Friday, 27 February 2015

Magna Carta

Celebrating the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta

March 3 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

The Sheriff Of Norwich William Armstrong OBE and the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society

Invite you to a Lecture entitled
From Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights 1998:
Why Your Human Rights Act Needs You

To be delivered by Stephen Bowen, Director of the British Institute of Human Rights

At Council Chamber City Hall Norwich on Tuesday 3rd March 2015 at 7.30 p.m.

All are Welcome • Free Admission • Light Refreshments Provided

EU Parliament must act urgently against anti-Muslim and anti-Semite attacks

From The Parliament Magazine by Claire Fernandez:

As recent events have led to a rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Europe, new measures are required to address both of these forms of racism.

25/2/2015- The deadly attacks against Jews in Paris and Copenhagen, as well as the numerous attacks against Muslims in France, Sweden and Germany have added to the fear experienced by many Jews and Muslims across Europe. 

While anti-Semitism and Islamophobia each have their specificities and different historical sources, they can sometimes be quite similar. The European parliament must take steps to specifically address both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and not fall into the trap of division. 

Research by the EU fundamental rights agency (FRA) shows worrying trends when it comes to Jews experiencing discrimination as well as a fear of verbal or physical attacks, particularly in France, Belgium and Hungary. The Paris and Copenhagen attacks have added to the ongoing fears of European Jews, and many Jewish institutions have been under increasing military or police protection.

Last week, hundreds of Jewish graves were desecrated in a cemetery near Strasbourg, France, followed by the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Oldenburg, Ger-many. The community security trust in the UK has reported the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2014 ever reported. Similarly, an FRA survey has provided evidence of discrimination and stigmatisation of Muslims. Since the Paris attacks, anti-Muslim sentiments and incidents are on the rise in Europe, and Muslim communi-ties fear retaliation. From 7 January 2015 to 7 February 2015, there were 153 Islamophobic incidents against individuals and places of worship in France - a 70 per cent increase compared to the previous year. Islamophobic incidents have also occurred recently in other EU countries, including Sweden and Germany.

Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia target people based on their real or perceived Jewish or Muslim background, rather than a rejection of 'religion' or their representatives. 

Parliament should maintain a fundamental rights perspective, focusing on racial and religious discrimination, as well as its intersections with gender, age and social origin, rather than on 'religious intolerance'. In a number of cases, restrictive policies towards Muslim communities have also affected Jewish communities, for example in the case of forbidding slaughtering and circumcision. Surveys have shown that an 'old' type of far-right anti-Semitism is still largely dominant, and goes hand in hand with other forms of prejudice, including Islamophobia.

Many far-right and populist right movements and parties which are openly Islamophobic are built around an anti-Semitic basis. Common strategies for action to counter these forces are needed, in a collective and constructive way. In this respect, existing EU laws, including equality and hate crime legislation, must be better enforced in order to combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The proposed equal treatment directive - blocked in the council since 2008 - should also be adopted, so as to fill gaps in protection against discrimination, in particular on grounds of religion and belief outside of employment. In addition, these should be reinforced by specific policy strategies to address anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

In a context of growing mistrust, ongoing accusations, sometimes hatred and violence, fuelled by international developments, it is crucial to bring Jewish and Muslim communities together and build solidarity. Measures to prevent acts of hatred towards Jews and Muslims should not stigmatise or polarise any community, and must include support to cross-community and community-led initiatives. Symbolic initiatives such as the common peace vigil in Oslo, showing cross-community support, should be encouraged.

Claire Fernandez is deputy director of the European network against racism (ENAR)

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Norfolk Humanists

Thursday, February 19 at 7:30pm

Friends Meeting House (Committee Room)
Upper Goat Lane, Norwich NR2 1EW

Now seems an appropriate time for us to discuss Humanist attitudes towards freedom of expression. We don’t have a guest speaker, so it will be an open discussion. It's always useful to question and challenge our own views and assumptions about issues like this. It will also help us to sharpen the arguments we are bound to be having over the coming weeks, months and years.

Here are some questions that it may be helpful for us all to consider in preparation for the discussion:

Should there be ANY restrictions on free speech?
If so what, why and who decides these limits?
Why is freedom of expression necessary?
What are the dangers of restricting it? Perhaps consider historical examples.
Why do people (even non-believers) seem to think that religious beliefs deserve greater protection than political views or other personal opinions?
Is it valid to offend people just because we can?
Would the world be a better place if we just chose not to offend each other?
Should Humanists set an example by not offending other humans if at all possible?
What is the best way to defend freedom of expression in the world today?

