Pictured: A UK Border Force boat patrols Dover Harbour on December 29, 2018. The growing number of migrants illegally attempting to cross the English Channel was declared a "major incident" by UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who called in the Royal Navy to help deal with the migrant crisis in the Channel. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
February 1. A 37-year-old Ugandan mother-of-three became the first person to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Britain, where FGM has been a criminal offense since 1985. The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, known as the Old Bailey, heard how the woman performed FGM on her three-year-old girl. The woman claimed the girl "fell on metal and it ripped her private parts" after she had climbed to get a biscuit. Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC told the court that investigators found evidence in the woman's home in East London of spells and curses apparently aimed at "silencing" police officers, social workers and lawyers:
"Two cow tongues were bound in wire with nails and a small blunt knife also embedded in them, 40 limes were found and other fruit which when opened contained pieces of paper with names on them.
"The names embedded included both police officers involved in the investigation of the case, the social worker, her own son and the director of public prosecutions at the time.
There are an estimated 137,000 women and girls living with FGM in England and Wales, according to City University. Most are from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
February 2. Kasim Khuram, 23, from Aston, was sentenced to six years in prison for breaking into a funeral home in Birmingham and having sex with a female corpse. Khuram lifted the lids of nine coffins during what police described as a drug-induced psychosis. Police arrived after the burglar alarm had been activated and Khuram was arrested at the scene. While handing out the sentence at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Melbourne Inman said the crimes "offend all human sensitivity." He added: "I am not aware of, and nor have I been able to find, any similar case. It would be difficult to think of a greater depravation of the dignity of the dead."
February 3. Hewad Shivzad, an Afghan asylum seeker living in Oxbridge, Stockton, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for raping a child. Teesside Crown Court heard how Shivzad isolated the primary school-age girl and lured her away to subject her to a sexual attack lasting more than half an hour. Judge Howard Crowson said:
"You maintain that you are a 19-year-old man. I've seen no documents to support that claim and to my eyes you appear substantially older. It's my view that your claim to be so young is a lie told when you entered the UK in March 2017 to claim asylum."
February 4. FGM expert and attorney Dr. Charlotte Proudman, appearing on BBC Two's Victoria Derbyshire Show, said that there is "a lot of anecdotal data" which shows that FGM is increasingly being performed on babies and infants in the UK. She added that it was "almost impossible to detect" as the girls were not yet in school or at nursery, thus making it difficult for any public authority to become aware of it. "By performing it at such a young age, they're evading the law," she said. Proudman added that the lack of prosecutions for FGM is due in part to concerns by doctors and police over being accused of racism: "People are concerned about cultural sensitivities, worried about being branded racist, and it's being performed on a very private area."
February 4. Muslim gangs are helping foreign nationals cheat on their UK citizenship application test, according to a BBC investigation. For a fee of up to £2,000 (€2,300; $2,600), criminals secretly listen in and, via a hidden earpiece, give the answers to those taking the Life in the UK test. Such an operation was secretly filmed by a BBC journalist, who was given help to pass. The test is failed by about one in five would-be British citizens.
February 5. Ali Al-Hindawi, 23, from London, was sentenced to four years in prison for a series of attacks on Christians. In one attack, al-Hindawi spat at Christian preacher Claudio Boggi, who is in a wheelchair, as he handed out leaflets. He shouted: "Allah is god, Jesus was only a prophet. You're in a wheelchair, you're lucky I don't hit you." Several hours later he attacked Christian volunteer Kayode Ogunleye who was helping the homeless in Westminster. Al-Hindawi bit Ogunleye's fingers before attacking him with a metal bar. Two weeks later he was ordered to leave St. Vincent's homeless hostel after being accused of dealing drugs. He threatened to cut people's throats and tried to burn the charity to the ground. Judge Loraine-Smith said: "Most of these offenses were committed against people trying to help you. Eleven very serious offenses committed on three separate occasions."
February 6. Half of all knife crime offenders in London are teenagers or even younger children, according to new data from the Metropolitan Police. The statistics showed that 41% of those being caught for knife crimes across London's boroughs are now aged between 15 and 19. Another 8% are younger still, ranging in age from 10 to 14. Chief Superintendent Ade Adelekan, the head of the Met's Violent Crime Task Force, warned that attacks in the capital were becoming "more ferocious" as offenders who were "more and more young" tried to kill or injure by "getting up close and stabbing someone several times." He also said that officers were having to "re-educate" themselves on stop-and-search tactics after losing "the art and skill" during recent years when, under pressure from the government, their use of the tactic had declined to "negligible" levels.
