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UK to begin joint NATO military exercise in Poland

Exercise Black Eagle designed to ‘deter Russian aggression’.

Britain is to begin a bi-lateral military exercise with Poland in the next few days that will involve 1,350 U.K. military personnel and 350 vehicles, the Ministry of Defence has told the Anadolu Agency.

The announcement came on Monday as tensions between west European states and Russia continue to worsen following the fall from power of Ukraine’s democratically elected, pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, and the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

The Ministry of Defence told the AA in a statement the exercise was a NATO response to “Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and continuing efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine”.

The U.K. said that the move was developed by the Supreme Allied Command “to provide visible reassurance of the Alliance’s [NATO] commitment to collective defense”.

But Lindsey German from Stop the War Coalition told the AA the exercise in Poland was a “dangerous sign”.

‘NATO expansionism’

She said that it was clear that the tension between Russia and the West was escalating and was a sign of NATO “expansionism”.

“We’re looking at a situation that may well escalate into war over the next two or three years and that would be the most serious war in Europe since we’ve seen since the Second World War,” she warned.

She added, “Russia is not only surrounded by NATO bases to its west but to the south too. There’s actually less Russian-controlled territory since the time of Catherine the Great, which was two to three hundred years ago.”

“I don’t think you can see Russia as an expansionist force, but if you look at what NATO is doing, it is moving in an expansionist direction,” German added.

Speaking on Sunday near the Brandenburg Gate in the German capital at an event marking 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev warned that the world was “on the brink of a new Cold War”.

Euphoria and triumphalism’

He said the west had rescinded on a promise that NATO would not expand eastwards if East and West Germany were unified.

“Instead of building new mechanisms and institutions of European security and pursuing a major demilitarization of European politics … the west, and particularly the United States, declared victory in the Cold War,” he said.

“Euphoria and triumphalism went to the heads of western leaders. Taking advantage of Russia’s weakening and the lack of a counterweight, they claimed monopoly leadership and domination in the world,” added the man who spearheaded the Glasnost and Perestroika reforms in the Soviet Union.

The exercise called Black Eagle will see about 3,000 personnel being deployed and comes after leaders from nine ex-communist countries met in Poland in July to agree upon a defence strategy from a perceived Russian threat on their eastern frontier.

U.S. President Barack Obama set aside $1bn in military funding for Western allies on NATO’s eastern borders in June in addition to air and sea defenses already in the region.

The U.K. said the measures demonstrated the resolve of NATO allies, particularly the Baltic partners, adding the moves were designed to deter “further Russian aggression”.

The Black Eagle exercise is the first significant move by NATO following the holding of a summit by the organization in the U.K. in September.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 10 November 2014

Report: One in five youths forced to sleep rough in UK

Charity reports nearly a fifth of young people in Britain have slept on the streets and in cars and night buses.

One in five young people in the U.K. have been forced to sleep rough, a charity for homeless people has reported.

According to a poll published on Thursday and carried out on behalf of Centrepoint, a charity which supports homeless young people, showed that about 18 percent of 18-25 year olds had slept rough in the last year – including sleeping on streets and in cars and night buses – as they had nowhere else to stay.

Seyi Obakin, Centrepoint’s Chief Executive, said: “Homelessness is killing young people and 80,000 young people across the UK face homelessness each year.”

“We know that homeless young people are twice as likely to die as their peers, which is why we urgently need help to get them off the streets,” he said.

 ‘Huge problem’

The charity, which has organized its annual “sleep out” for Thursday evening, to raise awareness and funds for the charity, said 15,000 young people were facing homelessness over the coming Christmas and more than 1,000 beds for homeless people had been lost in the last year.

“Currently the government does not track the number of 18-25 year olds rough sleeping nationally. Our poll proves the issue of young people sleeping rough is huge and nobody else is giving an accurate picture of the problem,” Obakin added.

He said: “The government’s only data on rough sleeping does not break down by age and is limited to estimates and a one-night snap-shot survey.”

“From this it’s impossible to ensure that vital support services for homeless young people are available in the right place at the right time,” Obakin said.