It promises to be a very lively discussion. Please try to come along.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Bye Bye BNP

BNP fall complete: Racist party can't find enough candidates to qualify for BBC election broadcast

In 2010, the BNP won 563,743 votes at the General Election, but this year they are struggling to even find candidates

BNP leader Adam Walker took over from Nick Griffin 2014

The far-right British National Party is set to lose the right to an election broadcast as it cannot find enough parliamentary candidates, an anti-fascist group has claimed.

Hope Not Hate, which has campaigned against the BNP since its inception in 2004, today said the racist party would fall way short of the 89 candidates needed to qualify for airtime.

The BBC Trust announced that a political party needs to be contesting at least 89 seats in England, 10 in Scotland, seven in Wales or three in Northern Ireland in order to get a party election broadcast.

In 2010, the BNP stood 338 candidates across the UK, with its best result coming in the London seat of Barking where the then-leader Nick Griffin finished third.

Duncan Cahill, a researcher for Hope Not Hate, said “there’s no chance” of BNP putting up 89 candidates for May’s General Election.

He said: “That was five years ago, now they have only got 471 members.

“There’s no far right party in this country that will be able to put up 89 candidates.”

The BNP reached its high point at the end of the last decade, with two members elected to the European Parliament, a seat on the London Assembly and more than fifty local council seats.

Mr Griffin even appeared on BBC’s flagship discussion show Question Time, a move which prompted mass protests amid claims the party’s views were being “legitimised”.

The divisive party even managed to offend Marmite when it used a jar of the spread during its 2010 election broadcast to show people either 'loved them or hated them'.

But five years on from the last election, and Mr Griffin has been booted out the party, it no longer has any MEPs and now has just two councillors.

Mr Griffin was also declared bankrupt, and launched his own online cookery show.

BNP’s current leader Adam Walker is a former teacher who was banned life from the profession after verbally abusing three schoolboys, who were between the ages of 10 and 12, chasing them in his car and slashing the tyres on their bikes with a knife.

The rise of UKIP is seen as one of the prime reason for the BNPs demise, with Nigel Farage saying last year he is “proud” to have attracted a third of the party’s voters.

A spokesman for Hope Not Hate added: 

Hope not hate expects this to be an annus horriblis for the party of hate.

It is fracturing into irrelevance, its activists lost to splits and lunatic fringe groups, with core parts of its voting base likely to move over to the ‘respectable’ xenophobia of UKIP.

Actual membership is down to around 500 people: it used to be in the thousands.

Although the party’s Twitter and Facebook Pages are still fairly active, this can’t hide the many cracks and its website is a poor imitation of its previous incarnations.
A spokesman for BNP splinter group Britain First said the Islamophobic organisation would field five candidates in “heavily Muslim areas to give UKIP a clear run” in other seats.

A BNP spokesman said the did not know how many candidates the party would put up, but “I wouldn’t tell the Mirror even if I did”.

Where are they now?

Past Norfolk supporters of the BNP drumming up funds for Nick Griffin's retirement plan

As Nick himself might say to all those who supported this sad far right party:

So long suckers, and thanks for all the dosh!

Past Norfolk supporters of the BNP at BNP's money-making Trafalgar Night dinner

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Right to Free Expression

Happy Darwin Day, 12 February 2015.  

Let's celebrate perpetual curiosity, intellectual courage, and a hunger for truth.

Norfolk Humanists and Secularists get together once a month in the Friends Meeting House, Upper Goat Lane, Norwich, 7.0 for 7.30 pm. 

OUR NEXT MEETING is 19 FEBRUARY 2015 (Thursday next). 

We will be discussing the Right to Free Expression, taking as our theme the BHA's recent statement in response to the Paris attacks asserting the right to freedom of speech: 
The right to free expression is a universal one, and it lies at the foundation of every liberty. It must always be defended.
We hope you will join us for what is usually a lively and inclusive discussion. All welcome.

Norfolk Humanists and Secularists get together every third Thursday of the month.  
We invite speakers to talk on a range of subjects not just relevant to Humanism but also to feed our unbounded curiosity about the world. We don’t claim to have all the answers but think that the search for truth through rational debate is well worth pursuing. If, like us, you think life can be lived ethically without reference to religion and wish to meet like minded people, please feel free to come along to our meetings. 

Access and interact with our facebook page here

If you would like to enquire about becoming a member of the Norfolk Humanists, please email us here or contact the BHA at

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Love bombs at Ihsan Mosque

From Ann Nicholls of Look, See, Click with additional pictures from Jan McLachlan:

In the early hours of Saturday morning the windows were smashed at the Irfhan Mosque in the centre of Norwich. Windows were also smashed at The Owl Sanctuary pub around that time too. The Owl Sanctuary is a pub known for being a meeting place for anti-racists, anti-fascists.

