UK child sexual exploitation report raises racism fears

“There are issues within society, but it [child abuse] is not an Asian or a Muslim problem, it’s a [an all round] problem,” Raza Nadim told AA.

Allegations of institutional racism reared their head in the UK this week on the back of an independent report into child sexual exploitation in Northern England that found that 1,400 children had been the victims of “appalling” abuse between 1997 and 2013 – some of them as young as 11 years old.

Many British media outlets outraged race relations bodies by running stories on the findings with headlines highlighting the ethnicity of the perpetrators, after the report – commissioned by Rotherham council – identified the majority of those alleged to have “sexually groomed” children as of “Pakistani origin.”

Muslim Public Affairs Committee U.K. spokesperson Raza Nadim told the Anadolu Agency that he was “infuriated” by the suggestion that race was an issue in the crime, and the subsequent politicization of ethnicity as a factor.

“There are issues within society, but it [child abuse] is not an Asian or a Muslim problem, it’s a [an all round] problem,” Raza told AA.

“Blaming Asians or Muslims stokes up more tension and takes us away from the discussion we should be having… which is why did this happen in the first place and what can we do to help the children get through this?”

Race “should not” be the issue, he says, but “if we are to look at the wider UK and the race of those committing such crimes, then there are a lot of white pedophiles, there’s a lot of white sex offenders.”

It’s an issue that also concerns writer and journalist Steve Rose, with British society still coming to terms with the outing and charging of prominent white TV presenters from the 1980s for preying on the young.

“We haven’t racialized Jimmy Saville or Rolf Harris, or we haven’t said that there’s an institutional problem with white grooming gangs,” he says. “It’s a factor but it’s not as big as a factor as is being made out.”

The report – released this week – found that gangs of men groomed, abused and trafficked vulnerable children while victims were disregarded by police, and the local council – despite several reports highlighting abuse – had ignored the alleged abductions, beatings and trafficking of children to other towns and cities so that the abuse could continue. Many were also raped by different men.

As a result of the findings, Rotherham council leader Roger Stone resigned acknowledging “historic failings.” The local police and crime commissioner has also resisted calls to leave his post – with allegations of an institutional fear of racism also being leveled.

Among the many charges in the report were those from a previous inquiry in 2006 that said that “Young people in Rotherham believed at that time that the police dared not act against Asian youths for fear of allegations of racism.”

“This perception was echoed at the present time by some young people we met during the [latest] inquiry,” the report stated, but went on to conclude that “The Inquiry team was confident that ethnic issues did not influence professional decision-making in individual cases.”

This has not been reflected in the media coverage, states Rose.

“A fear of racism does not explain why the police viewed someone as promiscuous and being deviant. It’s good old-fashioned victim blaming, and what that does is when institutions fail people it enables the abusers to continue.”

“When you link child sex exploitation to race you undermine the seriousness of the topic. It’s not really about race… It’s about power… Making the issue about race, demonizes communities and ignores the victims who are not white.”

Disagreement, however, comes from the very community at which the finger is being pointed, Mohammed Shafiq – the Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation and himself a British Pakistani saying “there is” a problem within.

“We in the Pakistani community have got a problem, particularly in northern towns where they think white girls are worthless and they think they can use and abuse them in this abhorrent sort of way and have no regard towards the sanctity of life,” he told AA.

“It’s something the community will have to confront, rather than looking for excuses, or rather than looking for other people to blame.”

Race is not the only factor, but it is “certainly quite a factor,” he admits.

Shafiq has come in for criticism for his views – not least from the British Pakistani community – but he remains adamant that he has the right to speak out.

“The fact [is] that this evil exists within our community, and we just have to do more to be outspoken about it,” he says.

He told AA that Pakistani and Kashmir men “tend to go for the white girls because they’re easier to get a hold of and easier to groom.” They are particularly targeted, he says, so the men don’t get any “fallback within the [Pakistani] community.”

But its not just race we should be scrutinizing, he says, but also our cultures.

“Within our [Pakistani] community our children are not around at that time of the morning, but some of these other girls are outside at 2 or 3 o’clock. This is an issue we’ve got to have a look at.”

“As parents, do these people know where their children are? Why are 13-14 year olds wandering around the streets” at this time?

“When you start to see padded bras in shops, and teenage magazines full of sex and the promotion of sexuality, then that all contributes to society where people think it is an acceptable form of behavior to be [a child and hanging out at 2am and] engaged in sexual activity with someone under the age of 16.”

