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10th November, 2005

Changing times, changing meanings

by Kismet hardy at 5:28 pm    

History lessons depend on which side your teacher is on. As a school kid in Bangladesh, I entertained fantasies of being a heretic-killing warrior riding an elephant and waving the Moghul and Ottoman flags, torturing a few Jews and West Pakistanis along my merry way.

Once I joined the British Library in Dhaka, I began to understand the concept of historical bias, but one issue I could never resolve was the exclusively Bangladeshi gripe: The British made poor farmers grow poppies instead of rice, leaving them unable to feed off their produce and die grizzly deaths in villages all over the country.

I didn’t get that. I knew the Brits were fond of our muslin and our jute, but what the ruddy hell did they need to grow poppies for? I put the question to my history teacher, who, inexplicably, caned me for my impudence.

It was only years later, in my self-funded drug lessons, that it became glaring obvious.
Opium. I got caned for smack. I have issues with this.

This reared its ugly head this morning, when a little old dear at Euston station asked me if I’d like to invest in a poppy. Rather aggressively (in my defence, I’m nursing a diarrhoeic camel for a hangover), I snapped: “Why would I want to wear a symbol of war?” The poor woman looked crumpled and I’ve been feeling pretty bad about it since, least of all because I’ve realised I really have no satisfactory stance on the matter of wearing poppies.

Your opinions for or against would be much appreciated…

Favours for cash

by Nush at 11:59 am    

Gather round all, here is something to consider - a short cut route to getting a peerage and it doesn’t matter which political party you support! Even the Green Party is getting in on the act.

It seems that the new list of peers have much in common with fellow nominees from different political parties. The Times on Tuesday pointed out the massive ‘favours-for-cash’ row that is gaining momentum.

The list confirms the recent trend under which the financial supporters of major parties are being awarded seats in the Lords intended for working parliamentarians, with Labour implicated as much as the Conservatives.

It will confirm a belief increasingly taking hold in the Lords that an unofficial threshold of donations of about £250,000 is operated by the major parties when considering nominations for peerages.

Does anyone else think this is unacceptable? It is ridiculous if this is indeed an entry point into the House of Lords. It seems pretty corrupt to me as you can even become a minister if you give enough dosh. Who said becoming a career politician is an option when now it seems, you can buy your seat of influence.

The Labour nominations follow Mr Blair’s decision last year to give a peerage to Paul Drayson, a businessman who had already given £100,000 to Labour and who subsequently made a donation of £500,000. He has since been made a defence minister.

And we think the political situation in other countries is whack, what about the system right under our own noses?

9th November, 2005

Govt loses Commons vote on 90 days terror detention

by Sunny at 5:05 pm    

News just in: Labour has just faced a humilating defeat over the government’s plans to lock up people for 90 days without having to provide sufficient evidence. It is significant also because it is Tony Blair’s first Commons defeat since coming to power in 1997. He survived ID cards, he survived top-up fees, but he lost the 90 days vote.

Tony Blair tried the hard line and the moral blackmail, but he still failed by 19 31 votes. 49 Labour MPs rebelled. What does he do now? What is an acceptable time period? 14 days, 30, 60 days?

MPs rejected the proposals by 322 votes to 291. They are now voting on whether to accept a compromise detention limit. The defeat came despite Mr Blair saying MPs had a “duty” to give police the powers they needed to tackle terrorism.

The BBC has more on this breaking news.

Update 1: MPs have voted instead to extend the time limit to 28 days. But this will weaken Blair’s authority. Talk Politics has more coverage.
Update 2: Lenin quotes figures from Gary Younge, which I had also been looking for:

More than 700 people have been arrested under the Terrorism Act since September 11, but half have been released without charge and only 17 convicted. Only three of the convictions relate to allegations of extremism related to militant Islamic groups.

One can argue that locking up 3 terrorists is a price worth paying, but there is no evidence at all to suggest they were planning anything. To defeat terrorists, we need better intelligence, not a scattergun approach in locking everyone up.
Spyblog shows how the poll taken to show the public’s support was biased.

Sikhs plan shrine in Pakistan

by Sunny at 4:14 pm    

More evidence that as Kashmir starts gearing up for winter, relations between India and Pakistan are thawing faster than anyone expected. The latter is becoming more open to championing its non-Islamic cultural heritage and allowing more open displays by other religions. The BBC reports:

An Indian Sikh religious committee plans to build a seminary and a pilgrim centre in the Pakistani township of Nankana Sahib. The town is the birthplace of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev. A Sikh shrine already exists there.

