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Time to stand in solidarity with Britain’s Jewish community

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Thursday, 24 July 2014, 16:56


Last summer HOPE not hate launched the #WeAreTheMany initiative to give people the opportunity to show solidarity with Britain’s Muslim communities, who at the time were suffering a violent backlash following the murder of Lee Rigby. Mosques had been firebombed, woman wearing the niqab attacked and there had been an outpouring of hatred on social media.

HOPE not hate, like many other organisations, went into overdrive to defend and support our Muslim friends and neighbours. We did all this because it was the right thing to do. Britain’s Muslim communities should not have been held responsible for the actions of others and we needed to stand together in solidarity.

That there wasn’t a greater backlash in the wake of the murder was partly down to the great work of local interfaith networks and community groups, who did an amazing job to engage positively with their own audiences and come together to show solidarity with a community under attack.

Now, a year on, it is Britain’s Jewish community under attack but this same solidarity appears sadly less lacking.

The conflict in Gaza has led to a huge spike in antisemitic incidents in this country. A synagogue has been attacked in Belfast, a bomb threat made against a synagogue in London, Jewish people abused and threatened on the streets, and there has been an outpouring of anti-Jewish hatred on the social media. The Community Security Trust, which offers protection to the Jewish community in Britain, reports 70 incidents in the last few weeks alone.

Fear is gripping Britain’s Jewish community but sadly few organisations have stepped forward to offer support, and some of those who have made statements have only done so after they have been asked.

Whatever one’s views on the Gaza conflict, taking it out on Britain’s Jewish community is clearly wrong and more people need to start saying it.

The appalling scenes coming out of France should act as a reminder to where this all could lead. Synagogues and Jewish-owned shops have been attacked, cars set alight and Jewish people assaulted. It is estimated that 1,000 Jewish people are leaving France every week and this pre-dates the Gaza conflict.

In the Netherlands, the home of the Chief Rabbi has been attacked twice in one week, while only yesterday, in northern Germany, 14 men were arrested for planning to attack a Jewish museum. At a recent pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin there were posters urging demonstrators to join ‘a raid on the Jewish district’, stating: ‘Come equipped with hammers, fire extinguishers and batons.’

This outpouring of anti-Jewish hatred is shocking and inexcusable. Antisemitism is just as appalling as racism and Islamophobia and we should not allow events in the Middle East to be used as a pretext for antisemitism, Holocaust denial and other outrageous conspiracy theories.

I understand that many people are angry by the media images coming out of Gaza, and I share much of that anger, but to target British Jews for something they are not responsible for or have no control over is inexcusable and, in some instances, clearly antisemitic.

I do believe that some people say and do thing out of ignorance or in anger, but for many others it is quite calculated and deliberate. Sadly, antisemitism remains acceptable for some and consciously ignored by others.

It is precisely because of this that there is a need for community and faith leaders to step up and show their solidarity with Britain’s Jewish community. We need our leaders to educate the ignorant and speak out against those who are deliberately encouraging antisemitism. We need our leaders to lead.

A year ago we stood together in solidarity with Britain’s Muslim communities when they were being unfairly attacked and proclaimed that #WeAreTheMany. Perhaps now it is time to revisit that campaign and stand together with Britain’s Jewish community as they face hostility, abuse and attacks.

 Posted: 24 Jul 2014 | There are 4 comments | make a comment/view comments

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More HOPE than hate please

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 16:23


Yesterday, I sent out an email to our supporters asking them for their views on the news that Nick Griffin had resigned as leader of the BNP. As part of our on-going review about what HOPE not hate should be prioritising over the next year, I asked them a few questions about whether Griffin's resignation signalled the end of the far right in Britain, the threat from UKIP, countering other violent extremists and whether we needed to broaden out our work.

An astonishing 6,621 people have so far sent in their views, an amazing amount especially given that we are now in the school holidays and many people are away.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, only 5% of respondents agreed with the notion that the far right was dead and 94.2% thought it was still important for us to monitor such groups even if they did not currently pose a major threat. The overwhelming majority of people, 84.6%, said that HOPE not hate should campaign to stop UKIP winning parliamentary seats next year and 74% saying we should do more to combat other forms of violent extremism, with 20.7% against this and 5.5% not answering.

