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Three arson attacks in three years

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Mosque suffers Islamophobic hatred once again

A Manchester mosque has suffered a third arson attack in three years earlier in July, which Greater Manchester Police have confirmed they are now investigating as a hate crime.

Nasfat Mosque, an affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain, had 30 firefighters and five fire engines tackle the blaze last month, which left the building gutted.

Deen Moyodele, Nasfat mosque spokesperson, said, “The arson attack was so devastating. We are very active in the local community, participating in all community events in order to promote cohesion and we welcome dialogue with all. But whoever carried out this attack are unfortunately nothing but cowards.”

Nasfat has a track record of positive community work. Members of the mosque's congregation took part in a national peace rally showing their support against extremism, with banners reading "Say no to extremism" and "No to Boko Haram." And in February 2017, the mosque held a mosque open day for their local community as part of national #VisitMyMosque Day.

A peace walk in Manchester was held last week with participants from multi-faith communities across Manchester attending to show solidarity. And the Greater Manchester Council of Mosques issued an open letter to MPs and local councillors, reiterating the concerns of all Mancunians of violence targeting people of a specific faith.

MCB Secretary General Harun Khan said, “Prime Minister Theresa May had said ‘There has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years – and that means extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia’.

“With Islamophobic hatred like this Manchester arson attack, the mowing down of worshippers in North London or incitement of hatred against East London Mosque in the last few weeks to name but a few, we urge the UK Government and all parts of British civil society to adopt a coordinated and strategic approach to tackling this form of extremism. The MCB remains open to working with all parties to support these efforts.”

The Muslim Council of Britain has for years been one of the many civil society voices warning against the rise of Islamophobic hatred and violence in the UK.

In an MCB submission to the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee inquiry into Hate Crime and its Violent Consequences in December 2016, we said, “The evidence is unambiguous as to the scale of Islamophobia and its violent consequences within the UK. Many individuals have been attacked in hate crimes ranging from online hate crime, verbal and violent assaults to intimidation, and even murder, as was the case with Mohammed Saleem in October 2013.”

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Walker of GMP’s City of Manchester Borough, said: "We are investigating this [Nasfat arson attack] as a hate crime which has damaged a place of worship used by members of the Nigerian community. No one should be the subject of hate and intolerance"

No arrests have been made yet and so the arsonist is still at large and a threat to the public. We commend the support provided by Greater Manchester Police to date and urge anyone with information to contact the police to help them in their investigation on 0161 856 9770 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Nasfat mosque has launched a crowdfunding plea for £50,000 to repair and reopen the premises within 8-12 months. This can be found online at: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/standagainsth8

Supporting the community: Officer becomes a double winner

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TWICE COMMENDED: Ahmed Farooqi has been recognised for his work around community cohesion in Manchester

TWICE COMMENDED: Ahmed Farooqi has been recognised for his work around community cohesion in Manchester

A Police Community Support Officer from Greater Manchester Police has twice been commended by the Chief Constable in the last two weeks, all because of his work around community cohesion.

Ahmed Farooqi, who works as a PCSO in Didsbury, was first recognised at the Forces internal STARS awards last month, winning the prestigious Karin Mulligan award for Diversity in Action. He then received a Chief’s Commendation at a ceremony a few days later.

45-year-old Ahmed, originally from India, received both awards for his work while assisting St Edmunds Church food bank in Whalley Range, establishing a multi faith council and giving presentations to the senior Indian community about hate crime.

During the Paris attacks of November 2015, Ahmed brought the Multi-Faith council together - which consists of all Imams, Priests and Temple leaders from Hindu and Sikh Communities  -for an event in solidarity.

Mr Farooqi represented the South Manchester Area in the ‘We Stand Together’ campaign, which was run by Greater Manchester police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd and Chief Inspector Umer Khan.

PCSO Farooqi said: “I am proud to serve as a PCSO to a multicultural, diverse community which is made up of both beautiful old Victorian churches to still very active Mosques.

“Receiving the award felt like all the work I did with the community had been recognised - I didn’t feel that I got the award personally, I feel that I am the recipient of the award on behalf of the whole Whalley Range community.”

GMP’s Chief Constable gives out commendations throughout the year, recognising members of the public and officers for an impressive contribution to their community.

