If we don’t name Islamophobia as a form of racism, how can we combat it?
Islamophobia may not be an all-embracing term – literally it means a fear of a religion – which is why some of us have, over the last two decades, preferred the term anti-Muslim racism to describe what has been happening in the UK. However, given that the term Islamophobia has gained common currency, it is absolutely right and necessary that it be (re)defined in the social context in which it is now used. And the definition that the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims has come up with – drawing on the pioneering work of the Runnymede Trust – should not present a problem: ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness’.
It is, in simple terms, describing the racist, poor and/or differential treatment of people on the basis of what other people or institutions take to be the fact they are Muslim.
Rejecting the definition
Yet the government has this month decided that the definition, originally published in December 2018, is – unlike the IHRA anti-Semitism definition, which it argues was already adopted elsewhere – too controversial and cannot be adopted (though it has been by the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and Scottish Conservatives). Communities secretary James Brokenshire told the House of Commons that the APPG’s definition needed ‘more consideration’. He added: ‘It is clear that with such a complex issue we need to interrogate this further as a matter of urgency. That’s why we will be appointing two advisers and ensuring this reflects the need for community representation … our priority is to arrive swiftly at a collective position.’ 
The objection to the definition appears to be coming from attackers on four sides: the free speech advocates; the security services; those who have systematically attacked any extension of the concept of racism beyond personal bigotry; those who object to the ‘racialisation’ of a religious group. And all appear not to have read the APPG’s careful report, based on community consultation, written evidence and literature reviews, which answers all these issues. 
The whole point of the definition which uses the term ‘Muslimness’ is clearly there to show it is not the religion of Islam which is being discussed but the social treatment of people who appear to be Muslim. So the argument that it would curtail free speech and the possibility of genuinely debating a religion such as Islam just does not hold water. Neither does the argument that this cross-classifies a religious group as an ethnic or racial one. For that debate had already been had years ago, with the establishment in the courts (in the 1980s) of Sikhs as an ethnic group for the purposes of the Race Relations Act.  And moreover, the whole concept of anti-Semitism (as opposed to a term like Judeophobia) it would seem, is based on the premise of just such a religio-ethnic category.
Then we have had the somewhat self-incriminating protest from the National Police Chiefs Council. Its chair, Martin Hewitt was concerned amongst other things that ‘it could also undermine counter-terrorism powers, which seek to tackle extremism or prevent terrorism.’ But, as the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain pointed out, ‘Our understanding is that the police and security forces will rightly fight terrorism based on intelligence and a scrutiny of the evidence. Anti-terrorist operations can only be “hampered” if counter-terror officers have been targeting Muslims because of their identity (or Muslimness as the definition states), categorising them as security concerns. If this is the case, it confirms long-voiced concerns about the disproportionate focus and impact of counter-terror operations on Muslim communities.’  In other words, the police appeared to be justifying a need to hold on to their right to discriminate, ie, to profile Muslimness.
The ‘racism’ rejectionists
And then are those who just won’t accept racism as anything beyond pure bigoted attitude. It is the same kind of argument that was used against the Macpherson report and the notion of institutional racism by the remnants of the New Right. Somehow, speaking the reality of racism makes racism worse. And those that do speak its name have a sinister agenda.  And this argument (alongside many of the above) can be found in the very strong reaction to the Islamophobia definition in the works of Policy Exchange, which produced two report notes, Defining Islamophobia: a research note (December 2018) and On Islamophobia: the problem of definition (May 2019). ‘Anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry is a problem that needs to be addressed…. But the proposed definition of Islamophobia is not only inadequate but divisive and potentially damaging to social cohesion.’ This first report writes that accepting the definition ‘will isolate [British Muslims] and make them the object of continuing hostility’. ‘It misreads the attitudes of most Britons. And it reduces the lives of British Muslims.’ (Like the critics of Macpherson, it takes the idea of societal racism as a comment on all Britons.) And it will serve sectarians, ‘especially the Far Right and Islamists’. The second report goes further in attacking those who see Islamophobia as an aspect of social racism: ‘It is a word that has been weaponised by some of the most controversial groups within British Muslim communities’, writes Khalid Mahmood MP. ‘It will serve as a stalking horse for a new form of communalist, gatekeeper politics.’ He turns the issue on its head by stating that one of the main causes of Islamophobia comes from the groups that have ‘insufficiently’ challenged extremism – in other words blaming the victims. For the Policy Exchange authors, which include Trevor Phillips, formerly chair of Runnymede and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, there clearly is ‘a problem with anti-Muslim hatred and prejudice within the UK’ but here Muslims ‘now enjoy legal protections superior to those in many other jurisdictions’.