Families struggling

The charity commissioned ComRes to speak to 2,011 young people.

Of those who disclosed they had slept rough over the past year, 40 percent said they had spent one night doing so and a third said they had done so for between one night and one week.

Since the introduction by the British government of “austerity measures”, including a cap on benefits, many families have struggled with accommodation and household bills with some being forced to move to areas where housing is cheaper, the charity said.

More than one million people in the U.K. have become dependent on food banks since the austerity measures were put in place.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 6 November 2014

UK: Two sons lost, father says ‘Do not go to Syria’

Abubaker Deghayes has now lost two sons to the Syrian conflict, with another still fightng in the war torn country.

The father who lost two of his sons fighting in Syria has said that he does not want others to suffer the same fate.

Abubaker Deghayes, who lives in Saltdean, East Sussex, has lost his second son last week in the space of a year, to the fighting in Syria.

Jaffar Deghayes, 17, is believed to have died last weekend in a battle against Syrian regime troops near Idlib.  Deghayes’ eldest son is still fighting in the country.

It has only been six months since he lost his other son, 18-year-old Abdullah, who was killed in Latakia.

 Deghayes told the Anadolu Agency (AA) that his eldest son, Amer, messaged him with the news. “He told me that Jaffar had been shot in the head, but was alive for 15 minutes after that,” the father said.

“Jaffar recited the shahada (article of faith) and praised God before his death,” he told AA.

However, Deghayes was adamant that others should not go.  He said that he would encourage other people who wanted to help in Syria not to go and fight, but to send aid and to lobby politicians to help the people of Syria.

“I hope my son comes back safe. Don’t let your families go through what we are going through,” he told AA.

All three of his sons were fighting for the Al Nusra front, which the U.K. government considers a terrorist organisation.

Deghayes says that the Al Nusra front fighters are not terrorists, but are helping the Syrian people.

“I have been to the refugee camps and the Syrians I have spoken to speak highly of Al Nusra, and how they are helping people, they are not terrorists,” he told AA.

Following the death of Abdullah in April, the police raided Abubaker’s home and confiscated laptops, mobile phones and passports. Deghayes told AA that he is yet to receive the items back, including his passport.

“The police said that they were investigating Abdullah’s death,” he said.

The three brothers travelled together to Syria in January this year to take part in the fighting against the Syrian regime.

Deghayes has six children.  He is of Libyan origin, and has been living in the U.K. since 1986.  Deghayes’ father was killed by the Gaddafi regime when he returned to Libya.

Abubaker’s brother was held without charge at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo bay.  He was released in 2007.

Last month King’s College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation reported that 23 British fighters had died fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Their research revealed that British fighters are being killed in Syria and Iraq at the rate of one every three weeks.

The British government states that up to 500 Britons have traveled abroad to take part in fighting in Syria, and that at least 218 of those have returned to the U.K.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 4 November 2014

Rights groups slam UK spy chief’s ‘web terror’ remarks

Head of GCHQ Robert Hannigan accused of being ‘securocrat’ destroying Britain’s ‘best traditions’ and regard for rule of law.

Human rights groups have dismissed claims made by the head of the UK government’s communications headquarters that the internet has become a “command-and-control network” for terrorists.

The criticism came on Tuesday after Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) chief Robert Hannigan wrote in the Financial Times daily that some U.S. technology companies were “in denial” about how their social media websites were being used, saying groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, had “embraced the web”.

He wrote: “GCHQ and its sister agencies, MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service, cannot tackle these challenges at scale without greater support from the private sector, including the largest US technology companies which dominate the web.”

Hannigan also controversially declared that “privacy has never been an absolute right”.

But Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, asked in a statement to Anadolu Agency: “In what democracy do securocrats dictate policy or make law?”

‘Traditions trashed’

“Mr Hannigan shouldn’t grab the megaphone whilst wearing the headphones or use threats and smears that ignore due process and the rule of law,” she said.

“Rather than trashing our best traditions for convenience, the UK should lead the way on improving lawful access to data between states in the fight against terrorism,” Chakrabarti added.

