How fake far-right accounts spread hate on Twitter

A Tell MAMA investigation has uncovered several fake far-right accounts spreading extreme anti-Muslim content on the social networking platform Twitter.

This loose network of accounts was created in late 2016 or in early 2017. Most claim affiliation to the English Defence League (EDL). Their Twitter biographies make bold claims, expressing deep hatreds of Muslims and migrants. Some hint at problems in their personal lives. Yet, our first clue about the true nature of the accounts concerns how their biographies are written. Take these four examples:

Born in ’63. Chelsea, EDL and proud. Likes: the pub, kids, beer, sex, football. Hates: Islam, Women (especially EX wife), forners and minorities in general. (@CFC_EDL)

53 divorced . Voted OUT. Not fond of Islam and foreners as they are destroying my country. Not racist just don’t like em simple as (@BoozerLee_EDL)

Born in 59, expat, hate foreners, Millwall fan, EDL, down the pub. Hate pakis, disabled, blacks, gays and refugees. Trying to get my kids… (@EDLLoyal)

Divorced. Have 1 son. Age 62. EDL & BNP. Ex National front. CEO of scaffolding. Love England, Pub & the darts. Refugees and Foreners not welcome in the U.K. (@Stevie_EDL)

The bolded parts of each biography are the most revealing. Note how the accounts almost always misspell the word foreigner. This is not an accident. In three of the four examples, the accounts misspell the word foreigner as ‘forener’ and once as ‘forner’. A second clue concerns how all the accounts allude to an alleged age or year of birth. Their supposed hatreds (be it women or Muslims) stand in contrast to their love of pubs.

Twitter did act to suspend Alan ‘Big Cock’ Lee’s (@FUCKOFFORNERS) account. Note how this Twitter handle also deliberately misspells ‘foreigners’. The photos attributed to this account are of Andrew Royston – an infamous figure in far-right networks. Nor is it likely that Mr Royston ran the account under the pseudonym as several tweets referred to his alleged sexual inadequacies. It’s also unlikely that such an account would make overt admissions of guilt over criminal matters.

Yet, in this pursuit of ‘authenticity’ come scabrous, harmful and ultimately hateful messages. For example, the @Steve_EDL account tweeted on February 27, ‘Just twatted a Pakistani mans skull for saying john terry is racist’ at 3:05 am. Just five minutes earlier, the @CFC_EDL account tweeted, “Just punched a muslim on way back from pub.” Now, it’s not impossible, but implausible that both incidents occurred in such proximity. Unless the individuals committed the offences while together, but there’s little evidence to suggest that.

Self-deprecating comments, however, are easier to detect. In one example, the @Stevie_EDL account tweets their interest in incest. Together, these ill-conceived far-right caricatures grow.

A useful way to measure the volume of fake EDL accounts is to check who @Stevie_EDL and @CFC_EDL follow on Twitter.

Quite often, the above individuals are involved in far-right movements. Others are not.

An egregious example of the latter concerns the now suspended @BigPaulLovesPub account. The photos and information provided in the account are fictitious. A reverse image search confirms that the photos posted on the @BigPaulLovesPub account are stolen from a Flickr album that were uploaded in 2010 from a user in the United States.

Of the many offensive fictions, one stolen photo is captioned: “Ready to go pub hope I see some of you lads there ina while, Know the owner well he knows to keep n***ers and muzzies out so theres no blood”.

The character of Paul is painted as a violent misogynist who admits to assaulting his wife. An entire narrative which spans several tweets continues this fiction, where the imagined wife has taken control of the account in apparent ‘revenge’. Other tweets visible before its removal show @BigPaulLovesPub interacting with other fake EDL accounts.

On Facebook, the page ‘Robust & Reposted Memes’ shared a screenshot of a @BigPaulLovesPub tweet on February 11 – perhaps unaware of its true intent.

The accounts may have also committed criminal offences. As revised guidelines from Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) stipulate: “the act of setting up a false social networking account or website, or the creation of a false or offensive profile or alias could amount to a criminal offence, depending on the circumstances.”