The pilgrim centre planned at Nankana Sahib is aimed at facilitating the journey of thousands of Indian Sikhs who visit the shrine of Guru Nanak Dev every year.

The SGPC’s initiatives, announced days ahead of the 15 November anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev’s birth, are significant. If approved, this will be the first SGPC venture aimed at spreading its religious activities into Pakistan.

There are actually a lot of Sikh Gurudwaras in Pakistan, they’re just not that well looked after. Wikipedia has more history on Nankana Sahib, but it’s apparently disputed.

This not long after the news that Pakistan is also nominating the famous Katasraj temple in Pakistan Punjab for a World Heritage status.

Filed under: South Asia, Religion

Muslim pick-up lines

by Al-Hack at 2:03 am    

I just had to post these:

1. Oh my gosh! I just saw part of your hair, now you’re obliged to marry me.

2. Our parents engaged us when we were little; they must have forgotten to tell you.

3. I’d like to be more than just your brother in Islam.

4. To watch you pray is a sin of its own.

5. Will my platinum VISA cover your dowry?

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Culture, Humour
8th November, 2005

Freedom for Tibet

by Sunny at 3:57 pm    

The Chinese President Hu Jintao received a loud reception today from pro-democracy supporters and people calling for the independence of Tibet. Though it is unlikely that Tony Blair or the Queen will raise either of those topics when they meet him.

While the USA and Britain keep pointing fingers at Iran and the Middle East for human-rights abuses (quite rightly), we must ask why they don’t do the same for China. Is the repression of the Tibetan people or their constant threats against Taiwanese independence not important enough?

Rohin wrote about this previously, asking:

Both Falun Gong and the Free Tibet movement are, unsurprisingly, banned in China. But why the hell do we have to pander to their dictatorial oppression of free speech by doing their bidding and stifling legitimate protestors?

Heck, it’s not just old eager-to-please Tony; German officials prevented any Tibetan flags being unfurled at a recent Germany-China football match. Why? Because the Chinese asked.

The BBC at least has good coverage of the protests greeting the President.

7th November, 2005

Muslims march against Al-Qaeda

by Al-Hack at 8:03 pm    

Yeah, you read that right baby. Today’s Lebanese Star reports that it was in response to Al-Qaeda’s actions in Iraq.

Thousands marched through Morocco’s biggest city on Sunday to protest Al-Qaeda’s decision to kill two Moroccan hostages in Iraq. Holding banners and chanting “Muslims are brothers. A Muslim does not kill his brother” and “‘Yes’ to freedom, ‘No’ to terrorism and barbarity,” the protesters marched through Casablanca, a city of six million and Morocco’s financial capital.

Will Fox News report that I wonder? Any Americans killed? No. So probably not then.

Morocco’s influential organization of Islamic scholars, known as the High Council of the Ulema and the Councils of Ulema in the Moroccan Kingdom, said Al-Qaeda members in Iraq will suffer the “horrors of hell” if they kill the Moroccan hostages and the victims will die as martyrs. It dismissed Al-Qaeda’s argument that its verdict to kill the two embassy employees was “God’s judgment.”
Organizers and local government officials said more than 150,000 people took part in the peaceful march while reporters said the anti-Al-Qaeda protesters numbered more than 10,000.

Moroccan media, trade unions, human rights activists and state officials have issued appeals to save the two men’s lives and a mass demonstration is planned in Casablanca on Sunday.

They dismissed Al-Qaeda’s piss-poor excuse! I bet that riled up Ol’ Bin Laden.

Al-Jazeera also covered the rally. The Gateway Pundit has more. Via The English Guy.

Filed under: Religion, The World

Is Kashmir becoming Musharraf’s Katrina?

by Sunny at 7:39 pm    

Back to the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake, the BBC reports today that Pakistani police fired shots and tear gas at large crowds of angry people trying to cross the border into India. It happened after the border was opened on several points to allow more aid to pass through on either side.

Hundreds of Kashmiri villagers on the Pakistani side of the divide approached the Line of Control between Poonch and Rawalakot shouting “Let people cross” and “What we want is freedom”.

Police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells to break up the protest.

Moments before two reps from India and Pakistan shook hands to officially open the border.

“They say that adversity unites people. This is what is happening today.” Immigration, customs and foreign currency exchange facilities have been set up, along with public telephones and a mosque.

About 3 million people have become homeless and around 73,000 have died so far since the earthquake. People still need help and it seems they can’t wait for it fast enough.

