated Press reported that the letters were written in “bad German,” suggesting that the perpetrator or perpetrators were of foreign background.

Political and religious leaders reacted with shock to news of the attack. State Prime Minister Kurt Beck of the Social Democratic Party told reporters that “an attack against a Jewish house of worship is crossing the line” and he vowed to use “all legal means to pursue” those responsible.

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