To carry on a fight over a definition does not change by one iota the reality of treatment meted out to Muslim people day in, day out; it merely calls into question the bona fides of the quibblers, and the government which chooses to heed them. For as Juliet said of the rose, ‘What’s in a name?’ It would, by any other name, still smell as sweet. In this case not naming today’s Islamophobia as what it is – an aspect of racism – could convey more than a whiff of Islamophobia itself.
Playwright David Edgar takes the long view on conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, recently sacked from a government post – particularly his promotion of ‘unthinkable’ views on race and immigration as editor of Salisbury Review.
I last saw Roger Scruton in the flesh in 2018, at a theatre conference to which he had been invited to represent the conservative persuasion. He clearly enjoyed playing the role of amiable old Tory buffer; he was sitting next to an African-Caribbean playwright to whom he was as polite as she was to him. He didn’t mention the fact that, had advice given in a magazine he edited been taken, she probably wouldn’t have been there at all.
The furore over the New Statesman interview on 10 April 2019 which saw Roger Scruton sacked from a government advisory position has allowed him and his supporters to paint him as an erudite if other-worldly traditionalist who was victim of an unethical journalistic sting. His history reveals the truth to be rather different.
Knighted in 2016, Scruton was dismissed from his unpaid job as chair of the government’s Building Better Building Beautiful Commission on the afternoon of the publication of an interview by New Statesman deputy editor George Eaton. Scruton’s statements concerned George Soros (‘anyone who doesn’t think there is a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts’), the ‘sudden invasion’ of Hungary by ‘huge tribes of Muslims’, the Chinese (‘they’re creating robots out of their own people … each Chinese person is kind of a replica of the next one’) and Islamophobia (‘a propaganda word invented by the Muslim Brotherhood’). On the question of China, Scruton has a case that he was misrepresented: Eaton implied (particularly in a tweet) that the comment was a slur on the Chinese people, while it was clearly an attack on the Chinese government. Following Scruton’s dismissal, Eaton celebrated his scalp by posting a picture of himself swigging champagne (for which he has apologised).
Not surprisingly, this questionable practice (criticised by the New Statesman readers’ editor Peter Wilby, in a thoughtful piece) inspired many Conservatives to leap to Scruton’s defence, particularly neoconservative Douglas Murray, Spectator associate editor and himself no stranger to controversy. Murray wrote two Spectator articles describing Scruton’s sacking as ‘not just a scandal, but a biopsy of a society’ (a ‘character assassination’ which exposed the urgent ‘necessity of free-thought’ over ‘bland, dumb and ill-conceived uniformity’). Again in the Spectator, Scruton defended himself, both against Eaton’s charges, and on other charges raised on Buzzfeed last November, including a quotation on gay rights. As Scruton put it: ‘Apparently I once wrote that homosexuality is “not normal”, but nobody has told me where, or why that is a particularly offensive thing to say.’
Well, I can help there: the remark was made in the Daily Telegraph on 28 January 2007. Last month, Scruton argued that homosexuality wasn’t normal in the sense that red hair isn’t normal, but in 2007 he argued something rather different: that gay people shouldn’t be treated as normal, that ‘it is no more an act of discrimination to exclude gay couples’ from adopting children ‘than it is to exclude incestuous liaisons or communes of promiscuous ‘swingers’’.
The fact that versions of Scruton’s remarks in the New Statesman on Islamophobia and on the ‘Soros empire’ had been published in a different form on Buzzfeed six months before raises the question of why government housing secretary James Brokenshire waited so long to sack him (at the time, he was defending Scruton to the hilt as a ‘champion of free speech and free expression’). But a greater mystery is why George Eaton didn’t ask Scruton about his past.
The Salisbury Review and repatriation
Converted to conservatism by his horror at the May 1968 student uprising in Paris (which he witnessed), Roger Scruton came to public prominence as a member of the Peterhouse school of high-church Conservatives associated with the Cambridge college, many of whom were alarmed by Margaret Thatcher’s commitment to free market economics and the rhetoric of liberty, which they felt downplayed traditionalist Conservative beliefs. So Maurice Cowling’s introduction to the 1978 Conservative Essays (to which Scruton contributed) insisted that ‘the sort of freedom’ that conservatives want is a freedom ‘that will maintain existing inequalities or restore lost ones’. In his own 1980 book The Meaning of Conservatism, Scruton argued that liberalism, economic or otherwise, was no less than the ‘principal enemy of conservatism’, adding that democracy itself can be ‘discarded without detriment to the civil well-being as the conservative conceives it’. In 1982, he founded a magazine, the Salisbury Review, to promote reactionary ideas, and, in particular, ideas of nation and race.
