Monthly Archives: December 2013

‘A more rigorous approach’ is needed to tackle anti-Muslim hate crime, says TELL MAMA

Originally published on The City Scoop

A batch of freedom of information requests revealed increasing levels of hate crimes against Muslims in the UK after the beheading of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, south-east London.

Picture of the Blackburn prayer hall facility in #Muslim graveyard that was spray-painted.

Picture of the Blackburn prayer hall facility in Muslim graveyard that was spray-painted.

Broken down, the figures show that  from September 2012 to September 2013, there has been a 68% increase in anti-Muslim hate crime in Tower Hamlets, a 475% increase in the London Borough of Greenwich, a 50% increase in Hackney, and a 200% increase in Lambeth.

However, anti-Muslim hate crimes in London are reducing from its peak after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby’s murder in May.

TELL MAMA, an organisation that records anti-Muslim attacks, said that from March 2012 to March 2013, they dealt with 582 anti-Muslim cases, but expected that figure to rise by almost 50% this year.

After the brutal racist killing of Stephen Lawrence, the Mcpaherson recommenations outlined a system where people to report hate crimes to an independent organisation such as TELL MAMA, who would then pass that information to the police so that the incidents could be formally logged.

Fiyaz Mujhal, director of Faith Matters, which runs the MAMA project, said: “The far right groups, particularly the EDL use the internet and social media to promote vast amounts of online hate.

The group claims that “a more rigorous approach” is needed to documenting cases of hate crime then the ones currently in place.

However, according the Guardian, a CPS spokeswoman said that online material must be more than “simply offensive” to be breaking the law.

They said: “In order to preserve the right to free speech the threshold for prosecution must be high and only communications that are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false are prohibited by the legislation.

Earlier this year, a YouGov poll suggested that the number of those who believe clashes, such as the infamous Rigby event, are inevitable – up by a staggering 9% from last year.

There has also been a small increase in the proportion of people who believe British Muslims pose a serious threat to democracy, up to 34% on Thursday and Friday from 30% in November 2012.

Response to findings

Andrew Gillian, London editor of the Sunday Telegraph, said in June earlier this year, that most of the crimes reported by TELL MAMA did not constitute as violence again Muslims, as some of the incidents reported consisted of posts on facebook, twitter and various blogs.

According to /u/cantered, a poster on the internet forum Reddit, “If that’s a “hate crime” then half of /worldnews is about to be summoned before The Hague. And judging by some of the posts here the other half would be enthusiastically applauding.”

In the article Andrew states that 57 per cent of the incidents only took place online.

He said: “Tell Mama has no written definition of what it classes as an anti-Muslim incident, but has in the past adopted a wide definition.”

However, the interfaith organisation responded to the attacks by the Sunday Telegraph editor, posting a transcript of the whole conversation with the reporter along with a blog post clarifying issues raised in the article.

They said: “Keep the Focus the Victims, not TELL MAMA.

“Gilligan regards on-line hate incidents as being minor or peripheral in nature and he refers to them as such within the article. He does not describe the impact they have on people, the emotional disturbance that they may cause and the distress that they clearly cause to many victims.

“This material is pervasive in the on-line world and if we attempted to trawl through such postings, we would simply be inundated.”

When should hate speech be criminalised?

This incident brings to the forefront an important issue – the delicate balancing act between differrent rights.

Criminalising on-line communications can be a breach of our freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European convention of human rights.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

However, governments tend to recognize limits on this right, particularly when freedom of speech conflicts with other values or rights.

Limitations to freedom of speech can be applied to hate speech, as they can stoke racial tensions and incite violence, ultimately causing harm to individuals.

So the question remains, when does online hate speech become a criminal offence?

After the Woolwich incident, two men were arrested and held under the Public Order Act on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred, after ‘racist and anti-religious’ comments about death of Lee Rigby posted on Twitter.

Shaun Tuck, 26, was jailed for 12 weeks for encouraging people to ‘bomb and gas every mosque in England’ following the murder of Lee Rigby, as well as calling for Muslim children to be beheaded in a drunken Twitter rant.

What about the following tweets – should posting these be an indictable offence?

Muslim paedophile gangs dirty islamic scum, beheadings what next at least EDL stand up and be heard!!This is England

“#muslims..It works both ways you angry idiots. Get out of our countries and we might leave yours alone #milkers #edl”

“Not necessary2say ‘radical #Islam’ as this cult is by nature already radical! Needs2b outlawed! #Muslims #sharia #taqiyya #dhimmi #MSM #tcot”

“On the tv last night, most of the news had something to do with #muslims in some way…mostly bad of course! #islamisevil #terroristscum”

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Have your say in the comments section below.

Thousands of students and lecturers take part in protest against police ‘crackdown’

Originally published on The City Scoop

By Suhail Patel and Conor Giles, with pictures courtesy of Jon Cartwright and Charlotte England

Thousands marched through central London on Wednesday to protest against excessive force used by the police in last week’s demonstrations.

People gathered to express concerns over the 41 arrests made during an occupation of Senate House in protest over students’ union and cleaners’ contracts.

Students, lectures and alumni from universities across London, journeyed through the cities capital chanting slogans such as “No justice, no peace,” and “Cops off Campus” in defiance of police and university attempts to curb protestors.

Event organisers demanded that the NUS call a demonstration, asking trade unionists and the National Union of Students to join them.