A communication defined as either ‘grossly offensive, indecent, obscene’ may fall under a Section 4 offence if the intended communication is ‘false’. It may also amount to an offence under the Public Order Act 1986.

To be offensive, however, may not mean a criminal offence has taken place. The CPS makes clear that context and public interest factors must be taken into consideration first.

Twitter stipulates that impersonation is a violation of their guidelines.

The nature of these fake accounts only serves to undermine the very real problem of far-right extremism online. Verified Tell MAMA data for 2015 revealed how 45 per cent of perpetrators of online incidents proved supportive of the far-right.


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Categories: EDL, Hate Speech, News

Navy vet in court as FBI probes Kansas hate crime – VIDEO

Fifty-one year old Adam Purinton appearing in court Monday after a deadly shooting in Kansas last week that left one Indian engineer dead, and two other men wounded.

Eyewitnesses telling local media, the Navy vet shouted racial slurs, then said, “get out of my country,” at this bar in the suburbs of Kansas City, Later allegedly gunning down Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounding his co-worker Alok Madasani.

The FBI is now probing the shooting as a hate crime.

Earlier Monday, Kuchibhotla’s body was brought back to his hometown in southern India for last rites.

The shooting sparking outrage there – where people are denouncing the violence as a result of a climate of intolerance growing in the U.S.

Making his first appearance since the attack – Madasani – who was also wounded in the shooting – and still on crutches – joined hundreds of Kansans Sunday who came together to call for peace.

Statement on video by Alok Madasani saying: “It was rage and malice in an individual’s heart that killed my friend, killed our friend. We ask all of you for tolerance and diversity.”

In the days following the tragedy, over one million dollars has been raised from an online crowd-funding campaign for the shooting victims.

Purinton’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 9th — his bond has been set for $2 million.

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Categories: Adam Purinton, Alok Madasani, hate crime, Indian, News, Southern India, Srinivas Kuchibhotla

Navy vet in court as FBI probes Kansas hate crime – VIDEO

Fifty-one year old Adam Purinton appearing in court Monday after a deadly shooting in Kansas last week that left one Indian engineer dead, and two other men wounded.

Eyewitnesses telling local media, the Navy vet shouted racial slurs, then said, “get out of my country,” at this bar in the suburbs of Kansas City, Later allegedly gunning down Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounding his co-worker Alok Madasani.

The FBI is now probing the shooting as a hate crime.

Earlier Monday, Kuchibhotla’s body was brought back to his hometown in southern India for last rites.

The shooting sparking outrage there – where people are denouncing the violence as a result of a climate of intolerance growing in the U.S.

Making his first appearance since the attack – Madasani – who was also wounded in the shooting – and still on crutches – joined hundreds of Kansans Sunday who came together to call for peace.

Statement on video by Alok Madasani saying: “It was rage and malice in an individual’s heart that killed my friend, killed our friend. We ask all of you for tolerance and diversity.”

In the days following the tragedy, over one million dollars has been raised from an online crowd-funding campaign for the shooting victims.

Purinton’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 9th — his bond has been set for $2 million.

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Categories: Adam Purinton, Alok Madasani, hate crime, Indian, News, Southern India, Srinivas Kuchibhotla

Mahershala Ali and the importance of Black Ahmadis in America

Mahershala Ali has won the Oscar for best-supporting actor – an accolade many had expected – for his performance in Moonlight, the critically acclaimed story of a black gay man’s coming of age.

Ali had already picked up awards from the Screen Actors Guild, Critics Choice, and the NAACP Image award. During his acceptance speech at the Screen Actors Guild, reflecting on his own experiences, he said: “I think what I have learned from working on Moonlight, you see what happens when you persecute people, and they fold into themselves.”

Muslims have won Oscars in various categories over the years but none in acting roles. Previous winners include Pakistani documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and director Asghar Farhadi – whose earlier film A Separation won the foreign film Oscar in 2012. His latest film, The Salesman, was screened in London’s Trafalgar Square hours before the ceremony. Farhadi did not attend the ceremony in protest at Donald Trump’s efforts to bar people entering the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. His latest film would go on to win Best Foreign Language Film.

