We continue our review of 2016, focusing on the month’s July to September when post-Brexit hate crimes soared and Anjem Choudary was convicted of supporting ISIS.
In July Harun Khan was elected Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) at its AGM.
Khan replaced outgoing secretary general Dr Shuja Shafi who completed his two-year term.
Khan, who will serve until 2018, is the first British-born leader of the organisation. A Londoner, he has been a Civil Engineer in the city for over two decades.
The MCB was established in 1997 and is an umbrella body for 500 mosques, schools and associations in Britain. It includes national, regional and specialist Muslim organisations and institutions from different ethnic and sectarian backgrounds within British Muslim society.
Meanwhile , Kelvin Mackenzie, the right-wing columnist for The Sun, caused outrage after he called Islam a “violent religion” and questioned whether it was appropriate for Channel 4 News to be presented by a hijab-wearing journalist on the day that Nice was “attacked by a Muslim.”
His comments prompted Muslim organisations to urge the public to complain to the press watchdog Ipso, which received 1000s of complaints.
Mackenzie wrote: “Anxious to know more about the Nice lorry massacre, I did something on Friday night I try to avoid: I watched Channel Four News.
“After Jon Snow had conducted a poor interview with a young man who had come perilously close to death the action switched back to the London studio, where I could hardly believe my eyes.
“The presenter was not one of the regulars — Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Matt Frei or Cathy Newman — but a young lady wearing a hijab. Her name is Fatima Manji and she has been with the station for four years.
“Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim? Was it done to stick one in the eye of the ordinary viewer who looks at the hijab as a sign of the slavery of Muslim women by a male- dominated and clearly violent religion?
“Would the C4 editor have used a Hindu to report on the carnage at the Golden Temple of Amritsar? Of course not. Would the station have used an Orthodox Jew to cover the Israeli-Palestine conflict? Of course not.”
He added: “With all the major terrorist outrages in the world currently being carried out by Muslims, I think the rest of us are reasonably entitled to have concerns about what is beating in their religious hearts. Who was in the studio representing our fears? Nobody.”
Also in July, more than 3,000 hate crimes and incidents were reported to police from 16-30 June this year, a 42% increase on the same period in 2015, National Police Chiefs’ Council figures showed.
It came amid reports of what David Cameron called “despicable” hate crimes after the EU referendum on 23 June.
The BBC reported that at the peak on 25 June, 289 hate crimes and incidents were reported across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the “sharp rise” was unacceptable.
“It undermines the diversity and tolerance we should instead be celebrating,” he said. “Everyone has the right to feel safe and confident about who they are and should not be made to feel vulnerable or at risk. The police service has no tolerance for this type of abuse but we need to be made aware that these crimes are taking place so that we can investigate.”
In August Anjem Choudary was convicted of inviting others to support ISIS after a secret trial in July.
The 49 year old radical preacher – who enjoyed little support within the Muslim community but whose voice was amplified by the mainstream media – had stayed “just within the law” for years, but was arrested in 2014 after pledging allegiance to the terrorist group.
Many people tried for serious terror offences were influenced by his lectures and speeches, police said.
Choudary was convicted alongside confidant Mohammed Mizanur Rahman.
Counter-terrorism chiefs blame the father-of-five, and the proscribed organisations which he helped to run, for radicalising young men and women.
Both men were charged with one offence of inviting support for ISIS – which is contrary to section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000 – between 29 June 2014 and 6 March 2015.
The trial heard how the men decided in the summer of 2014 that ISIS had formed a “Khilafah”, or Islamic state.
In September more than 140 prominent academics signed an open letter condemning the scientific framework underpinning the UK Government’s controversial anti-terrorism Prevent strategy.
The letter which was published in The Guardian coincided with a groundbreaking report released by advocacy group CAGE debunking the “science” used to justify the Prevent strategy.
The letter stated:
“We are concerned with the implementation of “radicalisation” policies within the UK Prevent strategy, internationally referred to as countering violence extremism. Tools that purport to have a psychology evidence base are being developed and placed under statutory duty while their “science” has not been subjected to proper scientific scrutiny or public critique.
“Of particular concern is the Extremism Risk Guidance 22+ (ERG22+) framework that is being used as the basis for assessing risk of “radicalisation” and referral to the Channel programme. More than 500,000 public servants have been placed under a duty to implement the tool and several dozen children have been directly affected, through the courts, based on assessments using the tool. The impact is significant and cannot be emphasised enough.
“We endorse the recent statement by the Royal College of Psychiatrists calling for publication of the ERG22+ study. We call on the Home Office to do so and further to invite debate by experts.
“All those engaged in academic study should continue to serve the interests of society by remaining faithful to the ethical standards and science of their traditions. Where we play a role cooperatively with government policy, we should hold ourselves to the highest possible standards to ensure that we maintain the independence and transparency of our institutions.”
On the international scene six seaside towns in France banned the burkini, the full-body swimming garment worn by Muslim women, in August.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls also criticised the wearing of the burkini as “not compatible with the values of France and the Republic”, saying he supported mayors who ban it if they acted in the public good.
In the southwest, the mayor of the resort town of Leucate, Michel Py, signed a municipal decree that banned the burkini on public beaches.
The Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge to the ban in Cannes.
And finally the notorious Israeli war criminal Shimon Peres died aged 93 after suffering a stroke.
Palestinians, Lebanese, Arabs and Muslims will remember him as the man responsible for the Qana massacre in Lebanon in 1996, as the chief architect of Israel’s clandestine nuclear programme, and for playing a key role in early days of illegal West Bank settlements.
Peres was born in modern-day Belarus in 1923 and his family moved to Palestine in the 1930s. As a young man, Peres joined the Haganah, the militia primarily responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages in 1947-49.
Over seven decades, Peres served as prime minister and president. He was a member of 12 cabinets and had stints as defence, foreign and finance minister.
As prime minister in 1996, Peres ordered and oversaw “Operation Grapes of Wrath” when Israeli armed forces killed some 154 civilians in Lebanon and injured another 351. The operation – widely believed to have been a pre-election show of strength – saw Lebanese civilians intentionally targeted.
According to the official Israeli Air Force website the operation involved “massive bombing of the Shia villages in South Lebanon in order to cause a flow of civilians north, toward Beirut, thus applying pressure on Syria and Lebanon to restrain Hezbollah.”
The campaign’s most notorious incident was the Qana massacre, when Israel shelled a United Nations compound and killed 106 sheltering civilians. A UN report stated that, contrary to Israeli denials, it was “unlikely” that the shelling “was the result of technical and/or procedural errors.”
During the last 10 years Peres has been one of Israel’s most important global ambassadors, as the Gaza Strip was subjected to a devastating blockade and three major offensives. Despite global outrage at such policies, Peres has consistently backed collective punishment and military brutality.
A spokesman for the group, Sami Abu Zuhri, told The Associated Press that “the Palestinian people are very happy at the passing of this criminal who caused their blood to shed.” He added, “Shimon Peres was the last remaining Israeli official who founded the occupation, and his death is the end of a phase in the history of this occupation and the beginning of a new phase of weakness.”
There was no immediate comment from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. However, he did eventually send his condolences to Peres’s family, describing him as a partner in peace, together with former PA President Yasser Arafat and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
He also noted the efforts Peres invested in forging a sustainable peace between Israel and the Palestinians since the signing of the Oslo Accords until the final moments of his life
Finally, Al-Manar, a Lebanese satellite television station affiliated with Hezbollah, vilified Peres as a criminal, stating that he “will be forgotten since the world is better off without criminals.”