Of course we cannot make assumptions that the same people were responsible for both attacks but the good citizens of Norwich can make their feelings known that they will not let such attacks happen without comment or response. Messages of solidarity have been posted on social media, at least one letter (from We Are Norwich) has been sent to the local press condemning the attacks and all day today the front door and outside walls of the mosque have been love bombed with paper hearts and messages of support posted by people of many faiths and of none; by people belonging to groups or organisations and by individuals.

Myself (writes Ann) and some friends and comrades from We Are Norwich met after work to write messages on cardboard hearts and went to add these to the others. We tied most of them to the iron railings of the mosque, leaving some of them blank so that passers by could write their own messages if they wished.

I have a feeling that many people will be going down to the Owl Sanctuary to quaff some 'solidarity pints'.

We are many, they are few. 

And you can see some more of my pics, including some of the messages, here.

Monday, 9 February 2015

And again, whose expense? Our expense!

From The Telegraph by Christopher Hope ;

Huge crowd of Muslim protesters picket Downing Street to protest at Charlie Hebdo cartoons

The protesters, many of whom were divided into groups of men and women, and included children, gathered just yards from the Cenotaph

The protest was organised by the Muslim Action Forum, which said that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons had helped “sow the seeds of hatred” Photo: Lee Thomas

At least 1,000 Muslim protesters gathered outside the gates of Downing Street to protest against the depictions of the Prophet Mohammed in Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine.

The protestors, many of whom were divided into groups of men and women, gathered just yards from the Cenotaph which remembers Britain’s war dead, and blocked half of Whitehall as they demonstated.

It comes weeks after two terrorists attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the Paris-based satirical magazine which had published images of the Prophet Muhammad, killing 12 staff and wounding 11 others.The protest was organised by the Muslim Action Forum, which said that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons had helped “sow the seeds of hatred” and had damaged community relations.

One young child, who appeared to be under the age of 10, stood next to a placard displaying the message: “Charlie and the abuse factory”.

A series of Muslim leaders addressed the crowd from a platform outside the Ministry of Defence, with the message “Be careful with Muhammad”.

The protesters are photographed in front of Downing Street (PA)

The meeting was organised by the Muslim Action Forum, which was handing out leaflets about the demonstration on Whitehall.

The leaflet said: 
The recent re-publishing of the cartoons, caricatures and depictions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by Charlie Hebdo magazine and other publishers is a stark reminder that freedom of speech if regularly utilised to insult personalities that others consider sacred.

Such actions are deliberating insulting and provoking to Muslims worldwide as British citizens, we believe that these publications will continue to ‘sow the seeds of hatred’ and damage community relations.

In an already fragile world we need to move from actions of incitement, hatred and provocation to civility, consideration and respect.
In an apparent reference to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine the leaflet added that “regrettably some Muslims” had “taken the un-Islamic path of human destruction”.

It added: 
The vast majority of Muslims worldwide shall not denigrate their historical and current values by reciprocating hatred.

Muslims shall call upon their deep spiritual strength and take the moral high ground by inviting the world to civility in any form of expression, dialogue, discourse and debate.
The Forum delivered a petition to 10 Downing Street signed by over 100,000 British Muslims to highlight the view that the majority of Muslims worldwide call for 'Global Civility' rather than destruction of human life.

The group also expressed "deep regret" at the Paris terror attacks, which included a massacre at Charlie Hebdo, saying they were a "violation of Islamic law".

Shaykh Tauqir Ishaq, a senior spokesman for the Forum, said:
Perpetual mistakes by extremists, either by cold-blooded killers or uncivilised expressionists, cannot be the way forward for a civilised society.

The peace-loving majority of people must become vociferous in promoting global civility and responsible debate. At this time of heightened tension and emotion, it is crucial that both sides show restraint to prevent further incidents of this nature occurring.
Shaykh Noor Siddiqi, another Forum representative, said "The actions of the UK media in not publishing the cartoons is highly appreciated by British Muslims and we hope that this kind of self-restraint and mutual respect will ultimately lead to a harmonious society."

Across the street on Whitehall a handful of counter demonstrators holding a Britain First banner gathered. Scotland Yard said it was not aware of any arrests during the protest.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Again, whose expense? Our expense.

Thirty people arrested at EDL anti-mosque march in Dudley

Local businesses forced to close amid anxiety over violence

Thirty people have been arrested at a protest against the planned construction of a mosque in the West Midlands.

Around 600 English Defence League (EDL) marchers descended on the town of Dudley on Saturday.

