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France: Pro-Palestinian Protests and anti-Semitism at Sarcelles, Defending the Right to Demonstrate.

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Defying  the Ban on pro-Palestinian marches in France, on Saturday,

About 6,000 mostly peaceful protesters assembled in the Barbès area of northern Paris in defiance of a government ban. When the march was blocked by police lines after only 500 metres, a minority of young protesters started to hurl stones, bottles and sticks at the riot police.

There is a range of accounts of the responsibility for the incidents that took place, see L’Humanité, and Libération and an important direct reportage in the same paper, here.

A leader of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) said, “«La solidarité avec les Palestiniens doit pouvoir s’exprimer à Paris», a expliqué samedi à l’AFP Sandra Demarcq, membre de la direction du NPA, qui juge l’interdiction «illégitime et scandaleuse». We should be able to express solidarity with the Palestinians, explained to AFP Sandra Demarq, part of the leadership of the NPA, who judged the ban “illegitimate and scandalous”. According to the reporter at around 15.40,

Soudain, des groupes extrêmement équipés et organisés ont commencé à fendre la foule pour monter au contact des CRS. Ils avançaient en ligne, le visage couvert. A l’évidence, ils n’avaient rien de militants venus défendre la cause palestinienne. Certains arboraient des tee-shirts du virage Auteuil, une tribune du Parc des Princes.

Suddenly, extremely well organised and kitted out groups pushed their way through the crowd towards the front row of the CRS (riot police).

They advanced en bloc, faces covered. From what could be gleaned they had nothing of the look of activists who’d come to defend the Palestinian cause. Some of them were wearing the colours of Auteuil, a supporters’ group named after a football stand at the Parc des Princes.

In Sarcelles on Sunday however  events took a clearly and illegitimate  anti-Semitic  turn,

France’s interior minister on Monday slammed “intolerable” acts of anti-Semitism after a rally against Israel’s Gaza offensive descended into violence pitting an angry pro-Palestinian crowd against local Jewish businesses.

Sunday’s demonstration in the north Paris suburb of Sarcelles was the third to deteriorate in a week, as shops were looted and riot police lobbed tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd.

The rally had been banned amid concern the Jewish community would be targeted after protesters last weekend tried to storm two synagogues in Paris.

“When you head for the synagogue, when you burn a corner shop because it is Jewish-owned, you are committing an anti-Semitic act,”Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters outside the Sarcelles synagogue.

In the Paris suburb sometimes nicknamed “little Jerusalem” for its large community of Sephardic Jews, the rally descended into chaos when dozens of youth – some masked – set fire to bins and lit firecrackers and smoke bombs.

Eighteen people were arrested after looters wrecked shops, including a kosher foodstore and a funeral home as protesters shouted: “Fuck Israel!”.

News 24.

The Independent says,

Riot police held back a mob of youths who tried to attacks two synagogues in the town of Sarcelles in the northern Paris suburbs.

A pro-Gaza demonstration in a town with a large Jewish population began peacefully but degenerated into attacks on Jewish and Chaldean businesses and four hours of running battles between youths and police. Several cars were burned. Three shops, including a Kosher grocery (1), were burned and pillaged. A railway station was severely damaged.

The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneve said today: “When you menace synagogues and when you burn a grocery because it is  Jewish-owned, you are committing anti-semitic acts…  That is intolerable. Protest against Israel is legitimate. Nothing can justify such violence.”

…..

Roger Cuikerman, head of the French umbrella groups of Jewish organisations, CRIF, said there was a growing anxiety amongst French jews.

Protest against Israeli government actions was one thing, he said. Attacks on Jews for being Jews were “deeply disturbing”. “They are not screaming ‘death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris,” he said. “They are screaming ‘death to the Jews’. They are attacking synagogues which are places of prayer.”

Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking at Sarcelles this morning, said (Le Monde),

Devant la presse, il a estimé qu’il était « légitime » de pouvoir exprimer une position sur les événements de Gaza, où au moins 502 Palestiniens ont été tuésdepuis le 8 juillet. En revanche, il a jugé « intolérable que l’on s’en prenne à des synagogues ou à des commerces parce qu’ils sont tenus par des juifs. Rien ne peut justifier de telles violence ». Dix-huit personnes ont été interpellées après les heurts, selon la police.