In Moonlight, Ali plays Juan, a drug dealer whose tender moments with the young protagonist Chiron provides him with a surrogate father figure who imparts life lessons bundled in moments of deep affection and unwavering acceptance.

Juan lives with his partner Teresa. It is within this orderly household that the problems of the external world – be it in school – or at home are forgotten. External contradictions fall by the wayside.

Within the swollen silences of dinner, the narrative is punctuated in the language of close affection. No judgements are made of Chiron. When it seems like the world has turned against him, Chiron is taught a powerful lesson about acceptance and to reject the hateful labels others apply.

Perhaps the most iconic and beautiful example of this loving bond between Juan and Chiron concerns the former teaching the latter to swim.

As Hilton Als writes, Moonlight “undoes our expectations as viewers, and as human beings, too”. For Ira Hilton III, the surrogate relationship between Juan and Chiron “speaks volumes for how Jenkins wants us to view relationships between black men.” Shane Thomas praises the universality of Moonlight, and for its assiduous and precise direction.

Stories concerning the religious identity of Mahershala Ali, however, have created their own momentum.

Born Mahershalalhashbaz (the longest prophetic name in the Bible) Gilmore in 1974 to a mother who was an ordained Christian minister, he converted to Islam in 1999, joining the Ahmadiyya sect in 2001.

His spiritual interest also included attending a Baha’i meeting and flirting with Buddhism. Yet, his defining moment of religious and spiritual clarity came from the act of prayer inside a mosque. Ali described this moment as: “I could not understand a word of the prayer, but ironically, they were tears of understanding. For the first time in my life, I knew where I was, spiritually speaking.”

Ali’s embrace of the Ahmadiyya sect should not be erased. It’s too important given the persecution Ahmadis face in Pakistan and countries like Indonesia.

A Faith Matters report titled, ‘Sectarianism, Extremism and Hate Crime, the Impacts on the Ahmadiyya Community,’ explored the complexities and root causes of this form violence and prejudice.

It’s a product of a wider extremist narrative which exploits the sensitivities around the blasphemy debate in Islam. It seeks to define Islam through its own narrow interpretations. This interpretative lens allows fundamentalists to dictate the narrative and define others as ‘outside’ of Islam, which helps normalise banal, everyday forms of prejudice, including the decision to boycott Ahmadi-run businesses. The murder of Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah made this sectarian issue headline news.

Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, deleted her congratulatory tweet after users pointed out that Ali’s Ahmadi beliefs. This deletion generated its own controversy.

Nor should we erase the historic role of Ahmadi missionaries in black communities in early twentieth America. An important figure in Mahershala Ali’s religious journey was the Chicago native Abdul Karim. The Ahmadiyya movement has maintained a missionary presence among black communities in Chicago since 1935. Within the city limits of Chicago stands the Al-Sadiq Mosque, which remains one of the oldest mosques in the United States.

Some of the earliest independent black mosques took inspiration from Ahmadi teachings. The first mosque in Cleveland was later established by the former Ahmadi Wali Akram. Some black converts established their own mosques to accommodate the growing black consciousness and scholarship around Islam. Before the rise of the Nation of Islam (NOI), Ahmadi missionaries offered “the first multi-racial model for American Islam”. This influence, according to the academic Edward C. Curtis, reached Elijah Muhammad, a religious leader in the NOI, who had “regularly quoted, verbatim, from Ahmadi literature, including Ahmadi translations of the Qur’an”. Ahmadi missionaries had converted around 10,000 people by the 1940s.

A key figure in the early days of the Ahmadi missionary work in the United States was Muhammad Sadiq, who arrived in Philadelphia on February 15, 1920. A year later, with the help of other Muslims, Sadiq had launched the monthly periodical The Muslim Sunrise to challenge negative stereotypes about Islam in the press.

Sadiq used the periodical to argue that Islam could resolve the racism Christianity had failed to answer. He contended that Islam and the Arabic language would unite all people of African descent. This post-colonial message came at a time of great social discontent and racist violence.