Relationship between the two countries have definitely gotten better in recent weeks. Outlook India reports that Pakistan has nominated the famous Katasraj temple in Pakistan Punjab for a World Heritage status.

The big question is, will anger over the slowness in aid make Kashmiris angry towards the Pakistani state and ask for their independence rather than fight to be part of Pakistan?

Why I don’t support the riots in Paris

by Sunny at 2:43 pm    

There is a lot of sympathy in Britain, particularly within minority-ethnic communities, for the Paris riots. We have endlessly debated on the inequalities in France and how minorities should “integrate”, and what this means for a government policy on multi-culturalism. It goes on and on.

The problem is that, as my debate on BBC Asian Network showed this morning, it is difficult to find a middle-ground in a heated debate when people take such strong stances. If you heard it then my apologies. It was all over the bloody place and I did not get a chance to say what I wanted. But my point is this.

I fundamentally disagree with the riots, possibly against the opinions of most of my peers, on many levels. On the most basic level it is a very lazy form of political activism, and one that takes you backward not forward.
Updated with analysis closer from home

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6th November, 2005

Paris riots spread across France - who is to blame?

by Sunny at 6:34 am    

The riots in Paris have continued into their tenth night, and have spread to other cities in France. The country is teethering on the edge of anarchy.

In addition to setting schools, nurseries and cars on fire, some criminals did the same to a disabled woman. Organised criminal gangs are likely to be behind the riots.

But this could be a watershed for France and how it deals with its minority-ethnic citizens. I’ll be on radio tomorrow morning talking about this.

Continue Reading...
5th November, 2005

Dealing with spam

by Sunny at 5:36 pm    

For the uninitiated, there is something called ‘comment-spam’ that takes place on blogs. Basically machines log on to sites and leave comments that link back to their websites or other places. Happens on a lot of blogs.

As this was a new site, it didn’t happen initially but now they’ve caught on.
Update: Courtesy of Paul I’ve found a plugin for Wordpress called Spam Karma so, erm, forget my previous point about putting on numbers before posting. This seems to work pretty well.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Ashamed and disgusted

by Edward at 2:02 pm    

I crossed London Bridge yesterday morning, and there’s a tramp who has his pitch there.

Now, he’s a nice guy - stops for a chat, doesn’t agressively beg, doesn’t drink. Not that I’d give a tinker’s cuss if he did; were I living on the unforgiving streets of London I may well agressively beg, and I’m damn sure I would drink.

However, the point is that he cannot, in any way, be classed as a ‘nuisance’. I sometimes stop off and slip him a fiver and a cigar, and I did so tonight, and noticed he had cuts and bruises on his face. So I asked him about them.

Apparently, he was sitting on the Bridge a couple of nights ago at about 10pm, and two drunks came up to him, and duffed him up.

Then they walked away but, after a few paces, almost as an afterthought, they came back, took the coat off his back, snatched up his blankets, and chucked the whole lot off the Bridge into the Thames.

They walked off, but then turned around, came back again, kicked him and took his boots off his feet, and chucked those in the Thames as well.

This was not an attack motivated by provocation, moral outrage, or even a sense of material gain. It was a simple example of bullying someone who is in a worse position than the perpetrators.

Ok, I’m no stranger to acts of random, senseless violence, but even so I just find this so morally sterile it’s deeply unsettling.

It does seem to me that a great deal of the social problems that are discussed on Pickled Politics could be avoided if people would just say to themselves “Oh, hang on, would I like it if someone did that to me? No? Well, probably best I don’t do it to someone else then.”

I am left with a deep sense of shame over this thoughtless and frankly disgraceful act.

Filed under: Culture, The World

Omar Bakri in action?

by Al-Hack at 12:22 am    

Politically correct? No. Funny? I thought it was amusing. The Police Federation seems to be in a bit of bother over it though, BBC says. If they labelled the escaping imam as Omar Bakri I would even believe it!

Filed under: Religion, Humour
4th November, 2005

Divide and Conquer

by Nush at 5:59 pm    

We believe that a far-right group is behind the desecration of graves in Birmingham, with an attempt to divide the Black and Asian communities in Birmingham. An urgent news alert on Ligali has the same view:

As an African British organisation who has been operating for a number of years in the UK, we have never encountered any information about an organisation called the ‘Black Nation’. We have contacted several organisations and trusted sources in Birmingham to ascertain whether they have heard of this alleged group.

BBC article here. We are of the view that someone is getting a kick out of exploiting existing tensions. We urge you not to let unsubstantiated claims effect your thinking without knowing all the facts.