Perhaps most interestingly of all, three-quarters of people said that HOPE not hate should focus more on tackling racism in society and building community cohesion than simply focusing on hate groups. Clearly, people want more HOPE than hate!

 Posted: 23 Jul 2014 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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Games bringing people together

posted by: Guest blog by Aoife Glynn | on: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 12:04


Photo from flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gerardferryimages/14391030886

Photo from flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gerardferryimages/14391030886

Today marks the beginning of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, hosted this year in Glasgow. This marks not only the 20th occurrence of the Commonwealth Games, but also falls within the centenary of the First World War. This is a wonderful time for Britons and citizens of the Commonwealth to come together not only to enjoy this great sporting event, but also to remember those who fought in the First World War. It is important to remember those from the Commonwealth who sacrificed their lives in the past, working alongside British soldiers.

Seeing people from many nations come together and compete in sporting comradery is something that can make us proud as Britons. Although far right parties wish to ruin the buzzing atmosphere, they cannot succeed. The Commonwealth Games serve as a means to highlight talented athletes from around the world, from many different nations and backgrounds.

Both Britain and the Commonwealth share a common history and their multicultural and multi-ethnic societies. This, however, does not mean that everything you see at the Games will be your average Olympic sport. The Commonwealth Games include a diverse range of sports that are played primarily in certain Commonwealth countries, such as netball. This variation of sports is yet another display of multiculturalism and the wonderful pastimes that these nations partake in is shared not only with the rest of the Commonwealth, but with the world.

In other aspects, the Glasgow Games marks a milestone for paralympians: these Games will host more Para-Sports events than any of the preceding Commonwealth Games. Across five sports there will be 22 Para-Sports medals to be won. The five Para-Sports chosen to take part at these Games are: powerlifting, athletics, lawn bowls, swimming and track cycling.

Glasgow has highly inclusive plans for the Games and the legacy they will leave behind. Much like the Olympics got people together in London, Glasgow is looking to create a multicultural event which showcases the talents of people from all around the Commonwealth. The Games will bring together people of all nations and will remind those taking part and those looking on what it means to be an active member of a vibrant and cultural society.

 Posted: 23 Jul 2014 | There are 1 comments | make a comment/view comments

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Saturday Stop By

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Monday, 21 July 2014, 09:23


The city of Leicester is rightly famed for being a cultural melting pot. A wonder down Avenue Road in leafy Clarendon Park will take you past a Church, Synagogue, Hindu Temple and a Mosque; a beacon of how people from different ethnicities and backgrounds can live side-by-side in peace and harmony. A bit further into the city centre and you stumble across the Church of St. James the Greater, where I spent a Saturday morning with the Saturday Stop By team helping Leicester’s most in need.

A joint venture between the Islamic Society of Britain’s Eat ’n’ Meet project and St James the Greater Church, Saturday Stop By offers the local homeless community a lot more than just a chance for a warm meal. People arrived hours before the food was due to be served to meet their friends and play pool, chess and a surprisingly high standard of table tennis. As a mere novice from HOPE not hate, I completely underestimated the demand for coffee and the time it took to boil an urn full of water resulted in large queues, but a chance to have a chat with some of the attendees.

“It’s like a youth club, but for older people” one person told me, and that pretty much summed it up. As I stood in a hall underneath the Church, testing if staring at the kettle really would make it boil faster, I was in awe of how smoothly all the various cultural groups before me we interacting and mingling. While the Muslim ladies prepared the parcels of food donated from the school where the Vicar’s wife worked, people from all walks of life and parts of the world chatted about football or gardening.

Salma, from the Islamic Society, said: “What we’ve found is that it’s the social interaction they get that’s really important, because a lot of the homeless are socially isolated. We get people who come in off the street, people in hostels and people who are vulnerable housed.” She believes that the fact that it is an alliance between Muslims and Christians strengthens the work the volunteers do.

“It’s really important because it show two different faith communities with the same values working together to do something to benefit the homeless in our society. It brings something extra to those sessions and it’s really nice to see volunteers develop really good friendships and rapport with each other.” A view not only shared by Salma but also the local Vicar, Glyn, who echoed this, saying “The project gives a great socialising opportunity for people coming out of isolation as well as poverty. It’s a safe setting where people can find warmth and a good meal.”

