UK unveils new extremism definition amid rise in hate crimes against Jews, Muslims

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking in the House of Commons in London on March 13, 2024. (UK Parliament handout photo via AFP)
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Updated 14 March 2024
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UK unveils new extremism definition amid rise in hate crimes against Jews, Muslims

LONDON: Britain unveiled a new definition of extremism on Thursday in response to an eruption of hate crimes against Jews and Muslims since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, although critics said the change risked infringing on freedom of speech.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned that Britain’s multi-ethnic democracy was being deliberately undermined by both Islamist and far-right extremists, and more needed to be done to tackle the problem.
Antisemitic incidents rose by 147 percent in 2023 to record levels, fueled by the Oct. 7 attacks, according to Community Security Trust, a Jewish safety watchdog. Tell Mama, a group which monitors anti-Muslim incidents, said last month that anti-Muslim hate crimes also had grown by 335 percent since the attacks.

“Today’s measures will ensure that government does not inadvertently provide a platform to those setting out to subvert democracy and deny other people’s fundamental rights,” said Michael Gove, the communities minister who heads the department that produced the new extremism definition.
“This is the first in a series of measures to tackle extremism and protect our democracy,” Gove said.
The new definition states that extremism “is the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance,” that aims to destroy fundamental rights and freedoms; or undermine or replace the UK’s liberal parliamentary democracy; or intentionally create an environment for others to achieve those results.
Britain already bans groups which it says are involved in terrorism, and supporting or being a member of these organizations is a criminal offense. The militant Palestinian group Hamas is among the 80 international organizations that are banned.
Groups which will be identified as extremist following a “robust” assessment over the next few weeks will not be subject to any action under criminal laws and will still be permitted to hold demonstrations.

But the government will not provide them with any funding or any other form of engagement. Currently, no groups have been officially defined as extremist using the former definition which has been in place since 2011.
Gove said in an interview on Sunday that some recent large-scale pro-Palestinian marches in central London had been organized by “extremist organizations,” and people might choose not to support such protests if they knew they were giving credence to those groups.
Even before the new definition was announced, critics warned it could be counter-productive.
“The problem with a top-down definition of extremism is that it catches people who (we) don’t want to catch,” said Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion.
“It may accidentally inhibit what we have very preciously in this country, an extraordinarily robust freedom of speech and ability to disagree strongly,” Welby told BBC Radio on Wednesday.
More than 50 survivors or relatives of victims of Islamist attacks in Britain have also signed a letter accusing some politicians of playing into the hands of militants by “equating being Muslim with being an extremist.”


Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official

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Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official

Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov said that “two Russian guided bombs hit a construction hypermarket“
Videos posted by witnesses on social media showed a huge column of black smoke billowing into the sky from the Epitsentr store

KYIV: A Russian strike on Saturday hit a store selling building materials in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, killing at least two people, its mayor said.
“We know for sure about two dead,” Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov wrote on Telegram, saying that according to preliminary information the strike hit a hypermarket for construction materials in a residential area.
Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov said that “two Russian guided bombs hit a construction hypermarket” and “a fire broke out over 15,000 square meters.”
Videos posted by witnesses on social media showed a huge column of black smoke billowing into the sky from the Epitsentr store, located in an area of large stores beside a car park. The chain of hypermarkets sells household and DIY goods.
“We have a large number of people missing. There are many wounded,” Terekhov wrote on Telegram.
“Apparently, the attack was on a shopping center where there were many people — this is pure terrorism.”
The city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest, regularly comes under attack from Russian missiles.
Strikes on the city killed at least seven people on Thursday, local authorities said.
Russia launched a ground offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region on May 10, but Ukraine said Friday that it had managed to halt its progress.

British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group

Updated 1 min 6 sec ago
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British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group

LONDON: A British man who allegedly travelled to Syria to fight for the Jaish Al-Fatah group has been charged with terrorism offences, the Metropolitan Police said on Saturday.

Isa Giga was arrested after arriving in London aboard a flight from Turkey on Thursday.

He was due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday. He is suspected of traveling to commit acts of terrorism.

