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    The Home Secretary and Muslims


    by Sunny on 3rd August, 2007 at 3:33 pm    

    The New Statesman publishes a fairly depressing interview with Jacqui Smith this week, pointing out she is actually quite authoritarian. But there is one gleam of light:

    Smith is a fierce advocate of Brown’s “hearts and minds” approach to tackling the radicalisation of young Muslims. She also believes that Muslim communities have not been best served by their leaders. She backs moves, put in place by Ruth Kelly when she was communities secretary, to broaden the kinds of groups with which the government engages and cut out, for example, the Muslim Council of Britain. “We’ve got to make serious attempts to go beyond those who have previously been seen as leaders of the community. She was absolutely right to do that. We have seen, in the immediate aftermath of the Glasgow and London bombings, that the response from leaders of the community was better because of the action previously taken.”

    Even the Guardian columnist Madeliene Bunting recently agreed, saying: “To the extent that the government over-relied on the MCB, it was due to the laziness of the government wanting only to hear one voice - the colonial model of ‘bring me your headman’.” Well, yes, which is what I pointed out when we launched NGN.

    There is something amusing about all this. When the govt only listens to the traditional camooooonity leaders (MCB, MAB), they accuse new voices trying to get heard as irrelevant. When the govt says it will listen to a broader range of voices, they complain that only certain ‘favoured Muslims‘ are being heard. If that isn’t the cronies complaining about not getting enough favours then I don’t know what is.



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    19 Comments below   |  

    1. Leon — on 3rd August, 2007 at 3:43 pm  

      Great, just what we need. Tbh I’m yet to be convinced that slither of hope is much at all.

      We’ve seen the failure of this Labour government’s policy when it comes to engaging with minority communities in this area and others (the replacement of the CRE with the CEHR being a case in point).

      Why is this any different, what substantially has changed?

    2. douglas clark — on 3rd August, 2007 at 3:48 pm  

      Which is why many of us read your site. Well me, anyway. Maybe, Ms Bunting is waking up?

      It is about time. She has been an idiot with a pencil for too long…

    3. Gump — on 3rd August, 2007 at 4:12 pm  

      Mybe the govt realised that working witht he MCB has been ineffective and that the MCB have not lived up to their nd of the bargain and so have decided to move on.
      It’s not colonial politics..it’s just politics.
      The same applies with pressure/interest groups (which you could claim MCB is a part of).

    4. sonia — on 3rd August, 2007 at 4:44 pm  

      “the colonial model of ‘bring me your headman’.”

      why is this a ‘colonial’ model - it seems to be the model of representation - full stop - which is currently how we understand democracy.

    5. sonia — on 3rd August, 2007 at 4:51 pm  

      i mean - that our current understanding of ‘democracy’ - i.e. rule of the people by the people, is through ‘representatives’ of ‘the people’.

    6. soru — on 3rd August, 2007 at 4:57 pm  

      ‘why is this a ‘colonial’ model’

      Because the person in charge is not the headman. Someone else is in charge (could be an elected official, could be an imperial governor). That person has to go through the headman to understand what the people want, and ask them to do things.

    7. douglas clark — on 3rd August, 2007 at 6:55 pm  

      Am I the only person who posts here that thinks of themselves an an individual? It is, I would humbly suggest, a nonsense to see others as either representing us or as our betters. It is surely incumbent on us to disagree with anyone when they spout crap?

    8. Leon — on 3rd August, 2007 at 7:02 pm  

      I see no problem in being an individual that sees themselves as part of a community (just as I can be Leon but also Leon the brother, son, grandson, member of a wider family). I think there is a natural tension in life which everyone has to manage between the individual and the group.

      That said this…

      It is surely incumbent on us to disagree with anyone when they spout crap?

      I totally agree with!

    9. douglas clark — on 3rd August, 2007 at 7:33 pm  

      Leon,

      Point. But the default position should be individualist, should it not? In the sense that we should think for ourselves? Assuming we have the capacity, and are not stupid about it.

      It is extremely lazy to be ‘telt’, I would suggest.

    10. Leon — on 3rd August, 2007 at 8:16 pm  

      Sure, just wanted to be clear, er what does telt mean?

    11. douglas clark — on 3rd August, 2007 at 9:19 pm  

      Leon,

      ‘telt’ is a posh Scottish word for told. Not posh at all, in fact …

      But it is Scottish, or Glaswegian. Is there a difference?

    12. soru — on 3rd August, 2007 at 9:21 pm  

      Am I the only person who posts here that thinks of themselves an an individual?

      No, we all do, but only because the society we live in has indoctrinated us that way.

    13. douglas clark — on 3rd August, 2007 at 9:37 pm  

      soru,

      Is that the famous David Brin, the science fiction author?

      Just out of curiosity, do you feel indoctrinated? Dunno how it would feel, really. Perhaps we wouldn’t even know.

    14. Don — on 4th August, 2007 at 1:11 am  

      Sorry, had to.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQqq3e03EBQ

    15. soru — on 4th August, 2007 at 12:12 pm  

      doug,

      yes. I think his point is partly a reaction to way the Kevin Costner film of his book ‘ was a mega-flop, both at the box office and with critics.

      In an interview with Metro before the movie began filming, Brin expressed his hope that The Postman have the “pro-community feel” of Field of Dreams instead of the Mad Max feel of Costner’s other post-holocaust film Waterworld. Brin said that, unlike typical post-apocalyptic movies that satisfy “little-boy wish fantasies about running amok in a world without rules,” the intended moral of The Postman is that “if we lost our civilization, we’d all come to realize how much we missed it, and would realize what a miracle it is simply to get your mail every day.”

      It is an interesting question whether the movie simply happened to suck, or was pre-destined to suck because it is impossible to get that kind of message across within the conventions of a Hollywood movie.

    16. Arif — on 4th August, 2007 at 2:10 pm  

      I assume the Government will keep looking for different Muslims to talk to until it hears what it wants to hear, or hears things said in a way which it likes.

      I used to feel that the message people wanted to hear from me was “Muslims want to be free and liberated like the non-Muslims around them but are held back by narrow-minded traditions.” And that still seems to be around.

      But now there is also an understanding that there are different voices who really don’t wnat to be like the secular west they see around them. Is this because we are envious? Are we polluted by an ideology which comes straight from the Qur’an? Are we a civilisation which is asserting itself and threatening other civilisations? Are we being brainwashed by petrodollar Wahabis?

      I think there are lots of stories to be told, but the most important message I would like to get across is that we are like anyone else - and members of the Government will understand Muslims better if they are willing to assume that they are looking into a mirror. The sorts of things that angers, humiliates, calms and reassures them will do the same for us.

      And of course, Muslims should assume the same when trying to understand the actions on the Government they don’t understand.

    17. Gump — on 4th August, 2007 at 6:29 pm  

      “‘why is this a ‘colonial’ model’

      Because the person in charge is not the headman. Someone else is in charge (could be an elected official, could be an imperial governor). That person has to go through the headman to understand what the people want, and ask them to do things.”

      that doesn’t make it colonial.
      that’s just representation.

      take the BMA,the NFU, RSPCA, WI…you could go on.
      the person in charge goes through them to understand what the people they represent want. sometimes they choose to go with them, sometime they choose to go with someone else. there are rules to the game. the relationship has to be beneficial to both, it has to be symbiotic. it’s all about representation and access to governemnt and access to the policy cycle.
      it’s not colonial. it’s just the system of representation.

    18. soru — on 6th August, 2007 at 1:07 am  

      that doesn’t make it colonial.
      that’s just representation.

      It goes beyond simple representation when the representatives claim to speak with authority on every aspect of the groups lives, not just the shared interests that bring them together. When they get treated as a tribe in the sense of ‘Iroqois’, not ‘Goth’.

      The BMA doesn’t have anything particular to say on the education of the children of doctors, the RSPCA says little about transport for social workers, the NFU has no policy on the contents of bookshops farmers can visit.

      The WI is interesting, because it was established in a time when women didn’t have the vote, and could even be seen as an alternative to the sufragette movement. No modern politician would remotely be able to get away with thinking ‘this decision may effect women, don’t forget to ask the WI what they think’. But you could see Sir Stafford Cripps or someone of that era adding that as an afterthought to a budget.

      To be fair, the word ‘colonial’ is a bit of a sneaky attempt to skew the argument. That way of working wasn’t adopted out of spite and malice, for the sake of being evil. Mostly it was simply that the alternatives tried before were worse, and those tried later were then unthinkable.

      But I think in the modern era of mass literacy, mass media, in any time post-1930, they are an anachronism.

    19. bananabrain — on 10th August, 2007 at 1:43 pm  

      personally, i think the reason kevin costner often sucks is that he insists on thinking he’s more heroic than he actually appears. and he also insists on showing his bum in every single fillum, don’t ask me why. i don’t know if he did in the postman, but he did in all his other fillums as far as i can remember, even the ones i quite liked like DWW and the “cult classic” (=”everyone thought it was crap at the time but now think it’s kind of fun”) waterworld.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

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