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Tackling Islamophobia: Yorkshire charity rolls out training to promote better understanding

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Figures from West Yorkshire Police showing that reports of race-related hate crimes have doubled in five years and are at a record high

Arfan Hanif, Touchstone’s operation’s director, who leads the initiative to help staff and volunteers to better understand Islamophobia

In the wake of record levels of religiously motivated hate crimes, a Yorkshire mental health charity is rolling out more training to help staff and volunteers better understand Islamophobia and its impact on individuals and communities.

The training offered by Touchstone, hopes to equip attendees on how best to the charity’s support service users experiencing Islamophobia.

Last year more than 100 people attended the training, which looks at the effect of Islamophobia on local Muslims, including the charity’s employees, volunteers and service users.

With figures from West Yorkshire Police showing that reports of race-related hate crimes have doubled in five years and are at a record high, Touchstone has four training sessions organised for this year. In 2016/17 police recorded 3,260 such crimes in West Yorkshire - up from 2,597 the year before. In Bradford reports of attacks or threats against race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability rocketed from 544 in 2014/15 to 1,788 in 2017/18.

Arfan Hanif, Touchstone’s operation’s director, who leads the initiative, explained: “The figures are not surprising and reinforce the view that Islamophobia is on the rise with 52% of recorded religious hate offences aimed at Muslims. Despite the shocking nature of the figures, it is positive that more people are reporting incidents and police forces are recording them.

“With so much negative media and social media coverage around Islam, there is always a danger that we become susceptible to believing misinformed views and opinions. These could find their way unwittingly into how we treat our work colleagues, and how we deliver services to our Muslim communities."

“One in six of our staff and service users are Muslim, we know the impact of Islamophobia on this community. By giving employees and volunteers a better understanding of Islam through our training we aim to ensure that Muslims feel welcomed and supported, both inside and outside Touchstone. This inevitably has a positive effect on their mental and physical wellbeing.”

The training, which Touchstone runs in partnership with the organisation Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), addresses negative stereotypes and views of Islam. Courses cover the basics of what Islam is, dispels myths, looks at causes and cures of Islamophobia and the impact on mental health.

“As a mental health provider Touchstone’s advice to service users is one of re-assurance that such incidents are thankfully rare and that support is available if they were to experience or witness a hate crime Incident,” commented Arfan.

“Support will also be offered to any service user who feels distressed by the general rise in hate crime incidents including Islamophobia. We will continue to deliver our Islamophobia and mental health training in partnership with MEND to all our staff so that we can continually meet the needs of our diverse communities.”

Susan Nota, from Touchstone’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), who attended a course, said: “The myths and stereotypes were both shocking and informative. I learnt so much around statistics and legislation. Everyone should do this training.”

Nafeesa Jogee, one of Touchtone’s administrators, a Muslim herself, commented: “I feel a lot more ready and equipped for my own personal safety.”

Islamophobic hate crime has risen in recent years, especially after events such as the Brexit referendum and terrorist attacks, and it is estimated that 88 per cent of recorded hate crimes are religiously or racially motivated.

Arfan Hanif concluded: “For Touchstone it is less to do with actual incidents as in reality a minority of people (which is growing) are subject to direct abuse. It is more to the with the climate created where people and communities feel fear, insecure, anxious and under attack. This in turn can have a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of individuals and communities. The matter maybe further compounded for individuals experiencing mental health conditions such as anxiety and panic attacks.”

The training is already paying dividends for the charity. In a staff feedback survey for the Sunday Times Best Company to Work For 2018 93 per cent of staff feel Touchstone values diversity and 97% agreed they could make a valuable contribution to the organisation. Touchstone is ranked eighth in the Sunday Times Best Company to Work For Top 100 Not For Profit Organisation to Work For list.

Touchstone regularly wins national accolades for its best practice in diversity and inclusion. The charity was recently ranked 20th in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers list, and in December 2018 - for the third consecutive year – it came top in the Inclusive Top 50 UK Employers List.

World-famous Indian actor and director Aamir Khan to attend Belfast Film Festival 

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Aamir Khan will be in Belfast for five days in April and his visit marks a new BFF 5-year project celebrating cultural diversity in film 

  • One of India’s highest paid film stars
  • 24 million followers on Twitter
  • Previously named by TIME magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
  • His 2016 sports biopic ‘Dangal’, showing as part of the festival, is the highest grossing film, in Indian cinema, of all-time.

