Chechen leader is step closer to political goal of being Putin’s link to Middle East with arrival of Egyptian team
The Tunisians were first to visit, followed by the Iranians, and then the Saudis. But it was the Egyptians, led by the Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah, who snatched up the dubious grand prize: a World Cup training base in Chechnya.
Once devastated by civil war, Chechnya is now the focus of intense international scrutiny over its crackdown on political opponents and gay people in this region in Russia’s North Caucasus.
Nation’s two largest Islamic organisations will call on network of 100 million followers to reduce plastic waste and reuse bags
Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest marine polluters, has decided to get religious – literally – about reducing plastic waste.
Both erudite and controversial, the scholar Bernard Lewis, who has died aged 101, conveyed the complexity of the Middle East with supreme confidence. His general books on Muslim-Christian relations over the centuries introduced students to a field that now defines the centre of international debate.
In 2003 he was consulted by the Bush administration, though recommended the encouragement of revolution in the north of Iraq rather than invasion. British-born, he had been based in the US since the 1970s and became a familiar commentator on American TV after 9/11.Continue reading...
Police say fires are linked and being treated as arson and hate crimes
A man has been arrested on suspicion of arson after a mosque and a Sikh temple in Leeds were set on fire, in what police have described as linked hate crimes.
The 42-year-old was arrested at an address in the city on Tuesday night after fires were started at the front doors of two buildings early that morning.Continue reading...
Trump broke a White House tradition celebrating the end of Ramadan last year but despite a U-turn American Muslims have little enthusiasm for breaking bread with the president
As Donald Trump hosts his inaugural Iftar dinner as president on Wednesday to mark the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims in the nation’s capital will hold a counter event just steps away from the White House.
The lack of enthusiasm among American Muslims over Trump’s unexpected decision to hold a White House Iftar underscores the community’s contentious relationship with the US president.Continue reading...
Today the government gave its backing to plans to expand Heathrow airport in west London by building an extra runway to the north-west of the existing site, with all the necessary access roads and buildings and so on. This will absorb parts of Sipson, most of Harmondsworth and all of Longford as well as a number of industrial areas that currently sit around the airport perimeter and feed the airport with freight and food. The plans also include the re-routing of some local main roads, the closure of others, the tunnelling of a section of the M25 and the wholesale re-routing of the airport’s current taxiways, which currently form a hexagon around the central island where the old terminals are. A map of the new scheme can be found in this PDF) on page 25. This is more than just an expansion; it looks like a total reconstruction of the whole site.
Living in south-west London and having to drive through the Heathrow area on a regular basis both while commuting and while making runs, the amount of traffic disruption this will cause both during construction and after should be a huge red flag. My usual route from Kingston to reach the M4 or to get to places like Iver or Slough (where a lot of my work comes from) is along the Staines By-pass and then up Stanwell Moor Road and then west along the A4, which has no junction with the M25. However, the northern end of Stanwell Moor Road and a large section of the A4 (Colnbrook By-Pass) are being demolished; the A4 is to be re-routed via a new northern by-pass that starts at the Sipson junction (just east of where the M4 spur road ends), runs east of Sipson towards West Drayton and then west, past what remains of Harmondsworth, to rejoin the existing road outside Colnbrook village, while local traffic from the south is to be redirected through the industrial area of Poyle and part of Colnbrook village, which will no doubt become a major cut-through for anyone wishing to avoid the queues at junction 15 (for the M4). I can currently get across this area without touching the M25, which will not be the case when this is all built; everyone will have to go across junction 14 to get over the M25. This roundabout is frequently very congested and will get even more so when construction begins.
The M25 is to be covered over; the original plans include a re-routing of the motorway slightly to the west, with parts of the original alignment retained for some (not all) M25/M4 accesses, but the current ones have the M25 entering the tunnel just south of the unchanged M25/M4 junction. However, the closure of alternative routes from south-west London to the M4 will mean the road will probably have to be widened, with the addition of at least an extra lane for traffic going from the northbound M25 to the westbound M4, which as it is currently confined to a single lane, is frequently backed up well past junction 14. I am not sure if this has been factored in. And on top of this, this stretch of the M25 is one of the busiest and most congested in the country with queues of miles which start well before peak hours, particularly on the approach to the M4 junction from the south and the M3 junction from the north, and the tunnelling work and the increase in construction traffic as well as diverted traffic off closed roads will add to this considerably. The result will be felt all the way out into Hampshire as people trying to reach the M4 and M40 divert along local roads (e.g. the A322/A329 through Bracknell, the A327 from Farnborough to Reading, the B3349 from Hook to Reading) rather than sit through the jams on the M25, and certainly at the Dartford river crossing as traffic bound for the Kent ports diverts that way.