UK-based privacy rights organization Privacy International called Hannigan’s remarks “disappointing” and said the internet was “the greatest tool for innovation, access to education and communication humankind has ever known”.

Deputy Director Eric King said in a statement to Anadolu Agency: “Before he condemns the efforts of companies to protect the privacy of their users, perhaps he should reflect on why there has been so much criticism of GCHQ in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations.”

‘Lost trust’

Files leaked by Edward Snowden last year containing revelations about the scope and nature of the largely illegal surveillance activities carried out around the global by the National Security Agency (NSA) sparked widespread outrage.

King added: “GCHQ’s dirty games – forcing companies to handover their customers’ data under secret orders, then secretly tapping the private fibre optic cables between the same companies’ data centers anyway – have lost GCHQ the trust of the public, and of the companies who services we use.”

“Robert Hannigan is right, GCHQ does need to enter the public debate about privacy – but attacking the internet isn’t the right way to do,” he said.

Snowden has been hailed a hero around the world for exposing the mass surveillance activities employed by NSA and the UK’s GCHQ communications monitoring center to the global public.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 4 November 2014

UK snubs Merkel’s warnings over immigration curbs

British government insists it will pursue immigration changes despite Germany’s chancellor’s reported ‘UK can quit EU’ remarks.

The U.K. government has said the “Prime Minister will do what is right for Britain” in response to reports that Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would rather see the UK leave the EU than compromise over the bloc’s principle on the free movement of people.

The comments came on Monday after German magazine Der Spiegel reported that sources in Berlin had said Britain was nearing the “point of no return” and Germany viewed British calls for curbs on the free movement of people as a “red line”.

A Downing street spokesperson told the Anadolu Agency: “Cameron thinks limiting migration is a key principle for Britain to remain in the EU.”

Cameron’s Conservative party has been under pressure from the anti-EU and anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP) over the past year as public sentiment has hardened towards immigrants amid harsh “austerity measures” imposed by the government.

The conservatives have lost many votes to the party, according to opinion polls, and two Conservative MPs have defected to it.

Cameron has responded by taking a stronger line on the EU and immigration to address the growing concerns of his party members, and said he would give a speech on immigration before Christmas.

  UK ‘must clarify role’ 

In Germany, government spokesman Steffen Seibert did not refute Der Spiegel’s story during Monday’s regular press conference at the Federal Press Service and said Germany’s position on the UK’s future in the EU had not changed.

He said: “It is first of all a matter for the UK to clarify itself what role it wants to play in future within the EU.”

Seibert said the matter was not a bilateral issue between London and Berlin, but one between the UK and all its EU partners.

He underlined that freedom of movement within the EU was a non-negotiable principle for the German government.

He acknowledged the difficulties faced by several European countries including the UK as well as Germany due to the growing number of immigrants coming from new member states to benefit from social security systems.

“Combatting the misuse of freedom of movement is a legitimate interest. We also share this. But the general principle of freedom of movement should not be called into question,” Seibert stressed.

  ‘Calm and rational’

The UK’s chancellor, George Osborne said he was not worried about the German Chancellor’s reported remarks.

“I think it’s a little bit thin” he told the BBC, referring to the Der Spiegel report and added that he felt Germany understood the British public’s concerns over EU migrants and welfare benefits.

“The British public want this addressed. We are going to do this in a calm, rational way,” he said.

Douglas Carswell sparked a by-election when he switched from the Conservative Party to UKIP in August and stood down from his parliamentary seat in Clacton, Essex.

He retook the constituency for UKIP with a 12,404 majority.

Mark Reckless, the Conservative MP for Rochester and Strood, announced weeks later that he was also defecting to UKIP, triggering another by-election to be held later this month.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned in October that Britain would be making a “historic mistake” if it decided to curb freedom of movement or leave the European Union.

The outgoing EC President said: “In the years to come the UK could be facing a choice – to stay or leave the European Union.”

A Downing Street source rejected Barroso’s warnings and said that the “status quo was not acceptable” to the U.K.

