Pope, in year-end message, urges action on youth unemployment


Pope Francis in his year-end message urged leaders on Saturday to do more to tackle youth unemployment, saying a generation was being lost to desperation, migration and joblessness.

At his last public event of 2016, an evening vespers service in St. Peter’s Basilica, the 80-year-old Francis said doors had to be opened for young people “so that they can be capable of dreaming and fighting for their dreams”.

“We have condemned our young people to have no place in society, because we have slowly pushed them to the margins of public life, forcing them to migrate or to beg for jobs that no longer exist or fail to promise them a future,” he said in his homily.

Youth joblessness in Italy stands at more than 36 percent and tops 18 percent among the 28 European Union states.

In Africa, the continent with the world’s youngest population, youth unemployment probably increased in 2016, and was near 30 percent in North Africa, according to the International Labour Organization.

Poverty and lack of opportunity in Africa is driving migration, particularly to Europe. Almost 5,000 men, women and children died attempting to reach Europe by boat from North Africa in 2016.

Among the more than 181,000 boat migrants – mostly African – who reached Italy in 2016, 25,000 were unaccompanied minors, double the number who came in 2015.

At the end of the service, Francis walked across St. Peter’s Square, stopping to shake hands and pose for pictures, as he paid a brief visit to the life-size nativity set up outside.

On Jan. 1, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics will say a Mass to mark the Church’s World Day of Peace.

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Categories: Hope, New Year's Message, News, Pope Francis, St Peter's Basilica, young people

Iraqi forces face fierce Islamic State combat in south Mosul


Iraqi forces are facing fierce resistance from Islamic State militants in southern Mosul on their second day of a renewed push to take back the city after fighting stalled for several weeks. Nathan Frandino reports.

Firing from the sky and on the ground, Iraqi forces engage Islamic State fighters during the second day of a renewed push to take back Mosul.

Here in the Intisar district, Interior Ministry officials say their forces are gaining ground.

Colonel Adnan al-Jibury commands the rapid response forces. On this video he states:

“The successful advance went according to a specific plan set by the joint operation’s leadership. Fierce battles with terrorist militants took place, and we eliminated them completely.”

The offensive began 10 weeks ago.

U.S.-backed forces retook a quarter of the city before fighting stalled.

Now the Iraqi forces are in a second phase, with U.S. troops serving as advisers deployed closer to the front line.

As the fighting intensifies, thousands of residents are fleeing.

The U.N. says an estimated 114,000 civilians have been displaced by the fighting, but that’s only a fraction of the 1.5 million thought to be still inside the embattled city.

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Categories: Adnan al-Jibury, Interior Ministry, Iraq, Iraqi Forces, Islamic State, Mosul, News

Threats and Challenges We Face Highlighted by the National Police Chiefs Council


This is an excerpt of a submission provided to the Home Affairs Commons Select Committee looking into Islamophobia. The paper was submitted on behalf of the National Police Chiefs Council.

This text gives an incredibly accurate picture of the obstacles put in our way by groups and individuals just to serve Muslim communities in supporting them when targeted for anti-Muslim hatred.

Under the heading of ‘Working With Partners‘ the following text highlights the provocation that we have come under because of agitators for simply doing our job.

Excerpt of Text

“Effective engagement with Muslim communities has presented some distinct challenges in recent years for a whole range of reasons including but not limited to;

— The diverse nature of Muslim communities in terms of language, culture, ethnic origins and social factors.
— The lack of a single hierarchical structure that is present in some religious groups.
— The tensions that exist in some small parts of different Muslim sectarian groups.
— The comparatively lower levels of confidence in the police from some Muslims
— That newly arrived communities will have less knowledge of our commitments to protect them from targeted abuse and are less likely to report crimes to authorities.

 I believe that these factors mean that AMHC (anti-Muslim hate crime) is less likely to be reported to the police than would be the case in some other religious groups.

For these stated reasons we have prioritised efforts to improve reporting of AMHC in recent years. In around 2010-12, we began efforts to help community group(s) to replicate some of the services of the Community Security Trust, a charity that I consider to be one of the world leaders in this area and which is funded by community donations.

We had conversations with many groups and individuals who felt that, with support, they could develop such a service. Almost all of these groups could not establish a service and some found it difficult to meet our minimum expectations for a partner body.

