Church apology after guidance declares sex only for straight married couples

The archbishops of Canterbury and York have apologised after the Church of England (CofE) declared only heterosexual married couples should have sex.

Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu said they took responsibility for releasing the CofE statement last week which they acknowledged had “jeopardised trust”.

The pastoral guidance was issued to clergy after a recent change in UK law allowed straight couples to tie the knot in a civil ceremony instead of a traditional marriage following a lengthy legal battle.

It said civil partnerships should be no more than “sexually abstinent friendships”.

The archbishops said in a statement on Thursday: “We as Archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust.

“We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”

The CofE statement issued last week said: “With opposite sex civil partnerships, and with those for same sex couples, the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics remains unchanged.

“For Christians, marriage, that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows, remains the proper context for sexual activity.

“In its approach to civil partnerships the Church seeks to uphold that standard, to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships and to minister sensitively and pastorally to those Christians who conscientiously decide to order their lives differently.”

The pastoral statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England, added: “Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings.”

The church has for decades grappled with how it addresses LGBT rights as the views of society become more liberal.

It is currently carrying out a “major study” on human sexuality called Living in Love and Faith, which is due to be published later this year.

The archbishops said they were continuing their commitment to the study.

“This process is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England,” they said in a statement.

Since New Year’s Eve, heterosexual couples have been able to opt for the civil option over a traditional marriage.

The CofE allows clergy to be in same-sex civil partnerships provided they are sexually abstinent.

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Categories: Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Civil partnership, News, sexually abstinent

Islamic school accuses Ofsted of ‘draconian’ practices after inadequate rating

An Islamic girls’ school has accused Ofsted of “draconian” practices, after it was rated inadequate by inspectors who found an inflammatory leaflet in its library.

Inspectors gave the lowest available rating to Birchfield Independent Girls’ School in Aston, Birmingham, after discovering the leaflet giving details of a meeting held in London in 1994 to promote “total rulership of Muslims over the world”.

An Ofsted report, stemming from a three-day inspection in November last year, said the leaflet claiming “the sons and daughters of Islam are under continuous attack by the forces of non-Islam” meant pupils at the school were not safe.

The report noted: “Leaders have not made sure that pupils are protected from inflammatory and unsuitable literature.

“Therefore, pupils are not safe from potential radicalisation.

“School leaders could not say how the leaflet that was found got into the library, nor why it was openly displayed on a library shelf. Leaders could not say why staff had not spotted and removed the leaflet.”

The report said pupils at the school were taught to accept everyone, whoever they are, and that the broad curriculum was delivered in fun and interesting ways, providing a good quality of education.

But Ofsted said the leaflet found at the site meant all the independent school standards had not been met.

In a statement confirming that the report was being challenged, and referring media inquiries to a law firm, the school said: “We are deeply disappointed with the judgments.

“They in no way reflect the paramount importance that we place on safeguarding, nor the evidence base collected by inspectors.

“The leaflet identified has no place in our teachings, curriculum or ethos. We work hard to promote fundamental British values and the rule of law at our school.

“Our pupils are well equipped to combat radicalisation and inspectors were able to verify this as part of the inspection process.

“Sadly, we are not the only faith-based independent school to fall victim to Ofsted’s draconian and inconsistent inspection practices.

“It is simply unacceptable for Ofsted to undermine all of the hard work put in by staff and pupils when coming to wholly inaccurate judgments of schools.”

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Categories: Birchfield Independent Girls’ School, Islamic School, News, Ofsted, School

“Look at your headscarf,” Muslim woman abused and assaulted by a group of young women

A Muslim woman had her hijab pulled in a targeted assault after walking past a group of young women who were stood outside of out of a youth centre in East London.

Tell MAMA can reveal that the assault involved anti-Muslim and Islamophobic language, including comments like “look at your headscarf”, “f**king Muslim”, and “stupid Muslim”.

To protect her identity, we are withholding the exact location of the incident, but we can reveal that the Metropolitan Police hate crime investigation is ongoing.