*Ayhan Simsek contributed to this report from Berlin. 

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 3 November 2014

90,000 UK children facing homelessness at Xmas

Shelter issues emergency appeal and says number of homeless living in bed and breakfasts has nearly doubled in three years.

A total of 90,000 UK children will face Christmas without a home, according to a charity’s analysis of the latest government figures on homelessness in Britain.

Shelter, a charity which helps people in England and Scotland struggling with poor housing or homelessness, said on Monday they would launch an emergency appeal in response to what they said was a crisis.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, called on the public to donate what they could to the emergency appeal, saying: “In the 21st century, it cannot be right that homeless children are experiencing severe emotional distress, facing three-hour round trips to school and having to eat their dinner on the floor.”

He added: “Our advisers will be working tirelessly to support people who find themselves homeless this Christmas, but it’s getting harder and harder for us to be there for every family that needs us.”

‘We urgently need more support from the public to help us make sure no-one has to fight homelessness on their own this Christmas,” said Robb.

‘Shocking’ conditions

Shelter said in a report that, according to government figures, the number of homeless families living in bed and breakfasts had also almost doubled in three years.

It said that this was “particularly alarming” following the charity’s own investigation into living conditions in bed and breakfasts, which they described as “shocking”.

The charities investigation into accommodation revealed that many children felt unsafe in temporary accommodation, with parents reporting exposure to drug and alcohol abuse, fighting, swearing and racist language.

Since the introduction by the British government of austerity measures, including a cap on benefits, many families have struggled with accommodation and household bills with some being forced to move to areas where housing is cheaper, the charity said.

More than one million people in the U.K. have become dependent on food banks since the austerity measures were put in place.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 3 November 2014

Israel broke international law, report claims

Observers took hundreds of testimonies to compile reports on human shields and indiscriminate targeting of noncombatants.

Israel violated international law according to a report released Thursday that investigated the use of human shields during Israel’s 2014 onslaught of the Gaza Strip.

The report, published by the Geneva-based Euro-Mid human rights observer, says that the Israeli army broke international law on at least six occasions in the southern Gaza Strip in August.

Civilians were subjected to “inhumane and abusive” treatment, according to the report entitled, “Israeli Matrix of Control: use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.”

Palestinians were beaten and exposed to the hot sun while naked for long periods of time, investigators found.

The human rights organization claims that testimonies collected by its observers show that the use of Palestinian human shields is a recurring Israeli policy since there have been similar cases outside of Gaza, such as in the West Bank.

Jessica Purkiss from the Middle East Monitor, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that the cases of human shields were “horrific.”

Purkiss referenced the case of Ramadan Qdeih from Khan Younis, where he told observers that he saw his father shot dead and was made to stand at the windows with his hands tied while Israeli soldiers stood behind him, shooting.

“It’s complete injustice, it’s treating people absolutely like animals, and I think it’s symbolic of how the Israeli military see Palestinians and Gazans,” said Purkiss.

The Euro-Mid team also said that they did not find any evidence of Palestinians who were forced to stay in their homes or to use their bodies for the protection of Palestinian fighters.

The report calls on Israeli military prosecutors to carry out a “serious and reliable” investigation of the cases documented in the report and asks for the individuals that are found guilty to be held to account.

Euro-Mid also called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish a fact-finding mission into the recent conflict and to investigate the issue of human shields.

Ihsan Adel, a legal advisor working at Euro-Mid, told Anadolu Agency that they will give the evidence that they have gathered to the UN in the hope that those who committed crimes would face trial.

Adel said that both Palestinians and Israelis should join the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court and an investigation should be launched into war crimes committed during the war on Gaza.

In a separate report released Thursday by the same organization, it was claimed that the Israeli military deliberately carried out indiscriminate attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The observers based their claims on the testimonies of 432 people and again urged a UN investigation.

Euro-Mid said that “reconstruction of the Gaza Strip is needed for Palestinians… However without accountability for crimes and protection for human rights; it will be a life without dignity or hope.”

