Archive for the ‘Race’ Category

Ghai v Newcastle City Council in the Court of Appeal.

January 19, 2010 1 comment

“My loyalty is to Britain’s values of fairness, tolerance and freedom. If I cannot die as a true Hindu, it will mean those values have died too.”

In the UK, the Court of Appeal has reserved judgment in the case of Davender Ghai (pictured left, centre), an elderly Hindu man who is challenging a decision of Newcastle City Council refusing permission for the construction of a site on which traditional Hindu funeral ceremonies could be celebrated. Such ceremonies involve the cremation of the deceased’s remains on an open-air funeral pyre, which is set alight by the eldest son or other appropriate relative. Mr. Ghai explains the ritual, which includes the breaking of the deceased’s skull, here. In 2006, Mr. Ghai was involved in the illegal Northumberland funeral rites of Rajpal Mehat, which included an open air pyre. The BBC reports with footage of the event here. The local police did not intervene and the Crown Prosecution Service determined that prosecution would not be in the public interest.The Council argues that the burning of human remains other than in a crematorium is prohibited by legislation. Mr. Ghai was unsuccessful in the High Court. The judgment of Cranston J is here and a shorter case note is available here.

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‘A Law of Liberation and Not A Ban’: Update on France and the Burqa.

January 17, 2010 5 comments

Jean-François Copé (pictured left), of the conservative French political party, the UMP, has recently tabled legislation that would make wearing the burqa or niqab in public an offence punishable by a fine of 750 euro. The draft text reads: “No one may, in spaces open to the public and on public streets, wear a garment or an accessory that has the effect of hiding the face.” André Gerin, chairman of a parliamentary inquiry into the use of full face veils in France, ruled out the possibility of a total ban in November of last year. We blogged about the Gérin Commission here. It is expected to report some time this month. The New Zealand Herald translates an interview which Copé gave to Le Figaro explaining the rationale behind his proposal:

“The parliamentary resolution will help to recall the fundamental principles of respecting the rights of women as a key element of the Republic. The law will respond to the question of security… How can we imagine that a teacher can let a child go out of school and be handed over to someone whose face cannot be seen?… At a time when we are developing the means of video-protection, how can we think of people walking around with their faces covered?..Exceptions to the ban would be made for “carnival or cultural events” where people were masked, he said.

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Significant Reduction in number of Asylum applications

According to figures  published by the Office of the Reception and Integration agency, asylum applications in Ireland have reached their lowest level in over ten years.  2,689 people sought asylum in Ireland in 2009. This represents a 30%  drop from the 2008 figures. Just 7 years ago, asylum applications had risen to an annual figure of over 11,000. The number of asylum applications has been falling continuously since then.

The Irish Independent attributes the drop to ‘a crackdown by immigration authorities’.  The Department of Justice has said that roughly 1 in 10 of all asylum applicants achieve refugee status on ‘the first attempt’. Deportations of unsuccessful asylum seekers rose in 2009 by roughly 80%. The Irish Times reports that ‘In total, 681 persons were either assisted to return home voluntarily or were removed from the State in 2009, representing an increase of 24.7 per cent on the corresponding figure for 2008.’

Roisin Boyd of the Irish Refugee Council has warned that the system must not be geared towards deterring people at risk from making asylum applications  in Ireland at all:

“The reasons that applications for asylum to Ireland appear to have dropped are numerous — including increased security which makes it harder for asylum seekers to access EU territory…But those who seek protection will never stop seeking it no matter how many barriers are erected. No asylum seeker must ever be returned to a country where their life is in danger…At this time of year in particular it is important that we cherish the fact that we in Ireland live in a democracy and enjoy the freedoms that entails — many asylum seekers do not have these freedoms and we must ensure they are allowed to apply for asylum and to have their cases heard in Ireland.”

Fine Gael, responding to the Minister’s expression of satisfaction at this year’s figures, have been most concerned about the expense associated with the asylum process. Political attention ought also to turn to the human impact of the direct provision system, highlighted by Liam here as well as in this recent article in the Irish Times.