The one group who were able to meet our standards was Tell MAMA. We have worked hard to support Tell MAMA in subsequent years and they have become one of our most trusted partners, offering an excellent service to victims. This trust and confidence led to me signing a national Information Sharing Agreement (ISA) with it’s Chief Executive, Fiyaz Mughal OBE in 2015. At my last briefing, 18 forces had done so with others in negotiation.

 The challenges faced in the establishment and development of Tell MAMA have been significant and they have come under severe criticism from a small number of individuals and groups from the Muslim community and grossly offensive attacks from some racist and anti-Muslim groups. I believe some of the former comes from opposition to Tell MAMA’s human rights approach, that respects all citizens rights, regardless of the characteristic that is being attacked. This has particularly been a focus when they have stood against antisemitism, LGBT hostility and the protection of minority Muslim groups. I believe this to be a fundamental strength of Tell MAMA and their willingness to show leadership and support equality for all is one of their strengths and one of those standards that we considered to be a pre-requisite of a true partnership.

One practical example of the value of our ISA with Tell MAMA came in the days following the attempted murder at Leytonstone Tube Station in December, 2015. Within three days we had shared information with Tell MAMA and began to get a clear picture of the nature of ‘retribution’ hate crimes against Muslim victims. Early analysis showed, by way of example, that the majority of victims were females wearing a niqab or similar veils and that around a third of attacks took place on public transport. This was invaluable information of use to police and partners to inform deployment decisions.

This type of analysis of hate crimes in the aftermath of local, national and international events is an important part of our response to community tensions. We have detected spikes in attacks on Muslims after a broad range of incidents such as the tragic murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013 and these ‘spikes’ have often lead to the deployment of Critical Incident Management measures by ourselves and our partners.

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Categories: anti-Muslim hate crime, Lee Rigby, National Police Chiefs Council, News, NPCC, police forces

Stop Arabic From Becoming the Language of Fear


By Hannah Leach @ehlleach

It must be said we live in the midst of turbulent times. As forced displacement figures reach all time highs, a distinctly anti-immigrant wave of right-wing populism surges forth to meet it, with big “wins” being witnessed across the leadership board in the Western sphere. Whether the candidacy of figureheads such as Farage and Trump are manifestations of popular sentiment or they managed to successfully exploit times of uncertainty for political gain is another question, but the narrative they promote reaches far and wide into our everyday happenings like a fiendishly twisty ideological octopus.

The point being: the world is becoming paranoid, and the siren of fear, so purposefully manipulated by such politicians, media and other like-minded opportunists, is beginning to deafen us to the point where, apparently, well-grounded reason is no longer audible any more. The EU’s less than adequate handling of a steep influx of migration from both war-torn and economically-destitute countries, i.e. buttressing the existing walls of Fortress Europe and systematically violating human rights law by creating policy that forcibly repatriates vulnerable asylum seekers and migrants, has only worsened the climate for those in need of safe havens. Yet, this closed-minded mentality doesn’t stop at shuttering down the borders, it extends to our everyday interactions to boot. Let’s get into it:

Last week Delta Airlines were at the epicentre of a public affairs scandal following their forced removal of 2 young Arab-American males from a passenger plane heading from London – New York for “speaking a different language”. The language? Arabic. So-acclaimed Youtube star, Adam Saleh and his friend, Slim Albaher, filmed themselves being unceremoniously booted off their flight after a nearby passenger supposedly overheard Adam talking on the phone to his mother and informed him that she was “feeling uncomfortable”. Several other passengers backed her up, some even aggressively so, after which the flight attendants, asked the pair to leave the aircraft, with pilot in tow. Now, Adam Saleh has filmed an array of tongue-in-cheek social experiments around the idea of discrimination against Muslims and anti-Muslim stereotypes, so accounts of the incident vary from source to source. That being said, prankster or no, he sheds important light on the wider phenomenon of Islamophobia that is so prevalent today.

Right now, we sit at the intersection of Islamophobia and mass migration (by those seeking a better life, a large contingent of which are also escaping the brutal Assad regime and the throes of violent persecution, robbed of their sovereignty). It’s up to us to use every weapon in our ethical arsenals to twist free of these exaggerated perceptions thrust upon us and look to each other as human beings, free of misconceptions.

Stop others from co-opting Arabic as the language of fear.