She informed Tell MAMA that on the evening of January 13, after leaving work, amid cigarette smoke emanating from the young women she passed and gusty winds and drizzling rain, the hood from her coat had been blown down, revealing her hijab, which is when one of the young women rushed towards her and slapped the back of her head.

The Muslim woman was then punched, slapped in the face, and had her hijab pulled, and she was only able to retrieve her mobile phone after a prolonged struggle.

She also complained about the staff at the youth centre who did not contact the police when the assault occurred, adding that she had faced abuse before when walking past the centre from work.

In the 2018 reporting cycle, Tell MAMA identified 1,196 perpetrators, of whom, a vast majority (where identifiable), were male (482), demonstrating the overwhelming gendered nature of the problem, and around 15 per cent were female (181) which mirrors the finds of the previous reporting cycle where a clear minority of perpetrators were female (17.1 per cent).

Consistent with previous reports verified reports to Tell MAMA in 2018 revealed that, from the 925 victims where information was available, 44 per cent wore the hijab or other veiling practice (n=401), not including the niqab, which itself, accounted for 6 per cent of cases reported to the service.

You can get advice from our confidential and free helpline on 0800 456 1226. Or through our free iOS or Android apps. Report through our online form. Or contact us via WhatsApp on 0734 184 6086.

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Categories: hate crime, Hijab, London, Metropolitan Police, News

Burkina Faso enlist civilians in fight against Islamic extremism

Burkina Faso’s parliament has approved legislation allowing the military to use civilian volunteers in the fight against Islamic extremism.

The decision underscores how outnumbered soldiers are amid rising attacks across the West African country.

The tactic is not without risk.

Burkina Faso’s military has been criticised for killings carried out during its crackdown on extremism, and placing arms in the hands of minimally trained civilians could lead to more allegations of human rights abuses, observers warn.

The country’s defence minister Cheriff Sy said this week that all recruits would undergo two weeks of training, with topics ranging from how to use weapons to matters of discipline.

“It is not a question of making cannon fodder,” he said.

“We want to prevent these volunteers from becoming militias.”

Volunteers must be 18 years old and will undergo a “moral investigation” before being allowed to serve, he said.

Demobilisation bonuses will be provided to each volunteer in an effort to reintegrate them in the future.

Health benefits will be paid to those who are wounded while on duty, he added.

Burkina Faso’s military, despite training and assistance from France and the United States, has struggled to contain the spread of extremism.

Mr Sy said the use of civilian volunteers would allow the military to cast a wider net, acknowledging that: “Yes, we are understaffed.”

For years, Burkina Faso was spared the kind of Islamic extremism that affected neighbouring Niger and Mali, where it took a 2013 French-led military intervention to dislodge jihadists from power in several major towns.

Militants staged a January 2016 attack in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, that killed at least 30 people at a cafe popular with foreigners.

The following year, 18 people were killed at a Turkish restaurant in the capital.

Deaths from attacks have risen dramatically in the last few years, from about 80 in 2016 to over 1,800 in 2019, according to the United Nations.

Burkina Faso’s military has been criticised for committing abuses in the ensuing crackdown.

Human Rights Watch said last year that more than 150 men, mostly ethnic Peuhl herdsmen, had been killed by Burkinabe security forces after being accused of supporting or harbouring extremists.

Such killings by security forces have only increased the ranks of the jihadists, according to activists.

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Categories: Burkina Faso, Faso's Military, Islamic extremism, News

Extinction Rebellion is Not an Extremist Group Says Minister

Home Office minister Brandon Lewis has said that Extinction Rebellion is “in no way considered an extremist group” after it was listed as a terrorist threat by police.

Mr Lewis said: “We are clear that the right to peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our just society and an indispensable channel of political and social expression.”

He added: “The police have recalled the guidance and are reviewing it, and I want to reiterate that Extinction Rebellion is in no way considered an extremist group under the 2015 definition of extremism and the Home Secretary has been clear on this point.

“The police have also made clear that they regret any offence caused by using the Ukrainian Tryzub symbol in their internal education document. That document was being used to help frontline officers and staff recognise and understand the wide range of signs and symbols they may come across whilst on duty.

