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Veil row teaching assistant is sacked Last updated at 11:15am on 24th November 2006
A Muslim teaching assistant who was suspended for refusing to remove her veil in the classroom has been sacked, sources said. Aishah Azmi, 24, of Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, was suspended on full pay earlier this year by Kirklees Council in a decision that it has stressed had "nothing to do" with religion. Last month, an employment tribunal dismissed three of Mrs Azmi's claims of discrimination and harassment but found that she was victimised by Headfield Church of England Junior School in Dewsbury and awarded her £1,000 for "injury to feelings". A Kirklees Council spokesman said he could not comment on Mrs Azmi's employment status due to confidentiality rules. Mrs Azmi's lawyer Nick Whittingham, of the Kirklees Law Centre, said the local education authority were involved in a disciplinary process against her but he was not aware that any decision had been reached. Parallels have been drawn between Ms Azmi's case and that of British Airways check-in worker Nadia Eweida, who claims she was effectively "forced" to take unpaid leave after refusing to remove or conceal a small crucifix necklace. Mrs Azmi said she was willing to remove her veil in front of children - but not when male colleagues were present. Her case sparked a national debate on multiculturalism in Britain. Prime Minister Tony Blair said the veil row was part of a necessary debate about the way the Muslim community integrates into British society and said the veil was a "mark of separation" which makes people of other ethnic backgrounds feel uncomfortable. The intervention by a series of politicians, which culminated in Mr Blair's remarks, were criticised both by the tribunal and Muslim community leaders. The tribunal report said it was "most unfortunate" that politicians had made comments on the case which were sub judice. The debate was sparked by the Leader of the House of Commons, Jack Straw, when he said that the wearing of full veils - or niqab - made community relations more difficult. The Government's Race Minister, Phil Woolas, demanded Mrs Azmi be sacked, accusing her of "denying the right of children to a full education" because her stand meant she could not "do her job" and insisted that barring men from working with her would amount to "sexual discrimination". And shadow home secretary David Davis launched a stinging attack on Muslim leaders for risking "voluntary apartheid" in Britain, and allegedly expecting special protection from criticism. Last month, Labour MP Shahid Malik, who represents Mrs Azmi's home town of Dewsbury, said the tribunal ruling was "quite clearly a victory for common sense" and urged her to drop her appeal against the tribunal's decision. Mrs Azmi's claim was brought as a test case under the new religious discrimination regulations, the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2004.
13 bishops join the chorus against BA's ban on cross Last updated at 10:20am on 24th November 2006
Thirteen anglican bishops joined the chorus of outrage against British Airways. Senior figures from the Church of England and the wider Anglican community backed the right of check-in worker Nadia Eweida to openly wear a cross. British Airways says jewellery is allowed only if it is worn under the uniform. With the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, still silent on the issue, the new attacks on BA were led by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, who warned that the airline's rule "smacks of religious intolerance." He said: "This has turned into a very important and symbolic case and I think she is right to insist on the British tradition that we should be allowed to express ourselves visibly in public. "The historic majority faith is being treated with a greater measure of disrespect than others." Bishops also spoke out from Hertford, Leeds, Bolton, Birmingham, Swindon, Bristol, Blackburn, Norwich, Sheffield, Gloucester, Lichfield and Essex. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said preventing people wearing the most sacred sign of their faith "seems petty and pointless," while his counterpart in Sheffield, Jack Nicholls, said: "Most people simply do not understand why this person is not able to wear something which is special to her and which others obviously do not find offensive." The Bishop of Blackburn, Nicholas Reade, said: "This is another example of Christians being discriminated against in what was a Christian country. "I hope BA will not ask me to remove my pectoral cross next time I fly with them. I know of other airlines who would welcome me and other Christians who wish to wear the sign of their faith." Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester, said: "If a Sikh can wear his turban, as I believe he should, then a Christian should be able to wear her cross." The Bishop of Lichfield, Jonathan Gledhill, warned that Britain's "ancient freedoms" were at mortal risk. He said: "No one has the right to stop people wearing a cross - unless they want to destroy the spiritual foundation of our nation." The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, had been the first senior church figure to condemn BA, calling its policy "flawed nonsense." The issue has also sparked outrage in the worldwide Anglican community. The Archbishop of the West Indies, Drexel Wellington Gomez, said: "The right to wear religious symbols is a basic human right," while the Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago, Calvin Bess, said BA had turned the world "topsy turvy." In Scotland, Roman Catholic Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he supported a boycott and condemned the ban as "the latest stage in the attempted destruction of Christianity." The Church of Scotland Moderator, the Right Reverend Alan McDonald, has written to the chairman of BA requesting a meeting and said he may also raise the issue when he meets Tony Blair next week. In the U.S., where the case has featured on TV news, Britain was ridiculed as a "soft-touch nation." Kieran McCaffey, of the powerful Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which has 30million followers, said: "Britain is trapped in a multicultural mess of its own making. What's provoking this situation is a hostility towards Christians and a fawning over Islam, which is rooted in fear." In Africa, where BA flies to more than a dozen destinations, there have been widespread calls for a boycott of the airline.
