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  • 21st March, 2006

    Critical Thinking - Iqbal’s Shikwa

    by Shariq at 12:39 am    

    I’ve just finished reading the first part of Muhammad ‘Allama’ Iqbal’s classic ‘dialogue’ with Allah. Shikwa, or ‘Complaint’, first published in 1909 is a breathtaking piece of poetry. Seeing the plight of Muslims across the World, Iqbal passionately questions Allah on why he allowed such a situation to develop.

    Not suprisingly the idea that God could wrong his people and was not carrying out his plans justly caused quite a stir. Despite the inevitable response of many traditionalists, Iqbal’s ideas have lived on and he is revered in Pakistan as her national poet.

    I am not advocating that people read Shikwa and hold its text as sacred, or something which can not be questioned. There are some elements to do with conversion and Muslim superiority to which my reaction is somewhere, deeply uncomfortable and profound disagreement.

    However to use this a stick with which to attack Iqbal completely misses the point. He was at once both a man of his times and ahead of his times. Above all it was his ability to think freely and outside of the traditional mold while contributing to the discourse of his times which made him great. The fact that his ideas were expressed in aesthetic and powerful poetry simply add to his greatness.

    I’ll post on God’s response to Iqbal soon.

    20th March, 2006

    Blogging hype and human guinea pigs!

    by Sunny at 1:17 pm    

    Two of my articles were published on Guardian’s comment is free this morning. The first is on whether blogging is in danger of being over-hyped. I’ve referenced recent posts on British blogs on the same subject.

    The second is around a more sensitive topic. As Rohin talks about below and I have mentioned before - human testing and animal testing is in the news thanks to Pro-Test, the Parexel incident last week and globalisation.

    So what happens now to human guinea pigs? Please go there and post your comments!

    Filed under: Civil liberties,Media

    “They almost never question the doctor”

    by Rohin at 12:05 am    

    Hello all. I shall endeavour to write at least a post or two about my time in the States, I did plenty of Hunter S. Thompson-esque article research for you lucky people. But first something I encountered via this month’s Wired magazine.

    A Nation of Guinea Pigs is a hard-hitting piece written by Jennifer Kahn about how Big Pharma is outsourcing clinical trials to India, raising many concerns about the patients participating.

    It’s a familiar tale. Huge and powerful Western company grows tired of spending what it sees as excessive amounts of money in the West and looks toward the developing world. Yet just as there are two sides to every business outsourcing story, it is likewise unfair to brand all clinical trials in India as unsettling. Some truly hold patient care paramount. Many will help people otherwise too poor to afford any treatment. But most won’t. Why elements of the medical world are somewhat concerned about this eastward trend in clinical trials is the sheer scale. Sean Philpott, managing editor of the American Journal of Bioethics, likened the shift to the nineteenth century gold rush:

    “Not only are research costs low, but there is a skilled work force to conduct the trials,” he said. In the rush to reap profits, Philpott cautions that drug companies may not be sensitive to how poverty can undermine the spirit of informed consent. “Individuals who participate in Indian clinical trials usually won’t be educated. Offering $100 may be undue enticement; they may not even realize that they are being coerced,” he said.

    Continue Reading...
    19th March, 2006

    Tale of two marches, part 2

    by Sunny at 11:14 pm    

    About 20,000 people braved the cold yesterday in London for the anti-war march. Although I’d like the forces to try and maintain stability in Iraq until the Iraqis can properly take over, it is nice to see so many people are still willing to express their opposition to war in general and show their anger over the WMD lies.

    We have pictures and some interesting commentary on that march, and the Freedom March on the 25th…

    Continue Reading...

    Not supportive of Shabina Begum

    by Sunny at 5:02 am    

    School rules on the uniforms children wear could be thrown into chaos this week by the final law lords judgment in the case of Shabina Begum, the Muslim girl who was banned from wearing full Islamic dress at school.

    Headteachers have told The Observer that if the judgment goes in her favour, making it unlawful to exclude children for refusing on religious grounds to wear proper uniform, it would ‘undermine the authority of schools’.

    Denbigh High School in Luton, whose case is now supported by the Department for Education, originally sent Begum home because she insisted on wearing a jilbab, or full-length Islamic gown. Begum, now 17, stopped going to school in 2002 and spent two years at home, before enrolling into another one that allowed her to wear the gown. [Link]

    One of the stupidest cases to have found currency in UK courts, I hope the law lords chuck this out. Although I’m not in favour of the French model of banning all religious garb at school, this case is about one person’s interpretation of her religion and I don’t see why schools have to play fiddle to that. If she doesn’t like it, she can stop attending school.