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 28 August 2014

UK government approach to extremism not working, say experts

‘Domestic and foreign policy must be re-examined rather than new laws being introduced,’ specialist in counter-terrorism tells AA.

A leading specialist in counter-terrorism has questioned the British government’s approach to extremism, stating that attempts to further criminalize those taking part is not the answer – that they should be looking at the cause not the crime.

In the wake of a video that appears to show a British citizen beheading an American journalist on behalf of the Islamic State (IS), the government is clamoring to clamp down on nationals travelling to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside militants, many politicians calling for tougher action against those that go and fight for the Islamic State. Home Secretary Theresa May wrote last week that she was preparing to bring in new laws that include an “anti-social behavior order” for extremists.

Dr. Rizwaan Sabir, a specialist in counter-terrorism and political violence at the University of Bath in southwest England told the Anadolu Agency this week that the government is not doing enough to deal with the root causes.

“From those who have been convicted for terrorism, domestic grievances and foreign policy were the main contributing factor, hence it is domestic and foreign policy that must be re-examined rather than new laws being introduced,” he said.

According to the government, 500 British nationals have travelled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State – a “terror” outfit formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria.

The government, however, has dismissed British foreign policy in the region as a motivating factor in young Muslims travelling overseas to fight; in 2011 Prime Minister David Cameron claiming that the root of the problem was down to the “existence of an ideology, ‘Islamist extremism’.”

“Islam is a religion, observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology, supported by a minority,” he said during a visit to the German city of Munich.

Jahan Mahmood, a counter-extremism expert and former government adviser, agrees that UK foreign policy is a factor, but adds that a major contribution comes from the moral crisis that many young male Muslims face in Britain today.

Some of these men have been involved in drugs, crime and lived promiscuous lives, all of which are considered sinful within Islam, he told AA. And then, while trying to deal with that guilt and seek forgiveness they are presented with “images of brutalized [Muslim] men, women and children” which “coupled with a desire to make a difference in the world and to get to heaven” leads them to “others” with more militant leanings.

“It’s a mixture of what they see as their duty [and] issues at home such as disempowerment and disillusionment, and… [problems] with their own family and wider society,” he says. “And then of course, verses [from the Quran]… make them feel that they are doing the right thing, [verses that will] secure them a place in heaven, ultimately.”

Mahmood recounts a story of a young man he worked with, who became convinced that he should go abroad and take part in armed conflict.

“He read that as soon as the martyr’s blood touches the ground that he is accepted into heaven. And that was it,” said Mahmood. “He didn’t need anything else more comprehensive… he had no understanding of its context and no idea of anything else. That was all the motivation he needed.”

Mahmood, however, underlines that not everyone that travels to Syria joins such groups as the Islamic State.

“There are other groups as well and there are groups that we [Britain] are supporting. To turn around and tarnish everybody that goes to Syria as joining ISIL is a little bit irresponsible,” he told AA.

Groups such as the UK-based Muslim Public Affairs Committee agree, saying that there are several factors that lead to the radicalization of young British Muslims.

“Some [of those who go off to fight] actually foolishly believe that these people [IS] are on the prophet’s path… They really are that deluded,” spokesperson Raza Nadim spokesperson told AA. “Part of it comes from [the sense] of being disenfranchised [that comes from] living in Britain and other countries.”

But the path should not lead to Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he adds. The “caliphate” has no legitimacy “so even though there are some deluded people that are joining, let’s not think that IS has a great deal of support within the UK.”

Premier Cameron and his security chiefs have stated that foreign fighters returning from overseas pose a great threat to the UK, telling parliament in June that the government has stopped people from travelling – taking away their passports – in an effort to stop them being radicalized.

Dr. Sabir finds great fault in this approach.

“There is a lack of empirical evidence to support the claim that British nationals returning from Syria and Iraq pose a direct threat to the UK,” he says.

“Existing evidence shows that nearly all the individuals who have been convicted for terrorism offences since 2001 did not go abroad to fight or train. The issue of ‘blowback’ is therefore difficult to empirically measure at present.”

This view was supported by a report published last month by campaign group Cage, a charity that campaigns on behalf of the victims of the war on terror.

The report – “Blowback – Foreign fighters and the threat they pose” – said that the British government’s policy is “confused and dangerous” and has “created a climate of fear.”