Jack Straw joins chorus of condemnation over BA's 'cross' ban By JANE MERRICK and SAM GREENHILL Last updated at 10:20am on 24th November 2006
Jack Straw became the latest Cabinet minister to condemn British Airways for its 'inexplicable' ban on staff wearing the cross. The Leader of the Commons joined nearly 100 MPs in stepping up the pressure from Parliament for the airline to retreat. And leading bishops in England and from around the world added their weight to the revolt against BA - following condemnation by Archbishop of York John Sentamu that the policy was 'flawed nonsense'. In a sign of the mounting pressure, a senior BA manager suggested the airline might be forced into a rethink in the future. Geoff Want, BA's director of ground operations, said the company 'might' change its uniform policy - but insisted there were no plans for a climbdown at the moment. Pressed in an interview on BBC2's Newsnight to say whether BA would reconsider its action against check-in worker Nadia Eweida. Mr Want said: 'We might.' But he added: 'We continually review our policy but on this particular occasion we see no reason to change it at this time.' Some 13 bishops from England, the Caribbean and Africa and the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland joined the revolt. Bishop of London Richard Chartres said: 'This has turned into a very important and symbolic case and I think she is right to insist on the British tradition that we should be allowed to express ourselves visibly in public. 'I would be very sorry to think she had been forced by a regulation that smacks of religious intolerance. 'If this is permitted to spread, then it could well appear that the historic majority faith is being treated with a greater measure of disrespect than others.' Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of Scotland's Catholics, said he supported those who boycotted the airline and condemned the ban as 'the latest stage in the attempted destruction of Christianity'. In a further development, an Anglican vicar criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury for failing to condemn the treatment of check-in worker Nadia Eweida at the hands of BA. The Rev Andy Kelso said it was 'appalling' that Dr Rowan Williams, the most senior member of the Church of England, had defended Muslims' rights -but had so far not joined in the backlash over the cross ban. Dr Williams raised eyebrows by travelling to Rome for a visit with Pope Benedict XIV on a BA flight this week. Rev Kelso said he was urging his 30,000 parishioners to stage a mass boycott and write letters to BA urging them to reconsider. Miss Eweida's case has now won the support of 96 MPs, religious leaders and civil liberties groups, while UN human rights chiefs are raising it at a conference on religious oppression this weekend. As the row intensified, MPs raised the issue with Mr Straw in the House of Commons. The Commons Leader sparked controversy two months ago when he revealed he asked Muslim women to remove their veils before speaking to him in his constituency surgery. Mr Straw said: "I have great admiration for British Airways as an airline but I find their position on this quite inexplicable. "Like the rest of this House, I strongly supported the right of Sikhs to wear turbans both in private companies and, for example, in the police service and the Army. "I strongly supported the right of women of the Muslim faith to wear the hijab - the head scarf -in all circumstances. "I therefore find the ban on wearing a cross or indeed a Star of David in equivalent circumstances, as I say, wholly inexplicable." Labour MP Ian Austin, a close ally of Gordon Brown, said he would not fly BA while their policy was in place. He added: 'Constituents who have written to me can't understand how BA has got itself into this crazy position. 'They allow people to wear the hjab and turban and I think that is fine. But I cannot understand why they won't let people wear a crucifix too.' The Archbishop of Canterbury entered the row over the right of Muslim women to wear veils last month when he warned politicians like Mr Straw not to stop people wearing religious symbols. But he has not commented on Miss Eweida's case so far. Father of three Rev Kelso, 59, a vicar at Christchurch in Matchborough, Redditch, for 16 years, said: 'I don't see eye to eye with the Archbishop on a lot of things. 'But it is appalling that he has spoken out for Muslims but he hasn't said a word about this woman. It is sad that I have to say that but I think it is appalling. 'Our Christian heritage is being destroyed. Our nation has turned its back on God. The empty space has been filled by Muslim extremists.' 'I believe this is an erosion of Christianity. BA have put themselves in a ridiculous scenario because they have allowed Muslims to wear the hijab and Sikhs to wear the turban. Christianity seems to be an easy target.' The bishops of Hertford, Leeds, Bolton, Birmingham, Swindon, Bristol, Blackburn, Norwich, Sheffield, Gloucester, Lichfield and Essex all added their voices. BA's refusal to allow Miss Eweida to wear the tiny cross was branded 'ridiculous' by the Bishop of Blackburn, Nicholas Reade, who said: 'This is another example of Christians being discriminated against in what was a Christian country. 'I hope BA will not ask me to remove my pectoral cross next time I fly with them. I know of other airlines who would welcome me and other Christians who wish to wear the sign of their faith.' Church of Scotland Moderator The Right Reverend Alan McDonald has written to the chairman of BA requesting a meeting with him next week and said he may also raise the issue in a meeting with Tony Blair next week. A BA spokesman said: 'Staff are allowed to wear jewellery and a cross but it has to be under the uniform. Other UK airlines have exactly the same policy.'