    17th March, 2006

    25th March: a tale of two protests

    by Sunny at 9:43 pm    

    On 25th March, Saturday next week, two marches will be taking place in central London. The first is the March For Free Expression, organised initially as a response to the Danish cartoons controversy but they cite other concerns such as the Sikh play Behzti and Jerry Springer: TO.

    Invoking the Danish cartoons example has made some Muslim groups mad, and thus the Muslim Action Committee is also demonstrating on the same day.

    Me? Rather than sit on the fence I’d like to tear it down.

    Continue Reading...

    Is Pakistan about to split again?

    by Fe'reeha at 1:29 pm    

    It’s not an easy question. Nor is it pleasant. But violence and instability in the provinces of Frontier and Balochistan may be strong indicators of a tragedy waiting to strike.

    There are really only two solutions.

    Continue Reading...

    Creating trouble for the Guardian

    by Sunny at 1:54 am    

    I see Norman Geras has also joined the growing number of bloggers for the Guardian’s new project. Congratulations. Along with him, as I mentioned before, is Justin McKeating from Chicken Yoghurt, another great blog.

    I might as well admit that I shall also be writing for CiF. Will probably make a start tomorrow. Give everyone a bit of grief, start a few flame wars, make Guardian regret having me on board… that sort of thing. I don’t know the rules on cross-posting so we shall have to play it by ear. I said goodbye to my social life yesterday. If no one has yet died from writing too much, I bet I’ll be the first.

    Filed under: Media
    16th March, 2006

    Keeping our politicians accountable

    by SajiniW at 11:57 am    

    The proposed Legislative, Regulatory and Reform bill, if passed, would allow Ministers to change the law without consulting either House.

    Whilst the Bill does include certain limits to that power; it remains vague on what the deal is on preventing those limitations being removed by a Minister, thus handing them a very great deal of un-democratic power.

    Continue Reading...

    Thin line between arranged and forced

    by Sunny at 6:01 am    

    posterA national drive to raise awareness of forced marriages launches today. A publicity campaign is to follow. We all agree (I hope!) that it’s a stupid practice that will die a quick death.

    Note that the FMU held a consultation last year on whether to ban forced marriages. In chapter two it discusses points for and against banning. Through lack of publicity and because the useless community ‘leaders’ it was sent to didn’t really bother doing anything substantial with it, the response was poor. One email I received said something like “We know forced marriages hardly take place in our community but here is the document anyway, do what you will.” Head. In. Sand.

    These silly community groups against banning this practice annoy me off to be honest. Yes, it’s intrusive. Some parents might get arrested. Isn’t that the whole point? “Will drive the practice underground,” they say! Are these social workers intentionall stupid or infected by some PC bug?
    You may also want to read this.

    Filed under: Culture,South Asia
    15th March, 2006

    Education Bill Requires Opposition Support

    by SajiniW at 6:38 pm    

    Tony Blair’s controversial plans for schools in England face their first test in a Commons vote this evening - backbench trouble on the loose!

    Continue Reading...

    Comment Is Respect

    by Al-Hack at 3:07 pm    

    Ziauddin Sardar and Fareena Alam are to join the Guardian’s new project according to my sources. On the other hand we’re saddled with Salma Yaqoob and Galloway again. All we require is Naseem “dancing cows” Mohammed to complete the set of the three musketeers from Respect.

    Filed under: Media

    Nothing like a nice bit of gender politik to lighten up your morning….

    by SajiniW at 10:23 am    

    Ann Widdecombe talks gender: is a man’s company really preferable?
    Is fat really a feminist issue?

    Continue Reading...
    14th March, 2006

    Labour lose brown person to Tories

    by Sunny at 11:09 pm    

    This will come as some embarassment to Labour. The Tories sent out a press release today triumphantly informing everyone that 27 year old former Labour candidate for Horsham, Rehman Christi Chishti, has defected to the Tories. A Muslim kid too! Double punch in the face.

    He was born in Pakistan, and attended Fort Luton High School for Boys and then Chatham Grammar School for Girls in sixth form. He read law at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth (2:1), where he was part of the NUS executive and vice chairman of the Labour students in Wales. He has also been a political aide to the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, and worked for Peter Skinner MEP, and Helen Brinton, the former MP for Peterborough.

    Yes, I know. Damn high achieving lawyers - can’t get away from that stereotype. Francis Maude, who he ran against, has appointed him his advisor on diversity and ethnic minorities. Sigh. Isn’t that like the fifth EM advisor they have now?