“As the police have said it explicitly states that many of the symbols are not of counter-terrorism interest. Unfortunately far-right groups do have a history of misappropriating national symbols as part of their identity.”

Mr Lewis also said that the Government “sincerely regret any offence caused to the Ukrainian nation or its people”.

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Categories: Brandon Lewis, considered an extremist group, Extinction Rebellion, Extremism Group, News

After 15 Years, it is Time to Move on – Fiyaz Mughal

After 15 years and founding Faith Matters on the primary basis of building stronger relations between Muslims and Jews, the organisation has developed to provide some of the most innovative and ground-breaking projects around countering extremism and hate crimes. As part of this work, we delivered over 7 years of work on supporting social cohesion, though work on this dropped between 2012-2018 as the Coalition and the successive Government significantly reduced investment in social cohesion work. This was a mistake since it did not provide communities with resilience to challenge the rise of hatred which was at its peak between 2012-2015 and where hate groups had unfettered access to social media platforms, who did not remove content.

I am proud of what I have achieved. Having set up and run Faith Matters, I founded Tell MAMA and went onto develop the annual No2H8 Crime Awards, which are recognised by statutory and civil society bodies. That has become an annual awards ceremony honouring and motivating people to challenge hatred, intolerance and prejudice where they come across it. Furthermore, with Ghanem Nuseibeh, a British Muslim of Palestinian origin, I helped to set up Muslims Against Antisemitism, which seeks to work with Muslim communities to challenge antisemitism where they come across it. Sadly, in some instances, it is rooted within parts of these communities and therefore, Muslims themselves need to challenge it with the relevant information and knowledge that we provide. I will continue to support and advice these organisations and social projects, though after 15 years, Faith Matters needs a new leadership at the helm and such change is necessary for the health and well-being of an organisation.

It has been a roller-coaster of a ride over the last 15 years. Ensuring sustainability, challenging both Islamist and far right extremism and countering the hatred which was targeted at me for setting up Tell MAMA, means that I saw the poisonous changes that were taking place within communities. The rise of social divisions, extremism and hatred were accelerated by social media, but I also saw the kindness, humanity and deep care that many provided to the weakest in society. I am proud of this country, my country and its people and I am also tired of those who seek to ‘do it down’. There is much to be proud of and protect within our society, more importantly our social values and our caring spirit.

I was at the front-line of notifying Government in 2012 as to the rise of the far right and how social media companies were shirking their responsibilities to remove illegal hateful material. In line with this, I notified both the UK Government and the Scottish Parliament about the rise and inter-connectedness of the far right and how their hate would spread and take root if there was no robust mechanism in play. At that time, in England, there was little appetite to do more than suggest that ‘free speech’ and the market of ideas would win out and that in some form, ‘good would triumph over evil’. In Scotland, I received lectures from politicians about Scottish exceptionalism and how extremism could not take root in Scotland as if Hadrian’s wall was a natural barrier against the flow of ideas. That naivety of thinking has led to the current situation where the far right have become emboldened and even tried to move into mainstream politics. The far right’s language around ‘grooming’, ‘migration’, ‘breeding of Muslims’, ‘taqqiyah’ and the ‘takeover of the UK by Muslims’ has struck a cord in some looking to blame someone for the ills in society. Obviously, those that look different and ‘Muslim’ have borne the brunt of their ignorance and anger, including on occasions, members of the British Sikh community.

Which leaves me to say the following. I was part of the initial Working Group to Counter Violent Extremism which the Rt Hon Tony Blair brought together in Windsor, a few months after the murderous 7/7 attacks. I have worked in this area for 15 years, openly challenging Islamist and far right extremism and the previous Coalition Government and the successive Government simply failed to challenge groups fomenting extremist Islamist rhetoric. When asked about what they intended to do around openly challenging such groups, the response from civil servants and Government officials was to cite projects that sought to ‘train women in online extremism’, which was laudable, but hardy supporting those voices openly calling out and challenging Islamist extremist groups. To make matters worse, departments funded organisations ‘developing networks’ led by non-Muslims, talking about challenging far right extremism, whilst seeking to look the other way around countering Islamist extremism, since it was easier for them. The resources provided to them was to challenge all forms of extremism, including Islamist extremism.

