28th February, 2006

The most important election in years?

by Sunny at 3:42 pm    

By 3pm on Thursday, the Liberal Democrats will have a new leader. It could be a huge development for the future of British politics (don’t even try and smirk, you there in the back!), or it may not.

The Lib Dem winner will have an unprecedented opportunity to lead a resurging party and force a hung parliament at the next General Election and kingmaker. But for that the party needs the right candidate. Here is my choice…

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Filed under: Party politics

Shroving on a greasy Tuesday: Pancake Day

by SajiniW at 2:53 pm    

Renowned for its lack of culinary finesse, this particular London hospital canteen continues to disappoint. Even the simplest of recipes, much-loved on a day like today, was ruined with great candour. Alas, with little else to live for aside from the promise of MUCH TASTIER pancakes when I get home, curiosity got the better of me. It is here where I examine the significance of Shrove Tuesday and those all important pancakes!

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Drawing declared most dangerous profession

by Al-Hack at 4:11 am    


A Shiv Sena activist point a toy gun towards a caricature of M.F. Hussain during a protest against Hussain’s nude painting entitled ‘Bharat mata’ in New Delhi. If last week it was UP minister Haji Muhammed Yaqoob Qureshi offering a Rs 51 crore reward for the head of the Danish cartoonist, there were many more taking inspiration from him.

Ashok Pandey, the president of a self-styled Hindu Personal Law Board in Lucknow announced that “anyone who kills painter M.F. Hussain for making obscene paintings of goddess Sarswati and Bharat Mata; the Danish cartoonist; those in the German company printing pictures of Ram and Krishna on tissue paper and the French filmmaker desecrating Lord Shiva will be given Rs 51 crore in cash by the Board” and if Yaqoob Qureshi undertakes the job “he will be given Rs 101 crore”.

Muslim and Hindu fanatics finally agree on something shock!

27th February, 2006

Articles worth reading and chewing over

by Sunny at 1:30 pm    

Some readers may remember the case of Adeeba Ahmed, brutally murdered and cut into pieces in 2004. Her husband has now been found guilty and will be sentenced. [hat tip Bevan Keiran]
The judge says he is considering parole, but I wouldn’t if I was him.

The New Statesman magazine this week has an excellent interview with highly intelligent and articulate Fareena Alam, editor of Q-News. Worth reading in full. “The petrodollar-funded literalists think their version is the real Islam. I’m for an Islam that is at home in Britain.” And she’s younger than me!

The BNP have released another video with a Sikh! Isn’t the guy who was on their party political broadcast in 2004 supposedly dead? So this may be someone different. Watch the video and let us know. Another village in Punjab missing an idiot.

If you can’t link Muslims Islam to an anti-semitic murder, what do you do? You simply mention some previous crimes involving Muslims in the same breath. What else can we expect from Mark Steyn? That does not detract from the fact that the horrible murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris is part of a wider problem of growing anti-Jewish feeling in the country from the far-right and Muslims. Judy has balanced perspective.

This article in the Sunday Times is wroth reading, regarding Osama Bin Laden’s plans to split Islam and invoke a clash of civilisations. Long, but very instructive.

26th February, 2006

Drugs testing on humans

by Sunny at 6:00 pm    

With Ken’s thread now about animal testing, given the recent march, I’ll add my two cents to this issue, so we can flesh it out. It started with j0nz asking: As a liberal would you rather they was tested on human subjects? Without testing on animals it would result a shocking negligence in care for the human race.

To which I replied with: Yes. Why should animals suffer for human medication. They should pay people to be tested on… make it into a free market where the poor and homeless can put themselves forward for testing in return for inordinate amounts of money.

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London rally against terrorism/extremism

by Sunny at 2:56 pm    

Ok, this comes as a bit of a surprise. There was another rally in central London yesterday, this one against terrorism and extremism. Going on the pictures by resident photographer Kesara, the rally was against the declining situation in Iraq and the destruction of holy shrines by terrorists.