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 27 August 2014

Europe welcomes Gaza ceasefire

Egyptian-brokered cease-fire goes into effect, bringing to a halt 51 days of death and destruction in the blockaded coastal enclave.

The European Union has welcomed the latest cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, bringing to an end 51 days of fighting between Israeli and Palestinian forces that have led to catastrophic death and destruction in the blockaded coastal enclave.

A statement from the European External Action Service “warmly” welcomed the Egypt-brokered agreement which went into effect at 16:00 GMT Tuesday and called “on all to abide by its terms.”

“We commend the efforts of Egypt and others in working towards the cease-fire, and express our sorrow for the loss of life, especially civilians and destruction caused in the last 50 days,” the office said on its official Twitter account, adding that the EU is ready to contribute to consolidating the truce.

For the past seven weeks, Israel has pounded Gaza with the declared aim of halting rocket fire from the territory, claiming at least 2,139 Palestinian — mostly civilian — lives, and leaving nearly 11,000 people injured. Thousands of homes have also been partially or completely destroyed by devastating Israeli bombardments.

At least 69 Israelis — 64 soldiers and five civilians — have also died in the conflict, according to Israeli figures.

Laurent Fabius, the French minister of foreign affairs and international development, also welcomed the cease-fire in an earlier statement saying that France, in coordination with its European partners and as a member of the United Nations Security Council “is committed to contribute to finding solutions through such an agreement.”

It was unclear as to whether by “solutions” Fabius meant an answer to the Palestinian situation, which has seen Palestinian refugees spread all over the world — many confined to refugee camps — since they were expelled by Jewish settlers from their homelands in 1948, or a solution to the latest conflict in Gaza.

“France urges all parties to respect and to continue discussions under the auspices of Egypt to achieve a sustainable solution that answers the requirements of lifting the blockade on Gaza and guaranteeing Israel’s security,” read the statement.

The cease-fire was also backed by Italy, which expressed hope that it would serve as a”turning point we have been waiting for and toward which we have been working with many other countries.”

“The Israelis and Palestinians now need to launch negotiations as soon as possible for a lasting truce and political agreement that finally lead to a stable settlement,” Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said in a written statement.

Britain also welcomed the truce, Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood hailing Egypt’s efforts in securing “this important step.”

“I welcome today’s agreement by all parties to a cease-fire. The cease-fire provides a critical and welcome window of opportunity for reaching a comprehensive agreement that tackles the underlying causes of the conflict,” Ellwood said Tuesday.

 “This should ensure that: Hamas and other militant groups permanently end rocket fire and other attacks against Israel; the Palestinian Authority resumes control of Gaza and restores effective and accountable governance; and that Israel lifts its restrictions in order to ease the suffering of ordinary Palestinians, and allow the Gazan economy to grow,” added Ellwood.

There was no mention of an answer to what many Palestinians call “underlying causes” — the continued misappropriation of lands by Israel, the diaspora of the Palestinian people and control of their livelihoods and borders.

The Palestinian situation began in 1917 when the British Balfour declaration promised a national home for Jewish people in Palestine. By 1948 a newly formed state inside of the Palestine boundary named “Israel” had declared independence, which resulted in 700,000 Palestinians fleeing or being expelled and hundreds of their villages and towns destroyed.

The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world, refugees spread across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other countries, while many were settled in refugee camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinians commemorate “nakba” — “the day of catastrophe” — on May 15 in memory of the expulsion.

Since 1948, Israel has continued to misappropriate Palestinian land, despite being condemned by the United Nations. The right of return to pre-1948 homes is still a demand for many Palestinians, in particular Hamas, which formed a national unity government with Fatah this year after nearly seven years of feuding.

The number of Palestinian fatalities from Israel’s latest offensive has surpassed the combined death toll from Israel’s two previous operations against Gaza, including Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008/09 in which at least 1,500 Palestinians were killed over the course of three weeks.

*Anadolu Agency correspondents Hale Turkes from Ankara, Hajer M’tiri from Paris, Inci Gundag and Assed Baig from London, and Baris Seckin from Rome contributed to this story.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 27 August 2014

UK Muslims reject notion of ‘collective guilt’ over Foley

‘We don’t expect Christians, nationalists or socialists to apologise for [Adolf] Hitler,’ so why should we apologize for the Islamic State.

Muslim organizations have attacked British media values in the wake of what they see as a clamor to tie their faith to the Islamic State’s (IS) apparent murder of a U.S. journalist in Syria.