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, who presented Ahmed with the commendation, said: “Effective policing is only achieved through community cohesion, something that Ahmed works extremely hard to achieve.

“Greater Manchester has wonderfully diverse communities and its people like PCSO Farooqi who show just what can be achieved when we all come together. It’s right that we recognise his work both internally and alongside members of the public – thank you for your service Ahmed.”

You’re under a vest! Police called to investigate Bolton man wearing ‘body armour’

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BRACE YOURSELVES, IT’S NOT A BOMB: Police handled the situation with a ‘sensible and friendly attitude’  (Pic cred: Twitter)

BRACE YOURSELVES, IT’S NOT A BOMB: Police handled the situation with a ‘sensible and friendly attitude’ (Pic cred: Twitter)

Greater Manchester Police were called to a shopping centre in Bolton after a man wearing a supportive back brace was mistaken for suicide bomber.

Hinesh Vegad, 25, praised the officers for their sensible and friendly attitude after he ‘sparked a terror alert’ when shopping in Westhoughton on Wednesday.

A concerned member of the public phoned authorities saying they had seen an ‘Asian man wearing body armour which was packed at the bottom with wires hanging out’.

When police officers arrived at the scene, Hinesh was no longer there.

Fortunately for him, one of his friends spoke to investigators and explained that Vegad had fractured his back after an unlucky paintballing session and was walking with a huge brace around his torso.

Vegad, from Heaton, Bolton, praised police officers for their sensible and friendly attitude when they later visited him at his home, and posed together for a photograph that he posted on Facebook.

He told a local radio station: “I had no idea what was going on until I received a phone call from police explaining that they’d received reports of a man acting suspiciously.

“Luckily they had spoken to my friend who works in a sandwich shop when they arrived on the high street to warn people. She told them that it was me and that I wear a back brace for my injury, and passed my contact details on.

“Looking back, I can totally see the funny side of the situation, but that’s because it was handled correctly. The police officers were friendly.”

He added: “It was all in the interest and safety of the public and I couldn’t fault anything they [GMP] did.

“When they saw me they were mainly concerned about me avoiding this happening again.

“The brace sits very high above my shoulders because I have a high fracture, so wearing a jacket or jumper is near enough impossible.”

He revealed more details about the astonishing incident on his Facebook page.

He posted: “Friendly visit from these bobbies today after nipping into Westhoughton for some lunch and triggering the police to dispatch a team to find me around Bolton, all thanks to two member of the public for ringing 999 as they had spotted an ‘Asian man wearing body armour which was packed at the bottom with wires hanging out.

“Thanks to Rebecca [his friend] for confirming to the police that it was in fact me they were looking for and it wasn’t a suicide vest…just a supportive back brace for an injury I picked up.

“I am now off the terror watchlist.”

Police confirmed  the incident was quickly resolved and that they responded to a report of ‘concerns about a man in Westhoughton town centre’.

Chief Inspector Umer Khan is making Greater Manchester even greater

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AWARD WINNING COP: Umer Khan says he takes great pride in bringing different communities together

AWARD WINNING COP: Umer Khan says he takes great pride in bringing different communities together

Taking the force forward

We meet Chief Inspector Umer Khan of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) outside Manchester Cathedral on one of the hottest days of the year, where the temperature gauge is hitting the 35 degree mark.

He is resplendently smart and despite the soaring heat, he looks cool as a cucumber in a crisp white shirt.

Umer has picked the Cathedral as a meeting point as he says it’s “an oasis of peace” and is also the latest site where he has been organising cohesive community events.

“I came to Manchester from Pakistan at the age of 11. You can imagine, coming into a new country, the fresh challenges I faced - including trying to learn the new language. On my first day at school, I didn’t know the difference between an ice-cream and a spoon,” he begins.

Life is now a little more complicated for Umer because - after 20 years in the force – he now heads a team of 30 staff.  As Chief Inspector, he has won international awards for his work on social media, where he tackles hate crime and brings communities together.

It has been his hard work, dedication and a genuine love of helping other people which has allowed him to rise quickly through the ranks.

“I got into policing because I was a witness to a crime. There was a detective at the scene who said I should be a police officer,” he explains.