Arabic had a rich heritage before it became so steeped in paranoia. It is the language of poetry, of literature, science, astronomy and philosophy from ancient Arab civilisations. But now, when we hear it, our minds spring to one word: “terrorist”. How have we reduced such a pillar of human development to one caricatured man with a beard and a bomb cowering in the belly of a plane? As an Arabic student, it exasperates me that this beautiful tongue is being tarred with such an ugly reputation, that represents a hugely disproportionate minority of Arabic speakers worldwide.

I say “we”, because it’s only human that after intensive bombardment from Western media circles that frame migration issues in a calculated attempt to create suspicion and fear of ordinary people, we become suspicious and fearful of ordinary people. But we have to challenge ourselves.

My mother recently told me a story about a family she noticed walking through a Texas airport in the wake of the Berlin truck attack, having arrived on a plane from Turkey. They were making their way through the arrivals hall, heads down, avoiding eye contact with other passengers. Perhaps they were just lost in their thoughts, but perhaps they were fearful of reprisals by social vigilantes who might take it upon themselves to “make America great again”. She expressed feeling a deep-seated sadness that they should feel victimised to the extent that they expect harassment before respect, prejudice before mutual tolerance, animosity before openness. She wanted to look them in the eye and reassure them that they were not being held accountable for a militant minority’s actions, but sadly, and understandably, the family kept themselves to themselves and the moment passed. What would you have done?

Twitter reactions via hashtags such as #DeltaIntolerance and #DeltaRacist demonstrated a healthy dose of public outrage at the extremist profiling of the 2 young men, but I was surprised to witness some on the more progressive end of the spectrum (both Muslim and otherwise) defending Delta’s actions on the basis that the pair incited a reaction at a sensitive moment. To that, I say this: your one moment of discomfort or offense is well overshadowed by multiple instances of ethnic and religious discrimination for Muslim and other minority communities all over the Western World.

How can we ensure freedom of expression/ of speech in a fair and just society when we cripple the tools to do so? Language goes to the core of our identity, so imagine how you would feel if yours suddenly became the language of fear. A few passengers, who appeared to be mostly ethnic minorities themselves, stood up in that Delta Airlines cabin in defence of Saleh and Albaher, while the rest either heckled them to leave, or looked the other way until the “ordeal” was over. These are the moments when we decide how we move forward, that shape our outlook and the experience of every community within our society and how they fit together. The least we can do is to keep a common dialogue open.

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Categories: #DeltaIntolerance, Adam Saleh, anti-Muslim hatred, Arabic, Opinions, Planes, terrorism

Syrian rebels say former Nusra Front fighters included in ceasefire


Syrian rebel officials said on Thursday that a ceasefire deal agreed with the government included Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front, although the army said that was not the case.

The Syrian army has announced a nationwide halt to military operations to begin at midnight on Thursday, excluding Islamic State as well as the former Nusra Front and all groups linked to them.

But several rebel officials told Reuters the deal included the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group.

A spokesman for the Jaish al-Nasr rebel faction present at the ceasefire talks told Reuters that only Islamic State was excluded. The deal is to be monitored by Russia and Turkey and includes establishing humanitarian corridors, he said.

Zakaria Malahifji, head of the political office of rebel group Fastaqim, also said the truce only excludes areas under the control of Islamic State.

The Jaish al-Nasr spokesman said the other side had wanted to exclude the ex-Nusra Front, and to exclude the besieged Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta from the agreement. But he said the rebel groups at the meeting refused.

Fastaqim’s Malahifji said: “Rebel groups said it is not about covering for (the ex-Nusra Front), but because we can’t separate them out, because the territory is overlapping.”

Malahifji, who was not present at the talks, said rebels had agreed to three main points: one about the truce, one about how it would be monitored by Russia and Turkey and one about a political process to begin after one month of ceasefire.

Several other rebel officials also said if the ceasefire holds for a month, political negotiations will begin.

Mamoun al-Haj-Mousa, a member of the rebel Free Syrian Army’s political council and spokesman for the Suqur al-Sham rebel group, told al-Arabiya al-Hadath television channel that rebels had asked that no group be excluded.

“We saw recently how Aleppo was annihilated because of 200 fighters from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. This is a fundamental condition for us that no group is excluded be it Fatah al-Sham or not,” he said.

The ceasefire deal was first announced by Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, after Moscow, Iran and Turkey said they were ready to broker a peace deal in the nearly six-year-old Syrian war.