The report concludes that Israel violated Article 16 of the fourth Geneva Convention that obliges parties to protect people with special needs such as those with disabilities.

“By bombing a Palestinian charity and other institutions housing disabled people without effective warning, Israeli forces violated its obligations under the fourth Geneva Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities,” the report said.

Israel has denied all charges that it has acted outside of international law and has instead accused Hamas of using human shields.

During Israel’s onslaught this summer, over 15,000 housing units were damaged across the Gaza Strip, including 2,200 that were totally destroyed, according to official Palestinian figures.

More than 2,160 Gazans were killed and 11,000 injured, mostly civilians, during seven weeks of unrelenting Israeli bombardment — from air, land and sea — throughout July and August.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 22 October 2014

UK Muslim group threatens government with legal action

Organization with alleged links to Muslim Brotherhood could face restrictions in government crackdown.

The Muslim Association of Britain has said it will take the British government to court if it attempts to place any restrictions on the organization over allegations it is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The declaration came on Thursday days after a British newspaper report – attributed to government officials leaking information – suggested that, although the Muslim Brotherhood, the transnational Islamic group founded in Egypt, would not be designated a terrorist organization, the government would “crack down” on it.

 According to the Telegraph newspaper, up to 60 organizations in the U.K. with alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood are to come under scrutiny, including charities, think tanks and even television channels.

Khalil Charles, spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), told Anadolu Agency: “There’s nothing in law that proscribes what we do or what we intend to do.”

“All of these things must happen within existing laws … anything else that they [government officials] chose to do, within my estimation, would be outside the law and therefore it would be challenged.”

Charles acknowledged the U.K. government could attempt to restrict what the Muslim Association of Britain does, but he said: “Yes, we expect that there will be different pathways and difficulties with things that we want to do but, because we are not doing anything illegal, we would challenge anything that stops our right to do what we need to do.”

Report ‘delayed’

In April, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a review into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.K., which would also look into the government’s policy towards the organization and its impact on the U.K.’s national security and foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East.

Led by Britain’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Sir John Jenkins, a report was due to be completed before the summer recess of parliament.

However, AA has learned that the report has been delayed until the autumn.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have both designated the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organization” and recent reports suggested members of the organization have fled to the U.K. to escape possible discrimination in the two countries.

Khalil Charles told AA that, although the organisation shared “the main principles that the Muslim Brotherhood… including its commitment to uphold democracy, freedom of the individual, social justice and the creation of a civil society” it was “not a branch or an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood”.

After publication of the Telegraph article, Britain’s first female Muslim cabinet minister – former Foreign Office Minister Sayeeda Warsi – took to Twitter to criticize the leak.

She posted: “The ‘source’ in this piece uses lines used by one of my ex-Cabinet colleagues. V[ery] worrying if he is the leak, as suggests sanctioned leak.”

‘Al Capone method’

Warsi then tweeted again, raising her concerns of a potential crackdown on organisations allegedly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Re-interpreting comments in the article, she tweeted: “‘We can go after single individuals, not for terrorist-related activity, b[u]t through the Al Capone method of law enforcement’ this is policy?”

She then added: “‘We cannot get them for terrorism, but I bet you they don’t pay their taxes’ This is policy too?!”

Warsi resigned from the government in August, saying its policy over Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” assault on Gaza in July – in which more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including more than 500 children – was “morally indefensible”.

Charles also told AA that the organisation believed “the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood is neither extreme nor has it ever endorsed the use of violence”.

British daily the Financial Times reported in August that a delay in the publication of the report had been due to government fears of Arab allies’ displeasure over it stopping short of recommending a “terrorist” label for the Brotherhood.

 Deadly attacks

Charles said that he did not want to “speculate” as to why the report had been delayed but, from what he had read from the leaks in newspapers, he believed the report had “vindicated” the Muslim Brotherhood as no links to terrorism had been found, given there was no recommendation to ban it.

The MAB confirmed that they had attended official meetings with a government inquiry group and outlined their position.