Belfast Film Festival kicks off a new five-year ‘Cultural Diversity in Film’ project and as part of this is set to host one of cinema’s biggest names, Aamir Khan. 

Global mainstream publictions have called him “the biggest movie star in the world“ (Newsweek), and one of the world’s hundred most influential people (Time Magazine).
Khan, an award-winning director, critically acclaimed actor, producer and television presenter will make his first ever visit to Ireland to attend the festival.
Aamir Khan’s prolific career covers over thirty years in film and his popularity reaches across India, China and the West; he has a staggering 24 million twitter followers. 
His work combines some of the most widely seen entertainment cinema in film history – comedies such as 3 Idiots (2009) and PK (2014) - with innovation. He insisted that the Oscar nominated epic Lagaan (2001), in which he starred and produced, was shot with synch sound – rare in Indian cinema. His directorial debut – the award-winning Taare Zameen Par (2007) explored the subject of dyslexia.

Lagaan received critical acclaim and awards at international film festivals, as well as many Indian film awards. It became the third Indian film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film after Mother India (1957) and Salaam Bombay! (1988)

Satyamev Jayate, the TV show that he created and presents, was seen in 165 countries by a billion people. The TV series addressed subjects like honour killings, domestic violence, political corruption. Known for his far-reaching humanitarian work, he brings attention to critical world problems affecting children, the environment, human rights, poverty, slavery, people trafficking and many other issues.

With each of his successive films, Khan has attracted legions of additional fans and simultaneously shattered previous box-office records. His pictures are not just commercially popular but are also critically successful.

His 2016 sports biopic ‘Dangal’, showing as part of the festival, is the highest grossing film, in Indian cinema, of all-time

From playing a wrestler (Dangal), to a man faced with the horrors of partition (Earth), Aamir Khan is nothing if not versatile. He brings an authenticity to the screen which has made him one of the leading actors of his generation.
During the 19th Belfast Film Festival, Aamir Khan will participate in an ‘In Conversation’ event in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast. This event on Tuesday 16thApril will celebrate Khan’s body of film work and pay tribute to his humanitarian activities.
The evening will be hosted by Nasreen Munni Kabir, author of 17 books on Hindi cinema. Nasreen has made over 80 TV programmes on Indian film for Channel 4 and continues to curate C4’s annual Indian film season. 
Mark Cousins, Chair of the Belfast Film Festival said of Khan’s visit:"Many of us fell in love with film because of big-hearted movies like ‘It's a Wonderful Life’ and Tom Hanks' ‘Big’.  That's the sort of film that Aamir Khan makes.  His epic entertainments have the spirit of Frank Capra movies; he draws on the best of Hindi film.  He uses his stardom as boldly as Jane Fonda.  We are honoured that he will come to the Belfast Film Festival.  If you haven't seen Aamir Khan’s films, treat yourself!  A special thank you to Nasreen Munni Kabir, one of the most admired people in Indian film." 
Michele Devlin, Director of the Belfast Film Festival said: “The Belfast Film Festival’s tribute to Aamir Khan is the start of a bold new five-year exploration of cultural diversity in film, which will include Chinese, Polish and many other cultures. As part of this work we are delighted to announce a new collaboration with the New York Indian Film Festival.
Indian cinema – its stardom, storytelling, history, themes and popularity is a great starting point for this project, and hosting the wonderful Aamir Khan is a perfect beginning.”     
Speaking ahead of the festival, Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland said: “Belfast Film Festival brings the very best in world cinema to Northern Ireland and acts an important platform for local writers, filmmakers, and the arts community.British Council Northern Ireland is working with local partners to further develop links with India in film and the wider arts, so we are honoured to support a programme which brings one of the most popular and influential actors and directors of Indian cinema to Northern Ireland.”
Nisha Tandon OBE, Founder and Director of ArtsEkta, the city’s leading ethnic arts group and proud promoters of Indian arts and culture commented: “What a prestigious moment for us to welcome renowned director and actor Aamir Khan to our city. Our community has played an important role in the cultural, social and economic life of Belfast over the last four decades and feels very proud to welcome Aamir who is a pioneering figure in Indian cinema.  Our city is rich in Indian arts and tradition, we hope that Aamir will be as inspired by his visit to Belfast as we are and look forward to giving him a famous Northern Irish welcome.”
Film fans, lovers of Indian cinema, and those who are film curious will be able to see some of Khan’s most popular films throughout the festival at the Movie House, Dublin Road (3 Idiots, Dhobi Ghat/Mumbai Diaries - directed by Khan’s wife, the filmmaker Kiran Rao - Dangal, Taare Zameen Par).
Tickets can be purchased at:  from Thursday 28th February at 10am.
With over 100 events including over 40 premieres, the full programme will launch on Wednesday 13th March.