Mohammed Shafiq, the chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, told the Anadolu Agency Thursday that a narrative existed among “right-wing media and some politicians” that Muslims are not doing enough to combat extremism.

“But we have been speaking out since 9/11,” underlined Shafiq. “We condemn the murder of James Foley, but not because the British press tells us to, but because our faith tells us to.”

Foley’s death was broadcast in a video on YouTube on Tuesday night, his killer – who claims to be from the Islamic State – blaming U.S. involvement in Iraq in what sounds like a British accent before taking a knife to the 40-year-old’s neck.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has since said it is looking “increasingly likely” that the man was – or is – a British citizen. The government has previously said it believes that there are around 400 British nationals fighting alongside IS – formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) – in Iraq and Syria.

The London Evening Standard newspaper acknowledged Wednesday that young men who have joined the IS are not necessarily representative of the capital’s Muslims, but went on to say “they are nonetheless worshippers at their mosques, members of their families, with friends and relatives privy to their plans.”

It called on Muslim communities to be “far more outspoken” about religious extremism, adding “we look to them, for instance, to organize protests against the Islamic State.”

Shafiq told AA that instead of making such generalizations that all Muslims share the same ideology, media and some politicians should instead be focusing on the root cause of radicalization and extremism.

“Our [British] inaction over Syria, our illegal war in Iraq and our silence over Gaza, and [British] support of the Israelis feeds the misconceptions and shows double standards,” he told AA.

Faith Matters Director Fiyaz Mughal agrees.

“The usual canard that is mentioned is that Muslims are not doing enough and these papers promote such ill-informed ideas,” he told AA.

“In fact, parents, mothers and [guardians] have actively been involved in dissuading young men from going to Syria and the stance of these papers shows how ill-informed their positions are as Muslim communities have been working tirelessly for at least five years on tackling extremism.”

Mughal added that some papers felt that all Muslims share a sense of “collective guilt” over the issue.

“Collective guilt is by itself anti-Muslim in nature since it targets all Muslims by virtue of their identity, when many have nothing to do with or have no control over global situations,” he said.

“We have to call this… exactly what it is – prejudice that targets whole communities.”

Massoud Shadjareh from the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission said to AA that as human beings we “don’t expect Christians, nationalists or socialists to apologise for [Adolf] Hitler.”

“If ISIL self-represents as Islamic or Muslim or any other Islamic term, it neither gives them Islamic credibility, or connection with Muslims around the world; including those who seek political solutions through Islamic political and social organisation.”

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 21 August 2014

Ezidi leader’s son calls on Turkey to intervene in Iraq

Breen Tahseen says Turkey more important than France and Britain because it has more power in Iraq.

The son of an Ezidi leader has called for Turkey to help Ezidi refugees trapped in northern Iraq.

Breen Tahseen, the son of Prince Tahseen Saeed Bek, who is leader of the Ezidi people, said Turkey should open its borders to allow Ezidi refugees in and to deliver humanitarian aid.

Tahseen also said Turkey should arm those fighting the so-called Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

Ezidis, an ethnic minority in Iraq, are a religious sect fusing Zoroastrian, Manichaean, Jewish, Nestorian Christian and Islamic elements. Orthodox Islamic scholars regard them as heretical.

Tahseen, 33, works in the Iraqi consulate in Manchester but said he was speaking in a personal capacity.

“Turkey is more important than France and Britain, because Turkey is closer to Iraq and has more power in Iraq, especially northern Iraq,” he said.

He called on Turkey and others to put troops on the ground to push IS back. France has pledged to arm Kurdish peshmerga forces battling Islamic State militants.

“IS is not just dangerous for Ezidi people; it affects everyone,” Tahseen said.

He called on European countries to take in Ezidi refugees. He said thousands of Ezidi were trapped and unless doctors and soldiers were put on the ground there was no way of knowing the exact number.

He said more than 600 Ezidi women and girls had been kidnapped by Islamic State fighters and taken to Mosul.

Mount Sinjar, in northwest Iraq near the border with Syria, has been home to thousands of Ezidis who have fled in fear of being massacred by Islamic State militants, who consider them “devil-worshippers.”

The militants have been blamed for several massacres already. Reports say that hundreds of people have been massacred, including at least 80 Ezidis who refused to convert to Islam.

More than 1 million civilians have been displaced by the clashes in the north and west of the country.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 17 August 2014