In front of the press he considered that it was “legitimate” to be able to express a position on the events in Gaza, where at least 502 Palestinians have been killed since the 8th of July. By contrast he judged that it is “intolerable that people attack synagogues and businesses because they are run by Jews. Nothing can justify such violence.” According to the police 18 people have been asserted after the incidents.

(1) The shop had been already the subject of a grenade attack in September 2013 (see here).

In an important Editorial today Le Monde says that the government’s ban on demonstrations is an admission of its impotence, “Manifestations interdites : l’aveu d’impuissance du gouvernement.”

The statement  notes that President Hollande is right to be concerned about the “importation” of the Israel-Palestinian conflict into France.

But they note that the right to demonstrate, within reasonable limits, is part of the foundations of the Republic.

They cite the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, “ nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public établi par la loi ». 

Article 10, “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.”

Le Monde then accuses the government, through its ban on demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinians, of playing, “aux pompiers pyromanes.” (firefighting arsonists, figurative, “fig., personne qui provoque volontairement les maux qu’elle est censée combattre.”, somebody who creates the very problem they claim to be solving).

“Toute manifestation doit être déclarée à la Préfecture de police, en indiquant, au moins trois jours avant, sa date, son heure et son parcours. En d’autres termes, le droit de manifester fait partie des libertés publiques, mais il est légitimement encadré.”

Every demonstration, its timings, and its route,  must be notified to the Police authorities, at least 3 days in advance. In other respects the right to demonstrate, within defined limits, is part of our public freedoms.

Le Monde is absolutely right.

Positions of left parties:

Parti de Gauche “L’interdiction de la manifestation de soutien à la population de Gaza contre l’agression décidée par le gouvernement israélien était bien une provocation et une manipulation.” NPA, “La solidarité avec les Palestiniens est légitime et n’a rien à voir avec de l’antisémitisme !” Front de Gauche, “”Amplifier la solidarité avec le peuple palestinien, défendre le droit de manifester”.

Update: Declaration today (Monday 12st July) against ban on demonstrations by the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, GAZA CROULE SOUS LES BOMBES, ISRAËL S’ENFERRE DANS LA RÉPRESSION, LES INTERDICTIONS DE MANIFESTER DU GOUVERNEMENT FRANÇAIS ATTISENT LES TENSIONS

Demonstration  on Wednesday now  authorised, Le Monde. 

Independent investigation sparked by ‘Trojan horse’ letter finds officials failed to act for fear of being accused of Islamophobia.

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SWP Placards, No Answer to Real Problems. 

Is the Guardian finally seeing sense?

This report has just appeared.

Birmingham council a ‘disastrous failure’ over Islamism in schools

Independent investigation sparked by ‘Trojan horse’ letter finds officials failed to act for fear of being accused of Islamophobia.

Birmingham council “disastrously” failed to act when a group of Muslim men began to promote, sometimes illegally, a fundamentalist version of Islam in some schools, because officials were afraid of being accused of racism or Islamophobia, a report has found.

The investigation, carried out by the independent adviser Ian Kershaw, was commissioned by Birmingham City council (BCC) as a result of concerns raised in a letter dated 27 November 2013, known as the “Trojan horse” letter, which suggested a number of schools in the city had been “taken over” to ensure they were run on strict Islamic principles.

The Birmingham report, compiled by Kershaw and overseen by a review group that included senior Home Office official Stephen Rimmer and representatives of the West Midlands police, interviewed many of the same witnesses and reviewed the same documents as the former counterterrorism police chief Peter Clarke, who was commissioned by the then education secretary Michael Gove to address extremism in Birmingham schools.

The article continues and states this,

The report found that a small group of governors had:

• placed unreasonable demands on head teachers to “modify curriculum provision, which denies students their right to access a broad and balanced curriculum, including the right to understand other world religions and the right to sex and relationship education”.