February 7. Mohammed Saghir, a Nottingham taxi driver, had his license revoked after he refused to pick up a blind man and his guide dog. The Islamic legal tradition has developed injunctions that warn Muslims against contact with dogs, which are viewed by some as unclean animals. Councillor Toby Neal said: "Under the Equality Act, guide dog and other assistance dog owners have the right to enter the majority of services, premises and vehicles with their dog. This includes taxis."
February 8. Saied Hussini, a 40-year-old Afghan national, told a jury at Worcester Crown Court that he was "never" involved in a plot to spray acid on his three-year-old son. He and six other co-conspirators were charged with "conspiring to unlawfully or maliciously cast or throw sulfuric acid on or at the boy with intent to burn, maim, disfigure or disable the minor, or do grievous bodily harm." The boy suffered burns to his arm and face during the attack, which occurred inside a Home Bargains discount store on July 21, 2018. Prosecutors said the attack was organized by the boy's father to show that his estranged wife was "unable to properly care" for their three children.
February 9. Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham is still segregating boys and girls despite a Court of Appeal ruling in 2017 that found it was unlawful, according to Luke Tryl, director of corporate strategy at Ofsted, the government agency responsible for inspecting schools. Addressing the Women and Equalities Committee, a select committee of the House of Commons, Tryl said that Ofsted inspectors are trying to hold schools to account for discriminating against girls but feel "isolated" when their stance is not backed up by government ministers:
"Our inspectors are going out and having to make some quite tricky judgements where there are those potential clashes [between equalities laws and religious freedoms]. We perhaps don't always feel we get the support we need from the rest of government in pushing that forward."
Tryl said that Al-Hijrah school was enforcing a "very strict gender segregation" which included "denying the girls to have their lunch until the boys had had theirs." He added that inspectors found "some very discriminatory texts for instance, encouraging violence against women."
February 10. Rangzieb Ahmed, a 43-year-old Rochdale-born jihadi who was sentenced to life in prison in 2008 for plotting attacks in the UK, has received nearly £800,000 (€925,000; $1 million) in taxpayer-funded legal aid to appeal his conviction, according to a Sun on Sunday freedom of information request. Ahmed, the most senior al-Qaeda boss ever jailed in Britain, has already received £782,407 in hand-outs, including £589,667 to pay for a barrister and lawyers in court, £121,892 for a failed appeal against conviction in 2011, £60,435 for a civil action against police and £306 for "legal help."
February 11. Brunel University in London launched a sports hijab to encourage more Muslim women to play sports. A 2017 study by Sports England found just 18% of Muslim women participate in regular sports, against 30% of the UK's female population as a whole. The Independent noted:
"Traditionally the hijab, which covers the wearer's hair and neck, is made from cotton which can quickly become hot, sodden with sweat and uncomfortable when used for sport. But Brunel's has been made from materials specifically designed to keep the wearer cool while also respecting their religious beliefs."
February 12. Imtiaz Patel, a 42-year-old man of Indian origin from Leicester, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for a robbing a jewelry store at knifepoint while wearing a burqa. Patel, who made off with a Rolex watch valued at £7,000, was arrested five minutes after the robbery. He was charged the same day with robbery and possession of a bladed article. He pled guilty to both charges.
February 13. Langley Academy, a primary school in Slough, terminated its contract with the Al-Miftah Institute, which provided "IslamHood" Sunday school classes from its campus. The termination took place after the madrassa gave a lesson suggesting that Muslim girls should have children rather than careers. The move was prompted by complaints that IslamHood had hosted speakers who warned about women in hijabs making social media videos and described non-Muslims as "pigs." The complainants also raised concerns that IslamHood was segregating children by gender after images in its prospectus showed girls inside the Langley Academy standing at the back of the class behind boys.
February 14. Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, convicted in 2016 of inviting support for the Islamic State, was barred by the Department for Education from holding management positions in private or public schools. Rahman, an associate of Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary, was previously a proprietor of an unregistered school, Siddeeq Academy in East London, which closed in 2015. Rahman was released on bail in 2018 after serving approximately half of his sentence. He is believed to be the third person ever to banned from being a school governor.
February 16. A British family from Didsbury, Manchester, claimed that they accidentally joined the Islamic State while on holiday and begged for permission to return to the UK. Safiya Zaynab, 51, and her daughters Shabina Aslam, 29, and Alireza Sabar, 17, said that they left Britain for a family vacation in Turkey five years ago and never knew they were travelling to Syria. Aslam told Channel 4:
"I don't regret anything because we came on holiday, which then turned into this. I don't know how, it's never been explained to me. We all miss our life before, we miss freedom, independence, no fear. We want to go back to England, back to my family, I want my children to have a normal life."
