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We will also post relevant news worthy items and information on Human rights issues, racism, extremist individuals and groups and far right political parties from around the world although predominantly Britain.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Football hooligans to launch 'European Defence League' in Amsterdam

The English Defence League (EDL), the anti-Muslim 'street army' composed largely of football hooligans that burst onto the front pages of British newspapers in the last year as a result of its often violent protests, is to hold a rally in Amsterdam in October, EUobserver has learned.
The EDL is to demonstrate in support of Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti-immigrant firebrand, with a recently launched French Defence League and Dutch Defence League, modelled on the English group, to join them along with other anti-Islamic militants from across Europe.

Formed in 2009, the EDL has held over a dozen often rowdy marches and demonstrations in cities across Britain over the last year. Protests that attracted only a couple hundred militants at the end of last year are now bringing thousands out. On Saturday (28 August) a rally in Bradford, West Yorkshire, home to the second-largest community of south Asians in the UK, turned ugly when members clashed with police and pelted anti-racist activists with bricks, bottles and smoke bombs. Thirteen were arrested, according to media reports.

Anti-racist watchdogs call the EDL one of the most worrying developments on the far-right scene in the UK since the 1970s and the days of the National Front, an openly white supremacist and neo-Nazi political party. The group now appears to be meeting with some success in exporting its novel brand of nativism to the continent, a combination of anti-Muslim vitriol, agressive street marches and attempts to rope in football hooligan gangs by holding rallies around the same time as matches.

Graeme Atkinson, European editor of Searchlight magazine, a UK anti-fascist journal, says that the group is "tapping into a widespread and growing Islamophobia in society," in a way that other far-right groups, weighed down with explicitly fascist iconography and discourse, have not been able to.

He warns against panic regarding the new group, but says authorities should not be blind to the growth of such moevements, describing the new formation as "an utterly socially divisive, politically toxic ideology."

New kind of far-right outfit
Distinct from the traditional far right, the EDL, which originally grew out of the "football casual" subculture, claims to be multi-ethnic, to target "jihadism" rather than Muslims, and employs a rhetoric more in keeping with the fringes of neo-conservative anti-Islamism than the nostalgia for Nazism of other far-right formations.

The group's mission statement declares that anyone is welcome, so long as they are "integrated:" "We are non-racist/fascist and anyone is welcome if they want to live under English values and fully integrate into our way of life."

"English Defence League members recognise that this threat is one that must be stopped at all costs. Our Christian, Jewish, Sikh, and Hindu friends all have tales to tell with regard to Islamic Imperialism," the group's "Exposing the myths" page reads.

One of its leaders is Guramit Singh, a Sikh born in Britain, and it says it is, like Mr Wilders, strongly pro-Israel and maintains both Jewish and LGBT "divisions" while backing a ban on the building of mosques and seeking the burqa to be outlawed. Its LGBT wing was set up after the Dutchman visited the UK in March when he had been invited to show his short anti-Islam film, Fitna, in the House of Lords. At a demonstration in Bolton in March, a man held up a pink triangle alongside anti-Islam placards and banners. Its LGBT division has 107 members at the time of writing.

In what would normally be anathema to traditional, antisemitic far-right outfits, the group has taken to brandishing the Israeli flag at rallies and, according to the Jewish Chronicle, its Jewish division had signed up hundreds of members on its Facebook page until the page was recently deleted, though Jewish leaders in the UK actively discourage young people from joining, with the Board of Deputies of British Jews describing the organisation as "built on a foundation of Islamophobia and hatred which we reject entirely."

Links to BNP, Swedish Democrats
As with other formations in Europe that far-right monitoring organisations describe as "far-right-lite," notably Mr Wilders, Denmark's People's Party and the late Pim Fortuyn, some in the EDL try to distance themselves from, in the words of the group's website, the "Adolf-worhipping neanderthals."

But these same monitors say that while the EDL is not an outright "fascist" or neo-Nazi formation, links with the traditional far right remain, with many leaders being ex-members of the British National Party. Its leader, Tommy Robinson, is an ex-BNP activist. One of the organisation's main strategists is 45-year-old IT consultant Alan Lake, who has advised the far-right Swedish Democrats on tactics.

Meanwhile, at every demonstration but two in the last year, dozens have been arrested. The group's marches regularly involve anti-Muslim sloganeering and frequently descend into violence. At a rally in Dudley in July, a Hindu Temple was attacked as well as a number of shops, restaurants, cars and homes.