He says: I’m not sure if it was bigger than last weeks but it seemed a bit more vocal – I’d place numbers approx 10,000. The Police were a little annoyed with the organisers – “You said you were expecting 2000 – 5000 people – we cant shut down Picadilly on a saturday morning!!!”

It had a wierd feel to it too (nothing hostile mind you). For one thing it was about the bombing of the shrine in Iraq and there were plenty of Iraqi flags flying. In fact I didn’t see too many anti-cartoon placards – ’twas all pictures of the Golden Mosque. … There was a lot of “Down with Bin Laden” “No to Terrorism” chanting going on …although it was primarily concerning terrorism in Iraq, there were no references towards the London bombings really. Loads of anti Wahabi sentiment. Peaceful…but still…slightly ‘odd’ and I cant explain it.

Irna says it was organised by Shia groups, which explains the sentiments expressed. It is disappointing however that more of the media did not cover the march, probably because it was not organised by the press-release-happy MCB.
Yusuf Smith also mentions it.

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Filed under: Religion
25th February, 2006

Neo-cons always ask the important questions

by Al-Hack at 6:59 pm    

I ain’t buying the conspiracy theory that the Americans started it and want it to happen – because they are the ones going to get caught in the crossfire. If violence between Shia and Sunni in Pakistan is anything to go by, the current fighting was waiting to happen. At least Fox News cares.
[via Daily Kos]

Filed under: Media,The World
24th February, 2006

Some justice for Gujarat victims

by Sunny at 9:30 pm    

Nine people have been sentenced to life imprisonment in India for killing 14 people during the arson attack on the bakery in Gujarat. On surface maybe not a huge story, but it is explosive stuff. [hat tip Mirax]

The Best Bakery incident took place during the 2002 Gujarat riots in India, when mostly Hindu mobs went on a rampage across the state and killed over 1000 Muslims (an official figure, NGOs put it between 2000 – 3000). It was in retaliation to 56 Hindu pilgrims being burnt alive in a train fire in Godhra – back from a rally in the holy city of Ayodhya. Gujarat unfortunately has a long history of communal violence.

This incident is symptomatic of a wider problem: the inability of the Indian justice system to prosecute rioting mobs or their instigators. The key witness behind the case kept changing her stance, and there were widespread allegations of political meddling. The Hindu points to some problems.

India’s Tehelka magazine says it has uncovered bribery by BJP officials (former govt).

Nevertheless, like the anti-Sikh killings of 1984, the vast majority of perpetrators and the pupeteers behind it (like Gujarat chief Minister Narendra Modi), have never been brought to justice. So although this should be welcomed, most Muslims (and some Hindus) affected by the riots will not get any justice.

Ken Livingstone suspended for no good reason

by Sunny at 2:32 pm    

Ken Livingstone was today suspended from office for four weeks by a disciplinary tribunal for likening a Jewish Evening Standard reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

The three-man adjudication panel of the Standards board for England said the mayor of London should step down from his duties on March 1.

Bollocks to that. The analogy that Ken Livingstone used was unfortunate, but this is a man with a solid record against racism. The real farce is the Evening Standard taking a morally righteous route.

This is once again a strike against freedom of speech and excessive political correctness over race and religion. I don’t buy it. Livingstone should never have been suspended.

Update: Leslie Bunder agrees. We’re all getting sick of religious bodies playing politics.

Who wants a war of civilisation?

by Al-Hack at 4:36 am    

Stumbling and Mumbling: Hits. Nail. On. Head.

I’ve one reaction to the culture clash between the west and Islam – include me out. This is big think. And big thinking is bad thinking. The first problem is that glib generalization leads us to think that there are clearly defined and demarcated cultures.

Another bias in the clash of cultures is the group attribution error. Among “us”, bad people are exceptions. Among “them”, wrong ‘uns are representative of the general group.

So, to westerners, the soldiers who beat up Iraqis are exceptions. To Muslims, they are typical. To “us”, suicide bombers are representative, whereas to Muslims, they are exceptions*. Few bother to ask: is the percentage of UK and US soldiers who beat up Iraqis statistically significantly different from the proportion of Muslims who are suicide bombers?