Police said around 50 people turned out to oppose the protest but were prevented from reaching the main march by police.

The local council said many local businesses were forced to stay closed during Saturday shopping hours because of anxiety about the potential of violence.

“While West Midlands Police has no power to ban people from exercising their democratic right to express their opinions through protest, we have been planning the policing operation for months," Chief Superintendent Chris Johnson, who is responsible for policing in the town, said.

Peter Lowe, the Labour leader of Dudley Council, said the local authority was powerless to stop the march.  He said:
The fear and anxiety caused by these kinds of protests meant that the majority of businesses did not open on what would normally be their busiest day’s trade.

We have said all along that the EDL is not welcome in Dudley borough but there are no legal powers to stop them holding a protest.
West Midlands Police said today that 25 of the 30 people arrested were detained “to prevent an imminent breach of the peace and were later released without charge”.

Ahead of the march one EDL supporter threatened on Facebook to burn the mosque down, the website EDL News reports. The social media post in which the threat was allegedly made has since been removed.

Ahead of the protest, the English Defence League (Manchester division) Facebook group posted a statement to its supporters: “I'm sure everyone remembers the last [march] held here in 2010 where we were forced to hold the event in a car park on the edge of town. Well not this time!”

The Unite Against Fascism group, which called on its supporters to oppose the EDL protest, tweeted images of the counter-demonstration and said it was “standing in solidarity against the racist EDL”.

Whose expense? Our expense!

From the BBC:

Heavy police presence at Dudley EDL march

Roads were closed and police cordons set up to separate EDL supporters from an anti-fascist counter-demonstration

Up to 1,000 EDL members travelled to Dudley to protest against plans for a mosque, amid a heavy police presence.

The protesters marched from the town centre to the council house and held speeches objecting to the so-called "super mosque".

Many shops shut for the afternoon and some were boarded up as a precaution, although the Churchill shopping centre stayed open.

A counter-protest was staged by members of Unite Against Fascism (UAF).

Thirty arrests were made mainly to prevent a breach of the peace, police said.

Maria Jones, of Teddy Grays sweetshop, said her store closed at lunchtime.

"We are worried there will be trouble. There have a been a few shoppers about, but not many," she said.
Some shops within police cordons were boarded up and remained closed for the day
Steel fencing was put up across a town street to keep opposing factions away from each other

BBC reporter James Bovill said plenty of shops had remained closed and many had been boarded up.

Dudley Council said there would be a market and free parking in the town next weekend to make up for the disruption.

Peter Lowe, leader of the Labour-led authority, said: 
We recognise there will be issues in the community but that will be dealt with by the people of this town.

What we don't need are outsiders who don't understand the issues that affect Dudley, they come in and spread their hatred and their lies.
One EDL member who travelled from Colchester, Essex, said he was in Dudley to protest against the building of the "super mosque".

Although planning permission is still being dealt with by the courts, he insisted it would go ahead.  He said:
We are not violent, racist thugs, I am not a racist.

But I don't want my children growing up in a country where Sharia law is allowed.
Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of Unite Against Fascism, a group which took part in the counter-demonstration, said he was there to stand in solidarity with the people of Dudley.  He said:
It's a very welcoming community, the fact that people can mix together and live together is a positive thing.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Windows smashed at Norwich Ihsan Mosque

So what exactly is this mindless vandalism supposed to achieve?

The windows were smashed in the early hours of Saturday morning PHOTO: GEORGE RYAN

Three windows were smashed at Norwich Ihsan Mosque early this morning.

The windows were smashed in the early hours of Saturday morning PHOTO: GEORGE RYAN

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward following the criminal damage incident at about 6.30am at the building in Chapelfield East.

Around 11 panes of glass were damaged in the grade 2 listed building, which someone from the mosque said will cost “hundreds” to replace to glass and leading.

Some worshippers were inside the building when the windows were smashed.

One of them, Rashid, said this was the first time anything like this has happened at the mosque.

“When I heard the glass being smashed I thought we were under attack,” Rashid said, adding: “It is not nice to feel scared in a place of peace.”

He also said: 
With what has been going on in the world lately I would not be surprised if it was a deliberate attack against us.
Anybody with information should contact Sgt Dan Cocks at Bethel Street Police Station on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Movement against Xenophobia

Who drives your train?
Who looks after you in hospital?
Who teaches you?

Our brand new campaign celebrates migrants right at the heart of our society, on train and tube networks across the country. We aim to raise £66k in two weeks. With your help we can do it!

Using #MigrantsMoveMe please share and tweet looking out for the fundraiser being launched on Monday.