Almost 100 MPs sign motion condemning BA as backlash grows Last updated at 11:09am on 23rd November 2006
A powerful army of nearly 100 MPs joined the growing backlash against British Airways over its decision to ban the cross. It came amid signs that the campaign to force BA into retreat over its treatment of check-in worker Nadia Eweida was spreading across the world. Customers using BA's lucrative routes to America and Africa have vowed to use other airlines in protest. Miss Eweida's case is also being cited as an example of religious oppression at a top-level United Nations conference. UN human rights chiefs will raise the issue alongside death sentences for critics of Islam in Pakistan and forced conversions of Muslims to Buddhism in Burma at a conference in Prague. And Christian student leaders - who are caught up in a row over their right to declare their faith to Jesus at universities - said Miss Eweida had fallen victim to the same "secular fundamentalism" that has targeted their own activities. The University and Colleges Christian Fellowship, national umbrella body for the Christian groups, said BA's ban was "ridiculous." But the extraordinary protest was in stark contrast to the silence from the Archbishop of Canterbury - who raised eyebrows by accepting VIP treatment from the airline on a flight to Rome. A staggering total of 92 MPs - one seventh of the House Commons - from all parties have signed parliamentary motions condemning BA's "deplorable" ban of Miss Eweida's tiny cross. The list includes serving and former Cabinet Ministers, as well as one Muslim and one Hindu MP. Some have joined Ministers Peter Hain and Ben Bradshaw in threatening to boycott the airline over its "intransigence." It includes 31 Labour MPs, 37 Conservatives, 16 Liberal Democrats and eight from other parties. The rebellion could be highly damaging to BA as the airline relies on MPs - many of whom are frequent fliers - for business. The list of MPs backing Miss Eweida's case also includes two serving Ministers, three former Cabinet Ministers - Peter Lilley, Paul Murphy and Clare Short - and 13 former Ministers. There are also five serving members of the Conservative frontbench, and eight members of the LibDem frontbench including deputy leader Mr Cable. Gordon Brown's close ally and former press secretary Ian Austin, Muslim Labour MP Khalid Mahmood and Hindu Tory MP Shailesh Vara have also put their names to one or more of the motions. The campaign has also united both sides of the Northern Ireland divide - with the backing of two members of the Catholic SDLP and three Democratic Unionist MPs. They added their weight to Archbishop of York John Sentamu's criticism that BA's policy was "nonsense" and was ignoring Britain's cultural heritage. Miss Eweida, 55, lost her appeal to wear her cross with her uniform to work at Heathrow on Monday. She has been off work for two months over the row. But despite the outcry, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams flew with BA to Rome on Tuesday for a six-day visit to the Vatican to meet Pope Benedict XVI. He flew in the airline's Club Class section and was given free rein of BA's VIP suite at Heathrow. Miss Eweida's MP Vince Cable said: "I was absolutely delighted and impressed by the very spirited position taken by the Archbishop of York. I am surprised that the Archbishop of Canterbury hasn't seen fit to follow his lead, but I trust he will do so." Some 70 MPs have backed a motion calling on BA to "abandon this apparent discrimination towards its Christian workforce and ensure that members of all faiths are treated equally in the future." A separate motion tabled last night says that "the company's intransigence will damage its reputation and lose many regular customers including Hon. Members." Conservative MP David Davies said: "It is absolutely disgraceful that BA have done this. Members of Parliament are frequently contacted by BA to try and encourage us to travel with them. "I will be writing to the Commons authorities asking them whether MPs should choose an alternative airline in future." Labour MP and deputy leadership contender Jon Cruddas said: "I think BA's behaviour is ridiculous and I support her case. It seems to me totally ridiculous that she should be banned from wearing a religious symbol." Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron, parliamentary aide to Sir Menzies Campbell, said: "People have a right to wear religious symbols and to be told otherwise is distinctly un-British. "The whole debate on religious symbols has got out of hand. We are a tolerant nation and this behaviour from BA seems to be extremely intolerant indeed." In America, the powerful Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights added its voice to the protests over BA's policy. Last year the League, which has up to 30 million followers in the US, led a successful boycott of Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest shopping chain, because it banned goods referring to Christmas from its shelves under a political correctness drive. The boycott forced the company to reverse that policy. League spokeswoman Kieran McCaffey said: "Britain is trapped in a multi-cultural mess of its own making. What’s provoking this situation is a hostility towards Christians and a fawning over Islam, which is rooted in fear." She said members were "aware of the BA dispute and will no doubt make up their own minds about what to do." In Africa, where British Airways flies to more than a dozen destinations in Africa, there were calls for a boycott of the airline if it did not change its policy. The Reverend Kenneth Meshoe MP, leader of South Africa’s powerful African Christian Democrat Party, said he was "disappointed" at BA's attitude. "It goes against the democratic rights of freedom of expression. A cross does not pose any danger to anybody. "I will not use British Airways for as long as it treats people’s faith this way." Bishop Joseph Ojo, National Secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria which claims 30 million members, said: "This is an abuse of their staff's fundamental human rights - their right to worship and their right to express their identity. "I would certainly decline to travel with BA in the future unless this policy changes and would urge my followers to do the same," he said. "There are very many Christians who will come to the same decision, I am sure, not just in Africa but the world over." Bishop Paul Mususu, who heads the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, said he would also support a boycott. A BA spokesman said the airline was not backing down. He added: "People are welcome to their opinions. Other UK airlines have similar uniform policies."