To those people, I say, you have wasted resources that British Muslims could have used to challenge the small section of their co-religionists; Muslims taking the ideological fight to others who sought to divide communities and turn some people against the State and the social values that make up our society. No longer can Islamist extremism be overlooked since it is expedient to do so and our country deserves better.

On a final note, I have repeatedly called for tougher measures to be taken against these groups fomenting extremism whilst using the language of human rights as cover for their actions. They poisoned some sections of my co-religionists to the point that they think that the State is their ‘enemy’ and by facilitating the easy and lazy position of looking at their identity solely through the prism of victimisation. With this in mind, I commend the work of the Commission for Countering Extremism and its lead Commissioner, Sara Khan, for having the tenacity and the guts to call out such groups and to provide the evidence around their toxic hate and divisiveness. The Commission has also called for practitioners to be supported who are targeted by hate by such divisive groups. Again, the hand-wringing and inability of Government to defend their very own projects and practitioners delivering them is a stain on them and totally unacceptable. It is time that Government to grow a spine in vocally supporting its practitioners, who put themselves on the line for our country.

I will be taking the time to look at what I do and where I go now. It is essential to review my direction of travel and to focus on people and the goodness around us. I leave behind a team who are committed, dedicated and driven. In the end, we must always remember that there are more good people, than divisive extremists. But maintaining that, needs consistent work and a bold Government. If anything, this election gives this Government a mandate to be bold. Let us hope they are not meek in challenging those who seek to weaken us from within.

The post After 15 Years, it is Time to Move on – Fiyaz Mughal appeared first on Faith Matters.

Categories: Faith Matters, Islamist and far right extremism, Opinions

White supremacist sticker removed from Sunderland bus stop

A white supremacist sticker which appeared on a bus stop in Sunderland over the weekend has been scratched off by angry locals.

The sticker, which promotes the conspiracy of white genocide, is linked to an online autonomous group that encourages users to print and distribute their stickers.

Before and after removal. Credit: @SunderlandUnite/Twitter.

The Hundred Handers group originates in the UK, having first appeared on social media in May 2018 but the first evidence of activity appeared weeks later when photographs of two “Free Tommy” stickers appeared in unspecified locations in the UK.

For supporters, a favourite sticker is “It’s Okay To Be White”, which as the anti-Defamation League identifies, is a white supremacist slogan which pre-dates 4chan trolls and internet cultures.

Other stickers promote antisemitic and anti-Muslim narratives and conspiracies, including calling for the banning of halal and kosher slaughter, promoting the white supremacist conspiracy of the Kalergi Plan, and using a QR code to link people to the white nationalist hate site Red Ice TV.

Examples seen by Tell MAMA include broader anti-Muslim and Islamophobic narratives which link Muslims more broadly to rape and criminality.

The Hundred Handers borrow imagery from a poster designed by the Dutch Nazi propagandist Cornelius (Kees) Koekkoek (1903-1982), son of the famed painter Marinus Adrianus Koekkoek (1873-1944), promoting the Dutch Labour Front (Nederlandsch Arbeidsfront), a group created by Arthur Seyss-Inquart, an Austrian politician appointed as the Reich Commissioner for the Occupied Netherlands territory in 1940, which attracted around 200,000 members and excluded Jewish people.

In his capacity as Reich Commissioner, Seyss-Inquart oversaw the deportation of 120,000 of the country’s 140,000 Jewish community to Auschwitz, following a series of discriminatory policies, and forcing them to reside in Ghettos. His use of terror, extortion, and forced labour were part of his indictment for crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, of which he was executed for in 1946, following the Nuremberg trials.

For his part, Cornelis Koekkoek was found guilty of being a member National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (NSB), following the end of the Second World War which resulted in fines, internment for 17 months, and a period of surveillance.

This particular propaganda image created by Koekkoek has featured in the propaganda of more notorious neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups globally in recent years.