    Mindless paranoia

    by Sunny at 10:36 pm    

    I read with much amusement last night that the departure of Sunday Telegraph’s editor Sarah Sands last week is being blamed on Muslims by some bloggers. The furore revolves around an article in the ST that carried plenty of opinion on Islam from a Muslim convert to Christinanity, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo. The article was recently taken down from the Telegraph website without explanation.

    Needless to say such hysteria eventually reached Little Nazi Footballs, which is now busy informing the blogosphere that The Telegraph is also infected by their favourite word ‘Dhimmitude’. You mean the rag that published editorials from an anonymous Will Cummins comparing Muslims to dogs? Yes, infected, as they say. And who is to blame? Islamophobia Watch! That’s even more hilarious.

    Rather than constantly churning this pot of conspiracy theories, I suggest the boys from IBlogA just throw in their lot with the BNP’s local election strategy. Apparently it’s becoming ‘too socialist‘. Having all the idiots under one roof would make them easier to deal with. This way is too confusing.

    Filed under: Humour,Media,Religion

    Asian unemployment and crime?

    by Sunny at 2:15 pm    

    Getting money from Asian businesses is like drawing blood from stone. Yes - you know what I’m getting at, Asian businessmen didn’t become rich by lending money for sponsorship, let alone charitable causes. So I think Tarrique Ghaffur is being rather optimistic with his latest scheme. I got this note yesterday:

    Since the bombings of 7 July 2005, the MPS has received many offers of help. I am asking the business sector to show their support by ‘signing up’ to become partners of Operation Quadrant, a long-term crime prevention initiative focusing on building confidence within the Asian community. We are asking businesses to pledge a donation of £250 for a partnership certificate, which we hope, you will proudly display within your organisation. All funds will be directed to the Safer London Foundation, to help set up long-term crime prevention and youth diversion projects.

    My job as the Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard and head of the Specialist Crime Directorate is to focus on crime prevention, gathering intelligence and catching the criminals. However, long-term solutions are needed to deal with the social and economic deprivation and the lack of ‘legitimate’ job opportunities.

    It’s interesting that this is being billed as a community project as if Asian unemployment is different to others. In London this is primarily a problem in East London’s Tower Hamlets with the Bangladeshi community. I don’t really see a point to this? Maybe Mr Ghaffur wanted some money from the government, who turned around and said “Your Asian community keep having rich award ceremonies so why not ask them for money?

    13th March, 2006

    Guardian’s Comment Is Free previews

    by Sunny at 7:02 pm    

    I don’t know if this is a mistake or not, but if you go to commentisfree.com - the pages for the Guardian’s upcoming group blog loads up. It previously redirected to the newspaper’s website.

    Justin says they’re recruited around 200 people to write for the superblog. though only Guardian columnists are listed as yet. Jeff Jarvis reveals that Arianna Huffington will also write be writing. Is it pitched as a liberal voice for Britain or will it encompass the whole political spectrum? We shall have to wait and see…
    It should be launching tomorrow.

    Filed under: Media

    Doubles trouble for Sania Mirza

    by Shariq at 4:54 pm    

    Sania MirzaIndian tennis player Sania Mirza sure lives an interesting life. After controversies over her clothes and remarks over the Khushboo scandal, another flare-up is brewing - this time over her choice of doubles partner.

    Ms Mirza is good friends with the Israeli player Shahar Peer and would like to resume their doubles partnership. Unfortunately the last time they played it upset the usual suspects and, with her profile continuing to rise, this will come up sooner or later. In fact they had intended to play together at a match in recently Bangalore before Mirza thought it would be best that they didn’t.

    This irritated some other people, but I actually think it’s the type of principled pragmatism which those who challenge the status quo sometimes need to undertake. Make a principled point by playing in tournaments in other parts of the world but don’t unnecessarily create a big fuss which is then exploited by conservative elements in your country when you are already a highly controversial figure.

    As for Muslims and Jews playing tennis together, there is a precedent. Pakistani Aisam-ul-Haq and Israeli Amir Hadad won the ATP’s Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship Award for playing (well) together at Wimbledon in 2002. (I don’t think they played again, but I think that was more to do with Aisam foolishly thinking he could make it as a singles player, but don’t get me started on that).

    Uneasy relationships with people ‘back home’

    by Sunny at 1:52 am    

    To be sure, British Asians have a wierd relationship with people “back home”. Anyone who has been on a holiday there can attest to that. There is a plethora of issues to cover, but a few persistent ones keep cropping up in the media. Immigration; religious education (aka enrolling into a madrasaa); sending back money; providing aid during natural disasters; going back for abortions (more recent); and the perennial - getting married to someone from south Asia.

    Hundreds of British Asian men have been accused of abandoning new brides in India after securing lucrative dowry payments,” the Times declared this weekend following an investigation by its reporters. I hope no one is naive enough to believe this is something new.