Christian student leaders slam BA and campus 'fundamentalism' By STEVE DOUGHTY Last updated at 22:17pm on 22nd November 2006
Christian student leaders have condemned the British Airways ban on workers wearing the cross as the same 'secular fundamentalism' that has targeted their own activities. They accused the airline of slipping into extremism in its attempt to prevent Christian staff from any public display of their beliefs. The criticism came as a number of university campuses are caught up in their own disputes over religious belief, with at least two student Christian Unions under threat because of their refusal to sign up to gay rights rules. The university row is widely seen as a vital test of freedom of speech in institutions that should be acting as the cradle of the right to individual expression. Yesterday the University and Colleges Christian Fellowship, national umbrella body for the Christian groups caught up in the university row, joined in the criticism of BA and its policies that ban the cross as 'jewellery'. Fellowship spokesman Pod Boghal said: "It is entirely reasonable for Christians to express what they believe. "The ban is ridiculous, and we need to appeal to common sense. It is perfectly normal for Christians to express their faith and for Nadia Eweida to want to wear a cross." Mr Boghal added: "The ban on the cross is a form of secular fundamentalism - something we have come across ourselves. "It is a type of extremism, in which you find an unbending attitude that tries to squash any opinions that don't agree with it. It is a fundamentalism led by secular peope who say you can have any opinion, provided you agree with us." He said: "This is something which affects everybody, not just Christians. Anybody who loves freedom of speech should make their voice heard. "I think it is up to everyone who is concerned to speak up for freedom of speech." A number of university Christian unions have come under pressure from both university authorities and student unions for refusing to accept equality rules. In Exeter, the Christian union has threatened to sue the main student body, the Guild of Students, for attempts to suspend it from groups with rights to use university facilities. The Guild accused the Christians of breaking equality rules by requiring members and officials to declare Christian beliefs. They are also trying to force the union to change its name to Evangelical Christian Union. Christian bodies are also taking legal advice at Edinburgh University, where authorities are trying to penalise a christian group for running courses which teach gay sex is wrong, and at Heriot-Watt and Birmingham, which also face accusations of 'homophobia'. The pressure on university Christian groups comes at a time when university authorities are under fire for allowing terrorist recruiters to operate in university Islamic societies. One leading academic has warned that 25 campuses have been used by Jihadist recruiting agents.
UN intervenes to voice concern over BA 'cross' ban and religious suppression By STEVE DOUGHTY, Social Affairs Correspondent Last updated at 22:30pm on 22nd November 2006
United Nations human rights chiefs have raised concerns over British Airways' ban on its workers wearing the cross. Senior UN officials and diplomats regard the suppression of Christianity by a major British company as a sign of worldwide drift into rising religious intolerance. They are to raise the issue at the weekend at a major international meeting to mark the 25th anniversary of the UN declaration against religious discrimination. BA's refusal to allow a check-in worker to wear a tiny cross will be on the agenda of the gathering in Prague alongside more deadly religious conflicts in troubled parts of the world. These include death sentences for critics of Islam in Pakistan and forced conversions of Muslims to Buddhism by the military dictators of Burma. The emergence of the BA row as an international issue is likely to prove a deep embarrassment to the British Government, which is one of the leading supporters of the UN's stance on religious freedom. British diplomats will attend the conference, led by an official from the Foreign Office's Human Rights Directorate. So far the Government has stayed out of the BA affair on the grounds that it is a private matter for a private company - although some ministers have made very clear their personal disdain for the airline's attitude. However the view that BA and other private companies can be allowed to suppress religious is not shared by UN chiefs. The UN special rapporteur who heads the campaign against religious discrimination, Asma Jahangir, said: 'I continue to encourage governments and non-governmental organisations to take advantage of this occasion to highlight the importance of promoting freedom of religion and belief and challenge the rising tide of intolerance.' British officials will be among representatives of 45 governments, including the United States, at the conference. Among items listed for discussion alongside BA's ban on the cross are some of the most serious cases of religious oppression around the globe. The agenda will include debate about Pakistani laws that have allowed courts to give death sentences to Christians judged guilty of 'anti-Islamic' comments. It will cover legal sanctions up to and including the death penalty for those guilty of abandoning Islamic belief - apostasy - in Pakistan and Iran. There will be discussion of rules meant to suppress the spread of dissident religion in Sri Lanka. Burma's military junta, which has a record of forcing Muslims to adopt Buddhism, will also feature in the talks. Alongside the BA cross ban, other Western religious controversies to be discussed include French laws on the activities of religious sects, which are said by critics to wrongly label religious minorities as threats to civil peace. German surveillance of Scientologists - members of the cult under whose rules Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were married this week - will also be debated.