• placed “inappropriate demands on head teachers by repeatedly requesting information”.

• been “overly challenging and sometimes aggressive in the management of head teachers”.

• inappropriately appointed friends and relatives to the school staff.

• undermined head teachers during Ofsted inspections.

Kershaw found that elements of the five steps referred to in the Trojan Horse letter for taking over schools were present in a “large number of the schools considered as part of the investigation”.

These five steps were to: target poorly performing schools in Muslim areas; select parents to turn against schools; install governors to encourage Islamic ideals; identify key staff to disrupt from within; and to instigate a campaign of pressure.

Kershaw found evidence of all five steps at Golden Hillock School, Moseley school, Nansen primary school and Saltley school. All of those schools, with the exception of Moseley, were recently put into special measures after emergency Ofsted inspections downgraded them to “inadequate”.

There was no evidence of all five at Park View Academy, which has been at the centre of the controversy.

Kershaw concluded that the evidence collated to date “does not support a conclusion that there was a systematic plot to take over schools”.

He added: “There are concerns which require immediate attention, but the evidence is not sufficient to lead me to construe the behaviour to be a coordinated plan to improperly influence the direction and management of schools (or academies) serving schools of predominantly Islamic faith or Muslim background.”

More here.

Has the Guardian changed? Have all their writers  now dropped the automatic resort to charges about ‘Islamophobia’ when these problems were reaised.

Not really.

It remains trapped in religious multi-culturalism, as this accompanying article by  illustrates.

The Trojan horse plot shows we must clarify religion’s place in state schools

Isolationist and xenophobic tendencies must be challenged robustly and not accepted as part of faith or cultural practice

….we need to clarify the place of religion in state schools. For example, is it reasonable to expect a school with a majority Muslim population to hold Christian prayers during assembly, daily worship apparently being a legal requirement? Should it offer Islamic prayer instead or different assemblies for pupils of different religious and non-religious backgrounds? Does modern religious diversity mean we do away with collective worship at school or adopt a multi-faith approach? Schools around the country regularly grapple with such issues.

And,

As a result of this unfortunate episode, we need to put measures in place to ensure that the teaching of religion in schools is objective, balanced and non-discriminatory, while all school activities and practices are inclusive and devoid of narrow religious or political influences. While state schools must remain sensitive to the cultural needs of all pupils, isolationist and xenophobic tendencies must be challenged robustly and not accepted as part of faith or cultural practice. Governance structures also need to be improved so that schools are more careful about whom they appoint. Extremists, even if they are non-violent, should not be allowed to work in schools or be governors, and attempts to impose puritanical agendas on schools in the public sector must not be allowed to happen again.

How about simply removing religion from “school activities and practices”, and teaching about it within the context of philosophy and cultural anthropology  in schools?

Written by Andrew Coates

July 18, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Two nations, two states! AWL Editorial on Gaza.

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Workers Liberty (the paper of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty) has just made a carefully weighed assessment of the horrendous Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Since the latest round of Israeli air bombardments of Gaza began on 8 July, around 200 Palestinians have died.

77% of have been civilians according to UN estimates. Many have been children

On 14 July, Israel ran a ground-troop operation in Gaza, and said it would expand its list of targets for bombing to include civilian institutions with suspected links to Hamas, the Islamist party which governs Gaza. Given that Hamas’s political infrastructure is substantially enmeshed with the frail Gazan state, this could include almost any target Israel chooses. Also on 14 July, Israel began a leaflet-dropping campaign instructing residents of northern Gaza to evacuate as it was preparing to widen its bombing campaign. Hamas has instructed Gazans to stay put.

On Tuesday morning 15 July, Israel announced that it had accepted a ceasefire proposal from Egypt, but Hamas hesitated, and later that day Israel was bombing again.

Gaza’s economy, always sore beset by Israeli restrictions, managed to grow nearly 15 per cent in 2011 and 7 per cent in 2012. Hamas was also boosted by the Palestinian “unity government” announced on 2 June this year, which allowed it to hope that public-sector workers in Gaza would be paid by the Palestinian Authority.