This bias is reinforced by another – the salience heuristic. We over-react to salient, available, information, and under-react to obscure information. To westerners, the everyday civilities of friends and neighbours are salient , whilst the brutalities of far-away soldiers are less so. And suicide bombings are salient, whilst the civilities of ordinary Muslims are less so. To Muslims, it’s the other way round.

Read the whole thing. Does that remind of you of… a few hundred people?

Filed under: Culture,The World
23rd February, 2006

Good Night and Good Luck

by Rohin at 4:05 am    

Farewell my Pickled friends, as the Interweb faithful say, brb. This is what I’m doing. I will try to drop in when I can and I shall certainly keep my eyes open for anything interesting to write about. I thought I’d sign out with something a bit lighter, but first the headlines:

Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka and the England team have got Delhi belly.
Al Qaeda’s next target identified.
Google Maps puts up new high(er) res images of the infamous Area 51, but Google Earth now less cool as 3D timetravel now possible in London.
Vegas casinos outsourcing to India (warning – shocking grammar in this piece).
Brokeback Mountain entitled ‘Faggot Cowboys‘ in Turkey.
Christians and Muslims kill each other in Nigeria, no one surprised.
Bullock racing, jumping cows, teeth pulling tractors – India’s rural Olympics.
New beer launched in Palestine, called Hamas. Explosive taste.
Christians feel left out, protest about cartoons.


And now our feature presentation:

TIME ran a piece this week entitled The Land of the Wedding Planners, charting the rise and rise of the mega wedding in India and amongst Indians around the world. Weddings, it seems, have become a field in which Indians lead the way. The country’s burgeoning middle class have embraced weddings as an opportunity to show off their often obscene wealth.

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22nd February, 2006

Debates on free speech and Muslim bodies

by Sunny at 10:25 pm    

Just a quick announcement really, for your amusement. I’ll be on Asian Network tomorrow morning from 9:30am to talk about recent controversies over free speech, and people’s OTT reactions to them. Don’t know who I’ll be up against but can listen to the archive after.

I shall also be on PTV Prime (Sky 815) tomorrow at 4pm against someone from the newly created Muslim Action Committee (MAC) and possibly the MCB (though they’re usually too scared), and ask why we need so many Muslim orgs and what exactly are they achieving. Though usually these discussions never go to plan.

On a totally different note, I read today that the mother of Navjeet Sidhu, woman who committed suicide at Southall station with her two kids 6 months ago, also killed herself at the same spot yesterday. RIP.

Filed under: Culture

Reformist Muslims announce Mohammed cartoon contest

by Sunny at 4:25 pm    

A group of progressive Muslims, annoyed not only at the original cartoons but also of the reaction afterwards, have announced their own contest inviting drawings about prophet Mohammed and Islam. They say:

As islamic reformers and progressive muslims, we believe that people should have legal right to express their opinion or dissent without fear of governments or mobs. In that regard, we applaud the people of Denmark for not censoring their media. History has proven that truth and justice cannot flourish in an environment of suppression and oppression. Though the cartoonists depicted and insulted our beloved prophet Muhammad, a figure that we consider dearer to us than our fathers and mothers, we stand by the rights of cartoonists to express their views.

Who said drawing cartoons was a boring business?

First, the bad news…

by Sunny at 4:16 pm    

Major unrest has erupted in Iraq between Shia and Sunni groups, that I hope will not erupt into civil war. It follows a major bomb attack on one of Shia Islam’s holiest mosques.

Kudos to the Norweigans meanwhile, for brokering another round of peace talks in Sri Lanka between the government and Tamil Tigers.

You’re Muslim, you must be a terrorist then

by Sunny at 5:05 am    

Director Michael Winterbottom has just finished making The Road to Guantanomo, a documentary-drama telling a story of the Tipton Three from their perspective. The boys were taken by the US military to Guantanomo Bay and kept their for two years before being released without charge. It opened at the Berlin Film Festival where it won awards and acclaim. Channel 4 financed it and will be showing it on 9th March.