Sunny adds: There has been tensions between the African and Asian communities in Birmingham (nowhere else), and this is an issue we have to resolve. The latest developments however look like the work of the far-right and we urge people not to let us be divided further.

Blick says the same. It may be the RVF.

Al-Hack adds: Adding to this couldron of hatred, two men: Waseem Mughal and Younis Tsouli, from west London, both 22, were charged with conspiracy to murder and to cause an explosion. Idiots!

The problem with being in fashion

by Kulvinder at 9:35 am    

I write this as a heterosexual man. This isn’t meant to be patronising and i hope it doesn’t read that way.

The depiction of any minority or subgroup of ‘wider’ society always has a tendency towards clichés. The media highlights the differences between communities as a way of distinguishing between them; there is nothing inherently wrong in that, but it does lend itself to stereotypes and bigotry. During and immediately after the civil rights movement in the US, the depiction and characterisation of African-Americans started to focus through blaxploitation inspired individuals. The legacy of that is a bigotry amongst some of how they believe ‘black’ people (all black people) behave.

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Mukhtar Mai the Glamour girl

by Al-Hack at 5:30 am    

For her courage in speaking out against her brutal rape in Pakistan, Mukhtar Mai, aka Mukhtaran Bibi, has become internationally known as a campaigner for women’s rights.

In fact she has become so well-known that the insensitive jerk commonly known as President Musharraf had a stupendous bout of foot-in-mouth disease (rather lot of that going around) a few weeks back when he said Pakistani women who wanted to get a visa or make money would get themselves raped.

Mukhtar was awarded the Woman of the Year prize last night by Glamour magazine in a lavish New York ceremony. It smells slightly of opportunism though - the rape happened three years ago and since then everyone under the sun has interviewed her and discussed women right’s in Pakistan. Glamour’s come late to this party!

3rd November, 2005

Birmingham keeps simmering

by Sunny at 6:35 pm    

1) As you may know by now, three men have been arrested and charged for the murder of Isiah Young-Sam about ten days ago. They are: Azhil Rashid Khan, 22, Waqar Ahmed, 25, and Afzal Asraf Khan, 22. The BBC has more.

They appeared before magistrates on Tuesday and will be remanded in custody until 8 November, before appearing at Birmingham Crown Court. They were also apparently fleeing the country and caught in Dubai. I will not say more to avoid prejudicing the trial. I just hope justice gets done.

2) Dowaine Phillip Maye was charged with the murder of Aaron James, the other man who was killed during the disturbances in Birmingham.

3) Ofcom has taken out warrants against 4 pirate radio stations in Birmingham to examine what they aired just before the riots and see if they made things worse.

4) Someone tells me that a group of men are circulating a leaflet calling for a Jihad against Africans in the area. This is still an unsubstantiated rumour, so I’m calling you on see if you can find out more. Who is circulating this? What does it say? Any information: just contact me. The last thing we need is a bunch of idiots using religion to carry out their gang activities.

5) I have also heard that the Uhuru Movement are planning to head over the the area next week or so. They say they are doing this purely for the protection of Africans as they do not trust the police. They have nothing against the Asians, they say, but they will be wearing some sort of uniform, so just be aware.

Update 6) Dozens of Muslim grave stones have been smashed and pushed over in a cemetery in Handsworth in Birmingham, the BBC reports. Leaflets were left there by a group calling themselves Black Nation.

If anyone can find out who these guys are affiliated with, let us know once again. Apparently, the leaflets read: “To all Muslim rapists, may you rot in hell” or something to that effect.

To see or not to see…

by Fe'reeha at 5:50 am    

…..the eid moon - this is the question facing Muslim community right now. Within the spectrum of British Muslims, the issue of moon-sighting is fast becoming moon-fighting.

When Regent’s mosque (Central mosque for Muslims) announced day before yesterday that it would not celebrate Eid yesterday, most thought it was probably a new beginning of having ‘one collective eid’ instead of two confused Eid-ul-fitr days every year.

But then Birmingham mosque declared earlier yesterday morning, there was no way they could produce the moon tonight so there could not be a chance of a collective eid. And so it carries on…

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Culture, Religion

Fox News on the Civil Rights movement

by Sunny at 4:04 am    

If it had been around that is, heh!
Fox News prism has more. [Via slow|afternoon]. Also see: Outfoxed - good documentary.

Filed under: Media, Humour
2nd November, 2005

Festival of light

by Sunny at 6:13 pm    

diya dance, originally uploaded by amrita b.

A day late, but Happy Diwali! And Eid Mubarak for tomorrow!

Filed under: South Asia, Culture, Religion
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