However, since a military-dominated government took over in Egypt in July 2013, ousting Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi, Egypt has shut down many of Gaza’s routes to the outside world, and unemployment in Gaza has risen. The Palestinian Authority has stalled on paying wages: public sector workers in Gaza struck over that on 26 June.

Hamas wants to put pressure on Egypt and Israel to ease their grip on Gaza. Right-wing Israeli prime minister Netanyahu wants to keep Hamas off balance, and is under pressure from a growing far right in Israel.

The current conflict grew after three Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftal Frenkel, went missing on 12 June in the West Bank. Israeli forces raided thousands of homes in the West Bank, arresting 570 Palestinians and killing several (5 by one report, 10 by another) in the process. The teenagers were found dead near the Palestinian town of Hebron on 30 June.

Far-right Jewish nationalists abducted and murdered 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir on 2 July. Hamas began a barrage of rocket fire, and has now launched nearly 1,000 rockets at Israeli towns. It has also threatened to attack Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. So far, no Israelis have been killed. Israel responded by bombing Gaza.

No state, Israeli nationalists claim, should tolerate rocket barrages, however poorly aimed and ineffective, against its civilian population. That is the rational kernel to the Israeli case. But Israel’s actions go well beyond self-defence. Aerial bombardments of a densely-populated area, with an impoverished and essentially captive population, by one of the best-armed states in the world against are so disproportionate as to undermine the self-defence argument.

The Palestinians, too, have the right to defend themselves. Hamas rockets do not provide that defence.

Israel’s bombardments cannot be abstracted from Israel’s longstanding oppression of the Palestinians. Likewise, Hamas’s rockets are aimed at civilians and must be considered in the context of the social and political project of Hamas. Hamas is a clerical-fascist political party, which, despite the recent concessions to bourgeois diplomacy of some of its leaders, states its hostility to the Israeli-Jewish people even existing in historic Palestine.

Israel’s war on Hamas cannot possibly have a progressive outcome. While Israel continues settlement building in the West Bank; while it keeps the population of Gaza under semi-permanent siege; discriminates against Arabs within its own borders; and operates a regime of walls and checkpoints, it creates the conditions in which Hamas grows.

The only way out is peace. And, for peace, Israel holds all the cards. Ending the siege of Gaza, dismantling West Bank settlements, ensuring equality for Israeli-Arabs, and allowing the Palestinians their right to set up a genuinely independent state in contiguous territory alongside Israel would allow peace — and security for Israel’s people.

The hope for the future of both the Israeli and Palestinian people lies in the political potential of the Palestinian labour, women’s, and LGBT movements, and the potential of the labour movement and internationalist, anti-war left inside Israel. Those movements can provide an alternative politics for Israeli and Palestinians that cut across the nationalism and chauvinism of both sides.

That potential can be glimpsed in the demonstrations which have taken place in Israel, on 3 July and 13 July. On 3 July, thousands demonstrated in Tel Aviv demanding an end to the atmosphere of incitement and vengeance following the deaths of the Israeli teenagers. On 13 July, hundreds of anti-war activists, many from the Israeli political left, demanded an end to the bombing, and faced violent reprisals from far-right nationalists.

As Yacov Ben Efrat, wrote in the left-wing Israeli magazine Challenge following the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2010:

“Solidarity between Jewish and Arab workers is the only way to overcome the cycle of bloodshed. The supreme interest of the workers on both sides of the conflict is to build a political and social alternative, egalitarian and humane, against a right-wing Zionist chauvinism and an Islamic fundamentalism that are leading both peoples into catastrophe”.

This editorial would seem to be the right framework for any serious left-wing discussion of the issues this catastrophe raises.

Update (hat-tip JV)

This is essential and very depressing reading,  With the Oslo dream shattered, Israel must do the creative thinking. (Haaratz)

The Palestinians do not recognize the Jews’ right to a state, so Israel must take steps on its own to improve the atmosphere.

By .