Yesterday morning I went to its advance screening where the team confirmed an assertion first made by Craig Murray that the actors and one of the Three were repeatedly detained on the way to and back from Berlin under anti-terror laws.

On Monday The Lip published an exclusive interview with actor Rizwan Ahmed who was detained for longer (now released as a statement by C4), followed by The Guardian and BBC Online with more details yesterday.

The police statement said: “Part of the counter-terrorism act allows us to stop and examine people if something happens that might be suspicious.” Meaning: you know…. if they happen to have beards and brown skin…that sort of thing. A bit of harassment will go a long way to combat terrorism I’m sure.

I shall be reviewing the film soon. Meanwhile the Indy and Times have more from the Q&A session.

A point they both omitted: Winterbottom called for Gitmo to be closed, but added that the facility seemed to be the “public image” of detainees following Afghanistan’s invasion designed to attract all the attention. A smokescreen if you may, to deflect attention from the hardcore elements they want to deal with in other ways in secret jails.

Given the recent uncovering of “extraordinary rendition“, this certainly seems plausible. The stats speak for themselves. Funny then, that I’m forced to agree with Jack Straw once again.

The gods don’t like skiing too much either

by Sunny at 3:01 am    

You don’t know what’s going to annoy the gods these days, honestly. A ski resort to be built in the Himalayas has come unstuck because the locals gods did not like the idea. Too environmentally unsound, an opinion poll of the deities declared, which is a good enough reason for me. [hat tip j0nz]

21st February, 2006

Denial ain’t an African river girlfriend!

by Rohin at 3:08 pm    

Freedom of speech, again! Oh Lordy Lord it’s all a-comin’ at once. By now most of you will have heard about David Irving’s three year jail sentence for holocaust denial. Essentially, disgraced British historian Irving claimed the gas chambers had not existed, which contravenes Austrian law – the country in which he was interviewed when he made his assertion. A libel case six years ago destroyed his reputation and most of his enemies were placated by this verdict alone. He was branded an active holocaust-denier, an anti-Semite and a racist.

However, yesterday many were stunned when the three year sentence was handed down to Irving, who pleaded guilty during the trial in Vienna. Irving has already announced his plan to appeal. So what should we make of all this?

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Largest climate-change experiment in the world

by Sunny at 1:13 am    

BBC Four will broadcast a series of programmes about climate change starting tonight at 7pm, along with the largest climate experiment in the world. Like SETI@home, they hope to use thousands of computers around the world to compute data and tell more about how the climate is changing.

More on the experiment here. Download and start helping folks!

20th February, 2006

The princess spy awarded the George Cross

by Sunny at 7:04 pm    

The story of Noor Inayat Khan came to light a few years ago when secret documents from WW2 shed light on the daughter of an Indian Sufi prince who gave up her life for Britain during the war. She was post-humously awarded the George Cross.

For more than half a century, myths, misconceptions and outright fantasies have crowded around the memory of Noor Inayat Khan. She was the first female radio operator sent into Nazi-occupied France by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Through the frantic, terrifying summer of 1943, the untried 29-year-old spy found herself virtually in charge of Resistance communications in the Paris area as the Gestapo arrested cell after cell around her. [The Independent]

The renewed interest comes on the back of a book being published on here life.

Author of ‘Spy Princess: the life of Noor Inayat Khan’ Shrabani Basu will be talking with Ian Jack (Granta) and MRD Foot at the Nehru Centre on 1 March.

Filed under: Culture,India,South Asia

Could Pickled Politics be forced to shut down?

by Sunny at 4:03 am    

I briefly covered the passing of the terrorism law and what it meant for British Muslims last week. I have not read up enough on it yet, however there are many issues of concern others have highlighted. One directive is that “offending material” on websites may lead to them being shut down. Because the new law is quite vague, no one is quite sure how it will be implemented or even policed.

Unity at Talk Politics has been covering this extensively and wrote this with Pickled Politics as an example on this post:

So, to move our hypothetical situation forward let us assume that one of PP’s contributors posts a commentary on the Islamic conception of martyrdom and how this relates to suicide bombing – yes, I have picked this example deliberately as one highlighted by Charles Clarke as constituting the ‘glorification’ of terrorism.