The magazine was launched in 1982, the year of the Falklands campaign, which followed the Brixton and Toxteth riots of the summer before. Its first edition (Autumn 1982) ran an article by Cambridge don John Casey, titled ‘One Nation: The Politics of Race’, attributing the popularity of the Falklands campaign to the fact ‘the Falklanders were British by every conceivable test’. He went on to claim that ‘there is no way of understanding English patriotism that averts its eyes from the fact that it has at its centre a feeling for persons of one’s own kind.’
Later in the article Casey moved on to the lessons he drew from Brixton and Toxteth: ‘There are various specific features that may lead us to suppose that the West Indian community, especially the Jamaicans, and above all those actually born in this country, is structurally likely to be at odds with English civilisation. There is an extraordinary resentment towards authority – police, teachers, Underground guards – all authority. This anarchic attitude seems to spill over so readily into an antagonism against Britain itself.’ He went on to cite ‘the involvement of West Indians in a vastly disproportionate amount of violent crime’. On this topic he concluded: ‘I do not wish to say that the problem about the West Indian community is just a problem about the possible destruction of civilised life in the centres of the big cities. (Although that is what is happening.) It is also that all this offends a sentiment – a sense of what English life should be like, of how the English behave towards duly constituted authority, a sense of what is civilised behaviour.’ Casey was kinder to the ‘Indian communities’ (‘intelligent, industrious, peaceable’) but nonetheless argued that their ‘profound difference of culture’ made them ‘most unlikely to wish to identify themselves with the traditions and loyalties of the host nation’. The existence of a community of ‘say, five to seven million persons’ who ‘cannot instinctively identify themselves with the State will call the actual constitution into question.’
The next section, headed ‘What is to be Done?’ concluded that ‘the only radical policy that would stand some chance of success is repatriation of a proportion of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.’ However, if voluntary, ‘the whole process might be out of political control’. He went on:
‘The alternative is generally considered unthinkable in polite society: This would be retrospectively to alter the legal status of the coloured immigrant community, so that its members became guest workers – analogous to the Turks in Germany and Switzerland – who would eventually, over a period of years, return to their countries of origin.’
Aware, no doubt, that he was proposing a policy of compulsory repatriation then only advocated by the National Front, Casey acknowledged that these ideas ‘will seem abhorrent to many. My defence is this: the state of nationhood is the true state of man.’
It should be said that Casey long ago disavowed the article, describing it as ‘crazy and inhumane’. What of Roger Scruton? It might have been possible to defend printing Casey’s piece on the ground that Scruton didn’t know what it might say when he commissioned it (and wouldn’t want to censor it on the grounds of free speech). But Scruton and Casey were close collaborators, co-chairs of the Conservative Philosophy Group, for whom the piece was delivered as a talk the previous June. As an editor, Scruton could have distanced himself from the opinions in the article: an editorial acknowledged that ‘many who would identify themselves as conservatives, may find themselves challenged by the thoughts expressed in John Casey’s contribution’ (‘may’), but that, nonetheless, ‘we hope to carry similar articles in future issues’. In a later edition (Summer 1983), Scruton wrote that: ‘As John Casey argued in our first issue, the cumulative effect of unwise immigration laws can no longer be ignored. While we may disagree with the policy of compulsory repatriation – ‘ ( note, again, the ‘may’) ‘a policy which Casey at least entertained, whether or not he wished finally to recommend it – there is no doubt that, merely to arrest the flow of immigrants cannot solve the problem’. It was hardly – to put it mildly – a ringing renunciation.
Over the following ten years, the Salisbury Review continued to publish articles on race, including a number by Ray Honeyford, the Bradford headmaster whose first Salisbury Review article (in which he criticised the ‘hysterical political temperament’ of the parents at his multiracial school) led to his taking early retirement. Scruton’s editorials continued to promote nationalist ideas (‘national consciousness provides, therefore, one of the strongest experiences of the immanence of God’). In view of the recent controversy, it’s worth noting an editorial of July 1985, in which Scruton argued that ‘A concern for social continuity prompts us to view not only promiscuity but also homosexuality as intrinsically threatening’.’ Later in the same piece he accused the Inner London Education Authority of portraying homosexuality ‘not as an abnormality, a weakness or a degradation, but as one among many harmless options’, clearly implying that he disagreed with this position. After all, he had just stated that ‘some desires ought not to exist’. (It should be said that in 2010, Scruton told the Guardian that ‘although it’s such a complicated thing’, he ‘wouldn’t stand by’ his earlier view that homosexuality was repellent. Well, good.)