MAB said it told the group its organisation was separate from the Muslim Brotherhood, but there could be MAB members who were also part of it, adding “that is entirely up to them [as individuals]”.

Downing Street said that the report had been completed in the summer and passed to ministers and would be released in the autumn, but denied the release had been delayed.

Mohamed Morsi – Egypt’s first freely elected leader and a Brotherhood leader – was removed by the Egyptian military in a coup d’etat in July last year.

Egypt’s government, which launched a sustained crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood after Morsi’s removal from power, has accused it of sponsoring deadly attacks on security personnel in Egypt over the past year.

The group has denied the claims.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 23 October 2014

UK Muslims criticize PM’s Charity Commission proposals

Islamic charity and human rights campaigners accuse British government of anti-Muslim bias.

Muslim rights groups in the U.K. have responded with anger to new proposals announced by Prime Minister David Cameron to give extra powers to the country’s charities regulatory body.

The government announced earlier Wednesday that it was proposing giving the Charity Commission, the regulatory body for British charities, more powers to be able to freeze charity bank accounts and suspend or remove trustees.

The proposals included banning people with convictions from being a charity trustee, disqualifying a person from being a charity trustee if the commission finds them “unfit,” shutting down charities which are under investigation and issuing official warnings for less serious cases.

The proposals came after a cross-party committee of lawmakers described the Charities Commission in February of this year as being “not fit for purpose.”

Reacting to the announcement of the proposals, the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) said: “The reality is that the Charity Commission will have more teeth to harass innocent and law-abiding Muslim-run organizations.”

Wrongly accused

In a statement to The Anadolu Agency, the IHRC said: “Given that the government’s definition of extremism now incorporates a latitudinous range of beliefs and behavior, it will allow the Commission to target a larger number of charities, simply on account of the religious and/or political beliefs they or their partner organisations appear to hold.”

Similar sentiments were also expressed by Cage, an organization which campaigns on behalf of people wrongly accused of crimes under the so-called “war on terror.”

Cage spokesman Amandla Thomas-Johnson told the AA: “It seems as though the government is slowly turning the heat up on Muslim charities.”

A number of Muslim organizations have had their bank accounts closed down over the past year.

In August, Finsbury Park mosque, international development charity the Ummah Welfare Trust and the think-tank Cordoba Foundation all received letters from HSBC bank giving them notice that their accounts were being closed.

“These actions again have created further suspicion of Muslim charitable donations,” said Amandla.

‘Unfair move’

Cage said the move was unfair, especially given that a poll last year revealed the British Muslims gave more to charity than any other group in the U.K.

Earlier this year, Barclays froze Cage’s bank account after the U.K.’s Treasury Department contacted the bank, following the arrest of former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, a signatory on the account.

All charges against Moazzam were dropped earlier this month.

One of Cage’s donors, the long-established and reputable Joseph Rowntree Foundation, was also put under investigation by the Charity Commission.

The charities watchdog said it had been looking into charities that use aid convoys to Syria as a front to fund “terrorism.”

The IHRC also accused the government of using the Charities Commission to target Muslims.

‘Instrument of repression’

The recent appointment of the former counter-terrorism chief, Peter Clarke, to the board of the Charity Commission “underlines this transformation of the Charity Commission from an oversight agency into an instrument of repression against British Muslims” the IHRC said.

Questions have also been raised about the head of the Charities Commission, William Shawcross, regarding his political views.

Shawcross was a supporter of the 2003 Iraq war — deeply unpopular in the U.K. — and has defended the imprisonment under extrajudicial arrangements of suspects at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, begun during the U.S. administration of George W. Bush, as “model justice.”

In October 2011, Shawcross was appointed a member of the board of directors of the Henry Jackson Society — itself a registered charity — which has been accused of having anti-Muslim views.

In the National Review in 2010, Shawcross attacked the Labour Party for being “in awe of Islam.”

And in an interview with the Sunday Times in April this year, he claimed: “The problem of Islamist extremism and charities … is not the most widespread problem we face in terms of abuse of charities, but is potentially the most deadly. And it is, alas, growing.”