“It’s the culmination really of a long background at this Church of relating to Muslims in our locality.” After hearing such touching comments I had a sudden wave or warmth come over me, that is when I realised the water had finally boiled....

Anyone wishing to help with donations should visit http://www.isb.org.uk/category/localities/leicester

 Posted: 21 Jul 2014 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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The Big Iftar in Leicester

posted by: Guest blog | on: Thursday, 17 July 2014, 15:00


Photo: http://www.iaw.org.uk/charitybeginsathome/projects/item/eatnmeet

Photo: http://www.iaw.org.uk/charitybeginsathome/projects/item/eatnmeet

Not much will entice me to break my usual Saturday morning ritual of coffee, crossword and a date with the lovely James Martin but when I received an e mail about the Saturday Stop By I was intrigued and excited in equal measure. I am aware of other initiatives which support homeless people in Leicester but the opportunity to be involved in a multi faith project was very appealing. The venture is run jointly by the Islamic Society of Great Britain’s Eat ‘n’ Meet project and St James the Greater Church, supported by Action Homeless and funded by the Near Neighbours Fund.

Volunteers ranged in age from their twenties to sixties, men and women, and were managed with calm and finesse by Farhana who gave me a potted history of the project, which celebrates its fourth birthday later this year. Most volunteers give up one or two Saturday mornings a month to help at the project. All worked together with a slickness that most food outlets merely aspire to.

The service users, many of whom were waiting eagerly as we volunteers arrived, praised the fantastic hot meal provided. Additionally, they were provided with hot and cold drinks, a selection of fruit, cakes and biscuits throughout the two and a half hour session. They were also dispatched with enough leftover food, milk and fresh fruit to feed them for at least the rest of the day. It was a beautiful day outside but nobody seemed keen to leave the session where they were also playing pool, table tennis, chess and chatting amongst themselves and with the volunteers. They obviously value the time and effort which goes in to their time at the project.

What struck me most as I was welcomed into the kitchen was how great the similarities were between me and the other women volunteers. As we sorted through the huge array of donated food, conversation was easy; newly born grandchildren, graduated children, news about the progress of an impending wedding, happenings at school and our busy lives. Our paths through life may have been very different but we are united by our many shared experiences.

The people involved in Saturday Stop By may have bought into the concept of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ but I would wager that their motivations are pretty different from what he had in mind; rather than justifying the wholesale slashing of the welfare budget, they do something practical to support those in their community who are less fortunate than themselves. And they do it quietly, humbly and with great dignity. Whether their motivations are religious or simply moral is irrelevant – they are making a big difference to the lives of those who use the service and are yet another example of how easily people of different race, gender, ethnicity and religion can and do work together for the common good.

Gill

Would you like to host or attend an iftar? HOPE not hate is linking up with the organisers of the Ramadan Festival to offer people the chance to have a meal at the home of a Muslim family. If you would like to take part, or if you could host an event please sign up below.

http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/page/s/dine-at-mine-2014

 Posted: 17 Jul 2014 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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Why Srebrenica matters

posted by: Guest blog by Muddassar Ahmed | on: Friday, 11 July 2014, 22:06


This week is Remembering Srebrenica Week, which commemorates the loss of over 100,000 lives in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995, and more specifically the massacre of over 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica. Despite Srebrenica being declared a United Nations “safe area” over 25,000 people were made to flee their homes by Serbian ultra-nationalist Ratko Mladic and his army in an attempt to secure a territorial hold on the area. It was the most brutal campaign of ethnic violence in Europe seen since World War II.

The European continent is becoming an increasingly polarised place, from wars in Ukraine to the rise of the far right in Greece and elsewhere in mainland Europe. The political discourse is becoming increasingly peppered with xenophobic, racist and extreme nationalist rhetoric. It’s important, in this context, to remember the lessons of the ethnic conflict in Bosnia.

With the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I also falling this year, the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, has been catapulted even further into the media spotlight. Yet on the 19th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, we cannot ignore the subtle yet obvious lessons to be learnt from a region seared by the scourge of inter-ethnic violence. The legacy of the brutal civil war of the 90s still leaves bitterness amongst Muslim Bosniaks and Bosnian Serbs.