Of course, all of this was a long time ago. However, it provides a challenge to the emergent view of Scruton as a harmless old fogey, martyred by the liberal thought police. Ideas have consequences. In 1978, Mrs Thatcher made it clear that she saw immigration as a problem to be solved (‘People are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture’). Had John Casey’s proposal been taken up, it would have led to the forced deportation of millions of people, including the parents and grandparents of people Scruton now sits on panels with and passes in the street. And any programme of voluntary repatriation, implicitly favoured by Scruton (‘there is no doubt that, merely to arrest the flow of immigrants cannot solve the problem’) would create an environment vastly more hostile than that advocated by Theresa May. Like their regular contributor Enoch Powell, one of the Salisbury Review’s missions was to give a lofty, intellectual imprimatur to anti-immigrant ideas, at a time (the 1980s) when such ideas were being given expression on the streets in the racist thuggery of the National Front. On the politics.co.uk website, Jonathan Portes argued that there are ‘direct links’ between Scruton’s views and those of Tommy Robinson and Gerard Batten. To support this, Portes quotes a 2006 article (in defence of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech) in which Scruton claims (completely erroneously) that ‘the stock of “social housing” once reserved for the indigenous poor is now almost entirely occupied by people whose language, customs and culture mark them out as foreigners’.
As stated, John Casey has disavowed his article. A reasonably rigorous search hasn’t revealed whether Roger Scruton ever disavowed his decision to publish it. Why didn’t the New Statesman ask him?
Written by IRR News Team
A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP ASYLUM, MIGRANT AND HUMAN RIGHTS
8 May: Under pressure from local councils, the Home Office announces a 61 per cent increase for funding the welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Local authorities will now receive over £41,000 per child per year, though council leaders warn that funding for those leaving care must also be ensured as many unaccompanied minors are close to turning 18. (Independent, 8 May 2019)
14 May: Amnesty International calls for the reopening of hundreds of Afghan asylum applications judged by expert Karl Mahringer, after Austria’s Federal Court strips Mahringer of his status as the only court-certified expert on conditions in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. (Kleine Zeitung, 14 May 2019)
21 May: On the publication of findings from a fact-finding mission to Hungary, the Council of Europe commissioner says that human rights violations by the government need to ‘be addressed as a matter of urgency’, singling out the treatment of asylum seekers, the ‘excessive use of violence’ by police in removing foreign nationals, and the criminalisation of NGOs. (Guardian, 21 May 2019)BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROL
19 May: The Dutch-flagged rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 is seized by Italian prosecutors on the island of Lampedusa after disembarking 65 migrants rescued off the coast of Libya last Wednesday. Salvini, who signed an injunction against the ship’s entry into Italian waters, condemns the seizure for allowing the migrants to set foot in Italy. (Deutsche Welle, 20 May 2019; Deutsche Welle, 15 May 2019)
21 May: The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) announces that, in line with the first ever joint operation on the territory of a neighbouring non-EU country, it has commenced cooperation with Albanian border guards at the Greek-Albanian border. (European Commission press release, 21 May 2019)RECEPTION AND DETENTION
11 May: After a 31-year-old Nigerian woman dies in unexplained circumstances at one of Germany’s controversial AnkER centres in Regensburg, Bavaria, asylum seekers pelt police officers with stones and glass bottles in a three hour standoff as they come to take her dead body. The three children of the dead woman (who has not been named) have been taken into care. (Deutsche Welle, 12 May 2019)
15 May: Asylum seekers detained in the Fürstenfeldbruck detention centre near Munich, which houses up to 1,000 people, tell Deutsche Welle that they are living in inhumane conditions, which are causing serious physical and mental health problems including suicide attempts. The facility is one of the nine AnkER centres established last year. (Deutsche Welle, 15 May 2019)
16 May: As a result of an investigation started in 2014 when images of a security guard standing on the head of an asylum seeker emerged, another five staff at the Burbach asylum centre, North Rhine-Westphalia, are charged with assault, coercion and false imprisonment. The centre’s director and other staff have already been convicted, though there is scant media coverage of the trials. (RP Online, 16 May 2019)RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS
9 May: At least five men have been killed in Jamaica since March 2018 after being deported from the UK by the Home Office. Deportation charter flights to Jamaica were resumed in February 2019 after a brief suspension following the Windrush scandal. (Guardian, 9 May 2019)