Archbishop of Canterbury stays silent after flying to Rome by STEVE DOUGHTY Last updated at 23:53pm on 22nd November 2006
The Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday offered a helping hand to British Airways in the damaging row over its ban on workers wearing the Christian cross - by flying on the airline. Dr Rowan Williams kept quiet on the burning issue and chose to travel with BA for a landmark meeting with Pope Benedict in the Vatican. The Archbishop also accepted hospitality in a Heathrow airport VIP suite before taking his business class seat on a flight to Rome. His journey with BA came as the airline faced the threat of losing business in the backlash over the cross ban. Nearly 100 MPs have signed a motion condemning the airline over its contempt for Christianity and many have joined a boycott of its flights. One member of the Government, Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw, is among the ranks of those who have declined to fly BA because of the scandal. The Archbishop of Canterbury's response to the BA affair contrasts with the attitude of Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, who is second to Dr Williams in the hierarchy of the Church of England. Earlier this week Dr Sentamu issued a powerful statement that dismissed BA's explanations as "nonsense" and demanded that it rethink its attitude. The airline has refused to allow check-in worker Nadia Eweida to wear a tiny cross unless she hides it under her uniform. BA's Muslim workers are permitted to wear headscarfs with their uniform and Sikhs may wear the turbans that are the badge of their faith. Dr Williams has made no public comment on the BA row. However, he and his party remain booked to return from Rome on another BA flight at the weekend. The Archbishop was at the head of a party of nine Anglican bishops and officials who were entertained in the VIP suite adjoining terminals one and two at Heathrow on Tuesday morning. Dr Williams and his wife Jane, together with his international secretary Dr Andrew Norman, flew in the business class section of BA flight 554, which departed at the prime morning hour of 10.30. Other officials, including spokesman the Reverend Jonathan Jennings and public affairs secretary Tim Livesey, joined the economy section of the flight. Lambeth Palace declined to discuss yesterday whether the tickets were made available at discount price or how much was paid for them. A spokesman said: "We always pay for our own tickets." At full price, the package of tickets would have cost the cash-strapped Church of England just under £4,000. Dr Williams was yesterday braced for questioning on the cross affair when he holds a press conference tomorrow following his audience with the Pope today. The issue of his support for BA at a time when the airline is under severe pressure and in danger of losing customers to rivals looks set to undermine his mission to give an impression of warm relations between the Anglicans and the Vatican. The Archbishop, his wife and colleagues are scheduled to return from Rome on Sunday evening with the same airline, on BA flight 557. A decision by the Lambeth Palace party to remain with the airline would be widely seen as an endorsement for BA and its policy on the cross. MPs yesterday questioned Dr Williams' decision to fly BA. Miss Eweida's constituency MP, Twickenham Liberal Democrat Vince Cable, said: "I was absolutely delighted and impressed by the very spirited position taken by the Archbishop of York. "I am surprised that the Archbishop of Canterbury hasn't seen fit to follow his lead, but I trust he will do so." Tory MP Gerald Howarth, a practising Anglican who serves as a churchwarden at the army's Royal Garrison church in his Aldershot constituency, said: "I have written to BA chief executive Willie Walsh to aksh him to reconsider and to tell him I will try not to fly with BA until he has done so. "I think it is significant that the Archbishop of York who has been the most trenchant in asserting the rights of Christianity. "I do think the time has come for the Church of England to stand up." Mr Howarth added: "What the Church of England needs is leadership, someone to demonstrate to ordinary people that Christianity is worth sticking up for. "Of course there must be an important place for intellectuals, but we also need to see a more earthy recognition that a defence must be made of Christian values." Dr Williams, who took over at Lambeth Palace in 2003 amid high hopes for a rebirth of the Church of England, is regarded as a liberal Anglo-Catholic with sympathy for concerns such as homosexual rights while at the same time hoping for closer bonds with Rome. His stewardship of the Church has been marred by the explosion of the gay rights row that followed the appointment of gay Canon Jeffrey John as a bishop in the Oxford diocese soon after he was installed in Lambeth Palace. Many observers thought Dr Williams had unwittingly encouraged the appointment. But the Archbishop alienated many of his liberal followers by forcing Dr John - who is now Dean of St Albans - to turn down the bishop's job. Since then Dr Williams has appeared powerless to prevent the 400-year-old worldwide Anglican Communion from crumbling as America and Canada have appointed gay bishops and established blessing services for same sex couples.
