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Comment from Qari Asim: Muslims are the New Scapegoats



As Trump closes the doors of the US to Muslims with his travel ban, British Muslims have opened the doors of their mosques to welcome everyone -irrespective of faith, belief, background and age.

This week has seen some of the largest marches in recent history, across the world, against Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily block travel for immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. It also stopped the admission of all refugees to the US for 120 days. The weeklong protests are preceded still by the global Women’s March, immediately following Trump’s inauguration day.

The #MuslimBan order is bigoted and discriminatory; it is encouraging that a federal judge in Seattle has temporarily suspended the executive order. Trump’s fierce attempt to overturn the legal decision is disappointing. The order has resulted in fear, anxiety and stigmatisation of many families and homes because of their religion. The executive order is not only a full-frontal assault on the civil rights of Muslim citizens in the US, it is a dangerous and self-defeating policy. It purports the attacks of 9/11 as a rationale for such a replusive ban, whist exempting the countries of origin of all the hijackers who carried out that plot. However, no citizens from those war torn seven countries has ever committed terror on US soil. Terrorism doesn’t have a nationality; Since 9/11 more Americans have been killed by home grown right-wing extremists than by terrorists from any Muslim country.

The Muslim travel ban is insulting, divisive and regressive to say the least. The timing of the order is ironic as it was issued on the eve of holocaust memorial day. Holocaust did not begin with gas chambers, but with a culture of hate, the crime of indifference and conspiracies of silence. The treatment of Muslims parallels with how Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution were treated in the 1930s and 1940s are obvious. The prevailing rhetoric about Muslim refugees is identical to that used to demonize Jews during the World War II. The Daily Mail’s 2015 cartoon showing Muslim refugees as rats perfectly tracked a 1939 cartoon in a Viennese newspaper depicting Jews the same way. Prince Charles, in an address this week, said the lessons of World War II were in “increasing danger” of being forgotten.

The counterproductive travel ban is a gift to the extremists – both ISIS and ultra-right nationalists. Only a few hours after Trump’s order of ‘Muslim Ban’ came into effect, the Islamic Centre of Victoria in Texas was burned to the ground. The deadly shooting at Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, resulting in the brutal murder of six Muslims is shining a light on the ugly truth of Islamophobia that Muslims have to experience. These attacks are not isolated incidents. Many mosques in the UK and across Europe have been attacked in recent years. Violent attacks such as these highlight the critical importance of combating anti-Muslim hatred which is being promoted by the far right in recent years by spreading misinformation about Muslims. Islamophobia has been legitimised by populist leaders in recent political campaigns. The British Government recognises the threat posed to places of worship including mosques, and last year announced a grant of £2.4m to help places of worship install security and safety equipment to prevent hate crime.

As the world feels under threat by ISIS affiliates, the Muslim communities not only feel threatened by ISIS affiliates but also by populist leaders and far right sympathisers – Muslims feel more vulnerable now than ever before. When populist leaders, including the President of the US, makes it acceptable to hate people, or bar people from entering the US merely on the grounds of their religion or identity, it is not surprising that Islamophobia is on the rise.

The outpouring of support thousands of people marching in their cities against the ‘Muslim ban’ has restored belief in humanity. Exposing the ill thought out policy of Trump and the sharing of immigrant stories by thousands have been heart-warming. Political and religious leaders, sports personalities, as well as celebrities issuing statements of support for Muslims, has been overwhelming. It was profoundly emotional and encouraging to see people of all faiths and none forming a human chain around a mosque in Haringey this Friday as a gesture of solidarity in the wake of a deadly attack in Quebec and Donald Trump’s travel ban.

At a time of increased concerns about a climate of hostility, mosques throughout Britain opened their doors last weekend (Sunday 5 February). #VisitMyMosque initiative is aimed at reducing misconceptions about Islam and Muslims in Britain. These events will also highlight how local mosques are helping their local communities and fostering communal relations. The senseless violence caused by terrorists, the slowly-creeping fascism, the politics of hatred and the ‘them’ -v-‘us’ narrative can only be defeated by communities standing together, protecting each other’s liberties and striving for the flourishing of humanity.