Stickers attributed to the Hundred Handers have appeared in cities and towns in England, Scotland, Ireland, and parts of the United States.

As with reporting racist graffiti, members of the public can report illegal flyposting through their local council, which is searchable through the Gov.uk website. Others have produced resources for local authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The police can be contacted through the 101 non-emergency telephone number or reported online through True Vision.

You can get advice from our confidential and free helpline on 0800 456 1226. Or through our free iOS or Android apps. Report through our online form. Or contact us via WhatsApp on 0734 184 6086.

 

 

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Categories: Neo-Nazi, News, Sunderland, White Supremacist

Money Flows Funding Non-Violent Extremism Need to Be Investigated

Tackling non-violent and violent extremism involves community engagement work and due diligence capabilities and interventions from security services. It also involves community based projects which upskill the knowledge based of parents and young people, provide some theological challenge and practical pastoral care to individuals. Just some of the ways to counter extremism.

Yet, as we have mentioned time and time again, where is the financing of such groups coming from? Who are the key individuals, trusts or governmental funders of such groups in the U.K? Who are the front companies and organisations that are the shells for ‘washing’ the origins of the sources as they enter the U.K? These are key questions that we have raised and which no counter-extremism organisation has delved into.

We have raised these questions before with ministers and with organisational partners challenging extremism. Yet, many counter-extremism organisations are only comfortable ‘developing networks’, talking shops which they promote as key work to tackle extremism. Very few of the network partners are willing to openly challenge extremism, taking the easy route of working under the parapet, co-ordinating further meetings and re-creating the veneer of important work.

12 years on from the introduction of the Countering Violent Extremism policy under the then Labour Government, civil society groups working with Government have been unwilling or unable to close down the channels of financing of extremist groups. Yet, the reality is that unless this work is done, toxic financing will continue to spread divisive extremist rhetoric into our communities and society.

It is time that cross-governmental agencies, from the Treasury, Inland Revenue, Home Office and MHCLG work with civil society groups who are willing and potentially able to expand this scope of work. Without this essential work, we will always remain behind the curve.

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Categories: civil society, Community groups, Funding, Money, Opinions, violent extremism

New law to tackle terrorist propaganda considered by Government

The Government is considering introducing a new law to tackle terrorist propaganda in the wake of the 2017 London Bridge terror attack.

Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC identified a potential gap in legislation following inquests into the deaths of the eight people killed in the June 3 atrocity and their attackers.

Ringleader Khuram Butt, 27, had looked at extremist material online, including propaganda from the so-called Islamic State, violent images and sermons from extremist preachers.

The coroner said current legislation means it may be impossible for police or MI5 to act against fanatics even when “the material is of the most offensive and shocking character”.

And he suggested a new law could be introduced to tackle possession of the “most serious material glorifying or encouraging terrorism,” in a preventing future deaths report.

Responding on Tuesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The Government accepts this recommendation and is currently considering the necessity for a further offence of possessing the most serious extremist material which glorifies or encourages terrorism.”

Mr Lucraft suggested extremist material could be criminalised in the same way as the most offensive pornography.

Ms Patel said talks are ongoing between the Home Office and counter-terrorism police “as to whether there is a gap in the current legislation”.

“Our operational partners must have the tools and powers they require to tackle terrorism,” she said.

“The Government notes the Chief Coroner’s comments regarding the evidence at the inquests, the existence of the offence for a person in possession of a prohibited image of a child, and the perception that the lack of a comparative counter-terrorism offence may sometimes prevent counter terrorism policing from taking disruptive action.”

Eight people were killed and 48 others seriously injured when terrorists used a hired van to plough into pedestrians on London Bridge before attacking people at random around Borough Market on June 3 2017.

Butt, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, were lawfully killed after they were shot dead by armed police, an inquest jury found.

A separate inquest concluded that Xavier Thomas, 45, Chrissy Archibald, 30, Sara Zelenak, 21, James McMullan, 32, Kirsty Boden, 28, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, Sebastien Belanger, 36, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, were unlawfully killed.