“At 21, I applied to join the force. It’s been a fantastic decision and since then I’ve loved every minute of it. I was never afraid of failure and I believe that’s what got me moving forward.

“I’ve been involved in some really exciting work, such as investigating complex fraud and working at customs and excise looking at the importation of heroin into the UK.”

Umer has had his fair share of challenges within his own family life but has picked himself up from the setbacks.  After 15 years service in the job he became an inspector at Rochdale.

“My neighbourhood team, Rochdale North, became one of the best neighbourhood teams because of the way I use Twitter to communicate with the public.”

Umer continued: “My passion is helping people in communities.  I’ve had my own challenges in life which makes me want to look out for others and make their lives better. It’s not about becoming rich.”

BANNERS ON THE BEAT: Chief Inspector Umer Khan makes his presence felt on Twitter where he can talk directly to the public

BANNERS ON THE BEAT: Chief Inspector Umer Khan makes his presence felt on Twitter where he can talk directly to the public

A charity ambassador for Human Appeal, Umer’s philanthropic work has seen him visit Bosnia, Ethiopia and Auschwitz.  He also coaches young people in cricket and has even mentored a cricketer for Lancashire and England -Saqib Mahmood.

“I’ve coached him from the age of 11 and he’s now got a professional contract. I’m coaching tonight after I finish at work,” Umer said excitedly.

His endless enthusiasm is down to his self-confessed “kid in a candy shop” attitude. Growing up in poverty, he always takes any opportunity that comes his way.

“My true passion is about communities – bringing them together and ending hate,” he said.

Two years ago he had the opportunity to work in the ‘We Stand Together’ campaign which celebrates differences in communities, challenges hate and aims to move towards building a safer, stronger United Kingdom.

The idea about the campaign came from a meeting between Umer and Sir Peter Fahy, former Chief Constable of GMP. With his blessing, Umer helped launched the campaign at Manchester Town Hall.

“This past Sunday, we had multiple faith communities coming together, celebrating our differences. The Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir, the King David Choir and the Afro-Caribbean Dementia Choir played to a captivated audience and Rabbi Natan Fagelman sang a prayer of peace.

“There are so many different webs that are being sewn since this campaign started- such as the Dean of Manchester Cathedral – Rogers Govender –working alongside us through the ‘Challenging Hate’ forum.

“I’ll be doing a talk in the next forum with the Dean, discussing the rise of hate crimes since Brexit. Ultimately, my view is that the police alone cannot address societal issues like hate. It has to be a community team effort. Everybody has responsibility to challenge hate. No-one is born hating, it’s a learned attribute.”

He added: “We need to be closely aligned with our communities in a real and genuine way. It needs to be more than just lip service.”

OASIS OF PEACE: Umer Khan has been in the police force for over 20 years

OASIS OF PEACE: Umer Khan has been in the police force for over 20 years

In terms of moving forward, Umer’s vision for police and society is that they need to come together to become stronger and address issues that are faced by us “collectively”.

Umer believes that Manchester is a ‘fantastic’ city.

“Manchester has got over 200 different languages, it’s got so many different cultures, it’s rich in culture and diversity. It’s the third most culturally diverse city in the world.

“Nationally, it’s argued we’re the second biggest city in England but when it comes to peace, tolerance, kindness and acceptability of difference, we’re the best city in the world. That’s my view of Greater Manchester and that’s why I love it so much.”

When it comes down to his concerns about the city, he says that the police should be representative of our communities.

“We have a big recruitment drive that’s open to everyone, with a focus on BME. There’s only a four per cent representation of BME in Greater Manchester Police and we’d like that to increase.

“There’s a big gap there but communities need to understand there is a genuine need for people of diverse backgrounds - whether that’s Chinese, Asian, Buddhist, Black or LGBT - because the police is a reflection of our community.”

Umer rounds off the meeting by saying that families need to encourage their members to join the police.

“If they’re unsure, they can contact me. If any of your readers would like to take up the opportunity, I will be willing to go through the recruitment process and mentor them so they can get into the organisation and make a difference.

“I’ve been in the police for 20 years and I’ve seen so many changes. I’ve lived through riots and revolutions. The police is a fantastic organisation and now we need new people to take up the baton and move the force forward.”