Mount Cricket Club celebrates success on and off the pitch

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Mount Cricket Club held its annual community presentation evening at the Al-Hikmah Centre, Batley.

The Club was first established by two enthusiastic cricketers Mr Hanif Mayet (who continues to be its Chairman) and the late Farid Karolia together with some of their friends. Since then the Club has progressed through various Yorkshire leagues and now plays its senior cricket in the Halifax Cricket League (HCL) winning many trophies, friends and supporters along the way in England and increasingly abroad.

In attendance were members of the community including men, women, boys and girls together with a whole host of community, voluntary, statutory organisation and public/private businesses including enterprises and local schools.

During the evening of Saturday 12th January 2019 two special messages of support and appreciation to the work the Club does for and with its community were read out from Colin Graves, Chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board and Baroness Patricia Janet Scotland QC, through the Commonwealth of Nation’s Secretariat and the Peace at the Crease Team.


One of the highlight of the evening were the Community Champion Awards given on the night to two exceptional individuals who given so much service to and for the local Muslim community. Ian Brodie, responsible for the provision of a multi faith room in Pinderfield Hospital, Wakefield, received an award; Sheila Acquith, responsible for helping and supporting local Asian women with English speaking and sewing machine classes when they arrived from the Indian Sub Continent in the early 1970s and 1980s was also honoured with an accolade.

Attendees heard of the work the club is engaged with in promoting inclusivity and to open cricket opportunities to all sections of the community including girls, women, children with disabilities and for the over 50s.

The audience heard about its participation in the 4th Light of Faith Tour with the Vatican’s St Peter’s Cricket Team and retaining the ‘Sir John Major Friendship Club’. Zahed Lorgat of JM Financial talked about his involvement with the Club during the tour to Corfu, Greece and was proud to be supporting the Club even though he now lives in London. During the Corfu tour the Club’s coaches led by Mrs Rizwana Patel also undertook two coaching sessions with school children.

Hanif Mayet, Chairman of the Club commented as follows: “We’re really pleased that as a club we provide participation opportunities into sport especially for women, girls and children from the age of five onwards”.

Tracy Brabin, Batley & Spen MP & Shadow Minister for Early Years, attending for the first time commented that: “It was an absolute privilege to be asked to speech at Mount’s presentation evening at what was a wonderful occasion celebrating their commitment to the community it serves. It was also fantastic to celebrate women and girls in sport, something the Club continues to embrace as it moves forward with new partnerships”.

Mark Arthur, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Cricket Club, who attended with his wife Debbie, had the following to say: “Another great evening at Mount celebrating a year of achievement both on and off the Field of Dreams. Their progress with girls and women cricket and personal development is commendable”.

David Pearson JP, DL, FRSA, A Deputy Lieutenant for West Yorkshire commented: “Not only were cricketing achievements celebrated, but recognition was given to a number of people who had selflessly served the local community.

“The Lieutenancy is always pleased to be associated with such recognition and we are very grateful for the invitation for one of its officers to represent Her Majesty at this most enjoyable event”.

Jules Preston, Chairman of the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust attending for the first time said: “It was very inspiring to attend Mount’s presentation evening.

“Seeing the young people receiving their medals and trophies brought home to me how the values of developing healthy bodies and healthy minds, of tackling inequalities in communities closely mirrors the values of the NHS”.

Cllr Fazila Loonat, from Kirklees Council commented as follows: “It was an absolute pleasure to join the Mount Family celebrating another year of success on and off the pitch. The teams have gone from strength to strength doing fantastic work to bring communities together through cricket and tackling issues around cohesion and health. The highlight for me was the awarding of the Community Champion Awards to the two exceptional individuals (Sheila & Ian) to whom we owe a great deal of gratitude”.