Now, knowing PP’s style well I can guarantee than any such hypothetical commentary by one of contributors will not only not condone the idea that suicide-bombing is acceptable but try to challenge the validity of that idea. However, open debate being what it is, a commentary of this nature would almost certainly draw contrary opinions, which would in likelihood result in comments supporting the idea that suicide-bombing is a legitimate tactic is certain circumstances and is permissible under Islamic religious law as a form of martyrdom.

Now, let me ask you this. In the situation above where does that leave a blog like Pickled Politics – does this law no mean that all debate on subject of suicide bombing is ‘out of bounds’ because someone could post comments supporting such actions? Does the law only permit them to have a one-sided debate in which any comments in support of suicide-bombing must be immediately removed from their site?

And if they did go ahead and permit comments setting out both sides of the argument, are they putting their site at risk by doing so? Could one or two comments in support of the principle of suicide-bombing or arguing in favour of its validity in Islamic law, in the context of legitimate debate actually result in Pickled Politics being hit with a take down notice?

It’s a very valid question, and one I don’t know the answer to. In a previous post discussing websites specifically, he points out that this relates to websites hosted in the UK only. That makes it a bit of a farce since anyone can move their site abroad. Fortunately for our lovely readers we are hosted in the US so you can glorify terrorism all you want (though you will get cussed hard).

Nevertheless, more than a few bloggers are pissed off at New Labour’s attempts to curtail our civil liberties (to Bin Laden’s delight no doubt), and Unity is organising a counter-revolution of sorts. Sign me up mate.

Weekly bloggy roundup

by Sunny at 3:31 am    

Amit Varma has an interesting piece on Sikhs in Peshawar, Pakistan, and the ‘jaziya’ tax. [tip Jay Singh]

Ali Eteraz has written a piece on modern sufi-electronica music for alt.muslim.

Two funny pieces sent in by an anonymous reader. 1) More blasphemy in Saudi; 2) A religious sermon rave.

Egyptian blogger Big Pharaoh receives the Ten Commandments for Muslims. [tip Rohin]

In the UK you can get away with publishing (clearly stated) fake photographs. In India, Maxim is getting sued for the same.

The man with world’s largest turban is aiming for the Guinness Book of Records! [via Sepia Mutiny]

Apologies for shortness – been v. busy. I’m considering setting up a thingy on the right so we can just link articles and small pieces of interest continually rather than doing this roundup. Thoughts appreciated.

Filed under: Uncategorized
18th February, 2006

Posturing over cartoons continues

by Sunny at 10:11 pm    

The Muslim Action Committee (MAC) held a protest over the prophet Mohammed cartoons in London today, with around 10,000 people attending. StrangelyPsychedelic has pictures. Behind the scenes political posturing seems to be taking place.

Today’s rally was not supported or given a mention by the usual suspects of Muslim groups because the new kid on the block is vying for influence. This one is led by imams and my feeling is that last week’s rally was poorly attended because they told congregations to come today instead.

Controversies are perfect opportunities for religious groups to organise protests and demand attention. It’ll be interesting to see how MAC proceeds from here. Will it try to usurp the MCB’s position?

JP’s culture editor Flemming Rose meanwhile explains ‘Why I Published Those Cartoons‘ in tomorrow’s WaPo [hat tip: Peter Pedersen]. Worth reading and discussing.

Around the world, ten died in Libya when police opened fire on protestors, angry over an Italian MP printing and wearing a t-shirt bearing those cartoons. The MP has since been forced to resign. In India, a minister put up a huge reward to behead the cartoonists and was then slammed by the leading Muslim body. [hat tip: Vikrant]

Amartya Sen on British multi-culturalism

by Jay Singh at 7:19 pm    

In July, Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen is publishing a book titled Identity and Violence that brings more perspective to the debate on British multi-culturalism. Sen’s voice is badly needed. He is heavyweight intellectual with an impeccable record in advocacy for tolerance, pluralism and harmony; critical of the situation we are in but ready to defend multicultural precepts where they need to be defended.