I would add that this is significant, Le courageux combat des pacifistes et progressistes israéliens Israël-Palestine, Rosa Moussaou (l’Humanité)

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Written by Andrew Coates

July 17, 2014 at 11:38 am

Islamophobia and Australian ‘Honour Killings’ Talk Cancellation.

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After the above talk is cancelled the Guardian publishes an article by  (Hat-tip JB)

Uthman Badar: both Islamophobia’s victim and unwilling accomplice

In the last two days we have seen an eruption of Australia’s public and moral outrage, regarding Hizb ut-Tahrir’s media spokesman, Uthman Badar, and his planned talk on morally justifying “honour” killings at Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas. In response to the planned event, which was cancelled after a massive backlash, we have yet again heard the typical Islamophobes scream the usual condemnation all over our televisions, our radios, our Twitter feeds and in The Daily Telegraph: “Kick Hizbut Outta Here.”

Mossi asserts that the subject of Honour killings was not the speaker’s own. In fact, “Badar wanted to give a talk at the Opera House on how Muslims are always represented as the “Other”.

“Without uttering a single word in defence of “honour” killings – not that he was ever planning to – Badar had his face plastered all over the nation’s imagination as a bigot, misogynist, and an extremist Muslim.”

Morsi concludes,

Islamophobia is better understood as a sort of unchecked energy that drives a frenzy of media scrutiny. It is marked by rituals, a sense of a story, an element of sensationalism, loaded language, to explain what is wrong with those Muslims who aren’t integrated. It is a set of questions, and a conversation with shallow answers about what it means to be us by talking about them; a ritual to purify the social space that is premised on a suspicion about the danger of those on society’s edges, on fringes defiling us; a danger that manifests itself into the face of a red-tinted Badar who is told to get out. Islamophobia is the exploiting of the Muslim for one’s own fantasies. In that sense Badar was both its victim and its unwitting accomplice.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports,

On Wednesday, Mr Badar would not tell reporters whether he believed ”honour killings” – the murder of women deemed to have brought shame or dishonour on their family – were justified.

He also declined to outline the contents of his cancelled talk, but said he was disappointed the festival had bowed to public pressure.

”I would hope they had more courage, more backbone,” he said. ”This issue has nothing to do with honour killings. Islam does not condone any form of abuse or violence towards women.”

In a speech to reporters that sometimes sounded like a sermon, Mr Badar said the ”hysterical” response to the talk’s title was a clear example of Islamophobia. If honour killings were defended by a ”white man”, the response would have been much more muted, he said. Mr Badar hinted at the issues he would have covered in the talk by saying the Western world wanted a ”monopoly on violence” through wars, invasions and puppet governments it justified with its own ideology.

The Australian newspaper also notes,

Hizb ut-Tahrir released a statement on Monday defending the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – also known as ISIS – in Iraq, where extremist militants have seized large areas of the country. ”ISIS is being portrayed, in fantastical Hollywood style, as evil incarnate on Earth, having seemingly taken over from al-Qaeda who previously fulfilled this bogeyman role,” the statement said.

”An uprising against the systematically oppressive US-installed and backed Maliki regime is being painted as a takeover by ‘terrorists’ to justify political, and if needed military intervention whereby the interests of Western powers will be protected and furthered.”

It is not at all clear if this means support for ISIL or ISIS. Hizb have a history of essentially supporting their own affiliates – not these groups.

But some degree of sympathy would fit with the  general line of Hizb ut-Tahrir (as on their official site)

Besides, fighting to expel the enemy from the Muslims’ lands is part of the established thoughts in the Party culture. It is even one of the important rules of Islam. The party has made the obligation to fight the Kuffar, even with the collaborating rulers as long as it is a fighting against the Kuffar, thus deeming it as part of the Jihad for the sake of Allah, as part of the thoughts related to the Shari’ah rules which entail the regulating of the Ummah’s behaviour in relation to the progress of the state; it has even deemed it as one of the greatest concepts of discipline in existence. It is mentioned in the 6th concept of the “concepts of discipline” in the Party Dossier

What is the best way to react to organisations and individuals with such opinions?