Zaynab's husband, Sabar Aslam, who is still living in Didsbury, said:
"They left me four years ago and that's the end of the story. She wasn't happy with me.... I thought she had gone to Saudi Arabia as all the time Safiya was talking about it. I thought she went there."
February 19. Shamima Begum, a 19-year-old jihadi from East London who joined the Islamic State was stripped of her British citizenship. She and two school friends from Bethnal Green fled Britain via Turkey in 2015, where they made their way to Syria and were married off to Islamic State fighters. A letter from the Home Office, obtained by ITV News, was received by Begum's mother: "Please find enclosed papers that relate to a decision taken by the Home Secretary, to deprive your daughter, Shamima Begum, of her British citizenship." Speaking to ITV News from al-Hawl, a Syrian refugee camp, she said she did not understand why Home Secretary Sajid Javid would see her as a threat:
"I'm a 19-year-old girl with a newborn baby. I don't have any weapons; I don't want to hurt anyone even if I did have weapons.
"He [Sajid Javid] has no proof that I'm a threat other than that I was in ISIS but that's it. I don't know how I would be seen as a danger. I'm not going to go back and provoke people to go to ISIS or anything."
Begum prompted a public backlash in Britain when, in an interview with the BBC, she appeared unrepentant about ISIS beheadings and claimed that the 2017 Manchester jihadi attack — in which 22 people were killed — was justified. She added: "I actually do support some British values and I am willing to go back to the UK and settle back again and rehabilitate and that stuff."
February 20. Fatah Mohammed Abdullah, a 33-year-old British-Iranian from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was charged with inciting two people to commit a jihadi attack in Germany. Abdullah is said to have aided and encouraged the pair in messages using the encrypted Telegram app. The charge, under Section 59 of the Terrorism Act 2000, states that he incited another person to drive a car into crowds, attack people with a meat cleaver, and, between April and December 2018, to set off bombs outside the UK. Abdullah also searched online for guides on how to make explosives and for the components of an improvised explosive device (IED).
February 21. Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs), the security orders used to keep the public safe from former jihadis, are so expensive that most of those returning from Syria are being allowed to roam free, according to The Times. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Home Office disclosed that it has spent nearly £5 million (€6 million; $6.6 million) keeping 23 suspects under restrictions. Annual legal bills have been as high as £1 million (€1.2 million; $1.3 million) while accommodation has cost as much as £70,000 (€81,000; $92,000) a year per person. That figure excludes the cost of tagging and police work. More than 400 British jihadis have returned to Britain from the Middle Eastern battlefields of the Islamic State.
February 22. An employment tribunal in Liverpool found that Cheshire Police discriminated against a potential star recruit on the grounds of sexual orientation, race and sex because he was a white heterosexual male. Matthew Furlong, 25, whose father is a serving detective inspector in Cheshire Police, had hoped to follow in his footsteps when he applied to join the force in 2017. After making it through to the interview stage, he said he was told "it was refreshing to meet someone as well prepared as yourself" and that he "could not have done any more." He was later told he had lost out to other candidates, leading his father to lodge a complaint. His lawyers say it is the first reported case of its kind in the UK, after the employment tribunal ruled that Cheshire Constabulary used positive action — where employers take steps to recruit certain groups of people with different characteristics — but in a discriminatory way. Jennifer Ainscough, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said:
"Matthew was denied his dream job simply because he was a white, heterosexual male. This is the first reported case of its kind in the UK where positive action has been used in a discriminatory way.
"Matthew's courage in speaking out will hopefully ensure it is the last. Had he not been such an exceptional candidate he may not even have suspected anything was wrong and this unlawful and unacceptable selection process may have been allowed to continue.
"Positive action is an important tool to support a diverse workforce that reflects the community in which we live. However, it must be applied lawfully to ensure the highest caliber of candidates are recruited regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation and to ensure standards in police forces are maintained to properly protect our society."
February 22. Sebastian Walsh, 19, was suspended from the University of Central Lancashire after he expressed his opinion during a class seminar that migrants should not be entitled to free healthcare and that halal meat is "barbaric" and "inhumane." He also lamented the "Islamization" of Britain. University officials told Walsh that he could return to his studies in September if he signed a good conduct agreement and agreed to undertake a diversity training course. The first-year student from Wigan, Lancashire, refused:
"All I did was voice my opinions during debates about immigration.... These are views held by many people in the public and I believe I should be able to express them freely. I feel completely victimized by my university.
"Freedom of speech is a human right and I am determined to stand by this. I will be fighting the university's decision on this to make sure others aren't punished for their opinions in future."