In presenting the 1st Team Cup Anthony Briggs, Chairman of the HCL commented: “On behalf of the league can I extend a massive thank you for the invitation to Mount Cricket Club’s presentation evening which was an excellent and enjoyable evening.

“On top of this you secure speakers such as the local MP Tracy Brabin, Jules Preston the Chairman of the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust and Mark Arthur from Yorkshire Cricket.

“This is testament to the connections you have and the great work you do in the local community. We look forward to attending again next year and you never know perhaps you will have more success on the field to celebrate, all the best for the forthcoming season”.

Abdul A Ravat, Mount’s Development Officer and who played host for the evening was delighted and stated that: “The presentation evening is a keenly awaited occasion where we celebrate the Club’s achievements both on and off the pitch.

“We are proud of our objective to make cricket accessible to all and will continue to involve ourselves with wider community activities. Going forward we would like to do more than what we are currently doing from our base at the Field of Dream and will work with the ECB under its South Asian Strategy, with Yorkshire Cricket, Kirklees Council and others. Imagine what we could do for our community if we had the proper tools”.

Stand out performances of the season

• 4 players were voted on an independent poll run by CricInfo’s ‘performance of the week’. They were Soyeb Gheewala; Ismail Mayet; Jabir Patel and Siraj Patel and were awarded their unique caps from Tracy Brabin MP.
• Soyeb Gheewala and Jabir Patel both shared the Dr Motawali ‘Players of the Season Cup’ with amazing battling: o Soyeb scored 1,057 runs with an average of 81.1, including 3 centuries and 3 more scores of 50 and more with a highest score of 170 not out; and Jabir scored 1,248 runs with an average of 96, including 6 hundreds and 3 more scores of 50 and over with a highest score of 192 not out.

ADMIRABLE: Bradford man changes racist views of unemployed man

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A Muslim from Bradford says he was determined to look past racism after he helped a homeless man, who shouted racial slurs at him, find a home and employment.

30-year-old Aminur Chowdhury, from Manningham, did what very few others would do when confronted by a racist term, he engaged in active conversation with the culprit and befriended him.

FRIENDS: Aminur helped Ben get a job and find an apartment, despite initially engaging in conversation due to an ‘uncharacteristic racist remark’

FRIENDS: Aminur helped Ben get a job and find an apartment, despite initially engaging in conversation due to an ‘uncharacteristic racist remark’

Not only that, but the following day, Aminur phoned up his new acquaintance, who was unemployed at the time, and helped him get a job at one of his friend’s businesses.

The guilty party on this occasion was 27-year-old Ben Gallon, from Frizinghall, Bradford, who had been drinking through the day.

Both men now acknowledge this action was ‘completely out of character’ and Aminur says he knew from the very start that Ben was a ‘smart man’ and just wanted to help someone who he could tell ‘didn’t have a vicious bone in his body’.

“Ben’s been a pleasure to know really,” he said. “From the first time I met him at The Delius I could tell that I was speaking to someone who is very passionate.

“I was scared for him at first because there were two police officers there and I felt that they could have taken him away because of the racist language, but I certainly didn’t want to see that happen.

“He has a very good grasp of ideologies and I was very impressed so I thought I’m going to engage with this person because he’s like a counter-copy of myself.”

RESPECT: Aminur Chowdhury and Ben Gallon are now very close friends and believe their story of friendship should be replicated across Bradford

RESPECT: Aminur Chowdhury and Ben Gallon are now very close friends and believe their story of friendship should be replicated across Bradford

After speaking at the venue, both men handed over contact details and Ben says he didn’t even know whether they would ever meet again.

“When I met Aminur in The Delius, I was in a bit of a predicament; I was technically homeless, without a job and had just moved back down from Edinburgh,” he said.

“We spoke at the pub and he mentioned about a job but I thought he might have just been being polite.

“But true to his word, the next day he gave me a call, said ‘can I come pick you up Ben, I’ve got an interview for you’. That same day, he came round to get me, drove me down to the place on Canal Road and then within ten minutes I had been offered the job.”

Ben had been working as a cleaner in Scotland before moving back to Bradford to be closer to his family after his contract expired.

Having no permanent residence, Aminur has now also helped arrange for the Bradford-born resident to move into an apartment in Frizinghall, whilst their friendship continues to strengthen.

“He really is a diamond, I don’t have a single bad word to say about him,” Ben added.

