News in March 2015 was dominated by the ongoing targeting of British Muslims under the guise of the government’s PREVENT policy, and abroad by Saudi Arabia’s war on the Houthis in Yemen
In March, thousands of people across Europe took part in a national demonstration against rising racism, Islamophobia and fascism.
The protests in London and Glasgow were organized by over a dozen anti-racism groups, including Stand Up To Racism, Unite Against Fascism, the Muslim Council of Britain, and Stop the War, and were aimed at commemorating the UN’s anti-racism day.
In London, protesters assembled in front of the BBC to march to Trafalgar Square. They held banners reading “No to Islamophobia”, Muslim Lives Matter”, “From Ferguson to London Black Lives Matter”, and “Immigrants Are Welcome Here”
Many organizations have warned of a recent escalation of hatred, racism and Islamophobia in the UK. They say people are fed up and outraged over racist slogans and mass media silence over recent killings of Muslims and Blacks.
Trojan Horse controversy
Questions need to be asked about the reliability of Ofsted’s inspection judgements as it failed to identify problems at some of the Birmingham schools involved, the Commons Education Select Committee said.
Four separate investigations were conducted into the alleged plot by “hard-line” Muslims to seize control of a number of school governing boards in Birmingham.
While no evidence of radicalisation was found, the findings – specifically Ofsted inspections – did raise concerns that in some schools governors had exerted inappropriate influence over how schools were run.
In summer 2014, Ofsted issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of the city’s schools and declared five failing, placing them into special measures.
The committee concluded that, apart from one incident, no evidence of extremism or radicalisation was found by any of the Trojan Horse inquiries.
Islamophobe of the Year
Also in March, Home Secretary Theresa May was voted “Islamophobe of the Year” at the annual Islamophobia Awards organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission.
May, who beat her ex-cabinet Tory Party colleague Michael Gove to the prize, has been a driving force behind the introduction of yet more repressive legislation targeting the Muslim community.
This includes the new Counter Terrorism and Security Act which obligates professionals such as teachers and doctors to spy on Muslims and allows border officials to seize passports of people (read Muslims) suspected of travelling for “terrorist” purposes.
According to the IHRC, the continual targeting and scapegoating of Muslims using anti-terror laws and the government’s ever widening anti-radicalisation PREVENT programme has been responsible for creating a climate of hostility that encourages acts of discrimination, abuse and violence against them.
Commenting on the same subject 5Pillars’ Dilly Hussain said the UK Government’s plans to introduce further draconian anti-terror laws and counter-extremism policies was slowly but surely uniting the Muslim community.
“When the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill received Royal Assent on February 12, it had dawned upon Britain’s Muslim community that a new era of ‘McCarthyite witch-hunting’ had begun. After 13 years of the war on terror, the CTS Act serves as one of the most damaging pieces of legislation to affect not only the Muslim community, but the wider British public,” he wrote.
“In effect, public sector workers will be forced to become state spies, obliging doctors, dentists, university staff, school and nursery teachers to report their colleagues, patients, students and pupils as young as three to the authorities. Additionally, the bill which has been criticised by more than 500 professors as being a threat to freedom of speech fell on deaf ears.”
Central African Republic and Malaysia
In the international arena it was reported in February that almost all of the 436 mosques in the Central African Republic (CAR) had been destroyed.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, made the statement to reporters after a Security Council visit to the country. She expressed concern about an upcoming possible security vacuum as European Union (EU) and French forces pull out and a UN peacekeeping force was still not at full strength.
At least 5,000 people had been killed since Central African Republic exploded into unprecedented sectarian violence in December 2013.
Nearly 1 million of the Texas-sized country’s 4.5 million residents had been displaced. Many of those who have fled were Muslim.
Meanwhile, Malaysia was ranked the top destination for Muslim travelers in a global survey, followed by Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Singapore was voted the top non-Islamic destination.
The MasterCard and CresentRating’s annual Global Muslim Travel Index ranks destinations on a scale of 0 to 100. Criteria for the index include how much of a holiday and family destination a country is, how safe it is for Muslims, the number of Muslim visitor arrivals, halal dining options, availability of prayer spaces, and ease of communication.
This marks the fifth consecutive year Malaysia was chosen as the top predominantly Muslim country for Muslims to visit. The companies cited Malaysia’s plan to improve the Muslim traveler experience, and for having dedicated prayer spaces in public places like shopping malls and theme parks.
Malaysia and Turkey combined attracted 13% of all Muslim travelers.
Israeli elections and Yemen crisis
In other news, Abdel Bari Atwan said that Israel’s elections had produced one winner and many losers which may, ultimately, include the people of Israel themselves.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s last-minute shift to hard-right secured him the victory that was very much in doubt until a few days previously.
Atwan wrote: “This victory demonstrates how far to the right the Israeli population has travelled. There was a 72 per cent voter turnout and Netanyahu’s Likud won 30 seats in the Knesset on an anti-Arab platform that has dealt a final death blow to the peace process. His likely partners in the coalition he will have to form to govern are just as radical: The colonists’ Jewish Home party, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, and a handful of other ultra-orthodox parties.
“Netanyahu based his campaign on the politics of fear, appealing to the growing sense of vulnerability among the Israeli populace, and positing himself as its gung-ho defender. He threatened Hezbollah with the same pounding the Israeli army regularly inflicts on Gaza and hyperbolised the threat to Israel from Islamic extremism and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”
On Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Yemen, Atwan said that Saudi Arabia had embarked on a dangerous adventure in Yemen and should have left this hornets’ nest undisturbed.
In March, the new King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz, sent 100 fighter planes to bomb Houthi targets inside Yemen. The Saudi action was supported by a coalition of ten other countries including the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states.
Atwan wrote: “Yemenis are diehard fighters, whether Houthis or their enemies, the Sunni tribes. Saudi Arabia has hastily formed a coalition of Arab and Muslim countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Jordan and Pakistan. The Houthis meanwhile have very dangerous friends themselves, in the regimes of Iran, Iraq, Syria and the BRICS countries.
“Inside Yemen, the alliance between the Houthis and deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh is highly flammable. Saleh is Yemen’s longest-ruling leader, he is a shrewd manipulator and still enjoys a lot of support from the Yemeni Army…
“We must recognize and understand that Saudi Arabia has not only declared war on the Houthis – it has set up a direct challenge to its regional nemesis, Iran. The Saudis have been increasingly provoked by America’s rapprochement with Iran over its nuclear aspirations and by the resilience of the Syrian regime which is shored up by Iranian-backed militias, weapons and other forms of support.”