“We have been clear for some time now that should anyone return to the UK whom we suspect of being involved in any terrorist-related activity overseas, then they can expect to be thoroughly investigated,” Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the force’s Counter Terrorism Command told the BBC.

“We work very closely with other partners and agencies here in the UK and overseas in order to do this and help keep the public safe.”


A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an

Updated 25 May 2024
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A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an

  • The incident occurred Saturday in the Mujahid Colony residential area in Sargodha
  • Police quickly responded and saved the lives of the two men

LAHORE: Hundreds of Muslims in eastern Pakistan went on a rampage over allegations that a Christian man had desecrated the pages of Islam’s holy book, ransacking and burning his house and beating him before police officers rescued the man and his father, officials said.
The incident occurred Saturday in the Mujahid Colony residential area in Sargodha, a city in Punjab province, said district police chief Ijaz Malhi. He said police quickly responded and saved the lives of the two men.
Malhi said the situation was under control and officers were investigating the allegations.
The incident brought back memories of one of the worst attacks on Christians in Pakistan in August 2023, when angry mobs burned churches and attacked dozens in Jaranwala, a district in Punjab province. Muslim residents claimed they saw a Christian and his friend tearing out pages from a Qur’an and throwing them on the ground. No one was killed. In 2009, six Christians were killed and some 60 homes burned down in the district of Gojra in Punjab following allegations of insults to Islam.
Malhi said police on Saturday dispersed the crowds and were also seeking help from religious scholars to defuse tensions. The Punjab government condemned the attack.
The man’s small shoemaking factory was also burned down, Malhi said.
Blasphemy accusations are common in Pakistan.
Under the country’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. While no one has been executed for blasphemy, often just an accusation can cause riots and incite mobs to violence, lynching and killings.


More than 10,000 people reach UK on small boats since January

Updated 25 May 2024
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More than 10,000 people reach UK on small boats since January

  • The latest numbers on a government website showed 10,170 arrived between January and May 25
  • The plan has been bogged down by legal obstacles for more than two years

LONDON: More than 10,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Britain in small boats so far this year, updated government data showed on Saturday, underlining a key challenge facing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a July 4 national election.
The number of people landing on England’s southern beaches after making the dangerous Channel crossing fell by a third in 2023, but the latest numbers on a government website showed 10,170 arrived between January and May 25, up from 7,395 over the same period last year.
Sunak, who announced the election date on Wednesday, said later this week that asylum seekers who come to Britain illegally would not be deported to Rwanda before the vote — casting doubt on one of his Conservative Party’s flagship policies.
The plan has been bogged down by legal obstacles for more than two years, and the opposition Labour Party, which is about 20 points ahead in opinion polls and seen on track to end 14 years of Conservative rule, has promised to scrap the policy if it wins the election.
Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said Sunak’s government had not done enough to tackle the issue.
“Because all the government’s efforts are now focused on getting a few hundred people flown to Rwanda, they have lost sight of the thousands more who are crossing the Channel every month,” Kinnock said in a statement.
Labour has said if elected it would create a Border Security Command that would bring together staff from the police, the domestic intelligence agency and prosecutors to work with international agencies to stop people smuggling.


Supporters, opponents of Tehran clash in London

Updated 25 May 2024
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Supporters, opponents of Tehran clash in London

  • Event to mark death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi descends into violence
  • 4 injured, 1 arrested: Metropolitan Police

LONDON: Clashes in London between supporters and opponents of Iran’s government on Friday left four people with injuries, Sky News reported on Saturday.

One person was arrested on suspicion of violent disorder following the clashes.

Metropolitan Police officers were called to the scene at about 6 p.m. following reports of violence.

Pro-Tehran demonstrators had held an event to mark the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash last week.

Outside the venue, anti-Tehran protesters held a counter-demonstration, and clashes broke out between the two sides.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said four people were treated by paramedics for injuries. “Their injuries are not believed to be either life threatening or life changing,” the spokesperson added.

“Further inquiries will now follow to establish what further offences took place and to identify those involved.”