UK police arrest man over ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ letters

Islamophobic hate crimes in the UK have risen by more than 30 percent annually, police reports show. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2018
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UK police arrest man over ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ letters

LONDON: British counter-terrorism police have arrested a man on suspicion of sending letters entitled “Punish a Muslim Day” that urged people around the country to commit violent acts.
The unnamed 35-year-old from Lincoln in northeast England was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of sending letters conveying a threatening message and of sending a hoax noxious substance. He was taken to a police station for questioning.
“These letters seek to cause fear and offense among our Muslim communities. They also seek to divide us,” said Martin Snowden, head of Counter Terrorism Policing North East, in an earlier statement on the investigation.
“Yet in spite of this our communities have shown strength in their response to such hatred and in their support for each other.”
The letters, which designated April 3 as “Punish a Muslim Day” and proposed ranking acts of violence according to a points system, started arriving in some people’s post in March. Among others, four members of parliament with South Asian backgrounds received copies.
Media reports about the letters caused widespread outrage, with tens of thousands of people taking to social media to show support for Muslims with hashtags such as #LoveAMuslimDay and #WeStandTogether.
In the event, April 3 passed without any reported surge in anti-Muslim violence.
Hate crimes in Britain surged in 2016/17, according to official figures.
Significant factors included the June 2016 vote to leave the European Union, a goal linked to curbing immigration in the eyes of some Brexit supporters, as well as a spate of attacks by Islamic extremists in the first half of 2017.
Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism police officer said in February this year that Britain faced a new and significant threat from far-right terrorism.
In an unrelated case, an alleged member of a white supremacist group pleaded guilty earlier this week to planning to murder a female member of parliament with a 19-inch machete. The court heard he considered her a target because he perceived her to be pro-immigration.


Pakistan's leading political party faces jolt

Updated 24 June 2018
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Pakistan's leading political party faces jolt

  • Former PM Nawaz Sharif may not be able to spearhead PML-N's election campaign
  • The three-time premier is a crowd-puller and could help the beleaguered PML-N, but only “if he returns to Pakistan and leads the election campaign,” political analyst Tahir Malik told Arab News on Sunday

ISLAMABAD: The electoral success of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) hangs in the balance as its most charismatic leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is outside the country and may not lead his party’s campaign ahead of the July 25 polls, analysts say.
“If Sharif doesn’t return from London to Pakistan by next week, his party may face huge losses in the upcoming elections,” political analyst Tahir Malik told Arab News on Sunday.
The three-time premier is a crowd-puller and could help the beleaguered PML-N, but only “if he returns to Pakistan and leads the election campaign,” Malik said.
Sharif is in London visiting his wife Begum Kalsoom Nawaz, who has been on a ventilator since June 14 and has been undergoing treatment for throat cancer since August 2017.
“Do you think it is appropriate for me to return to Pakistan when Begum Kalsoom is fighting for life?” Sharif asked on Saturday.
He said he had planned a four-day trip to London, but is now unsure about returning to Pakistan due to her health. Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz have been in the UK since June 15.
“The Sharif family is passing through a difficult time, and the situation could adversely impact their party’s electoral prospects,” Malik said.
An accountability court hearing three separate corruption references against Sharif, Nawaz and others is scheduled to conclude the trial by July 9, as per the Supreme Court’s instructions.
In July 2017, the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from holding the prime minister’s office, and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file corruption references against him and his family members.
“Even after being disqualified from holding any public office, Sharif still enjoys public support,” political analyst Rasul Bukhsh Rais told Arab News.
But if the accountability court convicts Sharif in the graft cases before the elections, this would demoralize his party and PML-N voters, Rais said.
His younger brother, who has become the party’s president after Sharif’s disqualification, “may not be able to run an effective election campaign,” Rais added.
Sen. Mushahidullah Khan, the PML-N’s information secretary, said Sharif and his daughter will return to Pakistan to lead the party’s election campaign once his wife’s health improves.
“Our detractors will be disappointed. The PML-N will win a clear majority in the elections under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif,” Khan told Arab News.