By Qari Asim, MBE
Senior Imam Makkah Mosque, Leeds

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Rohingya: Let There Not Be Another Genocide


Imam Qari Asim, MBE

Chief Imam, Makkah Mosque Leeds


The minority of Myanmar, known as the Rohingya, is being violently attacked with impunity and driven from their homes. The mass killings, setting of human beings on fire and raping of women and young children is being carried out against the Rohingya minority in the Rakhine state of Burma, but the dreadful plight of the Rohingya is going unnoticed by world at large.

There are about 1.3 million Rohingya among Burma’s predominantly Buddhist 52 million population. The Rohingya is a distinct Muslim ethnic group, largely descendants of Arab traders, who have been in the region for generations. However, most people view them as foreign intruders from neighbouring Bangladesh, which, while hosting many Rohingya refugees, refuses to recognise them as citizens. The killings and persecution of the Rohingya is clearly designed to change the ethnic composition of the region. The recent violence is the most serious bloodshed in Rakhine since communal clashes in 2012.  It is human suffering on a horrific scale being played out in full view. It is a complete outrage, racism and intolerance, discrimination and persecution at its worst – simply a crime against humanity.

International observers have documented the systematic disenfranchisement and discrimination that Rohingyas have faced for decades, including government restrictions on marriage, family planning, employment, education and freedom of movement. More than half of the Rohingya population has been displaced in recent years. Some have tried to escape to other Southeast Asian nations -Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia – on rickety boats often operated by human traffickers; in many instances the stateless people have not been welcomed by neighbouring countries.

Whilst the world focuses on the atrocities committed by the ISIS, vigilante Buddhist mobs continue to slaughter men, women and children. They have burned down entire villages with people trapped in their homes. The New York-based group Human Rights Watch says satellite imagery shows 1,250 houses and other structures have been burned down. The United Nations has labelled the Rohingya community as one of the world’s most persecuted people. The UN human rights agency says Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims are victims of crimes against humanity, yet it is extremely heartrending that no one is trying to prevent the genocide of the Rohingya.

The Burmese government and progressive elements of the civil society have either gone silent or joined in anti-Muslim and anti-ethnic rhetoric, complicity endorsing the genocide. In particular, lack of clear condemnation and decisive preventive actions by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – who is now Burma’s de-facto leader – has been of most significance. San Suu Kyi, whose years of pro-democracy activism made her into an international hero, is now acting as a cynical politician who is willing to put politics ahead of principles and innocent lives.

This crisis also says a lot about the political leadership of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASAN). The ASAN region is far from fully realising its ideal of becoming a multicultural, sharing and caring community. The Western political leadership must also be consistent with its approach to human crisis and human rights. Fortify Rights, which has been working with the Rohingya community, says ‘systematic violations’ have been ‘overlooked’ by Western powers.

Some claim that the reason for a lack of political and economic pressure on the Burmese government is due to Rohingya issue being made out to be a ‘Muslim issue’ rather than a human rights issue. But this is not – and must not be – treated as a faith related issue. This is a humanitarian crisis – a vulnerable community is being ethnically cleansed and the global citizens must play their role to bring an end to yet another minority community suffering persecution, torture and killings at the hands of terrorists. All victims of violence, irrespective of their ethnicity or religious background deserve to be treated with respect, compassion and consideration.

I have visited the brutal concentration death camps and gas chambers in Auschwitz and where mass scale murder of Jews took place. The genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 is a stain on our civilized world. My visit to schools, warehouses and football pitches in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where mass scale killings took place as part of the genocide of Bosnian Muslims still haunts me. Not to forget the dreadful situation in Syria, where Eastern Aleppo has been turned into one giant graveyard. It is beyond human comprehension that how, despite all of our resources and access to information, we can allow hatred for one minority community to reach such low level that people do not hesitate to wipe minorities off the face of the earth.

We must learn the lessons of history to help tackle hatred, racism and demonisation in whatever form and against whomever it may occur in our shared world. It isn’t enough to condemn and move on. The political leadership of the world must take decisive and robust actions to stop the genocide of the Rohigya minority community. It is high time for regional governments to step up to the challenge and address this humanitarian crises head on. Let there not be another genocide in our time.