 

Fast and furious

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Astonishing rise of number of takeaways in Greater Manchester sees increase of over 50 per cent in just five years

It seems the fast food industry has no signs of slowing down, with a huge rise of the number of takeaway businesses in Greater Manchester, which has increased by over a half in the past five years.

Manchester has one of the highest rates of takeaways per person: 8.7 per 10,000, the sixth highest figure in Britain.

Data provided by Office for National Statistics show that the number of businesses identifying as takeaways or mobile food stands has increased across the country - but that Greater Manchester is well ahead of the national trend.

In 2010 there were 1,220 takeaways in Greater Manchester but by 2015 this number had shot up to 1,900 - an increase of 56 per cent.

Nationally the number has only increased by 26 per cent, but Rochdale saw the biggest change in the region with an increase of 88 per cent between 2010 and 2015. In 2010 there were 80 takeaways while in 2015 there were 150.

Tameside also saw a significant jump in the presence of takeaways in the area with the number increasing by 82 per cent from 85 in 2010 to 155 in 2015.

Oldham saw the third largest increase in the number of businesses identifying as takeaways, up 81 per cent from 2010 to 2015 with the number of shops changing from 80 to 145.

Bolton , Bury , Wigan and Salford followed the same upward trend with each seeing the number of takeaways increase by 50 per cent in five years. Bolton had 120 businesses in 2010 and 180 in 2015; Bury, with 90 shops, had 135 as of 2015; Wigan changed from 130 takeaways to 195 and Salford from 90 to 135.

The proportion of the adults who are overweight or obese in England has been increasing alongside the country’s takeaway boom. Data from Public Health England for 2014 showed that the figure has now reached 64.6 per cent while in Rochdale - the place where takeaways have increased by most in Greater Manchester - the figure was 69.4 per cent.

The number of takeaways in the UK increased from 29,330 in 2010 to 36,855 in 2015, a rise of just over a quarter.

Blackburn and Darwen has experienced the biggest jump in takeaway businesses for any area in the UK during the period with the number more than doubling from 50 to 115.

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Brains and beauty: Medic-in-the making reaches finals of Miss Manchester

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STUNNING: Since taking part in Miss Manchester, the sixth form student has now been offered modelling contracts

STUNNING: Since taking part in Miss Manchester, the sixth form student has now been offered modelling contracts

A sixth form student from Manchester, who says she suffered from low-esteem just a few years ago, has finished in the top 10 of a prestigious beauty competition.

Manchester-born Anjali Puri, was one of the youngest finalists in this year’s Miss Manchester competition, qualifying for the event at just 17-years-old.

Although eventually beaten to the crown by Gabriella Taylor, the Loreto Grammar Sixth Form student wowed the crowds as her glamorous looks lit up the catwalk.

Anjali has an Indian Hindu father and a Portuguese mother - a mix which gives her striking good looks, ensuring she turns heads wherever she goes.

Talking exclusively to Asian Express, she said: “Originally, one of my close friends inspired me to enter the Miss Manchester pageant.

“Over the years, I'd lost my confidence and stopped believing in myself. My friends and family believed in me and this allowed me to take part in such a fabulous event.”

The promising medic was “overwhelmed” when she heard her name called.

Anjali is currently studying Biology, Chemistry, Psychology and Sociology, “with a hope and passion to pursue medicine as a career, as well as continue to hold pageant titles.”

The dark haired beauty said that the Asian community have been supportive of her decisions and being the only Asian in the Manchester heats “wasn’t a shock” for her.

EXPRESSIVE: Anjali says the pageants are a good way to express yourself

EXPRESSIVE: Anjali says the pageants are a good way to express yourself

“It's not always usual that Asian girls can participate in such an event. I’ve had so much support though,” she said, “I felt so encouraged throughout the whole event.”

Anjali says she will now go on to compete in more pageants as it expresses “who she really is.”

Since taking part in the competition, the striking teen has been offered a modelling contract as well reaching the semi-finals for Miss Teen Great Britain and Miss Teen World Supermodel.

“Of course next year, alongside my A levels, I will be competing again for the title of Miss Manchester,” she added.

We know who we’ll be voting for!