    Marriage scams have been going on for years, and the problems associated with this practice are easily sweeped under the carpet. Abandoned women, abandoned men, runaway brides, dowry deaths, extortion rackets, immigration problems, winding up in Guantanamo Bay (see Tipton Three) etc. The list is not only endless, it’s bloody growing. And it’s giving us British Asians a bad name you scamming bastards (you’re out there somewhere!).

    In such a climate I’m surprised more Indian women there don’t balk at the sight of some Asian “businessman” (ie chipshop owner) coming over to get married. How long before they all realise it’s a bad idea?

    Filed under: Culture,South Asia
    11th March, 2006

    What price are we paying for freedom?

    by Amit S at 6:27 pm    

    We have to ask ourselves, in good conscience, is the government dealing with issues in the right way? I cannot be the only one who has noticed that very often nowadays the government will set up some sort of target, but then try their best to fudge it up or change the targets themselves later.

    Continue Reading...
    10th March, 2006

    Road to Guntanamo - opinions?

    by Sunny at 3:16 pm    

    So, what did everyone think of Michael Winterbottom’s polemic yesterday? I was invited to a screening around two weeks ago, and published a short review here. I do express reservations about the film’s willingness to unquestioningly take whatever the Tipton Three said at face value, however Winterbottom said that the film was clearly and pointedly from their point of view. It was a reconstruction based on what they said and went through - nothing more and nothing less.

    Admittedly there is something shady about four boys heading over to Afghanistan just after war had started, but I don’t buy the way some commentators have sought to imply that just because they did that - they must be terrorists. The US and UK authorities had over two years to establish whether these guys were in any way related to terrorism. They utterly failed.

    As Garry Smith points out - it’s a very slipperly slope towards outright discrimination and heightened paranoia when people are dismissed just because of their religion.

    A rational analysis of terrorism must lead to an acceptance that it is impossible to fully protect a country against all terrorist attacks. It’s a harsh reality to face, but it’s true. This statement does not mean, as is sometimes fatuously claimed, that we should do nothing to combat terrorism. It means that we should do everything in our power to combat it while abiding by the principles we seek to defend. Abandoning those principles is a victory for extremism.

    Well said.

    9th March, 2006

    Mail on Sunday exposed in bribing students to spy on Muslims

    by SajiniW at 11:29 pm    

    The Mail on Sunday newspaper is offering students money to attend university Islamic society meetings (at £100 per meeting) to spy on Muslims students and report back on any dodgy activities, the London Student newspaper reported today.

    The NUS and ULU have condemned the activities of The Mail on Sunday, and are now considering banning the paper from their facilities.

    Continue Reading...

    The Blank Noise project

    by Sunny at 3:17 am    

    Yesterday was International Women’s Day which I nominally regard as a silly PR stunt. However this time it would be right to plug The Blank Noise project - a blog based campaign against harassment of women in India. The Indian blogosphere has quite admirably been very supportive of the project but that should come as no surprise since it’s populated by educated, liberal types.

    I hope the project moves out of the blogosphere in a sustainable and concrete form so it can move away from preaching to the converted so to speak. Also admirable is their unwillingness to tolerate statements such as “Wear what you want! You just want to be leeched at right?” My hats off to the women, who have been running the project for a year now.

    8th March, 2006

    Hindu group calls to burn down Kellogs

    by Sunny at 8:47 pm    

    Not really, but some of them are really angry. Why, you ask? What did poor Snap, Crackle and Pop (pictured) ever do to hurt anyone? Or did someone get incensed after finding that Special K was absolutely crap as part of a healthy diet? Actually it’s more mundane than that.

    The World Council of Hindus (aka the VHP) are pissed off after finally finding out that some Kellogs products contained beef / pork gelatine. It is “outraged” according to a statement I’ve received, and their representative said so on the Asian Network this afternoon.

    Bastards! - a fellow vegetarian like me might think. Except the products already state they contain gelatine (no more (pop) tarts for you Gujrati uncleji!) and are “not suitable for vegetarians”. The VHP want better labelling, Kellogs say they can’t be asked. So those who do not read their food labels closely - you have been warned.
    File under: ‘Another religious body trying to stir controversy to get noticed‘.

    The global conspiracy machine

    by Sunny at 3:47 pm    

    There are some people who cannot see a conspiracy without Jews behind it, others who cannot see a society without emphasising racial discrimination. There are also those who cannot see a Muslim without talking about terrorism / ‘Islamo-fundo-krypto-stupido-fascism’, and the ones who make it their business to scream Islamophobia at every given opportunity.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs
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