In a post-9/11 context, Ali himself has spoken openly about the prejudice he’s faced. This included having his bank accounts frozen and learning that he was on an FBI watch list. His wife stopped wearing the hijab following acts of hatred and prejudice. Ali told the Radio Times: “But I will say if you convert to Islam after a couple of decades of being a black man in the US, the discrimination you receive as a Muslim doesn’t feel like a shock.”

Ali’s big cinematic break was in David Fincher’s 2008 fantasy drama ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’.


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Categories: Ahmadi, Ahmadiyya, Mahershala Ali, Moonlight, News, Oscars

Last letters – From Mosul schoolboys to Islamic State ‘martyrs’

“My dear family, please forgive me,” reads the handwritten letter discarded in the dusty halls of an Islamic State training compound in eastern Mosul.

“Don’t be sad and don’t wear the black clothes (of mourning). I asked to get married and you did not marry me off. So, by God, I will marry the 72 virgins in paradise.”

They were schoolboy Alaa Abd al-Akeedi’s parting words before he set off from the compound to end his life in a suicide bomb attack against Iraqi security forces last year.

The letter was written on an Islamic State form marked “Soldiers’ Department, Martyrs’ Brigade” and in an envelope addressed to his parents’ home in western Mosul.

Akeedi, aged 15 or 16 when he signed up, was one of dozens of young recruits who passed through the training facility in the past 2-1/2 years as they prepared to wage jihad. In several cases this involved carrying out suicide attacks – Islamic State’s most effective weapon against a U.S.-backed military campaign to retake the group’s last major urban bastion in Iraq.

His letter never reached his family. It was left behind with a handful of other bombers’ notes to relatives when Islamic State abandoned the facility in the face of an army offensive that has reclaimed more than half of the city since October.

The militants also left a handwritten registry containing the personal details of about 50 recruits. Not all entries had years of birth, and only about a dozen had photographs attached, but many recruits were in their teens or early 20s.

These documents, found by Reuters on a trip into eastern Mosul after the army recaptured that area, include some of the first first-hand accounts from Islamic State’s suicide bombers to be made public and offer an insight into the mindset of young recruits prepared to die for Islamic State’s ultra-hardline ideology.

Reuters interviewed relatives of three of the fighters including Akeedi to help determine where they came from and why they chose jihad. In rare testimonies by families of Islamic State suicide bombers, they told of teenagers who joined the jihadists to their dismay and bewilderment, and died within months.

Reuters could not independently verify the information about other recruits in the registry. Islamic State does not make itself available to independent media outlets so could not be contacted for comment on the letters, the registry or the phenomenon of teenage suicide bombers.

The ID card/childhood photo of teenage Islamic State militant Atheer Ali is seen in Mosul, Iraq, February 4, 2017. Picture taken February 4, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Kalin


Islamic State has attracted thousands of young recruits in Mosul – by far the biggest city in the caliphate it declared in 2014 over territory it seized in Iraq and Syria. The group has carried out hundreds of suicide attacks in the Middle East and plotted or inspired dozens of attacks in the West.

The training compound visited by Reuters consisted of three villas confiscated from Mosul residents. Man-sized holes knocked through exterior walls allowed easy access between the villas.

Lower floors were littered with IS posters and pamphlets on topics ranging from religion to weaponry, as well as tests on warfare and the Koran. Green paint and bed sheets on the windows obscured the view from outside and gave the rooms an eerie glow.

Flak jackets and body-shaped shooting targets filled one room, while medicines and syringes were scattered around another that appeared to have served as a clinic.

The rooms upstairs were packed full of bunk beds with space for almost 100 people. Printed signs outlined strict house rules. One ordered: “Brother jihadi, respect quiet and cleanliness”.

Teenage militant Alaa abd al-Akeedi’s final letter to his family appears on official Islamic State stationery in Erbil, Iraq, February 26, 2017. Picture taken February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY


Most of the recruits listed in the registry were Iraqi but there were a few from the United States, Iran, Morocco and India. Akeedi’s entry says he pledged allegiance on Dec. 1, 2014, a few months after the jihadists seized Mosul.