Figures for the size of the organisation and its supporters are hard to pin down and no figures have emerged for the new continental franchises. The group claims it has "thousands" of supporters and has spawned a Scottish Defence League and a Welsh Defence League, both of which have held rallies in their respective countries, as well as an Ulster Defence League. Police meanwhile reckoned that 1,500 to 2,000 EDL demonstrators marched in Newcastle upon Tyne in May this year, one of its bigger rallies.

Ground Zero 'Mosque'
The EDL has received endorsements from Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, two of the main agitators behind the right-wing movement opposed to a Muslim community centre being built two blocks away from the site of Al Qaeda's attacks on New York in 2001, the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. Geert Wilders, for his part, is scheduled to speak at a protest in Manhattan on 11 September this year by Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) against the building of the community centre.

Although Mr Wilders is not thought to have direct links with the EDL, SIOA is an affiliate organisation of Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE), which has marched alongside the English hooligan movement. SIOE itself was founded in 2007 by Anders Gravers, previously the leader of a tiny Danish party called Stop the Islamisation of Denmark (Stop Islamiseringen af Danmark), in reaction to the Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoon controversy. On 11 September 2007, the SIOE staged a demonstration in Brussels.

Other affiliate organisations have been created in 10 European countries including Denmark, Russia, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Sweden and the United States of America. Mr Gravers is reportedly on friendly terms with Mr Wilders, is his "friend" on Facebook and will be speaking alongside him at the anti-Mosque rally in New York.

The demonstration in Amsterdam is due to take place on 30 October, according to the EDL website. Mr Wilders heads to court at the end of next month on charges of inciting racism. The case begins 5 October, with a verdict expected 2 November.

Joining them there will be members of the recently formed Dutch Defence League' and French Defence League, both modelled on the EDL. The latter draws its members from the ranks of far-right supporters of the Paris Saint Germain football club, known in France for long harbouring a far-right element among the club's supporters, although elsewhere on the continent, according to EDL spokesman Steve Simmons, not all the defence-league-linked groups have their origins in football hooliganism.

Paris Saint Germain supporters
The French Defence League, which employs both an anglophone version of its name and "Ligue Francaise de Defense," founded in May and more latterly takes the name Ligue 732, after a group of Paris Saint Germain supporters, that, according the outfit, "tries to unify all French Casuals, Ultras and French Fans to fight against Radical Islam."
The 732 figure references the year that the French king Charles the Hammer, the grandfather of Charlemagne, won a victory at the Battle of Tours halting Islamic expansion in western Europe.

Mr Simmons told EUobserver that militants from the "anti-Jihad movement" in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and "other European states" will join them in Amsterdam for the launch of what is termed the "European Defence League" or, alternately, the much cuddlier "European Friendship Initiative."

"I would also like to take this opportunity to announce a new demonstration that is to take the English Defence League global," Tommy Robinson, the pseudonym of the group's leader, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a former member of the BNP, wrote on the EDL website in a missive in July.

"You may be aware that the great man Geert Wilders is in court for race hate charges," he continued. "The EDL has been in contact with our European brothers and sisters and we have decided that on Saturday, 30 October the European Defence League will be demonstrating in Amsterdam in support of Geert. We hope that all of you will be able to join us for this, what promises to be a landmark demonstration for the future of the defence leagues."

"We feel that freedom of speech is being eroded and a lot of appeasing of radical muslims and Islam in general. Geert has the courage to take this on and we want to support him," the group's spokesman, Steve Simmons, told EUobserver.

Counter-Jihad conferences
In June this year, the EDL sent two representatives to Counter-Jihad 2010 - a conference in Zurich held by the International Civil Liberties Alliance, which does not focus on civil liberties at all but is instead an anti-Muslim movement. It was the fourth such pan-European conference in as many years.

The Zurich conference may have been where the idea for a European Defence League originated. According to an EDL report back from the meeting, which attracted "counter-Jihad" activists from Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, the UK and the US, the conference "built on the important work that had already been done as well as doing the groundwork for new initiatives and the inclusion of new organisations and activists in the work of the global counter jihad."

Mr Simmons for his part in a slight detour from the announcement of Mr Robinson, told EUobserver that the Amsterdam rally will see the launch of the "European Friendship Initiative," and that a "European Defence League" will be just part of this broader alliance of "Defence-League"-branded movements.
He said that talks are ongoing with in particular German, Dutch, Belgian and French groups ahead of the Amsterdam demonstration. Already, in April this year, the EDL took part in a small pro-Wilders rally of 100 people in Berlin outside the Dutch embassy, organised by the Burger Bewegung Pax Europa (Pax Europa Citizens' Movement).