All aboard to stop the anti-immigrant rhetoric being used against our migrant friends.

Immigrants are part of the fabric of our society. It’s time to celebrate, not vilify.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Bellusci racism charge verdict probably next week

From Yorkshire Evening Post by Phil Hay:

Giuseppe Bellusci

Giuseppe Bellusci’s racism charge will go before a Football Association disciplinary commission tomorrow (5th February)  with the Leeds United defender fighting to avoid a minimum five-game ban.

Bellusci is set to attend tomorrow’s hearing in person and will deny allegations that he racially abused Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome during a Championship game in October.

The Italian centre-back is accused of calling Jerome a “negro” midway through the first half of a 1-1 draw between Leeds and Norwich at Carrow Road on October 21.

Bellusci has protested his innocence since the claim against him was passed to the FA by match referee Mark Clattenburg and United promised him their full support after the 25-year-old was charged with misconduct by the governing body on December 22.

The FA has not made the date or location of Bellusci’s hearing public and it declined to comment when contacted by the YEP yesterday.

Sources close to the process do not expect the disciplinary commission to deliver its verdict immediately and a ruling on Bellusci’s charge is more likely to come next week. The defender, who is currently one game into a mandatory two-match ban after his red card in last month’s 1-0 win over Bournemouth, will face a lengthy suspension if the FA finds him guilty.

The organisation’s rules were rewritten in 2013 to impose a minimum ban of five games on any player found guilty of racism or other discriminatory behaviour.

That sanction was introduced following the high-profile and controversial racism cases which led to suspensions for Chelsea captain John Terry and former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.

Leeds are at risk of losing Bellusci for at least a month of their Championship term and they moved to sign defensive cover during the January transfer window by taking Sol Bamba on loan from Palermo.

Neither Bellusci nor the FA has commented on his hearing since he was charged three days before Christmas.

In a statement released at the time, the FA said: 
Giuseppe Bellusci has been charged with misconduct for a breach of FA Rule E3 which is alleged to have occurred during the fixture between Norwich City and Leeds United on October 21, 2014.

It is alleged Bellusci used abusive and/or insulting words towards Cameron Jerome, of Norwich City FC, contrary to Rule E3 (1).

It is further alleged that this breach of Rule E3 (1) is an “aggravated breach” as defined in Rule E3(2), as it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race.
Bellusci is halfway through his first season in England after joining Leeds from Catania last summer.

He was one of 15 players who signed for United during the transfer window, moving on loan initially before making the move permanent for a reported fee of £1.6m.

Bellusci is tied to a four-year contract at Elland Road.

United owner Massimo Cellino - currently banned from running the club by the Football League - mounted a staunch defence of Bellusci 24 hours after the match at Carrow Road in October.

Cellino told the YEP: 
Bellusci is no racist. I spoke with him and he said ‘you must be joking, I said nothing like this to him (Jerome).’ He is surprised by this. He is shocked.

I don’t allow racists at this club and I won’t allow racists at this club ever. If one of my players is a racist, I’ll kick his a**e and kick him out before the FA has a chance.

Bellusci says he spoke (to Jerome) in Italian. I don’t know if he (Jerome) speaks Italian too but Bellusci swears to me he said nothing racist. I believe him and and I’ll support him.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Fuelling Christian extremism

Objections to the far right are not just because of the bullying, racism, misogyny and drunken violence, but also because religion is evoked as another weapon of bigotry.

Images of knights are favourites with the on-line East Anglian fascists, in laughable quantities.

But there is a bigger picture, and more reason for Humanists and Secularists to take an interest and oppose far right groups like Britain First.. 

From EDL Review:

Britain First fuelling Christian extremism

Britain First claims to uphold and promote Christian beliefs. According to Hope Not Hate, two of the men who played a key role in its creation announced the formation of a group to protect “British and Christian morality” in 2011.

Members of the group (including the current leader) ‘invaded’ mosques giving out Bibles preaching “Jesus Christ, our Lord”. The group also set up its own ‘Christian patrols’ and attracted a lot of media attention.

But strangely, Britain First seems to idolise the crusaders who had their fair share in wars and bloodshed in holy wars against Muslims (the “infidels” in the eyes of crusaders).

Now, Britain First regularly post up photos of crusaders, as shown below.

Posted on 5 October

Posted on 8 October

In the comments section we find some disturbing posts, with some supporters advocating for another ‘holy war’.

Is Britain First radicalising people?

Note: Britain First has banned countless people who oppose the group, but doesn’t really seem to ban anyone who advocates a ‘holy war’ or incites violence.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Having a go

Having a go at the far right - from Fester at NWI Fightback IX: