Minister wishes no revenge after bombers killed his mother and 19 relatives

A minister whose mother and 19 other family members were murdered by terrorists a decade ago has told of how he was able to resist revenge.

Rev Aftab Gohar says he found peace through Jesus Christ after a double suicide bomber attack at All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan on September 22 2013.

There were 122 people killed and 250 injured in the bombings.

The parishioners had just left the church for a meal in the grounds when the bombers struck.

Among them was Mr Gohar’s 79-year-old mother, Iqbal Gohar, as well as his nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles, aunts and friends.

The minister, who oversees Eddleston, Peebles Old Parish, and Stobo and Drumelzier churches in the Scottish Borders, said his relatives “died for their faith”.

Although Pakistan’s official religion is Islam, the country’s constitution gives citizens freedom of faith.

However, religious minorities are often attacked and the country’s blasphemy laws have been used to discriminate against non-Muslims.

Mr Gohar believes the law is used as a means to justify attacks, such as a number of church and house burnings in Jaranwala near Faisalabad, Pakistan, last month.

Open Doors, a charity that supports persecuted Christians around the world, ranked Pakistan in seventh place in its top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most rife.

Reflecting on the attack, Mr Gohar said: “It was a very hard time for us all and I was questioning ‘why did it happen to those who were very regular churchgoers?’

“Those who didn’t go to church on that day, did they do the right thing?

“The Bible says ‘when you are persecuted because of your faith in Jesus, you are blessed’. They all died for their faith.

“It was hard for me to forgive those responsible but with the strength of God I did so and freed myself from the extra burden of hatred and revenge.”

He added: “On the cross, Jesus prayed for those who were crucifying him: ‘Forgive them Father, they don’t know what they are doing’.

“Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ – a lesson that some people find impossible to follow.”

Last week Mr Gohar and a number of campaigners handed a petition to Syed Zahid Raza, consul general of Pakistan for Scotland and Northern Ireland, at the Consulate of Pakistan in Glasgow.

The petition called on Pakistan’s government to improve safety for religious minorities, and for the blasphemy law to include punishing those who destroy Bibles or burn down churches and homes.

Mr Gohar says he was inspired by Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch watchmaker who helped Jewish people escape the Nazis during the Holocaust.

The minister commented: “She said ‘forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuff of hatred’.

“It is a power that breaks chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”

The minister was ordained into the Church of Pakistan in 1995, having come to Scotland to study at the University of Edinburgh in 1998-1999.

He later came back to Scotland to work as a full-time minister in 2008.

Mr Gohar and his wife Samina and their two adult sons, Shahan and Zeeshan, are now British citizens.

Shahan married in Pakistan last year.

Mr Gohar says the loss of his family was felt strongly at the wedding.

Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Pakistan as they mark the anniversary of this horrific and unjustified attack on peaceful churchgoers.

“We are united in sorrow as we reflect on the impact this atrocity had on the families of the victims and survivors and sadly Christians continue to be persecuted today.”

She added: “The Church continues to engage with ecumenical and international partners on the misuse of the blasphemy law and we call on the government of Pakistan to redouble its efforts to protect minority groups.”

The Consulate of Pakistan in Glasgow was contacted for comment.

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Categories: attacks, Christians, church, Glasgow, Gujranwala, Jaranwala, News, Pakistan, Rev. Aftab Gohar, Scottish

Faith Matters Produces Teaching Materials on the Ugandan Asians & Their Arrival into the U.K

We are proud to announce the launch of the following teaching materials that have been produced by the team at Faith Matters and in partnership with Syeda Ali and Professor Becky Taylor, from the University of East Anglia. We are particularly grateful to Syeda Ali from the University of Cambridge and Professor Becky Taylor from the University of East Anglia in helping Faith Matters to compile these resources for use at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 in schools.

They are, we hope, a valuable teaching resource for teachers when they are looking at issues of social cohesion, citizenship, migration and integration, as well as how the Commonwealth has intersected with British history. These teaching materials tell the story of a community that is fast being forgotten and whose impact on British history over the last 200 years has been significant.

The teaching materials are part of the ‘From East to West’ project that was founded by Fiyaz Mughal – the Founder of Faith Matters and researched by Max Russel. It has been a personal journey for him to document and to collect the stories of those who were expelled and to get the information and pictures into materials that can inform young people about the history of the Ugandan Asians. Mr Mughal is himself, of Ugandan Asian heritage who was expelled from Uganda when he was aged just 15 months, with his family being hosted in refugee military bases such as the RAF base in Stradishall.

We hope that these materials can assist those in Key Stages 3 and 4 in understanding how the impact of the British Empire and its resource needs, drew in people from across the Commonwealth. Many of them were used as cheap labour, inculcated with a sense that they were part of Britain and its Empire, re-settled in Uganda and then forcibly expelled by Idi Amin in 1972. They found themselves at the brunt end of Idi Amin’s anger at Britain, which led to much discussion by the British Government at the time, as to what should be done for the Ugandan Asians.

The sad fact is that Idi Amin was a product of colonialisation. He was brought into the Ugandan army by the Briitish, nurtured and let loose on other Ugandan tribes. He was an enforcer of British rule in Uganda and thereby a by-product of Empire. His impacts were to be felt by the Ugandan Asians who arrived in Britain in August 1972, dressed in clothing that was meant for the heat of East Africa, rather than the cold autumn that was coming in late 1972. These Ugandan Asians, (about 28,000 of them), moved from a land of light, colour and greenery, to the cold, grey and rain of Britain.

This is their story – the story of a displaced people – twice over. Once from India, and then again from Uganda. Yet they have made their home in the United Kingdom, but for many, it has come at a cost of what they lost in terms of their possessions, their memories, their childhoods and their health. This is their story.

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Categories: News, Publications / Reports

Neo-Nazi, 18, guilty of terror offences had Christchurch terror attack video

A jury found a Swindon-based neo-Nazi guilty of terrorism offences following a two-week trial at Winchester Crown Court.

Malakai Wheeler, 18, shared terrorism documents and weapons manuals over Telegram.

Following the conviction, the judge told Wheeler to expect a custodial sentence.

Counter-terror police arrested him in May 2021, when aged 16.

The detailed investigation unearthed Wheeler’s obsessive sharing of racist propaganda to the Telegram channel – which amounted to 92 documents and 35 images.

Breaches of terrorism legislation included the sharing of information that would help in the creation of weapons or explosives, including smoke grenades.

The Telegraph reported that Malakai Wheeler began sharing terrorist materials aged 15 when a student at Marling School in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

He also possessed copies of various white supremacist literature, including terrorist screeds.

The jury also heard how Wheeler possessed a copy of the Christchurch terror attacks video on his mobile phone, dubbed over with the Queen song Don’t Stop Me Now.

The prosecution outlined how the Telegram channel in question was a space for hardened neo-Nazis.

Tell MAMA’s research has identified over twenty individuals convicted of far-right terrorism offences in the UK (one other case involved a UK national in Ireland) who took inspiration from or possessed copies of the Christchurch terror attack footage or had copies of the terrorist screed.

More broadly, following the publication of our wide-ranging ten-year report, at Tell MAMA, we warned that especially in the online world, the racist conspiracies that influenced such terrorism have gained more mainstream credence or attention.

Detective Chief Superintendent James Dunkerley, who is the Head of Counter Terrorism Policing North East, made clear following the guilty verdict that: “Although only 16 at the time of his arrest, Wheeler was deeply entrenched in a Telegram chat group committed to extreme right-wing ideology.

“He was not simply curious, or a passive observer within the group. He clearly shared the same mindset as other members and was very active when it came to promoting racist and antisemitic views and propaganda.

“It is important young people recognise the potential impact of their online activity, before they cross a line into criminality, or engage in harmful or dangerous behaviours.

Wiltshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Deb Smith said in a press release: “I’m sure this case will cause some concern within our communities in Swindon but I hope it illustrates the commitment across the national police service to work together to apprehend those who share deeply dangerous views.

“I would like to thank our colleagues at the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network for their robust action and for ensuring this individual doesn’t pose any threat to our local communities.”





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Categories: Christchurch, Far Right groups, News, Telegram, terrorism

Vatican honours Polish family murdered by Nazis for sheltering Jews

The Vatican has made the unprecedented move of beatifying an entire Polish family for their “gesture of hospitality and care” in sheltering Jewish people during the Second World War.

The family-of-nine — a married couple and their small children — were murdered by the Nazis in 1944 after they were apparently betrayed.

Speaking during a Mass in the village of Markowa, in southeastern Poland, papal envoy Cardinal Marcello Semeraro read out the Latin formula of the beatification of the Ulma family signed last month by Pope Francis.

Cardinal Semeraro noted that for their “gesture of hospitality and care, of mercy” the Ulmas “paid the highest price of martyrdom”.

A contemporary painting representing Jozef and a pregnant Wiktoria Ulma with their children was revealed near the altar, and a procession brought relics taken from their grave to the altar.

It is the first time that an entire family has been beatified.

Speaking to the public from a window in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Pope Francis said the Ulmas “represented a ray of light in the darkness” of the war and should be a model for everyone in “doing good and in the service of those in need”.

The pope then invited the crowd below to applaud the family, and he clapped his hands.

Those gathered in Markowa watched Francis’ address on giant screens placed by the altar.

Last year, Francis pronounced the deeply Catholic Ulma family, including the child that Wiktoria Ulma was pregnant with, martyrs for the faith.

The Ulmas were killed at home by German Nazi troops and by Nazi-controlled local police in the early hours of March 24 1944, together with the eight Jews they were hiding at their home, after they were apparently betrayed.

Jozef Ulma, 44, was a farmer, Catholic activist and amateur photographer who documented family and village life. He lived with his 31-year-old wife Wiktoria; their daughters Stanislawa, seven; Barbara, six; Maria, 18 months; and sons Wladyslaw, five; Franciszek, three; and Antoni, two.

With them were killed 70-year-old Saul Goldman with his sons Baruch, Mechel, Joachim and Mojzesz, along with Golda Grunfeld and her sister Lea Didner with her young daughter Reszla, according to Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, which has documented the Ulmas’ story.

Polish president Andrzej Duda along with the ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, as well as Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, attended the celebration in Markowa, and thousands of pilgrims came from across Poland to take part.

In Poland, the Ulma family is a symbol of the bravery of thousands of Poles who took the utmost risk while helping Jews.

By the occupying Nazis’ decree, any assistance to Jews was punished with summary execution.

Poland was the first country to be invaded by Nazi Germany, on September 1 1939. Some six million of its citizens were killed during the war, half of them Jews.

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Categories: Holocaust, Jews, News, Polish family, Shelter, Ulma family, Vatican

Clashes erupt in Swedish city after another Koran burning

Clashes have erupted in an immigrant neighbourhood in Sweden’s third largest city after an anti-Muslim protester set fire to the Koran, police have said.

Police in Malmo said they were pelted with rocks and dozens of cars were set on fire, including in an underground garage, describing the events that started on Sunday and lasted overnight as “a riot”.

The clashes started after an anti-Islam activist Salwan Momika burned a copy of the Koran and an angry mob tried to stop him while police, some of them in riot gear, detained at least three people.

Early on Monday, an angry crowd of mainly young people also set fire to tyres and debris, and some were seen throwing electric scooters, bicycles and barriers in Malmo’s Rosengard neighbourhood, which has seen similar clashes in the past. There were several banners relating to the Koran burning.

Senior police officer Petra Stenkula said: “I understand that a public gathering like this arouses strong emotions, but we cannot tolerate disturbances and violent expressions like those we saw on Sunday afternoon.

“It is extremely regrettable to once again see violence and vandalism at Rosengard.”

Speaking at a news conference, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said: “Regardless of the reason behind these riots, the car fires, the harassment, violence against police officers… regardless of the reason, I think that all Swedes find this completely unacceptable.”

In the past months, Mr Momika, a refugee from Iraq, has desecrated the Koran in a series of anti-Islam protests mostly in Stockholm that have caused anger in many Muslim countries. Swedish police have allowed his actions, citing freedom of speech.

The Koran burnings have sparked angry protests in Muslim countries, attacks on Swedish diplomatic missions and threats from Islamic extremists. Muslim leaders in Sweden have called on the government to find ways to stop the Koran burnings.

Sweden dropped its last blasphemy laws in the 1970s and the government has said it has no intention to reintroduce them.

However, the government has announced an inquiry into legal possibilities for enabling police to reject permits for demonstrations over national security concerns.

Read more: Koran burned again in Sweden as government considers ban

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Categories: Koran Burning, Malmo, News, Quran, Rosengard, Swedish city

Twitter suspends Charlie Mullins for ‘someone should kill’ Sadiq Khan tweet

Twitter suspended the account of Charlie Mullins, the founder of Pimlico Plumbers, after tweeting that “someone should kill” London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Sunday (August 27).

Mullins also tweeted  minutes earlier, “I am on it, and it’s time to dump the Muslim mayor” before his account suspension when asked about the London mayorship campaign next year.

Twitter, rebranded under Elon Musk’s ownership as X, makes clear, “You may not wish, hope, or express desire for harm. This includes (but is not limited to) hoping for others to die,” despite criticism and concerns raised for changes for how the platform now handles hateful and harmful content more generally.

In statements given to The Telegraph and TalkTV, Mr Mullins apologised and made clear: “I unreservedly apologise and withdraw my remarks. I went too far. Twitter is right to take the action it did.”

TalkTV had earlier deleted a tweet that asked, “Did X overreact?” following Mr Mullins’s account suspension.

The cycling platform Road dot cc had also published an article about the account suspension the previous day.

Responding to the abhorrent tweets, Tell MAMA Director Iman Atta made clear in a statement, “We are appalled and horrified by Charlie Mullins’s tweet on 27 August suggesting that someone ‘should kill’ London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

No politician should ever face death threats or identity-based abuse. Nor should such menacing and violent language be used in political debates or discussions.

Mr Mullins also tweeted before his account suspension that it was time to ‘dump the Muslim mayor,’ which is also unacceptable language.

Mr Mullins has since apologised and withdrawn his horrendous remarks.”

Tell MAMA highlighted such concerns in our groundbreaking report ‘A Decade of anti-Muslim Hate’ that included alarming findings about how the platform had recanted warnings on dangerous links for overtly fascist websites, which contravenes existing rules in place since July 2020.

A second example further exposed ongoing gaps in the usage of the policy when concerning the far-right, including the removal of a warning link after Britain First returned to the platform last October and later gained organisational validation on the platform.





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Categories: Charlie Mullins, Hate Speech, News, Sadiq Khan