13 May: Around 50 activists occupy the head office of Brussels Airlines near Brussels Airport and launch the Brussels Airlines Stop Deportations campaign to demand that the company end its participation in deportations. (BX1, 13 May 2019)
14 May: In response to lawsuits filed by three asylum seekers in Belgium and the Czech Republic, the European Court of Justice rules that migrants cannot be automatically deported if there is a serious risk of persecution in their country of origin, even if the migrants in question have been found guilty of serious crimes. (Deutsche Welle, 14 May 2019)
15 May: On the seventeenth day of a protest against Italy’s hardline deportation policies, Brother Biago Conte, known as the ‘new Saint Francis’, vows to continue his hunger strike, which began as a protest against the proposed deportation of Paul Aning, a refugee from Ghana who has worked as a volunteer for ten years at the Hope and Charity Mission in Palermo. (Guardian, 15 May 2019)
16 May: Malta’s immigration police say that they are deporting around 40 people each month, including many who are non-EU migrants granted asylum in Italy, but who come to Malta seeking work lacking the necessary authorisations. (Info Migrants, 16 May 2019)
19 May: Hundreds of undocumented migrants from the Gilets Noirs and La Chapelle Debout! groups occupy the second terminal of Charles de Gaulles Airport, demanding that Air France end its participation in deportations and its disciplining of employees who refuse to embark people threatened with deportation. A delegation of Gilets Noirs is received by Air France management before the occupation disbands. (Le Figaro, 19 May 2019)CRIMES OF SOLIDARITY AND CRIMINALISATION OF MIGRANT RIGHTS DEFENDERS
9 May: British firefighters protest outside the Italian embassy in London in support of Miguel Roldan, the Spanish firefighter who Italian authorities accuse of aiding illegal immigration and working with human traffickers. Roldan was part of a rescue mission that saved the lives of drowning migrants in the Mediterranean in June 2017, and could face up to 20 years in jail if found guilty. (Metro, 9 May 2019; The London Economic, 11 May 2019)
10 May: After the Italian-flagged Mediterranean rescue vessel Mare Jonio rescues 30 migrants on a rubber dinghy off the coast of Libya, the boat is impounded in Lampedusa as the prosecutor launches a preliminary investigation into the crew for promoting illegal migration. (Al Jazeera, 10 May 2019)
13 May: Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini announces his intention to introduce a new security decree under which NGOs carrying out search and rescue missions will be fined up to €5,500 for each migrant they disembark onto Italian soil. (Guardian, 13 May 2019)
14 May: Claus Peter Reisch, the German captain of MV Lifeline describes a court’s decision to fine him €10,000 for a registration irregularity of the vessel as ‘scandalous’. But the court, in refusing the prosecution case for confiscation of the vessel, dismisses another charge against Reisch, acknowledges that saving migrants lives is not a crime, and registers shock ‘at the racism, intolerance and animosity’ directed towards migrants on the internet. (Times of Malta, 14 May 2019)
15 May: The Hamburg administrative court gives permission for the human rights monitoring ship Mare Liberum to leave port for the Aegean Sea, after a three-week detention caused by the federal transport ministry’s attempts to impose restrictions on SAR NGOs’ ships in the Mediterranean. During the period of the ship’s detention, the NGO claims that six people drowned attempting to cross from Turkey to Greece, and at least one illegal pushback took place. (Mare Liberum press release, 15 May 2019)
15 May: Tom Ciotkowski, a 30 year old British man from Stratford-upon-Avon, is charged in Calais with contempt and assault after recording a police officer who reportedly assaulted another volunteer. Ciotkowski challenged the police officer and could now face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €7,500. (Independent, 17 May 2019)
15 May: The investigating judge in Catania, Sicily, shelves an investigation on charges of criminal association for illegal immigration against Marc Reig Creus, captain of the rescue boat Open Arms, and Ana Isabel Montes Mier, mission chief of Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms. The investigation was opened after the boat rescued 218 people off the coast of Libya in March 2018 and took them to Pozzallo. Prosecutors are still investigating charges of assisting illegal immigration. (Ansa, 15 May 2019)CITIZENSHIP AND STATUS
13 May: Regional authorities plan a new code of conduct, entitled the ‘Ten Commandments of Immigration’, for asylum-seekers arriving in Lower Austria. The written agreement includes edicts that asylum seekers learn German, adopt Austrian values, prevent unnecessary suffering to animals and show gratitude to Austria. (Deutsche Welle, 13 May 2019)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