February 22. A 23-year-old Briton known as Jihadi Jack told ITV News that he is homesick and wants to return to Britain after being held for two years in a Kurdish prison, but that doubts the UK will allow him back. Oxford-born Jack Letts, who was nicknamed Jihadi Jack by media after running away to Syria in 2014, said that he was missing his mother and the home comforts of British life, including pasties and episodes of "Doctor Who." Letts, who holds dual nationality through his Canadian father John Letts and British mother Sally Lane, said that he had not spoken to his parents in two years and doubted officials from either nation will "come and help me" because "no one really cares."
February 22. Hamza Siddiq, a 37-year-old convert to Islam, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for encouraging terrorism. In a Facebook post, Siddiq, a computer programmer born in Scotland as Andrew Calladine, blamed Britain for the 2017 Manchester jihadi attack, in which 22 people died. He also posted support for the Islamic State and expressed glee at the 2015 attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which left 12 dead. Siddiq told the court: "I have committed no crime under Sharia, the only law acceptable to Allah. I believe and accept Sharia and do not accept man made law. However, I accept that according to English and Welsh law I have committed this charge." Judge Melbourne Inman said:
"You made it clear that you reject the laws of this country and you consider that you live outside the law. Given your support for terrorism that makes you a very dangerous individual. You clearly believe that you are above the law."
February 23. Oluwole Ilesanmi, a 64-year-old Christian street preacher also known as Preacher Olu, was arrested at Southgate Station in north London after complaints that his message about Jesus was "Islamophobic." A video of the arrest, viewed more than 2 million times, shows two police officers ordering the man to stop preaching and then arresting him for "a breach of peace." A blogger known as Archbishop Cranmer tweeted:
"Street Preacher: 'Don't take my Bible away. Don't take my Bible away.' Police officer: 'You should have thought about that before being racist.' Dear @metpoliceuk, Setting aside the appalling ignorance of these two officers, would you handle a copy of the Qur'an like that?"
February 24. Up to 100 British children may have been born to Islamic State brides in Syria, according to the Telegraph. Around 150 British girls and women are thought to have travelled to Syria to join Islamic State, with almost all marrying and giving birth in the self-declared caliphate. An additional 50 older children were taken to Syria by their parents, but around a quarter of those are thought to have been killed. The paper noted: "The large number of British children born in Islamic State territory could also complicate matters for the government which has signaled that any Islamic State sympathizers with dual nationality will be stripped of their British citizenship."
February 25. Fifteen Iranian men were discovered in two boats in the English Channel, a day after a family of seven was found in the same area. The Home Office said 11 men were being interviewed by immigration officials and another four had been arrested on suspicion of facilitating illegal entry to the UK. Some 857 Iranians sought asylum in the UK in the third quarter of 2018, compared to 643 in the same period of 2017.
February 25. Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced a plan to make anti-FGM lessons compulsory in British schools. As of September 2020, all teenagers in secondary school will be taught about the illegal practice, which may affect up to 60,000 girls in the UK. The objective is to increase the number of convictions. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Hinds said:
"It's about making sure the whole of our society is engaged in stamping out what is a barbaric and disgusting practice made all the worse and harder because it's perpetrated on some of the youngest and most vulnerable children by people very close to them, in their families, in their communities.
"I want to make sure there isn't another generation of children at risk of this happening."
February 26. Nine members of a Muslim rape gang in Bradford were sentenced to more than 130 years for 22 offenses including rape and inciting child prostitution. The girls were aged 14 when the men first began to use alcohol, drugs and violence to groom and sexually exploit them. The abuse came to light when one of the victims was interviewed by police in connection with another investigation into child sexual exploitation. Sentencing the men to jail terms ranging from 20 years to 18 months, Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said: "No major city in England and Wales seems to have been spared this problem of grooming by older men acting together or alone."
February 27. Naser Mahmood, 37, of Shipley, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for raping two girls when he was a teenager. After he sexually assaulted one of the girls, he asked her to pick up a Qur'an and told her, "Promise you won't tell anyone or I will kill you." Judge Davey said: "When you made her swear on the holy book you knew perfectly well that what you were doing was wrong."
February 28. Mohammed Amin, 37, of Walthamstow was found guilty of trying to impose Sharia dress codes on female medical staff at St. Andrew's Health Centre in Tower Hamlets. In one instance, Amin gave a handwritten note to a female staff member stating that the woman should be aware that she was not following the Islamic dress code. The staff member confronted Amin and he threatened her. Amin also hurled abuse at a doctor he believed was a Christian and threatened him with violence if he reported Amin to the police. Snaresbrook Crown Court sentenced Amin to 18 months of community service.