Wrapping up our month-by-month review of 2014, we look back at the stories that dominated the Muslim headlines in December 2014.
Runa Khan, 35, from Luton, took pictures of her young son wearing a turban and holding a toy assault rifle and took another picture of him with a copy of a book by Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s mentor.
She also had photographs of her older, nine-year-old son and her teenage son holding a sword and posed with the same weapons herself.
Judge Peter Birts told her: “You appear to have no interest in the effect of radicalisation on your children having selfishly placed your own ideology and beliefs above their welfare in your priorities. You have shown no remorse for your actions and you are determined to follow your ideology whatever the cost to your liberty, and your family, including your children.”
Judge Birts said Khan was not only deeply radical herself, but a “major radicaliser of others on Facebook, Whats App and other social media” and that the “promotion of terrorism through the internet is a major potential concern.”
Jo Sidhu QC, defending, said the mother-of-six was “unrepentant” and had a “deep, strong, unwavering and inflexible” way of thinking, but her crime was “extremely unsophisticated.”
Khan’s second marriage had fallen apart and her five older children were living with her mother, the court heard. She was said to have had a “chaotic personal life” and to have had two “deeply unhappy” relationships, the second of which involved domestic violence.
A defence psychologist said the children face “major difficulties in the future whether or not their mother is jailed.”
Meanwhile, it was revealed that Muslims are facing the worst job discrimination of any minority group in Britain, according to research which found that they had the lowest chance of being in work or in a managerial role.
Muslim men were up to 76 per cent less likely to have a job of any kind compared to white, male British Christians of the same age and with the same qualifications. And Muslim women were up to 65 per cent less likely to be employed than white Christian counterparts.
Muslims were the most disadvantaged in terms of employment prospects out of 14 ethno-religious groupings in the UK, researchers Dr Nabil Khattab and Professor Ron Johnston found using data from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey of more than half a million people. Skin colour made little difference to the figures.
Dr Nabil Khattab, of Bristol University, said the situation was “likely to stem from placing Muslims collectively at the lowest stratum within the country’s racial or ethno-cultural system due to growing Islamophobia and hostility against them.
“They are perceived as disloyal and as a threat rather than just as a disadvantaged minority,” he added. “Within this climate, many employers will be discouraged from employing qualified Muslims, especially if there are others from their own groups or others from less threatening groups who can fill these jobs.”
Dr Khattab said the “penalties” for being Muslim got worse when applying for better-paid managerial or professional jobs.
“If this persists, it could have long-term implications for the cohesion of the UK’s multi-ethnic, multicultural society. The exclusion of well-qualified black and Muslim individuals could undermine their willingness to integrate in the wider society,” he said.
Also in December, two men were fined ONLY £600 for making Facebook threats to “torch” and “blow up” a new mosque in Bolton.
Police arrested both men for posting offensive messages on the Stop The Astley Bridge Facebook page, which has since been taken down.
Leon Richmond, aged 18, wrote on the page that he would not be bothered if the mosque was built as he would “blow it up” himself.
23-year-old Darren Hubble posted: “Bolton people say no, Wigan says not a chance, I’ll torch the place if I get half the chance”.
The posts related to the plan to build a large new mosque building in Blackburn Road, Astley Bridge.
The plans, submitted by Taiyabah Islamic Centre, include a dome, minaret tower and 19 classrooms. They have prompted protests by objectors in the lead-up to the planning meeting on July 3, and protestors shouted abuse at councillors as the proposals were approved.
Det Insp Charlotte Cadden said: “These messages were not only extremely offensive but made very serious threats to cause damage. It is becoming a regular trend for people to think they can make racially offensive comments online and get away with it – but they can’t, and these convictions show that.
“Everyone has a right to protest lawfully, but these were abusive and caused great upset to the local community. I would warn anyone that making vile comments on social media carries just as much a risk of conviction as sending an abusive letter.
“We will pursue anyone posting such threats and work to bring them to justice.”
Peshawar school massacre
133 children were killed by gunmen wearing suicide vests at the Army Public School in Peshawar, sparking international outrage and demands in Pakistan for a tougher response to the Taliban.
The day after the attack, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on executions in terror cases.
Pakistan hanged two convicted “terrorists” and another four. It was only the second time the death penalty has been used since 2008, when a moratorium was imposed. Officials said the “brutal killers” admitted the killing of 148 people during the school attack was an act that had “finally brought them to the gallows”. The Taliban said it will avenge the deaths of the hanged men.
Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school and killed 148 people, including 133 children, in an eight-hour siege.
The militants said they attacked the school in revenge for an army operation against them, when the government bombed Taliban hideouts along the Afghan border.
Swedish mosques bombings
In Sweden special security forces are hunting suspected arsonists after fires at two mosques.