We're leaving the country after racists abused and spat at me Last updated at 09:56am on 24th November 2006
A white Muslim mother who was spat at and abused by drunken football fans in front of her children today told of her humiliation at the hands of the "racist cowards". Mother-of-five Michelle Idrees, 27, from Luton, said she had been too scared to travel to London or use public transport since the ordeal. British-born convert Mrs Idrees was called a "f***ing Muslim slag" and told her son, then aged four, would be the "next suicide bomber" by a family of Arsenal supporters on a busy train. She is now planning to leave Britain because she feels her children have no future in this country. Mrs Idrees said: "It was terrifying. All my children were crying hysterically, but these men wouldn't stop. "It makes me sick to think things have got so bad for Muslims that three men can say such disgusting things and threaten to punch a mother in the face, in front of her children, and nobody on the train does anything." One of the men had called her a "Paki-loving whore" and told her to go back to her own country. "They were big, aggressive men. I wouldn't have answered back but I had to protect my children. Britain's changed so much since 9/11 and 7/7 that people think we're all terrorists." Mrs Idrees, who was wearing a headscarf, had been to London last August to attend an Islamic commemorative service for victims of the London bombings. She was travelling home on a Thameslink train with four of her children Stephen, 12, Chelsea, 10, Sharnia, six, and Shazan, five, as well as a friend's two children and a neighbour, when the half-hour tirade began. Mrs Idrees, who converted to Islam after meeting her second husband, told the men that real Muslims did not support terrorism. "They called the police and told them I had bomb in my handbag. Then they called a black woman on the train a nigger. They're just racist cowards." Charles Adams, 23, from Colindale was jailed yesterday for 15 months after pleading guilty to spitting in Mrs Idrees's face and religiously aggravated assault and affray. His brother, Mark Edward Adams, 26, and father Mark Raymond Adams, 50, pleaded guilty to lesser offences and received a 30-week suspended sentence and community service respectively. Mrs Idrees and her children are moving to Pakistan, where her third husband Mohammed Arif 's family are from, next month. "My kids will all be able to choose if they want to be Muslims,î she said. "But I want them to live somewhere they feel accepted and where they don't have to suffer abuse."
24 November 2006 VEIL ROW TEACHER SACKED By Mirror.co.uk
THE Muslim teacher at the centre of a row over wearing a veil in class has been sacked, it was revealed today. Aishah Azmi, 24, was suspended on full pay earlier this year after refusing to remove a full Muslim headdress and veil while teaching primary school children. Her stand sparked a huge row over the rights to wear religious symbols and a nationwide debate over multiculturalism in Britain.
BNP exploits climate of hate The fascists of the British National Party (BNP) are taking advantage of racism and Islamophobia to build support for their policies of race hatred, anti-fascist campaigners have warned. Unite Against Fascism is responding to the Nazi threat by calling a series of counter demonstrations and leafleting campaigns against the BNP. This Saturday, campaigners in the north west of England will gather in Blackpool town centre to demonstrate against a BNP “annual conference” that the fascists plan to hold there. Campaigners against the Nazis scored a victory last Thursday in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, keeping the BNP in third place in Worsbrough ward. “Given the enormous boost the BNP received from Nick Griffin’s acquittal and the media hysteria over Islam, it is a relief they did not win more votes,” said a local Unite activist. Impact “The excellent leaflet we gave out must have made some impact. But the BNP is beginning to establish a following. We must do something to stop them before they win a seat in Barnsley.” Last weekend saw teams of Unite activists out leafleting against Nazis standing in council by-elections in Walsall and Southend. “Around 30 people from diverse backgrounds, including Unite activists and trade unionists, covered the vast majority of the ward,” said Martin Lynch, one of the Walsall Unite activists. “The BNP came second in this ward at the last local elections. We’ve received a positive response from people in the local area and we hope to dent their vote.” Force Trade unionists, pensioners, and Unite supporters also turned out in force last Sunday to leaflet Shoebury West ward in Southend, Essex. The BNP is standing in a by-election there on 7 December. Meanwhile anti-fascist activists in Morley, West Yorkshire, have set up a broad campaign to “make Morley a fascist-free zone”. The move follows a vicious and organised physical attack on anti-fascist campaigners in the town by BNP supporters at the end of last month. The Morley anti-BNP group, which includes trade unionists and members of local churches, will go out again leafleting against the town’s lone Nazi councillor on 9 December. Unite activists in Dagenham, east London, have vowed to mobilise against a planned BNP rally there on 9 December. The BNP is promoting its rally with leaflets that blame housing shortages on immigrants.