Certainly not by denying their right to free speech  (an important principle for many, from socialists to liberals), even if this particular event has all the hall-marks of a stunt.

The St James Ethics Centre (behind the Festival of Dangerous Ideas) is a group promoting  debate , “broader than simply business & professional ethics..” This ,”involves the hands on examination of virtually every kind of ethical issue arising in society. Operating both in Australia and abroad, the Ethics Centre remains unique in the world for its support to the general community on ethical issues, creation and management of public debates and application of ethical principles to specific issues in public institutions, not-for-profits and companies.”

It would seem to be appropriate forum to subject the Hizbt to public exposure.

That this has not happened is obviously due the topic: honour killings are not ideas but acts of violence.

A detailed consideration of the issue of honour killings and the problematic arguments by Badar (relativising honour killings, though not condoning them) is given by Sarah AB.

There is room for analysis of the reasons why the talk has been cancelled.

But Morsi however seems have already entered this subject with the ready-made view that any criticism of Islamists of the stripe of the Hizb is “Islamophobia’.

He works himself up into paroxysms of rage describing the Australian reaction.

The Problem with Islamophobia.

There is an extremely sensitive and thoughtful piece by Shaif Rahmen on Islamophobia on Harry’s Place this morning,.

It begins by noting how the term is full of dangers, and

  • It is also unhelpful, because if left unchecked it;
  • blurs acceptable boundaries and culls debate
  • treats all criticism of Islam with equal disdain
  • equates Islamophobia with racism
  • gives a free ride to exponents of Islamism, magnifying their voices whilst countering narratives are hushed inhibits free speech which often acts as a catalyst for positive change.

Rahmen concludes,

So when does criticism of Islam become Islamophobia?

When the criticism prejudices and stigmatises Muslims rather than their beliefs.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is rightly attacked for its beliefs.

It is accused, with ample justification, of being an extreme-right wing party which aims to establish a religious dictatorship.

Its social policies are utterly reactionary.

Cod philosophy about the Muslim Other (1), melodrama and histrionics cannot deflect these criticisms.

Or silence them.

But perhaps this is Morsi’s aim?

(1) This is a brilliant unravelling  of the pretentious gibberish used by Badar  (like Morsi an adept of the Woody Allen school of Sartre and Derrida studies): The accused is the oriental other. Ophelia Benson.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 26, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Last Christians in Mosul to Pay “dihmmi” Tax

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Call for Jihad.

 

Les derniers chrétiens de Mossoul, cible des jihadistes

Libération 

Sad news for the last Christians of Mosul. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (EIIL) – Daech according acronym  in Arabic, – has ordered them  to pay the jizyah,a special tax which giving them the status of second-class citizens.

This tax, according to various first-hand witnesses collected by telephone from Mosul, obliges  Christian families to pay $ 250 per employed person, or $ 500 for a couple.

“They have a choice between paying, converting or leaving  “ said father Tahir Issa, of the small Chaldean Church.

“PACT OF PROTECTION”.

This obligation to pay the jizya for Christian dhimmi - “protected” or a non-Muslim citizens in Muslim state – is compulsory.

It is also open to any non-Muslim citizen, provided they belong to a revealed religion (Judaism, Zoroastrianism, etc..). It is accompanied by other discriminatory conditions,  restricted freedom of worship, and the loss of certain rights,  in exchange for a guarantee of security for their persons and property.

According to reports from refugees in Kurdistan the jihadists have claimed that a Moslem who steals from a Christian will be executed, while those who steal from other Muslims will only have their hands cut off.

….

There are around 500 Christians left in Mosul, amongst two million inhabitants.

Father Tahrir Issa also asserts that two churches in Mosul, one named the Holy Spirit, which belongs to the Chaldeans and the other, belonging to the Armenian community have recently been completely vandalised. A statue of the Virgin in  another church was also destroyed.

There are other reports on this, and the imposition of strict Shariah law in areas under ISIS influence. See also Les seize commandements de l’Etat islamique en Irak et au Levant.

Libération takes a much more robust line than, notably, the Guardian, on these issues.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 24, 2014 at 10:30 am