The blazes follow a period of increased tension in the country, as politicians struggle to stem the rise of the anti-immigrant far right.
The Säpo were called in after a blaze at a mosque in the southern town of Eslöv. It followed a similar incident on Christmas Day in Eskilstuna, near Stockholm, in which five people were injured when a fire broke out during prayers.
“It’s probably Islamophobia,” an Eslöv imam, Samir Muric, told Swedish media. “I live close and do not feel safe anymore.”
Elvir Gigovic, chair of the Muslim Council of Sweden, said there had been a spate of “systematic” attacks on Muslims this year, many of which were marked by their violence and severity.
The justice minister, Morgan Johansson, described the Eskilstuna fire as a “heinous atrocity” and said it was difficult to believe the incident was anything other than violence directed against Muslims.
Heightened concern about attacks on Muslims comes after a decision by Sweden’s left-wing coalition government to call off elections due in March after a last-minute compromise with centre-right parties. The deal enables both blocs to avoid potential humiliation at the polls by the far-right Sweden Democrats, which forced the crisis after blocking the government’s budget in parliament, where it holds the balance of power.
Sweden Democrats leaders have likened Islamism to Nazism, and the party wants to cut the number of asylum seekers by 90%. This month, the leader of Sweden’s Jewish community condemned as “good old right-wing anti-Semitism” remarks by the party’s secretary that Jews could not be Swedes unless they abandoned their religious identity.
Opinion and analysis
CAGE outreach director Moazzam Begg said that after the Peshawar school massacre all those who claimed the moral high ground have lost it – the ones who kill children in the name of democracy and the ones who retaliate in the name of Islam.
Moazzam wrote: “The lives of all our children are precious: children of ruthless politicians, children of torture victims, children of terror suspects, children of anti-terror SWAT officers, children of drone operators, children of soldiers, children of judges, children of farmers and children of the homeless and hopeless.
“The children of our friend and the children of our enemy are still innocent. That is why the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) explicitly forbade targeting them, especially in times of war. Every law based on any aspect of human decency since concurs with this view.
“The product of terror, torture and violence is more of the same. To end it we must we must stop regarding understanding and explanations as “justification.” Every crime has a motive, a mens rea behind it, even the most despicable ones.
“The deliberate killing of children in Peshawar was a twisted and sick act. But this sickness has developed as a direct result of indiscriminate killing of faceless terrorist suspects and their families.
Recent reports have shown how 26 children were killed as collateral damage in trying to unsuccessfully kill one man, namely Ayman al-Zawahiri. Countless other attacks have caused “collateral damage” in Pakistani’s war in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and beyond have led to deaths of thousands. Statistics and testimonies are hard to come by because of fear of further targeting and woeful under-reporting…
“The truth is that we all love our children and they (mostly) love us right back, the best of us and the worst of us. It is their innocence that reminds us often of our flaws, our guilt even. Tuesday’s killings were a stark reminder of that.” All who claimed the moral high ground have lost it, the ones who kill children in the name of democracy and the ones who retaliate in the name of Islam. The ideology doesn’t matter – not when the sacred is de-sanctified like this.
“It is actions to end the cycle of violence, at least on the children, which are needed now more than anything. Otherwise words mean nothing.
Cracks within ISIS?
And finally film-maker Bilal Abdul Kareem asked if cracks within ISIS are starting to become apparent.
Bilal wrote: “What media reports aren’t telling us is that ISIS is currently in the midst of an internal crisis. It is alleged that they were planning to attack Ahrar ash-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra in the Idlib area.” However, just before the attack, a disagreement broke out between two groups – with the Turkmen on one side and the fighters from Kavkaz (region of Chechnya) on the other. A heated argument quickly escalated into weapons being drawn and ultimately fired with the two factions killing members of the other side. The nature of the argument is still not known.
“This internal division scuttled the sneak attack ISIS was planning on the Syrian rebels in Idlib. Shortly thereafter the sprawling base at Wadi Daif was overrun by Ahrar ash-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra.
“This convinced ISIS leadership that the combined forces of Ahrar ash-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra were too well fortified in Idlib’s suburbs and thus the attack were called off.
“The reason why some devout ISIS members’ solid foundation is beginning to show signs of defection is due to two main reasons:
- Many members were upset that all the fighting they are asked to do in Syria is against other rebel groups and not Bashar Al-Assad’s forces. This has sown the seeds of doubt regarding ISIS’ direction and leadership. According to a report on NBC News, IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center’s(JTIC) database showed just 13 percent of ISIS attacks during the past year up to November 21 targetted Syrian security forces.
- The statements of Islamic scholars around the Islamic world condemning ISIS in unison has taken a toll on the membership numbers as well. They cite that the lack of scholarly support for the group has made them doubt the validity of their support for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the group’s methodology.