To donate to the Myanmar Emergency Appeal visit this page

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Council Calls for Action on Social Care Funding


Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, executive member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults at Leeds City Council, recently highlighted the growing funding crisis for adult social care nationally, which had put local authorities and health and care systems across the country under significant strain to meet increasing pressures.

In addition to the huge funding cuts to local authorities – Leeds has seen a reduction of £214m since 2010 – a growing ageing population, the complexity of people’s needs, support for people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, and increasing demand for services, all stress the challenges facing councils across the UK.

Leeds City Council remains committed to increasing its adult social care share. However, significant annual savings are still necessary to meet some of the challenges. The city achieved £56m worth of savings between 2010/11 and 2015/16. Despite the government announcing that local authorities could increase Council Tax by up to 2% per year to help fund the increasing costs of adult social care, this still fails to address pressures on budgets which face increasing demand.

A recent Local Government Association (LGA) analysis estimated that social care for the elderly and disabled could face a potential funding gap of at least £2.6 billion nationally by the end of the decade. Key organisations and groups have warned of the need for urgent action to address the pressures facing social care, and groups such as The King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and The Health Foundation had called on the government to address the funding crisis in its Autumn Statement. This follows warnings from the Care Quality Commission in its recent annual report that the social care system is near ‘tipping point’.

In addition, leaders of the four political groups of the LGA wrote a letter to The Observer recently highlighting their disappointment at the Chancellor’s failure to address the social care funding crisis in The Autumn Statement, stating the call for action from councils, the NHS and charities was ‘deafening’. The letter also stated ‘the government cannot ignore it any longer if we are to have a society that works for everyone’.

“It is extremely disappointing that the government has failed to listen and respond to the warnings from local authorities, key health and care groups, and from some of its own MPs, of the need to address the funding gap facing social care”, said Cllr Rebecca Charlwood, Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults. “As a Council, we have had to make difficult decisions over the last few years to mitigate the impact of government cuts and we will continue to do the best we can to protect the services of the most vulnerable people in the city.

“However, as the funding situation for both local government and social care continues to worsen, I think it is critical that the government accepts it must take immediate action and fully commit to properly fund social care, so that we can continue to support older people in the city so that they can live their lives independently and with the dignity they deserve.”



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Imam Qari Asim comments on the murder of Fr Jacques Hamel in France

Qari Asim

The despicable act of murdering an 86 year old Catholic Priest, Fr Jacques Hamel, in Normandy, France, is absolutely abhorrent.

This attack in a place of worship and on innocent worshippers in particular demonstrates that there are no boundaries to the depravity of these murderers. In this extremely difficult time for the Catholic community, we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of all faiths and none in defiance of those who look to spread a poisonous and perverted ideology by bloodshed.

Daesh / ISIS has proved, as it did in Medina less than a month ago, its complete distain of all faiths including the one it falsely claims it represents.

An attack on any place of worship, is an attack on the way of life of faith communities, and therefore an attack on all of us, regardless of who you are, where you come from and your faith.

Even during the time of a war, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ gave the following instructions: “Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship.”

One of the Normandy murderers was a convicted criminal with an electronic tag on his ankle after trying to join Daesh in Syria many times. Further investigation needs to take place regarding how he was able to commit such violence.

Faith communities must not let this tragic incident create division between communities, give rise to hatred, fear and suspicion and destabilise the mutual relationship and understating that we have between us. Only together can we defeat this indiscriminate killing of innocent people across the world, and bring about peace and harmony.

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Leeds Post Referendum – Let’s Chalk About It



This Saturday Leeds Post Referendum will be holding a public Brexit street discussion on Briggate.

The group will be engaging passers by and shoppers; generating discussion with games and music.

The event will welcome people of all ages regardless of their vote to join in and help Brexiteers and Remainers understand each other and repair divides.

Let’s Chalk About The EU Referendum aims to provide an accessible space for non-confrontational public discussion exploring impacts of immigration vs austerity in the UK, unpicking reasons for voting and more.