‘Grab for power’

Amandla said: “Members of the Henry Jackson Society have long pushed an anti-Muslim agenda and have called for the targeting of the Muslim community.

“We worry about someone like Shawcross, with such views and links, being at the helm of the (Charities) commission.”

Cage said that there were already laws in place to ensure that charities are compliant with laws and regulations, but added that Cameron’s proposals showed a “further grab for power under the pretext of a supposed terrorist threat”.

“The politicization of the Charity Commission is extremely worrying, and giving them more powers will see them further entrench an anti-Muslim civil society agenda,” Amandla said.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission told The Anadolu Agency that the organization “completely rejected the accusation the commission is disproportionately targeting Muslim organizations.”

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 22 October 2014

Scotland: Nos seemingly ahead, but some not happy

Some leaving yesterday’s polls dejected – embarrassed at way ‘Better together’ campaign was conducted.

With the “No” vote ahead in polls to predict Scotland’s future, you’d expect their voters to be in celebratory mood, but some are leaving Thursday’s vote dejected – unhappy at the way the Better Together campaign has gone.

John McIntyre, voting in the affluent parish of Murrayfield around three miles from Edinburgh city center, told the Anadolu Agency that even though he’d voted “No” he was not happy with the way the campaign had conducted itself.

“I don’t think the Better Together campaign did well at all…they should have campaigned on the philosophy of the vote, of not creating divisions,” he said.

The campaign’s response has come in for derision in many quarters, not least in a Scotsman article last year, where journalist Joyce McMillan wrote that Better Together’s response to the independence debate has – “in too many cases” – been “so reactionary, so negative, and so fundamentally disrespectful of the Scottish Parliament as an institution, that I now find it hard to think of voting with them.”

“I find myself so repelled by the tone and attitudes of those who should be my allies that I am gradually forced into the other camp,” she said.

The campaign has also come under fire for exaggerating the narrative of Scottish nationalism and support for independence in general. Several of its members have described independence supporters as “anti-English,” others claimed opponents have a limited outlook on identity and culture, and in September 2013 the Labour Party’s Scottish leader described support for independence as “a virus.”

Some voters angry at the campaign went all the way Thursday, switching from one side to the other.

Before polls opened, British tennis star Andy Murray tweeted – in a last minute boost to the “Yes” campaign – that such behavior had made up his mind.

“Huge day for Scotland today! no campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. excited to see the outcome. lets do this!” he wrote.

When the “Yes” campaign took a short-lived lead in opinion polls last Sunday, it was followed by a flurry of warnings from banks, retailers and the International Monetary Fund about the financial implications of independence – some of which threatened to move South of the border if Scotland went it alone.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond called for an inquiry into the warnings, accusing the British treasury of leaking market sensitive material to media.

The British media – seen by many as pro-“No” – has also come under the scrutiny of “Yes” voters after First Minister Alex Salmond accused BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson of heckling him with questions during a press conference.

Tensions were apparent Sunday when thousands of protestors gathered outside the BBC in Glasgow to demonstrate against what they said were the corporation’s “bias.”

Supporters in the audience had clapped when Salmond sneered about the BBC’s “impartial role as a public sector broadcaster.”

Speaking to the Guardian Wednesday, Salmond said British Prime Minister David Cameron had fought the “Better Together” campaign in a “miserable” way.

“His jacket is on a shoogly nail,” he stated, using a Scottish expression which means he should run for the hills, or at least hide behind his desk – that he may well be facing potential redundancy.

“You would not need to resign if you fought it properly but it was the way he did it. Just on the grounds of incompetence he should be pulled up. His conduct has been demeaning,” said Salmon.

After opening at 7 a.m. the polls are set to close at 10 p.m., during which time 4,285,323 people – 97 percent of the electorate – will decide if Scotland pulls away from England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The 32 local authorities will give their results to the chief counting officer Mary Pitcaithly in Edinburgh who will declare the final result on Friday morning, celebrations and sorrow following – depending on what side you are on.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 18 September 2014

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