In 2009, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that invites member states to mark 11th July as a day to remember the victims of Srebrenica. The crimes against humanity suffered by Bosnians cannot, of course, be forgotten. But the failure of the international community to prevent the Srebrenica atrocity will remain a shameful scar on the conscience of the world and a powerful reminder for the need for early intervention situations where genocide is a likely outcome.

Recently, I visited Bosnia and Herzegovina as a delegate of an educational initiative called “Lessons from Srebrenica”, created by the British charity Remembering Srebrenica. Funded by the British Government, its aim is to raise awareness of the Bosnian genocide. High profile delegates from the UK, including parliamentarians, took part in the visit, which was intended to keep the memory of those killed alive. It was an emotional trip and one that underlined the importance of peace in this region for the rest of Europe.

The UK is one of the few countries to actively commemorate the victims of this genocide. This week, the British government in association with Remembering Srebrenica also hosted a memorial service at Lancaster House. Guests included the Bosnian president, various British ministers and mothers of the victims of Srebrenica. I feel proud that the UK is ensuring Srebrenica is not simply left as a page in history with little relevance to the world today.

Given recent social unrest in Bosnia-Herzegovina, there is a need for the UK and Europe to secure longer-term solutions for peace in the region. Europe’s history shows that economic activity is a powerful driver for sustainable long-term peace. That provides an area of mutual benefit and cooperation that brings communities together and fosters the stability that buffers against extremist narratives.

This year alone, Bosnia has faced unprecedented economic hardship. In May, the country suffered some of the worst floods to hit the region in more than 100 years. Gripped with 44% unemployment, masses of people took to the streets earlier this year rebelling against harsh austerity measures set out by the government and the near collapse of the welfare state.

Whatever we think of the speed and nature of political and economic integration in Europe, it is economic cooperation and integration that have made Europe a safer place then before. Ensuring the Serbia and Bosnia are on track for EU accession, encouraging international investment into the Balkans, and promoting more infrastructure projects in the country must remain a priority for the international community.

Still, it is only stronger relations of all kinds between the affected countries themselves, between former combatants and their supporters, that can help prevent ethnic rivalry being passed to future generations in this part of Europe. As we remember the lessons of Srebrenica, Europe’s governments must continue to commemorate the memory of the war and work towards promoting trade between the countries of the Balkans. Europe’s destiny will be determined in part by the result.

‎This article originally appeared in Le Monde Diplomatique

 Posted: 11 Jul 2014 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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NEW FACTS on UK Immigration – not fear and hate fuelled fiction

posted by: Guest Blog by Elisabeth Pop | on: Thursday, 10 July 2014, 12:07


The employment rate and pay of the UK-born working-age population was practically unchanged by the immigration of Central and European workers since 2004.

This is the conclusion of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) who was asked in May 2013 by the Minister for Immigration to advise on the issue of low-skilled work immigration, the factors driving it and the resulting economic and social impacts.

MAC’s findings – an independent, non-departmental public body - come as a new slap in the face of populist, anti-immigration politicians who despite overwhelming evidence still claim that Britain is being invaded by foreigners taking jobs from British people and of a tabloid media set on an agenda of legitimising and reinforcing these myths and sometimes plain falsehoods.

The finding of the report published this week, which brings to light yet more facts on the positive impact of sustained migration to the UK, have either been massively underreporting or blatantly misreported.

The infographics below detail these findings and thus address hand-on the xenophobia we unfortunately encounter every day in the media, in the political rhetoric and in our communities.

  • Migrants not a drain, but net contributors
  • Immigrants do not take jobs from British workers
  • Migrants do the jobs we do not want or cannot do
  • British and migrant workers are equally at risk of exploitation and abuse
  • Government’s “benefits tourism” is a myth
  • Blaming migrants will not solve the ills in our economy and society

HOPE not hate will continue to ensure that facts and real stories on UK immigration are the ones informing the public debate, and not the fear and hate fuelled fiction that some understand to use to divide our diverse communities for political gains.

We will continue to work in and with our settled and new communities to ensure that HOPE brings us together around the Britain we want to live in – a modern, inclusive one.

Please download and share this information

 Posted: 10 Jul 2014 | There are 4 comments | make a comment/view comments

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Don’t give them the satisfaction

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Friday, 4 July 2014, 22:16


  • HOPE not hate condemns new anti-Muslim film
  • STOP, THINK & REFLECT before reacting

HOPE not hate is tonight urging calm and unity after an international network of Christian and anti-Muslim extremists released a trailer for a provocative film, depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a ‘paedophile’.