10 May: Anti-fascists mobilise over several days as the far-right Casa Pound join local residents in the Rome suburb of Casal Bruciato to protest against the council’s housing of a Roma family evacuated from a demolished camp. ‘We don’t want you here’ and ‘You all have to burn’ are chanted by the anti-Roma protesters and in one incident, the mother is told, ‘Whore, I’ll rape you’. Rome’s mayor visits the family under police protection. (Al Jazeera, 10 May 2019)
10 May: Women’s groups criticise Tommy Robinson’s pledge to donate his hypothetical European parliament salary to child victims of sexual exploitation, with more than 40 women and charities declaring in an open letter that Robinson is ‘exploiting the pain of survivors and their families to fuel racist hate for his own gain’. (Guardian, 10 May 2019)
13 May: The Irish state use the 1999 Immigration Act to bar Steven Anderson, a Christian fundamentalist US pastor accused of denying the Holocaust and advocating exterminating LGBT people, from entering the country. (Guardian, 13 May 2019)
14 May: The leader of the Austrian Identitarian Movement, Martin Sellner, confirms that he exchanged several emails with the Christchurch mosque shooter, dating back to July 2018. Despite previously claiming his contact with the killer did not go further than a ‘thank you’ email, Sellner invited him out for a drink in Vienna. Sellner deleted the emails hours before police raided his house, leading to suspicions that he received a tip off about the raid. (France 24, 15 May 2019)
15 May: In Hungary, the far Right anti-Roma Our Homeland (Mi Hazánk) party, led by former Jobbik leader László Toroczkai, announce the forming of National Legion, a paramilitary grouping focusing on ‘self-defence’, assisting citizens, the ‘preservation of traditions’ and education and training for Hungarian youth. (Hungarian Free Press, 15 May 2019)
16 May: 24 Casa Pound and Forza Nuova activists are under investigation for incitement to racial hatred and other crimes following the violent protests in Rome against a Roma family. Sixteen people who mobilised against the fascist protest are also placed under investigation (see above). (ANSA, 16 May 2019)
17 May: At the Old Bailey, 23-year-old neo-Nazi Jack Renshaw, who is also a convicted paedophile, is given a life sentence for preparing to murder West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper in 2017, a year after the murder of Jo Cox. He leaves the courtroom while making a Nazi salute. (BBC News, 17 May 2019)
18 May: A day after the National Police Chiefs’ Council head of hate crime urges prospective MEPs to avoid ‘inciting hatred’ during the European election campaign, Exeter Cathedral bans far-right UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin from taking part in hustings. (Guardian)
19 May: In Oldham, Greater Manchester, the Muslim Defence League organises a counter-demonstration against Tommy Robinson’s appearance in the town, with reports of eggs and bricks being thrown. In Bootle, Merseyside, local anti-racist demonstrators block traffic and throw eggs and bottles of milkshake at Robinson, who is escorted to safety by police. (Manchester Evening News, 19 May 2019; Independent, 20 May 2019)
22 May: Anti-racist activists and human rights lawyers react with shock and disbelief to new guidelines on hate crime issued by the Spanish public prosecutor, which state that an attack on any ideological group including Nazis constitutes hate crime. ‘A law designed to protect vulnerable and discriminated-against groups from hatred cannot be used to protect those who promote that hatred’, says a spokesperson for Red Juridica (Legal Network). (El Publico, 22 May 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS
15 May: At a press conference, Hungarian extreme-right electoral party Jobbik propose the establishment of a special guard to carry out employment and public health checks on migrant workers. (Hungary Today, 15 May 2019)
17 May: Sixty Israeli academics criticise the German parliament for passing a motion that describes the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic. The far-right AfD put forward its own motion calling for a complete ban on BDS, with AfD MP Jürgen Brauns saying that anti-Semitism came from the ‘left and Islam’ and that the AfD is the true friend of Israel. (Guardian, 17 May 2019)
18 May: The far-right Freedom party Austrian vice chancellor resigns after newspapers publish a video appearing to show him and the leader of the FPÖ parliamentary grouping promising public contracts to a fake Russian backer in return for campaign help. Heinz-Christian Strache says he is the victim of a ‘political-hit’ job aimed at breaking up the governing coalition. (Guardian, 18 May 2019)
21 May: Amid growing support for Eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties, Dutch migration minister Mark Harbers resigns during a parliamentary debate after being accused of ‘hiding’ figures showing the number of refugees suspected of violent crimes. (Dutch News, 21 May 2019)POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