A relative told Reuters by phone that Akeedi’s father was deeply distressed by his son’s decision but feared punishment if he tried to remove him from Islamic State’s ranks. Reuters was unable to contact his father.

Akeedi rarely visited his family after joining the jihadists. On his last trip home he told his father he was going to carry out a suicide attack in Baiji, an oil refinery town south of Mosul where the militants had been fighting off repeated offensives by the Iraqi military.

“He told his father, ‘I am going to seek martyrdom,’” said the relative, who declined to be named because he feared reprisals from Islamic State or from Iraqi forces preparing to storm the area.

A few months later, Akeedi’s family was told by the militants that he had succeeded.

Another recruit of the same age, Atheer Ali, is listed in the registry beside a passport-sized photo showing a boy with bushy eyebrows and large brown eyes. He wears a dark collar-less tunic, a brown head covering and a cautious smile.

His father, Abu Amir, told Reuters his son had been an outstanding student who excelled in science and was always watching the National Geographic TV channel. He loved to swim and fish in a nearby river and would help out on his uncle’s vegetable farm after school.


Ali was shy and slim, lacking a fighter’s mentality or build, Abu Amir said in an interview at his eastern Mosul home, sifting through family photos.

So the father was horrified when one day in early 2015 Ali didn’t come home from school but ran off with seven classmates to join Islamic State.

When Abu Amir went to the militants’ offices across the city to track down his son, they threatened to jail him.

He never saw his son alive again.

A few months later, three Islamic State fighters pulled up at Abu Amir’s house in a pickup truck and handed him a scrap of paper with his son’s name on it. He was dead.

Abu Amir retrieved Ali’s body from the morgue. His hair had grown long but he was still too young for facial hair. Shrapnel was lodged in his arms and chest.

He said the fighters told him he had been hit by an air strike on a mortar position in Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul. They described him as a “hero”.

Gathered in the family sitting room, Ali’s relatives said he was brainwashed. Many of his school friends fled Mosul after the militants took control and Ali fell in with a new crowd, but his family never noticed a change in his behaviour.

“Even now I’m still astounded. I don’t know how they convinced him to join,” said Abu Amir. “I’m just glad we could bury him and put this whole thing to rest.”


Sheet Omar was also 15 or 16 years old when he joined Islamic State in August 2014, weeks after the group captured Mosul. Next to his registry entry is the fatal addendum: “Conducted martyrdom operation”.

Shalal Younis, Omar’s sister’s father-in-law, confirmed he had died carrying out a suicide attack, though he was uncertain about the details.

He said the teenager, from the Intisar district of eastern Mosul, had been overweight and insecure and joined the jihadists after his father’s death.

“His mind was fragile and they took advantage of that, promising him virgins and lecturing him about being a good Muslim,” said Younis. “If someone had tempted him with drugs and alcohol, he probably would have done that instead.”

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Categories: boys, Islamic State, Jihadi, Mosul, News, Suicide Bombings

Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecrated by vandals

About 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia have been knocked over, police said on Sunday, in the latest apparent vandalism incident at a Jewish burial ground in the United States.

A Mount Carmel Cemetery visitor called police on Sunday morning to say the gravestones of three of his relatives had been toppled, police said in a statement. Officers found about 100 others knocked down. The incident apparently took place after dark on Saturday, police said.

ABC television affiliate WPVI said the damage was widespread and footage showed rows of headstones knocked down.

“I’m hoping it was maybe just some drunk kids. But the fact that there’s so many, it leads one to think it could have been targeted,” cemetery visitor Andrew Mallin, who had come to see his father’s grave, told the station.

The Anti-Defamation League, a watchdog group that monitors hate groups, is offering a $10,000 reward in the case, supported by the Mizel Family Foundation, police said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said on Twitter: “#Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecration is shocking and a source of worry. Full confidence #US authorities catch and punish culprits.”

The apparent vandalism came about a week after about 170 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. Jewish community centers across the United States have also reported a surge in bomb threats, but all were hoaxes.

Muslim Americans have helped raise about $131,000 to repair the St. Louis cemetery, far exceeding organizers’ $20,000 goal, according to their LaunchGood website.