The film, entitled “Aisha & Muhammed: Dramatic Life of a Little Child Married to the Prophet of Islam”, contains graphic scenes of a sexual nature and is clearly designed to whip up dislike, fear and even hatred of Muslims, and to provoke protests and violence.

As with The Innocence of Muslimstwo years ago, we must not fall into that trap its what the haters want!

The film is being promoted by an international ‘Counter-Jihadist’ (anti-Muslim) network. It is produced by Imran Firasat, a Pakistani-born former Muslim who has been a vocal supporter of the Qur’an burning Florida pastor Terry Jones. Also interviewed in the film are Lars Hedegaard (President of the International Free Press Society) and Ingrid Carlqvist, Editor-in-Chief of Dispatch International, two leading actors in the international ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement.

“This movie will certainly give you clues as to why Muslims in Europe are so actively in sexual abuse of little girls,” says Carlqvist in the movie. Muslims as paedophiles or sexual groomers is a frequent obsession of the Far Right, documented just today in a new report on the rise of online anti-Muslim hatred.

Two years ago, the ‘Counter-Jihad’ movement produced another trailer for yet another highly offensive and provocative film, The Innocence of Muslims. This four minute trailer led to protests, riots and even deaths around the world.

How a 14-minute amateurish film triggered fierce reaction around the world

How a 14-minute amateurish film triggered fierce reaction around the world

It is clear that this new film could generate even more anger. Fortunately, YouTube has taken the film down but it is still available on many Counter-Jihadist websites.

HOPE not hate urges people to Stop, Think and Reflect before reacting to this new film.

  • STOP – stay calm and don’t overreact to the film.
  • THINK – this trailer has been produced to incite a reaction, so do not give them what they want.
  • REFLECT – what sort of world do you want to live in? A world where tiny and unrepresentative extremists – on all sides – whip up fear and hatred or a world where we work and get along together?

We believe in the latter. Join us in calling for unity, and calm, and let’s build that better world of hope.

http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/action/get-involved/

 Posted: 4 Jul 2014 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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Train to be a top organiser

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 2 July 2014, 08:59


In the last week of August, HOPE not hate will be holding its first Organising Boot Camp, a six day intensive training programme designed to teach the skills of community organising. What's more, we will be offering Organising Fellowships to the most promising six participants.

The Organising Boot Camp will be run by Carlos Saavedra, formerly the National Organiser of United We Dream and now of Movement Mastery.

The course will combine learning the theory and skills of community organising with practical application. Accommodation, food and transport will all be provided.

Organising is the key to any successful campaign and our six-day Boot Camp will be the perfect introduction to developing the skills required. There are 20 places available, so if you are interested in a community organising job with HOPE not hate or simply want to improve your organising skills for the benefit of anti-racism and bringing communities together, please do apply.

http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/campaigns/boot-camp/

 Posted: 2 Jul 2014 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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Celebrating the Big Iftar

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Sunday, 29 June 2014, 21:49


Guest blog: Hazel Nolan

The festival of Ramadan starts today. It is a time for fasting, reflection and giving for all Muslims. At HOPE not hate, we believe it should also be a time of coming together; a time to remember what we have in common.

During the recent European and local elections we’ve seen political parties and the media whip anti-immigrant and xenophobic sentiments. We've seen how issues surrounding Halal meat and extremism in a handful of schools in Birmingham has been used by some to smear all Muslims and the Islamic faith.

Given all this, HOPE not hate believes it is more important than ever to stand together with Britain's muslim communities, and there is no better time to do it than Ramadan. That’s why we want to invite you to join us, and Muslim organisations by celebrating Ramadan through coming together for the Big Iftar - an initiative to open up mosques and other community buildings to non-Muslims and share a meal.

Find a Big Iftar near you: http://thebigiftar.org.uk/events

Now, more than ever we need to stand up for each other. Let’s show the press and the politicians what real British values are: standing up for each other, respecting each other, and that we are all part of one big society!

Attending a Big Iftar event - a meal to break the fast - is one way of doing that.

 Posted: 29 Jun 2014 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments