The City Circle is an open circle for open minds

Celtic kid Islam Feruz last night beat Andrew Driver to become the first player called up by Scotland under FIFA's new eligibility rule.

The 14-year-old striker, who was born in Somalia, qualifies because he holds a British passport and has been educated in one of the home nations for at least five years.

Feruz will make history when he meets up with the Scotland Under-17s next month for three European Championship qualifiers.

His family moved to Glasgow seven years ago and his skills as a player soon brought him to the attention of Celtic and now his adopted homeland.

Hearts winger Driver may well become the first player to win a full cap under FIFA's new rule if he turns his back on England and Feruz admits he is delighted to get the call-up at an early age.

The African-born goalscorer, speaking on Celtic's website, said: "Since my family and I came herewe havebeenmadewelcome.

"Scotland is a great country and is now my home and I will be proud to wear the jersey.

"I thank Celtic for all they have done for me over the past five years and Scotland coach Ross Mathie for giving me this great opportunity."

Celtic's youth coaches have had a job playing down the potential of Feruz who is considered to be the best at his age level in Scotland .

He and his new team-mates take on Cyprus at East End Park then Georgia and Portugal at Starks' Park on October 20, 22and25.

Mathie said: "I've known about Islam since his first involvement with Celtic and I've long been an admirer of his technical ability and prowess in front of goal.

"His new international team-mates will be delighted he has committed himself to Scotland."

Celtic's head of youth, Chris McCart, praised the way Feruz and his family have dealt with themoveto Scotland .

He said: "Islam is a fine example of a boy working hard to do the very best he can in achieving his goals.

"He and his family have had a difficult time in terms of leaving Somalia and coming to a new country but the fact he has settled and done so well is testament not only to his own commitment and drive but also to the magnificent welcome Scotland has given him."

SFA chief executive Gordon Smith insisted Feruz's call-up celebrated modern Scotland enjoying many cultures.

He said: "Islam is a fine example of the type of person this new rule is designed to benefit.

"The rule reflects the changes to our society in recent years and is designed to promote social inclusion in football.

"Islam is a talented boywho has worked hard. He did not move to Scotland seeking to play international football.His family made their home here for their own reasons and, having grown up here, Islam regards himself as Scottish."

This article first appeared in the Daily Record on 14th October 2009.

A £12m programme to connect with resentful white working-class communities in 130 wards across England and undercut rightwing extremism was launched today by the communities secretary, John Denham.

He insisted it was not the role of the state to combat the BNP. But he said the Connecting Communities programme would address legitimate fears and concerns that if neglected could prove fertile territory for extremism.

The first 27 areas named in the scheme included parts of Bromley and Barking and Dagenham, in London, parts of Birmingham, Stoke and Nottingham, as well as Milton Keynes, north Somerset and Poole, in Dorset. They were identified under criteria including cohesion, crime and deprivation, perceived unfairness in the allocation of resources and feedback from local people.

The funding will be used to give local people the space to air grievances and ensure that the way housing, education, healthcare, jobs and training are allocated do not cause resentment. Denham said action to promote the leadership potential and capacity of black and Asian groups was necessary but could seen by some as unfair.

"Class still matters in Britain and the politics of identity ignores it at its peril. The position and growing self-confidence of minority communities can be seen as a threat to communities under pressure," he told a London conference on community cohesion. "This does not mean though stepping back on anti-racism or anti-discrimination. We don't want to go forward by going backwards."

He said the communities involved were the least likely to have prospered when the economy was booming and were the most vulnerable to the recession. "It's not surprising that they may question whether they are being fairly treated and to worry that others are, unfairly, doing better. Not entirely surprising that feeling unfairly treated can lead to resentment or worse."

Denham said it was necessary to make clear that the government was committed to making sure that every community in every corner of the country knew it was on their side. "No favours. No privileges. No special interest groups. Just fairness," he promised.

Not only had traditional, often semi-skilled industrial jobs continued to decline but in predominantly white areas, recent migration was seen as changing communities and creating new competition for jobs and housing.

Denham cited the example of a new fast-food franchise, on the edge of a deprived estate, that recruited staff from an agency used by Polish workers, leading to local resentment. At the same time a nearby new retail store recruited a much larger number of local people. The fast-food franchise agreed to seek local recruits and recognised that unemployed local people may need pre-job training first. "It is easy to see how, left untouched, it could have become a focus of resentment," said Denham.

The initial 27 areas to receive funding under the programme are: Bury Green ward, Broxbourne; North Lynn, King's Lynn; New Parks, Leicester; Abbey Ward, Lincoln; Aspley, Nottingham; River, Becontree, Thames and Heath wards in Barking and Dagenham; Cray Valley and Mottingham, Bromley; Colyers and North End, Bexley; Felling, Gateshead; Castle, Redhill and Southwick, Sunderland; Little Harwood, Blackburn; Ellesmere Port, Cheshire West; Cleator Moor, Cumbria; and Speke, Liverpool.

In Birmingham, Kingstanding, Stockland Green and Erdington, Druids Heath, Brandwood, Bartley Green and Weoley; Blurton and Burslem, in Stoke; Tinkers Bridge and Woughton ward, Milton Keynes; Weston-super-Mare central, north Somerset; Bourne Valley and Rossmore, in Poole; Park ward and Walcot East, in Swindon; and Caistor Road estate and Barton ward in north Lincolnshire.

This article first appeared in the Guardian on 14th October 2009.

Initial reports said that some of the suspected Islamic militants attacks involved women.

Gunmen attacked a police academy, an Elite commando training centre and the Federation Investigation Agency in Lahore. Counter-terrorist operations are under way, with troops storming the FIA and the police academy at Munawan.

Meanwhile a suicide bomber drove his car into a police station in Kohat, a military garrison town in the North West frontier Province, 115 miles west of the capital Islamabad.

At least 18 people reported killed in Lahore and eight in the Kohat bombing.

These latest attacks came just days after a Taliban commando raid on the Pakistan Army's Rawalpindi headquarters left 19 dead as its leaders sought to intensify pressure on Islamabad to abandon a planned offensive against terrorist bases in South Waziristan.

The Lahore attacks started simultaneously at around 9.15am local time. At 11am, the siege at the FIA building in the centre of Lahore was apparently over.

Sajjad Bhutta, a senior local government official in Lahore, said the site at the Elite centre was "critical".

The Munawan police academy came under a similar attack in March this year, while the FIA building was largely destroyed by a massive bombing last year.

Pakistani extremists have combined their suicide bombing tactics with "fidayeen" military-style gun assaults.

Lahore is the main city of the heartland Punjab province. The city is a historic centre that is considered the cultural capital of Pakistan.

Militant attacks in Pakistan have left at least 137 people dead in the past 11 days.

This article first appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 15th October 2009.

The far-right British National party has agreed to change its constitution to allow non-white people to join, it emerged today.

The BNP confirmed it would consider changes to its rules and membership criteria after the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched county court proceedings against the party's leader, Nick Griffin, and two other party officials: Simon Darby and Tanya Jane Lumby.

Robin Allen QC, counsel for the commission, said Griffin had agreed to present members with a revised constitution at its general meeting next month.

He added that the party had agreed not to accept any new members until the new constitution was in place.

John Wadham, group director legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "We are pleased that the party has conceded this case and agreed to all of the commission's requirements. Political parties, like any other organisation are obliged to respect the law and not discriminate against people.

"It is unfortunate that the BNP spent several months before conceding and dealing properly with our legal requirements. We will be monitoring the BNP's compliance with this court order on membership, and its other legal obligations, including to its constituents."

The Central London county court heard Griffin would be given 10 days to submit a signed undertaking confirming the proposed changes.

The case has now been adjourned until 28 January to allow the BNP to comply.

It is understood that the BNP regarded the action as an attempt to bankrupt the party. Chris Roberts, the party's eastern regional spokesman, said it was too early to say how the proposed rule change would affect its membership: "I cannot speculate as to who will join our party when our constitution changes.

"I just believe its another obstacle thrown into our way by the Lib-Lab-Con elite that now we are taking votes from them they are trying to put us out of business."

During the case, the commission argued it had a statutory duty, under the Equality Act 2006, to enforce provisions of the act and to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination. This duty includes preventing discrimination by political parties.

The commission sent a letter on 22 June 2009 to the BNP setting out its concerns about its constitution and membership criteria which appear to restrict membership to those within what the BNP regards as particular "ethnic groups" and those whose skin colour is white. This exclusion is contrary to the Race Relations Act, which the party is legally obliged to comply with.

The commission asked the BNP to provide written undertakings it would amend its constitution and membership criteria to ensure, and to make transparent, that it does not discriminate against potential or actual members on racial grounds.

In an order issued at the Central London county court this morning, the BNP agreed to use all reasonable endeavours to revise its constitution so that it does not discriminate, either directly or indirectly on any "protected characteristic" for example on the grounds of race, ethnic or religious status as defined in clause 4 of the equality bill.

The changes must be carried out as soon as reasonably practicable, and no later than three months from today.

This article first appeared in the Guardian on the 15th October 2009.