Russia’s defence ministry said the insurgent groups which signed the agreement were: Failaq al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam, Thuwwar al-Sham, Jaish al-Muhajidin, Jaish Idlib and al-Jabha al-Shamia.

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Categories: Al Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Jaish al-Nasr, Mamoun al-Haj-Mousa, News, Syria, Syrian Ceasefire

Trump fans’ ‘Deploraball’ party shows rift in alt-right movement


Supporters of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump have appropriated the phrase “basket of deplorables” – used by Hillary Clinton during the campaign to pillory some of his backers – to plan an inauguration party called the “Deploraball.”

But while the intention might be to mock the defeated Democratic candidate, the planned gathering has revealed a deep schism within the ranks of a movement known as the alt-right: pitting those embracing white nationalism or outright racism against those seeking a more credible platform for hard-right conservatives.

The party will be held at the National Press Club in Washington the night before Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20, when many official inauguration events are taking place.

Organizers say the Deploraball is a cocktail party for Trump supporters from all ethnic backgrounds and no incendiary or discriminatory actions will be allowed. Organizers call themselves “Trumpists” and say they have sold 1,000 tickets ranging in price from $99 to $2,500. But after an online battle between star guests, Deploraball organizers offered ticket holders refunds “in light of recent events.”

One of the original organizers of the ball, alt-right social media personality Tim Treadstone who is commonly referred to by his online persona “Baked Alaska,” has been disinvited after tweeting several anti-Semitic comments, setting off angry exchanges among members of the alt-right on Twitter.

Another featured guest at the party, Mike Cernovich, has condemned Treadstone for appearing anti-Semitic and homophobic.

“The lines are drawn and the fracture is more or less complete,” he said.

Cernovich, an architect of viral Internet trends promoting rumours of Clinton’s supposed ill health that have been credited with helping push Trump to victory with the support of the alt-right, said he has rejected the alt-right’s descent into white nationalism.

The alt-right movement, which came to the fore during the presidential campaign, is a loose grouping that rejects mainstream politics and includes neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites. It had previously been more widely embraced by libertarians and the far-right fringe: people more opposed to the concept of political correctness than to racial or other diversity.

Trump has been criticized for naming Steve Bannon, former head of the Breitbart News website that is closely linked to the alt-right, as a senior White House adviser.

Days after the Nov. 8 election, the movement was strongly criticized when some Trump supporters gave Nazi salutes to alt-right leader Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, during a gathering in Washington to celebrate Trump’s victory.

The incident prompted some figures linked with the alt-right to assume the term “new right” to describe themselves instead.

In an interview with New York Times journalists last month, Trump condemned the alt-right conference organised by Spencer. “I condemn them. I disavow, and I condemn,” Trump said.


After Treadstone posted anti-Jewish tweets over the past week, Cernovich told him not to repeat the so-called “hailgate” scandal at Deploraball.

“No Nazi salutes … or don’t have your name on the event,” Cernovich wrote in a series of insult-filled text messages to Treadstone that were later posted on Twitter.

The argument raged on social media between the two southern California-based men, who were once friends, egged on by their fans.

“You used the movement and now you want to distance yourself from it,” Treadstone, wearing pastel-coloured camouflage apparel and a bleached blond beard, said in one 45-minute video post.

The Republican president-elect, Trump, has not been formally invited to the event nor is he expected to attend, but “of course we’d be thrilled if he did,” said one organizer, Jeff Giesea. Trump’s transition team was not immediately available for comment on the party.

In remarks she quickly said she regretted, Clinton told a fundraiser in September that Trump had given voice to hateful rhetoric through his behaviour as a candidate and that “half” of his supporters belonged in a “basket of deplorables.” Trump supporters seized on the phrase as typifying snobbish put-downs by coastal elites.

The Deploraball was initially planned for the Clarendon Ballroom in Arlington, Virginia, but organizers said the venue was switched because of pressure on the Clarendon from Clinton supporters. The Clarendon, a private events venue and nightclub, denied that and said in a statement it decided not to issue a contract “due to the suspicious actions of the organizers.”

Performers will include singer Scott Isbell and classical pianist Stephen Limbaugh, according to the organizers, who have also invited rapper Kanye West but have not heard back. Treadstone, a former rapper and orchestrator of pro-Trump flash-mobs, had also been scheduled to perform.


Another guest star will be Breitbart’s U.S. technology editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, organizers say.