Full details can be found here:








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GCSE Pupils Tackle the EU Referendum Debate at Leeds Beckett Politics Day

GCSE Brexit

With help from a team of local councillors, around 85 Year 10 pupils from schools in the region (Mount St Mary’s, Allerton High, Roundhay, Cardinal Heenan, Lawnswood, Farnley and St Thomas à Becket), attended the ‘Politics Matters’ day at the University’s Headingley Campus.

On arrival, the pupils took part in their own European Union (EU) referendum, with 69 out of 77 of the pupils voting to remain in the EU.

Throughout the day, the pupils gained detailed insight from the Politics and Applied Global Ethics (PAGE) teaching team at Leeds Beckett into the Brexit debate, with PAGE students presenting a debate on the motion: ‘This house believes that the UK government is not doing enough to help in dealing with the European migration crisis’. The pupils voted in favour of the motion.

They were then given tips on how to prepare a campaign strategy before forming groups and putting together their own strategies for leaving or remaining within the EU. Helping them were local politicians Jonathan Bentley, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Weetwood, Sharon Hamilton, Labour Councillor for Moortown, Alex Sobel, Labour Councillor for Moortown, and Dawn Collins, Conservative Councillor for Horsforth.

At the end of the day, a panel of judges, including the PAGE staff and Councillor Jonathan Bentley, declared Mount St Mary’s the winning team for their remain campaign, based on the quality of their strategies and presentation.

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Leeds Black, Asian & Ethnic Minority Activists Discuss the EU Referendum


On Thursday 2nd June, Black/Asian/Ethnic minority (BAME) activists and community leaders will gather in Leeds to debate the upcoming EU referendum question.

Anoosh Chakelian, the New Statesman’s Deputy Web Editor has described the referendum debate so far as “pale, male and stale”. The UK Race and Europe Network (UKREN), in partnership with Just West Yorkshire seeks to broaden the discussion around the referendum. The event will particularly welcome and centre the voices of people from BAME, migrant and refugee communities.



So far, much of the discussion around the referendum has been focused on business, security, and Britain’s position on the ‘world stage’. The debate on 2nd June will give focus to the rights of the individual including worker’s rights, free movement rights, and welfare provision.


The panel will be comprised of: Michael Privot (Director, European Network Against Racism); Saleem Kader (global business executive, Bombay Stores), and Dr Iyiola Solanke (Leeds academic in EU and racial integration). Politicians representing the Leave and Remain case to be confirmed.

A video published by UKREN on YouTube features young and BAME people sharing their thoughts on Britain’s EU membership. ‘Borders’, ‘migration, and ‘free movement’ were cited as concepts that mattered to people, as well as ‘progress’, ‘wealth’ and ‘the single market’.

Should We Stay or Should We Go? Is at The Carriageworks, Millennium Square, 6 – 9pm on Thursday 2nd June. The panel discussion will be followed by a reception with light refreshments. Entry is free, but places must be reserved via:



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Speakers Confirmed for EU Debate at Trinity University


Speakers for and against Britain remaining in the EU have been confirmed for a debate at Leeds Trinity University on Friday 3 June, ahead of the EU referendum next month.

Ilkley-based former Labour MP for Selby John Grogan from Britain Stronger in Europe will be speaking in favour of remaining within the EU, after consistently voting for more EU integration while serving as an MP.

With a strong voting record on issues such as for equal gay rights, against university tuition fees and the Iraq war, he gained national press coverage for his campaigns while in office.

“The British referendum about Europe is exciting interest across the world,” said John. “I am looking forward to putting a positive case for the European Union at Leeds Trinity University as I believe that Britain is stronger in Europe when it comes to our economy, our security, our environment and our ability to exert real influence.”

He will be up against Yorkshire Chairman of Business for Britain, Carl Chambers, who will speak on behalf of the Vote Leave Campaign.

“Voting to leave the EU will allow the UK to take back control of its own destiny and restore its position as a self-governing democracy” said Carl. “The EU has failed to serve the UK’s economic interests in the way it should; the future growth in economic activity comes from outside the EU and our membership holds us back from fully participating in that growth.”