Some Jewish groups have described the vandalism and threats as the latest evidence that Donald Trump‘s election as U.S. president had emboldened anti-Semitic groups. His campaign last year drew the support of white nationalists and right-wing groups, despite his disavowals of them.

Trump delivered his first public condemnation of anti-Semitic incidents on Tuesday. The threats are “horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” he said.

Some Jewish organizations have criticized his approach. The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in New York called his comments “a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration.”

Jewish groups had also criticized the White House for omitting any mention of Jews in its statement marking Holocaust Memorial Day last month.

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Categories: ADL, Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitism, antisemitic attacks, Jewish cemetery, News, Philadelphia

Specter of xenophobic chaos looming over South Africa again

Tensions between South Africans and foreigners rose again in Pretoria and parts of Johannesburg recently.

Authorities say despite government pleas for peace, damage to property, acts of violence and looting continue to be reported in Pretoria.

The Home Affairs minister spoke out Thursday to respond to reports from the Nigerian government claiming that 116 of its citizens had been killed in South Africa over the past two years.

“I’m not privy to the figures from the Nigerian government and how they collected them. And we haven’t, I don’t think it’s a discussion we want to get into. I think it will turn out very bad. Should we start counting how many South Africans have died in South Africa at the hands of Nigerian nationals? I don’t think that’s going to end up very well, in terms of our good relations, as countries,” said Malusi Gigaba, South African Home Affairs Minister.

More than 136 people have been arrested in relation to tensions between foreigners and locals.

A march, organized by a group called Mamelodi Concerned Residents, was meant to be peaceful, but soon chaos broke out between anti-migrants South African protesters and foreign nationals.

Some South Africans demanded that illegal immigrants be deported immediately. They blamed foreigners for crime, especially the illegal drug trade. They also accused migrants of taking jobs that could be held by South Africans.

“The foreigners who are operating businesses, we need to regulate them so that when they are operating their businesses, their employees must be South Africans strictly,” said a male protester.

The foreign nationals refused to be intimidated.

“We worked so hard for South Africa to be independent. We’re not to be treated like dogs. They’re fighting us. We married their sisters; our sisters are married to them,” said a representative of foreign nationals.

“We just want peace and stability in this country. We are all Africans. We don’t have any grudge for anyone,” said another representative.

Police dispersed the crowds of protesters, expressing worries that the scenes of xenophobic attacks in 2008 might resurface.

Later in the day, protesters handed a memorandum of their grievances to authorities. They maintained that those responsible for the chaos were not part of their group.

“We are not xenophobic. We don’t want any person to be attacked, any foreign national or any person. That’s why we said that the march is to the relevant department, institutions within South Africa that are set up to deal with this way. But the idea is we are in the sense, we South Africans are frustrated, South Africans are angry,” said Makgoka Lekganyane, a Mamelodi resident.

The government has pledged to take action against anyone who commits violent acts. The presidency has also released a statement calling for restraint.

“We also caution those engaging in violent and unlawful acts that the law enforcement agencies of this country will not tolerate such conduct and will act within the confines of the law,” said Khomotso Phahlane, acting Police Commissioner of South Africa.

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Categories: foreigners, illegal migrants, News, South Africa, workers, Xenophobia

Comics and music shows in Saudi Arabia draw rebuke from clerics

A comic show and a recent pop concert have drawn rebuke from powerful religious figures and social media users in Saudi Arabia this week, highlighting the sensitivity of cultural reforms underway in the conservative kingdom.

Thousands of Saudis – including women – decked out in costumes and face paint attended the country’s first-ever Comic Con in Jeddah on Sunday. The sexes rarely mix in public in a country which adheres to the austere Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam.

The event was held by the state-run General Entertainment Authority (GEA), which has bucked some of the Islamic kingdom’s strict social codes to host a series of festivals, comedy shows and concerts this year.

It came weeks after Saudi Arabia saw its first major public concert in over a decade, also in Jeddah. Authorities announced this week that the headline act, Saudi superstar Mohammed Abdo, would perform in the more conservative capital Riyadh in March.