Yiannopoulos has been criticized for comments he has made about Muslims, Black Lives Matter activists and feminists. Twitter banned him in July for inciting harassment of the actress Leslie Jones. The Hollywood Reporter reported on Thursday he had secured a book deal and quoted him as saying, “They said banning me from Twitter would finish me off. Just as I predicted, the opposite has happened.”

Treadstone said the main difference between himself and the so-called new right, including Cernovich and Yiannopoulos, is the explicit support of white nationalism.

“If you don’t support white advocacy, you cannot be alt-right and that’s where a lot of people are running into a problem,” he told Reuters.

Cernovich, who says Treadstone is increasingly fixated on Jewish conspiracy theory, said the branch of former alt-righters he belongs to are more inclusive and are primarily focused on populism, nationalism and the rejection of “victim culture and identity politics.”

The group also has no clear leader, unlike with white nationalist alt-right, which looks to Spencer, he said.

Giesea described “Trumpism” as a new breed of Republicanism and said it was still a work-in-progress. “We’re in the process of constructing it, and it’s messy,” he said.

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Categories: Alt-Right, Breitbart, Deploraball, Milos Yiannopoulos, News, Steve Bannon, Treadstone, Trump

Tell MAMA, Our Achievements, Our Effectiveness & Ensuring Positive Change


Changing the parliamentary debate on anti-Muslim hate, counter-extremism and Muslim communities

Throughout 2015 and 2016 our staff gave oral and written evidence to various Home Affairs Select Committees. This includes the countering extremism inquiry, the employment opportunities for Muslims in the UK inquiry, and the hate crime and its violent consequences inquiry.

Tell MAMA cited in the Casey Review

Dame Louise Casey was asked to undertake a review into integration and opportunity in our most isolated and deprived communities in 2015. The findings were revealed in a 199-page report. On issues of anti-Muslim hate crime, the report cites figures from our 2015 annual report. On intra-Muslim issues, the Casey Review mentions the rising number of anti-Ahmadiyya cases reported to our service in 2016. The growing violence and bigotry against the Ahmadiyya community is expanded upon in the Faith Matters report ‘Sectarianism, Extremism and Hate Crime, the Impacts on the Ahmadiyya Community’.

Supporting the safety of Muslim students in universities

The Universities UK report ‘Changing the Culture: Report of the Universities UK Taskforce Examining Violence against Women, Harassment and Hate Crime Affecting University Students’ draws heavily from our 2015 annual report and expertise when providing safety tips for Muslim students.

Launching the first ever awards to celebrate those who challenge hate

Tell MAMA and partners celebrate the first annual National Hate Crime Awards 2016. The first annual National Hate Crime Awards took place on November 17, 2016. It celebrated the ‘upstanders’ in our society who have taken a stand against all forms of hate, intolerance and prejudice nationwide. This was part of our wider #No2h8November campaign which has received support from the office of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner and members of parliament – including Nusrat Ghani MP. Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), was one of the keynote speakers during the prestigious event. A full list of winners is available online.

Working with government & strengthening communities

In the forward for the government’s wide ranging Hate Crime Action Plan, Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), highlighted the work of Tell MAMA. Our data appears in the religious hate crime section of the Hate Crime Action Plan.

In the media

On July 11 2016, a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary titled ‘Racist Britain’ featured the work of Tell MAMA. The programme explored the rise in racism and xenophobia following the EU Referendum result. Several months later, this topic, and the increase of cases reported to Tell MAMA were also highlighted on the BBC’s flagship Crimewatch programme.

2015 annual report launch in parliament

We launched our annual report in Parliament on June 29. This ground-breaking report titled The Geography of Anti-Muslim Hatred’, it revealed that Muslim women are more likely to be attacked than men in most settings. The largest proportion of perpetrators are white males. This means that the largest proportion of incidents involves Muslim women, usually wearing Islamic clothing – be it the hijab, abaya or niqab.  Verbal abuse from men often carries misogynistic, racist and Islamophobic overtones.

Working with the Crown Prosecution Service

Our response to the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) consultation on social media has helped shape their revised guidelines.