Qualified as both a barrister and a chartered accountant, Chambers is a strong believer in giving a voice to Yorkshire businesses in the referendum debates, and had already taken part in an open forum for small business owners in Yorkshire on the topic.

The debate at Leeds Trinity is open to anyone interested in the EU referendum – students, staff, alumni, prospective students, MP’s, business partners, members of the local community etc. and forms part of the University’s commitment to ensuring everyone can make an informed decision before casting their vote.

The debate will be supported by student speakers who will share why they are supporting each respective campaign. There will also be a paper ballot before and after the debate.

It will be held in the auditorium at Leeds Trinity from 10.00am – 12.00pm and has been organised in partnership with Leeds Trinity Student’s Union (LTSU).

To attend the event, please register your interest with Leeds Trinity. Tickets are free, and will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis due to limited availability.

Updates from the event can be followed using #EUdebateLeeds.

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West Yorkshire Police and Leeds Beckett Tackle Online Crime

Security concept: Lock on digital screen


Digital crime experts at Leeds Beckett University are working with West Yorkshire Police to develop new ways of fighting cyber-crime.

Reporting directly to the Home Office, and supported by the College of Policing and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the project could ultimately help to transform the way digital crime is policed across the country.

The £640,000 project funded by the Police Knowledge Fund, is just one of those being undertaken by the Cybercrime and Security Innovation Centre (CSI Centre) at Leeds Beckett University which launched this April.

‘Cyber-enabled’ crimes are traditional crimes that can be increased in scale, or reach by the use of computers, networks or other forms of communications technology.

While overall crime rates fall, as we increasingly live our lives online cyber-enabled crime continues to increase, which is why tackling it is a key priority for the Home Office.

Ranging from online harassment to identity theft and fraud, across the country, recent research from the Home Office* suggests that up to around 5.1 million people – over 8% of UK population – are the victims of cyber-enabled crime every year. It is likely that the true figure is much higher.

As part of an exciting 18-month project, academics from Leeds Beckett University are working closely with West Yorkshire Police (WYP) to help train and develop a modern police force capable of taking the fight online.

The innovative partnership will offer researchers unparalleled access to the inner-workings of WYP as part of its commitment to developing a police force that is as at home online as on the beat.

The objective is to identify the knowledge gaps in digital investigations. The results will be shared with the Home Office, which, with the support of the College of Policing, is committed to helping police forces across the country to modernise.



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Brussels Bomb Blasts Require Co-ordinated Response to Growing Terrorism


Scores of people have been killed and wounded after explosions blasted at Brussels airport and a metro station in the city centre.

British Muslims, along with all other communities, are shocked and dismayed by yet another attack in Europe, after last year’s Paris attacks.

“We stand united with the people of Brussels in this tragic hour: our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims of these horrific attacks,”  said Chief Imam of Leeds Makakh Mosque, Imam Qari Asim.

“Terrorism is a global phenomenon and a challenge of our time. The recent attacks on Turkey last week and now in Brussels call for a robust and co-ordinated approach to tackle the growing violence caused by terrorism. The terrible blasts and killings are not only an attack on the people of Brussels, but an attack on all of us.

“Through their evil actions, the terrorists have shown that they have no regard for any religion or humanity. They are committing terror and killing people indiscriminately, across the globe, irrespective of faith, nationality and background of the victims. The terrorists have maligned Islam – religion of peace- for their own political and territorial goals.

“Those who have carried out these horrific attacks want to create a climate of fear and anger in Europe. Their heinous crimes must not be allowed to destabilise the good relationships that exist between faith groups and communities within Europe. In the days ahead, some people will peddle anti-Muslim hate; we have already seen hastag #StopIslam trending. We must stand firm, with compassion and solidarity, against hatred and violence. We must not play into the divisive and poisonous narrative of extremists.”

“The barbaric and despicable acts of sympathisers of the pseudo ‘Islamic State’ are absolutely contrary to the teachings of Islam,” said Haji Muhammad, a spokesperson for Leeds Muslim Council. “These callous and cowardly attacks on fellow humans are attacks on our shared universal values.”

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