“We were astonished by the hideous act of the Entertainment Authority, by these events held in Jeddah that are not in line with good behavior or our great religion,” Hussein Al-Sheikh, the imam of the Prophet’s Mosque, posted on Twitter.

“It is a duty upon officials to consider God in these actions,” he said, calling on Saudi citizens to boycott events like it.

Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani, the former imam of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, said the state body set up to promote the kingdom’s entertainment drive “violates human nature.”

“Humans are meant to seek refuge in God in times of difficulty,” he wrote.

Tens of thousands of Saudis joined the clerics in critiquing Comic Con and the GEA, elevating the hashtag “a new disaster for entertainment in Riyadh” to Twitter’s list of trending topics there.

The GEA did not respond to requests for comment, but expressed regret in a statement posted by state news agency SPA for an unspecified “violation” by the Comic Con organiser of one of the terms of its permit.

“The violation was detected and stopped at the time, and penalties were issued against the executing body proportionate to the violation,” it said, without elaborating.

The GEA was “keen to maintain values, ethics and traditions, and consider them as a priority in all of its entertainment projects and activities,” it added, and welcomed any suggestions sent via social media.

Riyadh-based Time Entertainment, the organiser of Comic Con, could not immediately be reached for comment.


Saudi Arabia’s clerics offer legitimacy and public support to a king officially known as the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites. They retain control of the justice system but leave most other matters of governance to him, so long as his edicts do not contradict their interpretation of Islamic law.

Sheikh and Kalbani are prominent clerics, but are not members of the state-appointed Council of Senior Scholars, the only body in the country authorized to issue official fatwas or Islamic legal opinions. Their comments therefore do not carry legal weight.

Cinemas and public concerts are effectively banned in the kingdom, but the government promised a shake-up of the cultural scene with a set of “Vision 2030” reforms announced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year.

Saudi Arabia is now trying to boost its entertainment sector as part of that plan, which aims at creating jobs and weaning the country off its dependence on oil.

Smaller shows and festivals have often sold out and proved immensely popular among Saudi youth.

Senior scholars have for the most part remained mum on plans for the sector, although the kingdom’s Grand Mufti, its highest religious authority, cautioned in January against the corrupting influence of cinemas, concerts and gender mixing.


But Comic Con struck a nerve. In the week since the event, social media chatter about the GEA spiked and tens of thousands of users shared pictures of men and women mingling at the show to disparage it as distasteful.

“Our heroes on the southern border are sacrificing their lives and enduring great difficulties to protect the country and fools are dancing around and performing shameful acts. Disgraceful,” wrote Twitter user Yusra Razan, from Jeddah, referring to Saudi forces engaged in Yemen’s civil war.

Tens of thousands of others jumped to defend the entertainment drive and created a new hashtag, “the General Entertainment Authority makes us happy,” which also trended in Riyadh.

They shared videos of people rolling their eyes and waving their hands dismissively, and of men in beards and thobes merrily dancing to traditional drumbeats.

A Saudi university student from Jeddah, who spoke on condition he be identified only as Mohammed, dismissed the debate and said Saudi had more pressing issues to resolve.

“Personally I am disinterested in it. The country needs real and drastic reform. Activists are in jail, the economy is in danger,” he said by telephone.

“To me this [debate over culture] is not that important but I know it has many consequences. Conservatism is a big deal in Saudi Arabia, both social and religious.”

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Categories: GEA Entertainment Authority, Jeddah, News, Salafi Wahabbi Islam, Saudi Arabia, Sharia

Fatima Salaria Headlines Focus on Her ‘Muslim’ Background Rather Than Skills

True to form, a handful of national newspapers, possibly playing to their audiences, have highlighted the faith of the new Commissioning Editor for Religious Programming of the BBC- Fatima Salaria.

The appointment of Fatima Salaria was met with the following headline by the Daily Express,

“BBC puts Muslim in charge of religious television shows.”

The Express article then goes onto highlight the inclusion of Abdul Haqq, who was once part of the circle of supporters of convicted extremist Anjem Choudhary, even though the Express fails to mention that the thrust of the programme was to highlight the range of views that exist within Muslim communities and to see how extremist rhetoric was being challenged.