People’s Assembly on Islamophobia: standing together against racism
Twelve students were delegated from Plymouth university to the People’s Assembly. One of the them, Omar Siddiqui, told the conference how students had successfully organised against an Islamophobic and racist student warden on campus - who turned out to be a member of the fascist British National Party.
________________________________________ Immigration the key issue in Isle of Man elections
Owen Adams Friday November 24, 2006 Guardian Unlimited
For a nation of just 80,000 people, local politics may seem like a storm in a thimble. Yesterday was general election day on the Isle of Man, with 55 candidates jostling for 23 seats in the British crown dependency's House of Keys. Most challengers to sitting members of the House of Keys, calling for an overhaul of the government, went home from the count disappointed. Three of the MHKs lost their seats, including the island's local government and environment minister, John Rimington, replaced by a 26-year-old, Juan Watterson. One MHK of 20 years' standing, Hazel Hannan, for the tiny city of Peel, lost out to a local postman, Tim Crookhall. Only one seat, the northernmost Ayre constituency, was uncontested in the first-past-the-post system. But, despite their tiny electorates, the MHKs are much more than glorified councilors; they manage the economy, health and other utilities, draw up legislation (and often adopt UK laws). Everything but defence and foreign affairs comes under their jurisdiction. The Manx parliament, the Tynwald, claims to be the oldest continuous parliament in the world and celebrated its millennium in 1979. Though it only recently decriminalised homosexuality and repealed its birching law, it was the first to give the vote to women, in 1881 and this year, for the first time, 2,000 16-and 17-year-olds were invited to the polls. The Tynwald consists of two chambers - the House of Keys, popularly elected since 1866, and the Legislative Council, appointed by MHKs from their number. By convention, the Keys introduces bills and the 11 MLCs debate and pass them. The two houses also sit together monthly in the Tynwald Court for debates which last up to three days. Many candidates this year, not for the first time, were campaigning on an immigration platform. Currently the island's population is roughly half-English and half-Manx, with some Scottish, Irish and Welsh people, and 3% from other EU and non-EU countries. The island has enjoyed 21 years of continuous growth, has reduced unemployment from 12% to 1.4%, increased GDP from 54% of the UK's to 110%, and managed to shake off its reputation as an offshore tax haven while offering zero-rate corporation tax. Phil Gawne was fast-tracked into Manx national politics in a 2003 byelection and became fisheries and agriculture minister last year, despite it being common knowledge that he had served a prison sentence for burning down half-completed English homes in the late 1980s. "I certainly don't go out burning houses down any more, but I still have the same passion and desire for change," he told Guardian Unlimited. "But I know there's only so much of that kind of thing you can do before you lose all credibility. "In the 60s and 70s, when we had massive immigration from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, many felt that the Manx identity was being swamped by incomers. "Since that time we've managed to slow that growth considerably, but it is going up again. "But it's quite ironic, we have this trend of people moving over from the UK, escaping because they don't like multiculturalism. I can't help but see the irony of these people coming to our island and saying 'we don't want any more immigrants'." Last month, BNP activists from the north-west of England descended on the island, and tried and failed to find local candidates. Mr Gawne joined others in condemning their presence: "There was no sign of the BNP when our culture was being systematically undermined by English immigrants. "Once the immigrants start speaking with different accents and have different coloured skin, the BNP move in, and then they try and tell us they're not racist. "We may live in a remote island, but we're not stupid." Other electoral hot potatoes included a fiasco involving an unauthorised loan of £120m to the state-owned Manx Electricity Authority for a major power station project, now completed. There was also the matter of the resignation in 2004 of the chief minister, Richard Corkill, before his wife was prosecuted for stealing tourism grants. A past chief minister, Donald Gelling, was brought out of semi-retirement to man the decks, and now the new house is faced with the task of electing a new head of government. For Mr Gawne, already tied by collective responsibility in the Council of Ministers (the equivalent of the UK cabinet), party allegiance is immaterial: "The way Manx politics works, you get a group of a half-dozen people together with like-minded views, you make a lot of headway."
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20 May 2011 Last updated at 21:12
Salmond announces plans for new anti-sectarian law
New legislation to tackle sectarianism is to be put before the Scottish cabinet next week.
First Minister Alex Salmond said he wanted to pass the legislation before the football season began in July.
The plans could see the maximum jail term for sectarian hate crimes rise from six months to five years.
Online postings expressing religious hatred or death threats would also become an indictable offence.
The proposals would also include moves to outlaw sectarian displays during football matches.
In an interview with BBC Scotland, Mr Salmond said: "We've got a particular problem attaching itself like a parasite to our great game of football and that is now going to be eradicated, it's over, it's finished."