“He is a fantastic bloke and we may have only known each other for a week but we are already very close. I can’t really thank him enough for the help he has given me over the past week.”

Both men now agree that they want to see their circumstance replicated in the city, and help improve relations between different cultures and religions in Bradford.

“Ben and I together now can hopefully help challenge issues, like racism in society, in a positive way,” Aminur added. “The way I've done it for Ben, I now know he would do the same for me, and that way of thinking is all we need to achieve great things here in Bradford.”

Ben added: “We really are singing from the same hymn sheet. Being from Bradford we know racism is the key issue and we’ve both seen it from different angles. Now we just want to tackle that subject and help make Bradford the great place we know it can be.”

ZAYN MALIK: In a smoke of bother as he’s caught on camera smoking weed?

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Bradford sweetheart Zayn Malik along with bandmate Louis Tomlinson are in a smoke of trouble, quite literally!

As the footage of Zayn and Louis happily puffing away on what looks like a marijuana cigarette has gone viral, One Direction’s spokesperson Mike Navarra, of Columbia Records has refused to answer any questions stating: “Our only comment at the moment is the whole situation is in the hands of our lawyers.”

zayn malik

TROUBLE: Zayn Malik and a voice believed to be bandmate Louis Tomlinson caught smoking what seems to be marijuana

The pair were en route to their ‘Where We Are Tour’ concert at Estadio Nacional in Lima, just outside Peru on April 27th along with three other people. They are seen talking about ‘something’ and when apparently Louis catches on to what they’re going on about, he says: “It’s about the joint. What a great thing to capture in a different language. They were just asking if it’s OK,” he says.

One of the other men asks: “Are we allowed to talk contraband in this?” a voice believed to be Louis replies: “Yes, that's what it is about.”

VOCAL: Louis Tomlinson can be heard bragging in the footage about smoking the illegal substance

VOCAL: Louis Tomlinson can be heard bragging in the footage about smoking the illegal substance

Louis is then heard saying he wants to “light up” as the car drives out of a parking lot, with a rolled cigarette appearing to be lit on camera.

“So here we are, leaving Peru. Joint lit. Happy days!” he can be heard saying.

At times members of the band’s team can be heard talking about ‘chicken.’ It isn’t clear what is meant by ‘chicken’ as the guys joke and laugh in increasingly high spirits.

To make matters worse, the five-minute film seems to be shot by Louis himself, how it’s been leaked still remains a mystery.

The teenage heartthrobs are thought to be in serious trouble with their record label and who knows what Simon Cowell’s reaction will be.

Fans have been split on how they feel about this leaked clip. Many have ripped up pre paid tickets to ‘One Direction’s’ concerts. Some have taken to social media stating that Zayn and Louis have been hugely irresponsible to their young fanbase where others have said that people should leave them alone.

Possession of a small amount of cannabis is not illegal in Peru.

Hoax callers charged

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Two men from Leeds have been charged over terrorism hoax calls which occurred last year resulting in a North Yorkshire town being locked down by armed police.

VICTIMS: The cruel prank was played on the pizza shop where innocent  (l-r) Razaul Karim, Diluwar Hussein, Manik Miah, Shofiqur Rahman were questioned by police

VICTIMS: A cruel prank was played on the pizza shop where innocent (l-r) Razaul Karim, Diluwar Hussein, Manik Miah, Shofiqur Rahman were questioned by police

The centre of Knaresborough was cordoned off on the 16th October after they received a number of phone calls reporting an ‘immediate threat to members of the public’ at the Paragon Pizza takeaway in High Street.

Dozens of officers, armed with submachine guns and baton round launchers arrived at the scene to detain two staff members outside the establishment, whilst a third was arrested moments later.

After a search of the premises and the individuals, the report was labelled as a ‘cruel prank’ which had been targeted at the completely innocent owner and his staff.

A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Police said a 23-year-old man from the

Chapeltown area of Leeds was charged earlier this week with three offences of communicating a bomb hoax, whilst a 22-year-old man, also from Chapeltown, was charged with perverting the course of justice and making a false statement to obtain insurance.

Speaking about the way the North Yorkshire Police addressed the situation, astatement on the authority’s behalf, released soon after the incident, read: “…Our prime concern during the incident was to ensure the safety of members of the public.

“As a result, we ensured a rapid police response to the town centre.”

Both men, being charged with the case, are due to appear at Harrogate Magistrates’ Court in June.