He also explained why the EDL and allied groups are heading to the Netherlands: "We feel that freedom of speech is being eroded and there is a lot of appeasing of radical muslims and Islam in general. Geert has the courage to take this on and we want to support him."

He downplayed the group's rowdy reputation: "We want to turn it into a sort of celebration rather than a protest, with food, drink and entertainment."

He claimed that off-duty serving UK, Dutch and German soldiers which had joined "Armed Forces Unite," (which grew out of "Armed Forces Defence League," a Facebook group for EDL-supporting soldiers and sailors) have offered to help Dutch police to steward the event.

The city of Amsterdam government for its part is aware of the plans for a demonstration and is tracking developments, but will not discuss details of preparations due to "security considerations."

In Bradford over the weekend, in what was a massive police operation, some 1,600 officers from 13 forces took part.

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Anti-Chinese sentiment sparks alarm in Mongolia

Bat a softly-spoken, smartly dressed 24-year-old Mongolian educated in Moscow -- points to the screen saver on his mobile phone with pride. It's a picture of the skull of a German SS officer.

Bat is the somewhat unlikely face of Dayar Mongol, one of three registered ultra-nationalist groups in Mongolia which sometimes take their cue from neo-Nazi outfits in Europe.

Enemy number one for the xenophobic organisations is the landlocked country's neighbour to the south -- China.

"We have 50 trained fighters whose job is to hunt down Chinese living in Mongolia and some Mongolians who have Chinese fathers," Bat said in an interview in the capital Ulan Bator.

"We reject their blood and their culture." Members of his group had assaulted Chinese nationals, he said.

Mongolia, a former Soviet satellite state wedged between China and Russia, has struggled to develop its economy since turning to capitalism two decades ago, and remains one of the poorest nations in Asia.

Its rich deposits of copper, gold, uranium, silver and oil have caught the eye of foreign investors, sparking hopes for a brighter future, but members of groups such as Dayar Mongol reject any outside economic or cultural influence.

"We can't just give Mongolia to the Chinese people. We are protecting it from them," said Bat, who claims to have 300 active members in his group, which he revived in 2005 after it had lain dormant for several years.

Bat says Dayar Mongol also targets Mongolian women who have sex with Chinese men by shaving their heads, and sometimes tattooing their foreheads -- in an eerie parallel to the numbers tattooed on Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz.

The crimes of such groups have not gone unnoticed abroad -- the US State Department has warned travellers about an "increased number of xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals" since the spring of 2010.

"Nationalist groups frequently mistake Asian-Americans for ethnic Chinese or Koreans and may attack without warning or provocation," it says on its website.

Two Chinese nationals have been killed in Ulan Bator this year, police have said, adding that the murder of a Mongolian by a Chinese citizen outside the capital was the "reason that ultra-nationalist group have become more active".

Franck Bille, who is doing research at Cambridge University on Mongolian attitudes towards China, said the xenophobia can be traced back to the country's past under Moscow's thumb.

"These anti-Chinese sentiments are a direct product of the Socialist period," he told AFP. "Russians regularly used the 'threat of China' to ensure the Mongols' allegiance."

When the Soviet Union crumbled and Mongolia began its transition to becoming a market economy, the country's traditionally nomadic society fell apart, leaving poor social services and education, and growing social disparities.

While Moscow is still perceived in a favourable light -- both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Mongolia last year -- Beijing has come in for public scorn.

"Increased Chinese influence in Mongolia in mining and construction has mainly contributed to a rise in nationalist sentiments," said Shurkhuu Dorj, of the Institute of International Studies at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences.

Some Mongolians, also mindful of China's 200-year rule over Ulan Bator under the Manchu dynasty, are worried about China's wider ambitions, even if funding from Beijing could bring on a new age of prosperity, experts say.

"Clearly, they don't want the country to be an economic suburb of Beijing," Graeme Hancock, an expert on the mining industry for the World Bank, told AFP.

"They also want to be making their own decisions, not at the whim of foreign jurisdiction."

Dorj said while he believes the groups had hundreds, not thousands, of members, they still represent a real threat.

"Their vigilante actions against law-breaking outsiders, mainly Chinese, could meet broad support in the country," Dorj said.

"There is a serious danger."


Grandfather becomes the face of French racism row

When Rene Galinier pulled the trigger on his old hunting rifle, he said he was acting to defend his home. Two young eastern European women had broken into his house while he was taking a siesta, and when the startled 73-year-old woke up, he shot and wounded them both.