7 May: After a 12-month pilot at Manchester Airport, Greater Manchester Police launches Project Servator at the Arndale Centre mall, a new patrol tactic involving the deployment of firearms officers, plainclothes officers and search dogs to target all levels of crime. The Northern Police Monitoring Project criticise it as ‘another example of police forces monitoring and imposing themselves upon individuals without any legitimate justification’. (Manchester Evening News, 7 May 2019; Northern Police Monitoring Project, 19 May 2019)
10 May: A court in Amsterdam rules that an unnamed suspected drug dealer cannot be extradited to Britain because he would be at ‘real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment’ in HMP Liverpool, where it is likely he would be sent. (Guardian, 10 May 2019)
12 May: Police in Cyprus are accused of institutional racism for failing to find a serial killer who killed seven foreigners – five women and two girls – but whose disappearances were completely ignored. A Greek Cypriot army captain arrested has allegedly confessed to the killings and preying on women in low-paid households. (Guardian, 12 May 2019)
13 May: Just one month after the government removed HMP Birmingham from G4S control, data provided to shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon shows that in the year to September there were 156 more assaults per 1,000 prisoners in privately managed than in publicly run prisons. (Guardian, 13 May 2019)DISCRIMINATION
12 May: Speaking in Dublin, the director of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) says that Ireland, Austria and Finland are the three countries in the EU with the worst records in the EU of racism based on skin colour. (Irish Times, 12 May 2019)
14 May: Gypsy and Traveller charities accuse MPs and local councillors of using racist rhetoric to push through temporary and permanent borough-wide injunctions against unauthorised encampments over the last two years. The chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Gypsies Travellers and Roma says that politicians should address the shortage of official sites instead of blaming entire communities. (Guardian, 14 May 2019)
15 May: The government rejects the new working definition of Islamophobia proposed by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims. The definition, which understands Islamophobia as a type of racism, has been accepted by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish Conservatives but was criticised by the National Police Chiefs Council for its alleged potential to ‘undermine counter-terrorism powers’ and ‘challenge legitimate free speech’. (Guardian, 15 May 2019; Guardian, 15 May 2019)
16 May: Despite significant opposition, Austrian MPs from the governing coalition parties approve a law banning ‘ideologically or religiously influenced’ head-covering clothing in primary schools. The Islamic Religious Authority of Austria says it will challenge the law, which will apply to the Islamic headscarf but not to the Sikh patka and Jewish kippa. (Guardian, 16 May 2019)
17 May: Campaign group London Gypsies and Travellers succeed in their High Court challenge to a five-year, borough-wide ban on encampments in Bromley, which they argued was disproportionate and discriminatory. The ruling is likely to lead to similar challenges to 32 other English councils who have enacted similar blanket bans on unauthorised encampments. (Guardian, 17 May 2019)
17 May: The French Senate votes in favour of a law proposed by the Republicans party banning ‘conspicuous religious symbols’ from being worn by parents accompanying their children on school trips. The law, which is understood to be aimed at women who wear Islamic headwear, was earlier rejected by the parliament’s lower house. (Independent, 17 May 2019)EDUCATION
17 May: Students and staff at SOAS University of London protest on campus to demand the dismissal of law faculty member Gunnar Beck, who is running for the far-right Alternative for Germany party in the European elections. The University and College Union says that the AfD is a racist anti-immigration party that has no place on UK campuses. (Guardian, May 14 2019; Independent, 18 May 2019)
13 May: Riot police intervene after Forza Nuova attempt to stop Domenico Lucano, the former mayor of Riace, from giving a lecture at La Sapienza University, Rome. The fascists unroll a banner depicting Lucano, who is under investigation for ‘aiding illegal immigration’, as ‘an enemy of the people’, as students who support Lucano’s pro-refugee policies, declare ‘We are all Mimmo Lucano’. (Al Jazeera, 13 May 2019)
15 May: The University of the West of England in Bristol cancels a hustings event organised by the debating society due to be attended by far-right UKIP MEP candidate Carl Benjamin, blaming security concerns. A protest had already been called by local antifascists, while Green candidates had been vocal in their opposition. (Guardian, 15 May 2019)
19 May: In Sicily, thousands of students from the Vittorio Emanuele III high school in Palermo protest the suspension of teacher Rosa Maria Dell’Aria over a video made by her students on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that compares the security law of interior minister, Matteo Salvini, to Mussolini’s racial laws. (Guardian, 19 May 2019)HOUSING