The UK Supreme Court Dismisses the Jewish Free School Appeal

December 16, 2009 5 comments

A nine-judge panel of the United Kingdom Supreme Court today delivered what the Guardian is describing as ‘the most controversial ruling since the supreme court [sic] was created’. Whilst the Court, in the words of its President Lord Phillips (at [8]), ‘has not welcomed being required to resolve this dispute’, it ruled, in a 259 paragraph judgment, that the Jewish Free School’s (JFS) admissions policy amounted to direct discrimination on the basis of race. Whilst further commentary will undoubtedly follow over the next few days, there follows a brief summary of this decision. Mairead Enright blogged on the Court of Appeal’s decision on this case when the Supreme Court heard the case in October (here and here).

At issue was whether part of the JFS’s policy for choosing between potential pupils in the event of oversubscription (and, as Lord Phillips noted at [5], ‘JFS is an outstanding school. For many years far more children have wished to go there than there have been places in the school’) which gave priority to applicants regarded as “Jewish by birth”. M, a child who applied to the JFS, was denied a place at the school because, in the determination of the Office of the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, M’s mother was not Jewish at the time of M’s birth as her conversion to Judaism had not taken place in an Orthodox synagogue. Read more…

Bias Against Immigrants to Ireland

December 14, 2009 1 comment

The Irish Times reports that more than half of all sub-Saharan Africans to Ireland have experienced discrimination.  The Times is working from the EU-MIDIS survey, available here. The survey team interviewed 23,500 people from ethnic minority and immigrant groups in the EU about their experiences of discrimination.

Categories: Race

The Swiss Minaret Ban: Key Points

December 7, 2009 1 comment

8 days ago, the news was announced that over 57% of Swiss people voting in a referendum had chosen to amend Article 72 of the Swiss Constitution. All but 4 of Switzerland’s cantons voted in favour. The Article currently reads:

(1) The regulation of the relationship between church and state is a cantonal matter.

(2) Within the limits of their competencies, the Federation and the Cantons may take measures to maintain public peace between members of the various religious communities.

As a result of the referendum, a third clause is automatically added to the constitution, to incorporate the sentence: ‘The construction of minarets is forbidden’.The vote was in response to a proposal by the right-wing anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party (SVP) – the country’s largest party – and the ultra-conservative Federal Democratic Union. Proponents of the ban argued that minarets bring Islam out into the public domain and symbolise a demand from political power which asserts a demand for religious freedom at the expense of the rights of others. The SVP’s campaign rhetoric sought to link the construction of minarets to an undesirable ‘creeping Islamisation’ of Switzerland; for instance a controversial poster promoting the amendment depicts the dark figure of a woman in a burkha next to minarets rising like rockets out of the Swiss flag (a debate about whether these posters defamed Islam, were racist, or were a legitimate exercise of free speech grew up as an offshoot of the minaret debacle, with some cities banning the posters while others allowed them to be displayed. The Federal Commission Against Racism published this opinion, in which it noted the destructive impact of the posters’ reliance on negative stereotyping of Muslims). The sponsors claimed that“[t]he minaret is a sign of political power and demand, comparable with whole-body covering by the burqa, tolerance of forced marriage and genital mutilation of girls”. Some Swiss women appear to have found these analogies especially persuasive. The prominent Swiss feminist Julia Onken said in the lead-up to the referendum that “[m]osques are male houses, minarets are male power symbols…The building of minarets is also a visible signal of the state’s acceptance of the oppression of women.”
Read more…

Swiss Ban Minarets

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Some breaking news this evening. More than 57% of Swiss voters have voted to ban the further construction of minarets (see here, here, here, here and here). The proposal for the ban on further minaret construction (there are 4 in the entire country), came at the back of a campaign by the right wing Swiss People’s Party. HRiI will have further commentary on this development in the coming days.