In the Guardian today:

What begins by giving people room to express themselves, he argues, may force people into an identity chosen by the authorities. “That is what is happening now, here,” he says, a little indignantly. “I think there is a real tyranny there. It doesn’t look like tyranny – it looks like giving freedom and tolerance – but it ends up being a denial of individual freedom. The individual belongs to many different groups and it is up to him or her to decide which of those groups he or she would like to give priority.”

And next, he makes a point that Pickled Politics has been expounding consistently:

“Suddenly the Jewish, Hindu and Muslim organisations are in charge of all Jews, Hindus and Muslims. Whether you are an extremist mullah or a moderate mullah, whether you’re Blair’s friend or Blair’s enemy, you might relish the idea of being able to speak for all people with a Muslim background – no matter how religious they are – but this may be in direct competition with the role of Muslims in British civil society

In particular it means that government accords power and consults with the most conservative and self-interested representatives of a community, it silences dissent, and it also formulates a crude counter-response by society as a whole.

Unable to appreciate the diversity of individual life within minority groups, mainstream British society slots individuals into reckless and inadequate stereotypes, viewing minorities through the telescope of the issue-and-identity politics that sectarian bodies push, pumped up as they are with hot air and hubris because they get to sup with politicians and appear in the media.

He further speculates that this attitude may have roots in a disastrous policy followed by the British in the end years of British rule in India:

“This is the way,” he says, “that the British tried to interpret community divisions in India between Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. To Indian nationalists, it looked a further example of divide and rule, emphasising the divisions. The way that the British are handling it today makes one wonder whether the cultural confusion that the British had then has now been brought back home.”

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Guest post by Jay Singh

17th February, 2006

The clash of cultures?

by Sunny at 3:01 pm    

An interesting article in the Guardian today by Martin Jacques:

Europe has never had to worry too much about context or effect because for around 200 years it dominated and colonised most of the world. Such was Europe’s omnipotence that it never needed to take into account the sensibilities, beliefs and attitudes of those that it colonised, however sacred and sensitive they might have been.

There is a profound hypocrisy – and deep historical ignorance – when Europeans complain about the problems posed by the ethnic and religious minorities in their midst, for that is exactly what European colonial rule meant for peoples around the world.

[hat tip: Sahail]
Some will call him a bleeding heart liberal etc, and I know many on here will agree with the sentiment that “Europe’s contempt for other cultures can’t be sustained”. But I have some issues with it.

I had a related chat with Minette Marin a few weeks back, who found it annoying that the government treated as if all cultures are equal, hence a policy of ignoring local culture over “their way of life”.

On one level it sounds a bit arrogant, but I tend to partly agree. Everyone thinks their culture is superior (especially Indians), despite their positive and negative sides. So a small clash of cultures is not only inevitable, but healthy as long as it leads to competition and debate, not wars. European society might not be ideal but on certain issues, such as civil liberty, freedom of press etc, it is way ahead of others.

In a few decades time, this continent’s power may be dwarfed by others – due to evolution (and demographics) – in which case it will have to adjust its stance as it already is towards China/India. But why not stand up for what you believe in? It is part of the global dynamic and natural evolution of human society that best practice survives and bad habits die out when a better system provides competition.

Europe is forcing the east to open up because of the internet and because there is money to be made. Soon, this continent will have to open up to eastern influences while there is money involved or they find better ways of doing things. So far it has happened primarily in manufacturing (Japanese cars/electronics) but sooner or later it will extend to other areas of life. I say bring it on.

Filed under: Culture,The World

Could the cartoons bring down President Musharraf?

by Sunny at 1:58 am    

Pakistanis are notorious for arriving late to parties, though only slightly lesser than Indians. So it is with little suprise we find that when rabid fanatics in other parts of the world have burned some foreign embassies in self-righteous anger and gone back home satisfied, the Pakistani brothers suddenly realised they were falling behind in the “we’re angry too you mofos” stakes, and started rioting.

It could be that they were protesting against horribly bad KFC/McDonald’s food, but there’s no excuse for Pizza Hut dammit.

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