All this, of course, says nothing about the environmental impact of both more airports and more flights. Air travel is the most environmentally damaging in terms of CO2 emissions, with the emissions being discharged straight into the upper atmosphere where there are no trees to absorb them. The additional runway to the north will mean there is an additional corridor under which homes are blighted for hours every day by aircraft noise; this will include the villages of Sipson and Harlington as well as parts of Cranford and Heston, as well as Colnbrook and parts of Slough and Windsor to the west. Expansion supporters may say that flights on all three runways will be less frequent and that it will be operating at 64% of capacity rather than the current 98%, but we cannot assume that the same number of flights (472,000) will keep operating indefintely; ultimately, more flights will mean the airlines and airport operator will make more money, so they will demand the relaxation of any rules or laws designed to protect residents along all three corridors and eventually, the noise and disruption along the approaches to all three runways will be as bad as they are now.
Inevitably, someone will ask where I favour the building of a new runway, since “there has to be one”. Gatwick has a strip of land running parallel to its existing runway to the south, which could be used for expansion, and the traffic disruption will be that much less during construction as it does not pass over the M23 motorway, but in terms of improving infrastructure to in the south-east rather than the rest of the country, that option is even more extreme. Gatwick’s rail links to almost everywhere, including most of London, are inferior to Heathrow’s (particularly since the branch line off the Great Western was built), and the route to Gatwick from anywhere in the country except south London, the south-east coastal area and East Anglia passes via Heathrow. I am not convinced we need another major runway given that we have six or seven large airports in England, four of them around London, meaning a total of eight full-size runways (Birmingham, Manchester and East Midlands being the others). As for the threat of Heathrow losing its hub status, major road transport links pass through the site with trucks from all over Europe to all over the UK and vice versa, and the needs of everyone who works and passes through the area daily cannot be sacrificed to the demands of one (still very profitable) industry.
As for such things as the expansion of cargo facilities and the few green spaces that are to be built around the perimeter: as I said last October, cargo needs expanding with or without a third runway, as there are not enough spaces for the trucks that park at some of the depots (the Shoreham Road “Horseshoe” area in particular) and wait times sometimes run into hours, and the parks and recreation spots can be built without it. In any case, given the hugely ambitious nature of the plan, we might question whether it will all get done or whether the cost of the third runway and the infrastructure immediately surrounding it might mean that these things go on the back burner. None of the promises of the people proposing this can be relied on, and governments will not hold them to them. Questions like “if not here, where?” and “what about our precious hub status?” should not be more important than whether the area’s roads and businesses can tolerate the inevitable gridlock, or should be expected to.
Image credit: David Hawgood. Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 2.0 licence.
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DNC vice-chair enters Minnesota attorney general race, saying he’s inspired by states’ fights against Trump travel ban
The first Muslim elected to Congress is poised to leave it, after filing to run for attorney general in Minnesota.Continue reading...
Labour leader, Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi and the Muslim Council of Britain press resistant home secretary
Jeremy Corbyn has called for an inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia within the Conservative party.
The Tories have been under pressure since the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) called for an investigation, highlighting a range of claims including candidates and other representatives allegedly having far-right connections or sending offensive tweets.
The new home secretary is the first BAME holder of one of the great offices of state, a former investment banker and Margaret Thatcher devotee who is on the right of the Conservative party. His appointment will keep the balance of EU leavers and remainers in the top offices, but only just. Javid backed remain, but with some hesitation.Continue reading...
Churches, mosques and others provided practical support while officials floundered
Faith groups were able to respond quickly and effectively to the Grenfell Tower fire because they were rooted in the community, had physical space to put at the disposal of local residents and were committed to long-term pastoral support, a report says.
Some faith leaders were angry or frustrated at the inadequacy of the official response, it adds. In the chaos of the fire and its aftermath, “the role of the diverse faith groups in the community stood out. Churches, mosques, synagogues and gurdwaras all stepped up to the plate, responding practically, emotionally and spiritually to a moment of pain and confusion,” says the report, After Grenfell: the Faith Groups’ Response, published by Theos, a Christian thinktank.Continue reading...
The lack of pressure on Theresa May to act is an alarming indication of where rightwing politics is taking Britain
The Conservative party has a problem with Muslims. It is not a few bad apples; not a few social media posts taken out of context. The problem has been growing unchecked for years, despite warnings by Muslim party members, and has now become so normalised that incidents are being reported with alarming frequency. Last week, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) called for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia following more-than-weekly occurrences in the party last month. In these past four weeks alone, Conservative party representatives and candidates have called Islam “the new Nazism”, posted a picture of bacon on a door handle as a way to “protect your house from terrorism”, and shared an article that called Muslims “parasites” who “live off the state and breed like rabbits”.