Michael Chessum speaking at Russell Square

Michael Chessum speaking at Russell Square

Michael Chessum, ULU president, was arrested In November this year during similar protests against the planned closure of ULU.

Speaking to a large crowd of onlookers, he said: “This is one of the biggest student movements we have seen since 2010.

“We’re all here to simply say, we will not be intimidated,” he added.

Ian Pattison, a national organiser for Socialist Students, accused the police and university officials of trying to intimidate protestors, using violence and an injunction to try and silence them.

Ian Pattisson, national organiser of Socialist Students

Ian Pattisson, national organiser of Socialist Students

“We are fighting for peaceful protests and effective action.

“We think the National Union of Students should support these protests and call for a national demonstration,” he added.

Fellow national organiser Claire Laker-Mansfield said that despite the “absolutely horrendous brutality” used by police, that they “will not be cowed”.

Protestors marching towards SOAS

Protestors marching towards SOAS

A representative of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts said: “We are supporting this demonstration today because what we want is a democratic system that fights for people’s rights to a free education.

“A prerequisite of a good education is decent treatment of staff and students.

“We absolutely break with and step on the idea that university officials can call the police against protesting students.”

Many protestors were angry with the University of London’s (UoL) successful injunction preventing protests on its campuses for six-months.

Frustrated students cover their faces during demonstrations

Frustrated students cover their faces during demonstrations

Richard, a student from Oxford University, had come along with 35 fellow students to protest the extreme measures used.

He said: “I was disgusted by the way police have been cracking down on public exhibitions.

“People were just venting their discontent with this government’s principles.”

Approximately 25 students and lecturers ventured up from Sussex University where 5 students were recently suspended for their apparent leadership in the Occupy Sussex campaign, although these suspensions have since been revoked.

Protestors walking through central London

Protestors walking through central London

Charlotte England, a journalism student at SOAS, was one of the 41 people arrested at last week’s protests.

She said: “I think that the way they behaved has radicalised a lot of people.

“They used absolutely unreasonable and brute force against peaceful protestors.”

Another person detained, Tom, a member of the SOAS branch of Counterfire, had been arrested on Thursday for ‘Breaching the Peace’ and ‘Affray’.

He said they did not charge or interview him, and he was eventually released at 3am from Croydon Police station after being in police custody for nearly 10 hours.

When protestors reached SOAS, they sat down outside his universities entrance while some danced to beating drums and music.

People dancing and sitting outside SOAS

People dancing and sitting outside SOAS

Erik, a History and Arabic student at the university, said: “It was shocking to see the level of violence used by police.”

While Valarie, a psychology student living in London, said she felt that the UK has gone “too far to the right”.

“People can’t be afraid,” she added, “I don’t think people should keep their faces covered.

“This only makes us look more intimidating.”

Protestors sitting outside the university entrance

Protestors sitting outside the university entrance

There was a mixed reaction from onlookers, who either supported the marchers or tried to escape the 2000 strong group, blocking streets and halting traffic.

As they walked down Victoria St. workers from stores and offices peered out their windows to see what was going on.

Construction workers clothed in neon overalls and hardhats, showed their support by fist pumping and hollering, as the group chanted: “Students and workers unite and fight.”

One anonymous bystander, an owner of an outdoor fruit stand, said: “I think it’s good what the students are doing.

“People need to know what’s going on, it’s all corrupt.”

Group of protestors walk towards Parliment

Group of protestors walk towards Parliment

As the protestors moved towards The Houses of Parliament, police began to surround them. Many of them feared they would be kettled, and urged fellow marchers to keep moving.

Officers were heard telling people to relax and not to get caught up in the moment.

When asked if they would use force, an officer said they’re here to keep the peace, but “will use tactics” if anyone got violent.

Police outside the Houses of Parliament

Police outside the Houses of Parliament

There were however moments where tensions ran high as some of the protestors forced their way through the gates of Senate House.

A few attempted to break through the entrance doors, while others set alight to a bin.

 

People breaking the gates of Senate House.

People breaking the gates of Senate House.

 

A bin set alight by some of the protestors.

A bin set alight by some of the protestors.

A majority of those that entered the area quickly left however, as the crowd continued its procession through London.

Protestors leaving the Senate House Courtyard shortly after breaking through the gates

Protestors leaving the Senate House Courtyard shortly after breaking through the gates

In another incident, they surrounded a police car, leaving picket signs trapped in the windshield wipers.

A police van after having been surrounded by protestors

A police van after having been surrounded by protestors

As a group amassed outside the gates of Downing Street, roughly a dozen officers stood off against them briefly. The group soon moved on however, as fellow marchers shouted: “Keep moving…don’t let them kettle us.”

The sound of police sirens filled the air as day turned to night, but the protestors eventually completed their 6 mile march at around 6pm.

On the way they passed iconic symbols such as The Royal Courts of Justice, Houses of Parliament and Nelson Medulla’s statue, which was surrounded by flowers and tributes following his resent passing.

No arrests were made, and the protest was a peaceful one.

People outside The Royal Courts of Justice, London.

People outside The Royal Courts of Justice, London.

Daniel Cooper, one of the main protest organisers and Vice President of ULU, said: “We will not be intimidated and we will not be bullied.”

At an impromptu meeting another demonstration was called for on the 29th January in Birmingham.