The headline which places the faith of Ms Salaria into the public domain as the first thing that someone sees about her, is troubling and given that she is an experienced programme maker and has been chosen for her skills, such regressive headlines undermine her professionalism as though she has got the job because she is a Muslim. This is clearly not the case.

The BBC responded by saying:

“People should be judged by their ability to do the job, not their religious background and Fatima was appointed as she is an extremely talented commissioner – we’ve strengthened our focus on religion and ethics within television and have been clear that we plan to do even more to reflect the role of religion in modern Britain, with Christianity at the heart of our coverage.”

We have previously raised such issues when Aaqil Ahmed, the previous Commissioning Editor regularly has his faith called into question.

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Categories: Aaqil Ahmed, BBC, Commissioning Editor, Express, Fatima Salaria, Muslim, News, Religious Affairs

Who is Jacek Miedlar – Detained on Entry into the UK

Today, British Border police detained firebrand Catholic priest Jacek Miedlar, who has become a focal point for far right nationalism in Poland and who was due to speak and march with Britain First activists through the town of Telford. He has previously been regarded as a “fanatical hate preacher” and a cursory glance at his web-site shows ultra-nationalism that is entwined with the use of religious symbolism and dogma in order to play on the strong sense of religiosity that runs through Polish society.

On the 7th of September 2016, the Polish Catholic Priest, Jacek Miedlar, tweeted at Britain First’s Jayda Fransen, making contact after she posted a video in which she stated, “Allahu Akbar” Migrant opportunists attack police and invade Europe.” This was we believe, the first point of engagement between Miedlar and Britain First.

Jacek Miedlar is from Wroclaw in West Poland and has been suspended by his local Catholic church for his firebrand speeches that mix ultra-nationalism with religious fervour. Wearing the black clerical robe with a hooded top, his speeches are  laced with anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric and his web-site paints a picture of Jews who seek to undermine Poland albeit through historical work through the Holocaust and he regularly uses the term ‘Jewish media’ on his web-site to paint a picture of Jews attempting to undermine the ‘standing of Poland’ in the international sphere. Much of the rhetoric talks about Poland being ‘hospitable’ to Jews and how Jewish media sources are seeking to undermine the state, leaving some readers with a chilling feeling that Miedlar holds some very questionable views on Jews and their place in Polish society.

Miedlar’s web-site also has articles posted by Jayda Fransen of Britain First, where she talks of an ‘approaching civil war’ in the United Kingdom. The interview on his web-site provides Fransen with the opportunity to talk about “Islam being the biggest threat to our nation” and the questions within the interview neither challenge Fransen, but provide her with an open platform to state the following far right propaganda:

“With the Islamization of Britain we meet in almost every corner of our country. Starting from the colonisation of our cities and our towns, and ending with the epidemic gangs who are ruthlessly raping and torturing our children. Islam is used as both a shield and a sword. What does it mean?  Shield to defend against Muslims accused in the case of child molestation and public unrest, which is translated as “cultural misunderstanding.” Islam is also used as a sword in (sic) implementating the culture and traditions such as the presence of Sharia Law and to use churches for Muslim prayer.”

What is also bizarre is the sheer opportunism of groups like Britain First. For years, they have blamed migrant communities such as Eastern European communities for social ills in the country, yet they are now seeking to engage with ultra-nationalists such as Miedlar to recruit from the very communities they have vilified for many years.

We commend the actions of British law enforcement in detaining Miedlar from entering the country and in bringing his politics of division into the UK. The last thing we need is far right nationalism entering our country given that there has been one death because of the actions of a far right Ukrainian extremist who killed grandfather Muhammad Saleem on the streets of Birmingham. Miedlar has no place in the United Kingdom nor should he be allowed to poison the minds of settled Polish communities who work so hard to make a productive life in the UK. They deserve better and we will continue to monitor developments in this area.

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Categories: Britain First, Catholic Priest, Far Right groups, Jacek Miedlar, Jayda Fransen, Jewish communities, News, Telford