Since Mr Galinier fired at the intruders, reverberations have been felt far beyond the four walls of his modest bungalow in a village in south-west France.

The case of "Papy" Galinier has become a cause celebre thanks to the bitter debate caused by President Nicolas Sarkozy's recent crackdown on the Roma community in France, which has seen itinerant camps demolished and hundreds of Roma returned to eastern Europe.

On one side stand those who have condemned the expulsions as redolent of Nazi Germany - on the other are those who say Mr Sarkozy has not gone far enough. In the middle of the political maelstrom sits Mr Galinier who is in a local prison cell, charged with attempted manslaughter and denied bail pending trial.

"He was a good man, who had been pushed too far," said 85-year-old Edouard Martin, a retired policeman and fellow resident of Mr Galinier's village, Nissan-lez-Enserunes. "People here are scared of the foreigners. I sleep with a revolver by my bed. If someone comes into my house, then I am going to kill them before they kill me."

Mr Sarkozy started to shut hundreds of illegal Roma camps in response to clashes between police and traveller communities last month. With more expulsions planned, and criticism mounting at home and abroad, he hopes to bolster support for his stance next week by convening a summit of interior ministers from countries facing similar immigration debates. Western European governments are split on the matter. While Italy is considering similar action, Britain will be sending a senior official to the meeting rather than the Home Secretary, Theresa May, for fear of being seen to endorse Mr Sarkozy's policies. On Friday, a United Nations human rights body rebuked France and urged the government to aim for integration of Roma rather than deportation.

Nissan-lez-Enserunes, where four generations of the Galinier family live, provides a vivid snapshot of why it has become such a charged issue in France. Not far from Montpellier, it is a picture-postcard image of southern French living, with elegant stone houses set among narrow winding streets filled with flowers. Mr Galinier has lived in the area all his life, raising two children, working for the council, then retiring to spend time with his wife and grandchildren and tend his garden.

He had been targeted by criminals twice before. In 2002, thieves attempted to break in and in February this year goldfish were stolen from his garden pond.

Among villagers, the finger of blame for local petty crime often points - rightly or wrongly - to a patch of wasteland several miles outside the village where a group of Roma recently made camp next to a motorway. The families and their wild-haired children live in ramshackle caravans among piles of rubbish. On the afternoon of August 5, two women in their early 20s broke into Mr Galinier's home. The unarmed pair, who speak no French and have not given police their names, were both shot at from just a few yards away. One was hit in the groin, the other in the chest. Both are in hospital awaiting identification and questioning.

Mr Galinier's story, with strong echoes of the British case of Norfolk farmer Tony Martin, has resonated throughout the village and beyond. A committee has been set up to fight for his cause, and slogans have been painted on the road to Nissan-lez-Enserunes proclaiming: "We're right behind you, Rene." A local petition has more than 8,000 signatures, with 10,000 from as far afield as the US joining the campaign on Facebook and internet forums.

The internet forums have attracted the attention of more extreme elements of French society, with queues of people denouncing the Roma community for every crime under the Mediterranean sun.

Mr Galinier has caught the eye of the extreme Right with some of his comments. After being arrested, he said: "I was in danger Ö I was scared. I was threatened by this dirty race. I've become racist."

"He's not a philosopher," admitted his lawyer, Josy-Jean Bousquet, acknowledging the unfortunate comments. "But I reject that he's racist. He was angry and upset."

The Front National, an extreme-Right party, seized the opportunity provided by Mr Galinier. Its vice-president, Marine Le Pen, whose father, Jean-Marie founded the organisation, described his arrest and detention as "totally abusive", given the "insupportable immunity of these notorious delinquents".

The village has had a total of 17 break-ins since the beginning of the year and a falling crime rate. Yet villagers still speak of a "crime wave" and lay the blame squarely on the caravan doorstep of the travellers. Roma rights organisations claim that "stigmatisation" will not solve the underlying problems of lack of integration and facilities. Maxime Andreu, of the regional Support Committee for the Roma, said: "We should be looking at why they are having to leave their countries - what is being done with all the EU funds to help them there?"

For the Roma travellers on the waste ground outside Nissan-lez-Enserunes, their new home remains better than the one they left behind. Picking her way among broken bottles, discarded sofas and heaps of rubbish, Mikaela Josephine, 19, is only interested in avoiding being sent back to Romania.

"It's wrong, what Mr Sarkozy is doing," the mother of two said. "But I don't want to go back there. It is more racist than France
Daily Telegraph