There will be few voters at the ballot box who will shun the Tory party because it makes fellow citizens feel unsafeContinue reading...
Exclusive: Mohammed Khalid, at 15, was the youngest person ever prosecuted for terrorism offenses in the US. In his first interview since his release he talks about his new mission: fight extremism
The moment he was slammed against a wall by an FBI agent on the doorstep of his parents’ home and taken away in handcuffs, the distorted world Mohammed Khalid had constructed for himself came crashing down.
He was about to become notorious as the youngest person ever to be prosecuted for terrorism offences in the US and would be sentenced to five years in prison for his part in an online jihadist plot to kill an artist from Sweden who had drawn the head of the prophet Muhammad on the body of a dog.
The next person could be someone who is even younger than me. How to stop that from happening, that’s important to me
I think the United States gives you that avenue, if you do make a mistake you have a chance to reinvent yourselfContinue reading...
The ex-cricketer joins a long list of outsiders who are transforming global politics
It is election season in Pakistan. Expect massive rallies, dust, shouted slogans in stadiums, dirty tricks, a modicum of violence and industrial quantities of sweet tea consumed by candidates and voters alike.
The frontrunner in the poll is Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician. Now 65, Khan has been on the stump for two decades. This is a long time in politics. I stood close enough at one of his first major rallies in his hometown of Lahore in 1998 to read his speech over his shoulder. The first line on the first page read: “Believe in Pakistan.” I was sceptical of his prospects and my report was headlined No Khan Do.Continue reading...
Home secretary points to growing danger from far-right groups as well as Islamists
Britain faces a severe threat from Islamist terrorism for at least another two years – and the danger could increase further still, the Home Office has said.
Security agencies are also confronting a rising risk from extreme rightwing violence as the potential sources of attacks become more diverse.Continue reading...
The Tories must launch an independent inquiry into anti-Muslim prejudice in the party
In 2011, Sayeeda Warsi, then co-chair of the Conservative party, argued that Islamophobia had passed the “dinner-table” test; that bigotry against British Muslims was becoming increasingly acceptable in polite company. It has become increasingly clear since then that that polite company extends to the Conservative party itself.
The Observer is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, founded in 1791. It is published by Guardian News & Media and is editorially independent.
A couple of months ago I wrote a short post looking at the government’s Prevent strategy. Prevent has come in from a lot of sustained criticism over the years and some of it has been justified. I argued, however, that some inevitable mistakes made in the implementation of Prevent were no excuse to abandon an entire strategy that seeks to safeguard young people from all backgrounds – not just Muslims – from being drawn towards violent extremism.
Sean Arbuthnot, a Prevent practitioner, has written a very useful article this week looking at a far right Prevent referral he was involved in. A lot of misinformation and sometimes disinformation is spread about Prevent so it is helpful to be provided an insight into what actually happens during a referral and the methods utilised to try and draw young people away from a potentially violent path.
This week’s worrying far right demonstrations in support of the anti-Muslim rabble rouser Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (or Tommy Robinson as he is also known) who has been jailed for contempt of court should give those opposed to Prevent an opportunity to reflect on their stance. The anti-Muslim far right in the UK have been becoming bolder in their actions. Last summer’s terrorist attack on Muslim worshippers coming out of a mosque in North London was carried out by Darren Osborne who it transpired had been influenced by the propaganda of the far right.
A few years back, the Quilliam Foundation, announced to the world that Tommy Robinson had left the far right English Defence League and that they were planning to introduce him to their contacts in government. Many UK Muslims were understandably wary of this attempt at white-washing Tommy Robinson’s anti-Muslim past and were deeply sceptical about his supposed conversion to decency. I met Robinson during a TV interview soon after and wrote about it at the time saying that he didn’t seem to me to have really changed his beliefs but appeared to be looking to cleverly rebrand himself.
Maajid Nawaz and Tommy in happier times
By all means let us challenge government policies that are unfair or discriminatory. It is right to cast a sceptical eye over government initiatives. Yes, politicians often lie. That does not mean, however, that every statement a politician makes is a lie or that all government initiatives are worthless. This week’s actions by the emboldened far right should serve as a reminder of why Prevent is a vital part of our counter-terrorism strategy which aims to keep all of us – Muslims and non-Muslims – safe from those who wish to cause us harm.