The coroner identified 18 “matters for concern” in a report published in November and told those responsible to address the issues.

But Patrick Maguire, an injury lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which represents the family of Mr Thomas and some of the surviving victims, said the recommendations came too late for those maimed and killed.

“The coroner’s report, and subsequent responses, reinforce my clients’ view there were a litany of unforgivable mistakes and missed opportunities by authorities which contributed to the death toll,” he said.

“It is troubling that many of the common sense improvements in authorities’ systems, procedures and protocols had to follow such a devastating loss of life.

“My clients hope these undertakings and commitments to improve are implemented faithfully and quickly.”

The inquest heard that police and MI5 did not recognise the threat posed by Butt, despite his association with Islamic State fanatic Anjem Choudary and an appearance in the documentary The Jihadi Next Door.

He was a subject of interest in an active MI5 investigation at the time of the attack.

But the probe was twice suspended due to pressure on resources and the authorities did not pass on tip-offs about his extremism, including one from a family member.

MI5 accepted, in its response to Mr Lucraft’s report, that the suspension of priority investigations was a “matter of legitimate concern” but insisted the decisions in Butt’s case “were sound”.

The security service said it had “reviewed and refined” its processes since 2017 but rejected the coroner’s suggestion that investigations could be scaled back rather than halted at times of high demand.

MI5 said: “In light of the flexibility within the suspension process and open investigations, the security service concludes that a new category of scaled back investigation is not required at this point and would not achieve the important aim of properly diverting specialist resource to those investigations deemed to be of the highest priority at the time in order to minimise the risk from attack plans judged to be imminent or which are deemed on the information available to pose the greatest threat to the public.”

The coroner also said action should be taken to reduce the risk of rented vehicles being used in terror attacks, which could include automated checking of rentals against lists of SOIs.

But trade body the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), said the cost of real-time reporting needs to be considered, while the Government said there were “considerable challenges” to implementing such a scheme.

Jennifer Buchanan, a solicitor at law firm Field Fisher representing the family of Ms Archibald, who was killed when she was hit by the rented van, said: “It is encouraging that the BVRLA is taking steps to reinforce a culture of awareness among its members.

“We are concerned, however, that cost has been raised as a possible deterrent to implementing a formal system and also that there is not active consideration to introduce legislation to enforce real-time reporting.

“We hope this does not delay the introduction of vital measures to deter terrorists from being able to use vehicles as weapons which must be a priority.”

But Patrick Maguire, an injury lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which represents some of the victims, said the recommendations came too late for those injured and killed.

“The coroner’s report, and subsequent responses, reinforce my clients’ view there were a litany of unforgivable mistakes and missed opportunities by authorities which contributed to the death toll,” he said.

“It is troubling that many of common sense improvements in authorities’ systems, procedures and protocols had to follow such a devastating loss of life.

“My clients hope these undertakings and commitments to improve are implemented faithfully and quickly.”

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Categories: Khuram Butt, London Bridge Attack, News, Terrorist propaganda

Police officer who laughed with bystanders at Hitler lookalike may face action

German police have said they are considering disciplinary proceedings against an officer who failed to step in when an Adolf Hitler lookalike showed up at a motorbike meeting in the eastern state of Saxony.

State police said the incident is being investigated because the man dressed as the Nazi leader – sitting in a Wehrmacht-style sidecar – may have broken German laws on the use of illegal symbols.

A video posted on social media shows laughing bystanders, including an officer in a police van, photographing the biker and his pencil-moustached passenger.

In a post on Twitter, Saxony’s governor Michael Kretschmer said “the appearance as a mass murderer is more than tasteless”.

Mr Kretschmer said he hoped the biker meeting in Augustusburg, near the eastern city of Chemnitz, would take place again next year but that “first it needs to be clear: such behaviour is unacceptable and won’t happen again”.

Authorities in Saxony have struggled to combat the state’s image as a hive of neo-Nazi activity.

The far-right Alternative for Germany party received more than a quarter of the vote in state elections there last year.

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Categories: Adolf Hitler, Alternative for Germany, German Police, News, Saxony