12 May: The government introduces a new legal duty for local authorities to assess and provide the necessary levels of support, including secure housing, needed by survivors of domestic abuse in their area. This includes the particular needs of black and minority ethnic, LGBT, traveller and other communities. (Independent, 12 May 2019)
17 May: The solicitor to the Grenfell Tower public inquiry says that the publication of findings from the first phase of the inquiry, originally promised this spring, will now not be published before October. The chair of Grenfell United calls the delays ‘disgraceful’, and says that bereaved families and survivors are in ‘living in a limbo’. The second phase of the inquiry, examining the refurbishment of the building prior to the fire, will not begin until 2020, while criminal charges relating to the fire are expected to be brought the following year. (Guardian, 17 May 2019)
19 May: Freedom of Information requests reveal that Serco incurred Home Office ‘service credits’ of up to £3 million for failing to fulfil its contractual obligations on providing asylum accommodation between 2013 and 2018. A leading SNP MP says that Serco’s catalogue of failures, including failing to carry out standard repairs and improvements, deserves a public inquiry. (The National, 19 May 2019)
21 May: A Christian church in Hemlington, North Yorkshire wins a legal battle to evict a family of Nigerian asylum seekers after their status became known in 2016. The family’s supporters say they will be left homeless until a decision is made on their applications, while the church’s congregation apparently remains divided about the eviction. (Teeside Live, 21 May 2019)MEDIA AND CULTURE
9 May: Broadcaster Danny Baker is sacked by BBC Radio 5 Live over allegations of racism for posting a tweet, since deleted, referring to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s newborn son alongside a picture of a chimpanzee. After a brief investigation, police are not considering further action. (Guardian, 9 May 2019; ITV News, 14 May 2019)
11 May: Leading figures of the British far right urge their supporters to move to the social media platform Gab, which describes itself as a place for ‘free speech’ and is understood to have no restrictions on racist, anti-Semitic or misogynist content. The platform is seen as an alternative to Twitter, from which many of these figures are banned. (Guardian, 11 May 2019)
15 May: Germany’s Constitutional Court smacks down two lower-level court rulings and orders Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting, a public regional broadcaster for Berlin and Brandenburg, to air an electoral campaign advert by the extreme-right National Democratic Party. The ad describes Germans as the ‘victims’ of mass immigration since 2015. (Deutsche Welle, 15 May 2019)RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
9 May: Irish gardai confirm that it is investigating as racially motivated an attack on two asylum seekers who were set upon on their way to prayers at the Al Furqan mosque, Limerick city centre on the first night of Ramadan. (Limerick Leader, 9 May 2019)
9 May: A Greek court acquits over 100 refugees who were arrested in April 2018 after a far-right mob attacked them in the main square of Mytilene, the capital city of Lesbos island, which they were occupying in protest at conditions in the Moria camp. (The Canary, 10 May 2019)
10 May: Worshippers at the Al-Ikhlas mosque in Espoo, Finland, report that during Friday Ramadan prayers two men drove in front of the mosque and threw two sound grenades inside. Police arrived ten minutes later but no arrests have been made. (Migrant Tales, 11 May 2019)
14 May: Anti-Semitic crime, including hate speech, graffiti and the display of banned signs, rose by 20 per cent in 2018, Germany’s interior ministry says, blaming the majority of incidents on the far Right. Recent studies in Belgium found similar increases. (Reuters,14 May 2019; Guardian, 9 May 2019)
18 May: Two members of Armed Forces Malta are arrested on suspicion of the killing on 6 April of Lassana Cisse, a 42-year-old factory worker from the Ivory Coast. The shooting occurred on 6 April on a countryside road in Birżebbuġa, notorious for attacks on migrant workers. Two other African migrant men, all residents at the Hal Far open centre, were also shot at. One of the arrested soldiers allegedly confessed to involvement on a hit-and-run incident on the same road when a 17 year old migrant from Chad was injured. (Independent, 18 May 2019)
18 May: Greek police rescue 74 migrants who were being held hostage by traffickers in a warehouse outside Thessaloniki in northern Greece after crossing the border from Turkey. (Ekathimerini, 18 May 2019)
20 May: A nationwide survey by Opinium carried out in February and March this year finds that 71 per cent of people from ethnic minorities say they have experienced racial discrimination, up from 58 per cent in January 2016, suggesting that racists have become increasingly emboldened since the Brexit vote. The findings correspond to official crime figures showing increases in racially motivated hate crimes. (Guardian, 20 May 2019)
This calendar was compiled by Joseph Maggs with help from Graeme Atkinson and the IRR News Team.
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