Increasing partnerships work with police forces

As we close out 2016, Tell MAMA has partnership agreements in place with 18 separate UK police forces:  Metropolitan, City of London, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Humberside, Northamptonshire, Hampshire, Kent, Surrey, Bedfordshire, Dorset, Warwickshire, West Mercia, British Transport Police and Police Service of Northern Ireland. As our Partnerships Officer Jeff Arnold said:

“Although Tell MAMA is a completely independent organisation, it is vital that we work closely with police forces so that we can improve their knowledge of anti-Muslim hatred, ensure that all hate crimes are taken seriously and help victims to access information about their cases when necessary.”

Our work in Europe

At a European level, our hate crime data continues to inform the OSCE/ODIHR on a yearly basis. Our staff contributed to the ‘Forgotten Women: the impact of Islamophobia on Muslim women’ project for the European Network Against Racism (ENAR). Our continued engagement at a European level has included various speaking engagements. This included the first European Union (EU) Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights on anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hatred and hate speech on February 16.

The post Tell MAMA, Our Achievements, Our Effectiveness & Ensuring Positive Change appeared first on TELL MAMA.

Categories: Crown Prosecution Service, Hate Crimes, News, Nusrat Ghani MP, ODIHR, OSCE, police forces

Pennsylvania professor under fire for ‘white genocide’ tweet


A Drexel University professor, whose tweet that he wanted a “white genocide” for Christmas sparked a fire storm of criticism from the school and social media users, said on Monday his comment was satirical.

George Ciccariello-Maher, a white assistant professor of history and politics at the Philadelphia university, posted “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide” on Twitter on Christmas Eve, according to media reports.

He followed up on Sunday by tweeting, “To clarify: when the whites were massacred during the Haitian revolution, that was a good thing indeed.”

Condemnation lit up Twitter after the comments from Ciccariello-Maher, an expert on Latin American social movements, were picked up by such conservative news sites as Breitbart News and The Daily Caller.

“What rock did this cretin crawl out from under?” Sean O’Reilly tweeted. Twitter user Camz wrote, “You want a white genocide, why not be the one who starts it and see where you end up. You coward.”

Drexel University, a private school with about 26,000 students, said in a statement on Sunday that it had contacted Ciccariello-Maher to schedule a meeting about the tweets.

Drexel said that although it recognised the right of faculty members to express their views, the comments were “utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the University.”

Ciccariello-Maher said in an email on Monday that the tweets were only aimed at poking fun at white supremacists and that he and Drexel had become targets of a smear campaign.

He said that the concept of “white genocide” was used by white nationalists to denounce everything from interracial relationships to policies aimed at promoting multiple cultures.

“It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked, and I’m glad to have mocked it,” Ciccariello-Maher wrote. Access to his Twitter account had been restricted on Monday.

He has drawn online support, with a Change.org petition backing him generating almost 3,000 signatures by Monday.

“Let Drexel know – in the midst of the deafening, organised troll-storm – that racist trolls deserve no platform in dictating academic discourse, let alone the off-duty tweets of academics,” the petition said.

The post Pennsylvania professor under fire for ‘white genocide’ tweet appeared first on TELL MAMA.

Categories: Breitbart, Christmas, Ciccariello-Maher, News, Pennsylvania Professor, White genocide

Pope pays tribute to Iraqi Christians persecuted by Islamic State


Pope Francis paid tribute on Monday to Middle East Christians who have clung to their faith during persecution by Islamist militants, saying there are more Christians martyrs now than in the Church’s early days.

The pope spoke to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his holiday blessing on the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

He mentioned the persecution of Christians in Iraq, many of whom where able to spend their first Christmas since 2013 in churches after towns and cities were retaken from Islamic State.

“This was an example of fidelity to the Gospel,” he said. “Despite trials and dangers, they courageously show that they belong to Christ,” he said.

“Today, we want to think of them and be close to them with our affection, our prayers and even our tears,” the pope said.

Christians in northern regions of Iraq held by Islamic State were given an ultimatum: pay a tax, convert to Islam, or die by the sword. Most of them fled to the autonomous Kurdish region to the east.

Leaders of various churches, including the Coptic Church in Egypt, whose members have been beheaded and churches bombed, have called the fact that Christians of all denominations were being killed in the Middle East an “ecumenism (unity) of blood.”

“There are more Christian martyrs today than in the first centuries,” said the pope, who has often denounced Islamic State and condemned the concept of killing in God’s name.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by David Clarke)

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Categories: Christmas message, Iraqi Christians, Islamic State, Middle East Christians, News, Pope