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland will bring forward proposals for anti-sectarian legislation to the cabinet next week.
The move comes after two men appeared in court after suspected bombs were sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two other high-profile supporters of the club in March.
Another man was charged with breach of the peace and assault, both aggravated by religious prejudice, after an alleged attack on Celtic manager Neil Lennon at a football game on 11 May.
The chief executive of the Scottish Football Association welcomed the plans.
Stewart Regan said: "The Scottish FA welcomes the first minister's pledge to provide tougher legislation to tackle the problem of sectarianism.
"We look forward to the Scottish government taking the lead to offer clarity on the issue of sectarianism and other forms of discriminatory behaviour within Scottish football.
"This will require consultation through the Joint Action Group to establish clearly defined parameters for this necessary legislation to work practically in a football context."
Last Updated: Saturday, 26 August 2006, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
Alarm at 'cross' player's caution
The Roman Catholic Church has criticised prosecutors for cautioning a Celtic goalkeeper who crossed himself during a match against Rangers.
Artur Boruc was cautioned for a breach of the peace over the incident at an Old Firm match at Ibrox in February.
The church called it "worrying and alarming" as the sign of the cross was a "gesture of religious reverence".
However, the Crown Office said the decision was based on the player's behaviour, rather than a single act.
In addition to crossing himself, the player was alleged to have made gestures to the crowd at the start of the second half of the game on 12 February.
Rivalry tied up with religion
Strathclyde Police investigated complaints that Boruc, 26, had angered a section of the crowd with his behaviour and they submitted a report to the procurator fiscal.
However, as an alternative to prosecution, Boruc was cautioned. That does not leave him with a criminal record, although the information about the caution will be retained.
The Crown Office said his actions "provoked alarm and crowd trouble and as such constituted a breach of the peace".
On Saturday, it said it had taken action "based on an assessment of behaviour, not one single act, which appeared to be directed towards the crowd which was being incited by that behaviour and which caused the police to intervene and calm the crowd".
The Crown Office said a report had been sent to the fiscal as there were "clear guidelines" on the need for responsible behaviour from players taking part in such fixtures.
"The procurator fiscal concluded that the effect of the behaviour of the player on the crowd was such as to require the consideration of criminal proceedings," it said.
Witness statements and the video of the crowd's reactions were examined, but the incident itself was not caught on camera.
"The procurator fiscal concluded that it was necessary to bring clearly to the player's attention that conduct which involved gesticulating at and incensing the crowd at a football match amounted to the offence of breach of the peace and was unacceptable," said the Crown Office.
"The procurator fiscal took the view that in the circumstances criminal proceedings were not necessary on this occasion, which is why it was dealt with by way of an alternative to prosecution."
However, Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church, said the move to caution Boruc was "regrettable".
He said other actions could not be defended, but that a gesture of religious significance should not be considered offensive.
"It's a worrying and alarming development, especially since the sign of the cross is globally accepted as a gesture of religious reverence," he said.
"It's also very common in international football and was commonplace throughout the World Cup.
"It is extremely regrettable that Scotland seems to have made itself one of the few countries in the world where this simply religious gesture is considered an offence."
Nationalist leader Alex Salmond also criticised the decision to caution the player.
"The procurator fiscal has taken leave of their senses. I will be demanding an explanation for this," he said.
He said the "ludicrous" move was the type of action which brought the law and legal system into disrepute.
"The procurator fiscal and the Crown Office is acting in a way that will inflame rather than reduce religious antagonism," he said.
Liberal Democrat MSP Donald Gorrie said he felt the situation could have been addressed by talking to Mr Boruc privately.
He added: "I think they were wrong to focus on the crossing rather than the whole performance, as described to me by quite sensible people who were definitely wound up by it as they were intended to be, and he shouldn't do that."
'Set an example'
The goalkeeper, who played during this year's World Cup in Germany, signed for Celtic from Legia Warsaw in July last year.
A spokesman for Celtic said the club was "currently assessing this issue".
"The club has arranged to meet with Strathclyde Police and our supporters' representatives to discuss the matter further."
Rangers Supporters Group said it was "disappointing" Celtic did not take action against the player after the game.
Stephen Smith, spokesman for the group, added: "Professional footballers are meant to set an example. What he was, was deliberately provocative and completely done to wind up the fans, as if the fixture isn't volatile enough."
The fixture takes place in a charged atmosphere and has produced no shortage of controversy down the years.
Last year 12 people were arrested for acts of "religious prejudice" after an Old Firm match during which Rangers player Fernando Ricksen was struck by an object.
The match took place days after an "historic" summit on sectarianism where it was agreed to work on a national plan to tackle the problem.
That event was attended by both Celtic and Rangers, who later in the year launched a project to tackle bigotry and sectarianism in the west of Scotland.