30th April, 2006

Asian writers: authentic, filthy and cheating

by Sunny at 8:34 pm    

Writers of south-Asian origin are all the rage these days. My plans to to write something that ties together a few strings have been thwarted by Sarfraz Manzoor in today’s Observer. “Why do Asian writers have to be ‘authentic’ to succeed?” – he asks.

But before we get to that, it may be worth looking at events over the pond. In America Kaavya Viswanathan is the author on everyone’s lips, if not exactly for the right reasons.

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Filed under: Culture,Media
29th April, 2006

Weekend open grass-cutting thread

by Sunny at 5:47 pm    

It’s a glorious day in London folks, perfect for cutting the grass! As I was forced to do it, I hope none of you escape this torture either.

Any plans for May Day?

Filed under: Uncategorized

Deport Charles Clarke?

by Rohin at 1:14 pm    

Over the last few years, bombs and planes have provoked a movement to try to formalise what it is to be British. It’s hardly a new phenomenon but it has gathered steam as of late. However, it has now been revealed that a guide to citizenship that was intended to sit alongside the test is peppered with errors. On closer inspection the errors are not necessarily howlers, but have been excused by the authors as “it was done fairly quickly because we didn’t want to keep immigrants waiting for their citizenship.”

On the subject of immigration, and I ask this question as I don’t know the answer, will the Charles Clarke debacle have any effect on immigration? Without revisiting all the details as I’m sure you’re sick of hearing how many were lost, how many were murderers and so forth, something struck me. The 1000-odd people who were released without consideration for deportation had all served their sentence. Yet the media seems to be portraying the error as the Home Office deliberately and knowingly let criminals out to re-offend.

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28th April, 2006

Media workers against fascism

by Sunny at 6:51 pm    

I just got this by email:

We are concerned that coverage of the British National Party’s (BNP) support in some sections of the media is exaggerated and disproportionate to the level of votes the BNP is actually receiving. The BNP is not a normal political party: it is a fascist organisation. The media should expose and challenge the BNP. Fascism stands for the annihilation of trade unions, black, Asian, other minority ethnic, Muslim, Jewish, lesbian and gay communities, disabled people and all democrats. When the Nazis took power, they shut down the freedom of the press and broadcasting channels.

Coverage inflating the BNP’s support makes the BNP appear to be a legitimate political party and simply assists the BNP in the run up to the local elections. We urge sections of the media to act responsibly when covering this issue and not to exaggerate the BNP’s support.

No no no no no! I want the BNP everywhere, and I’ll tell you why.

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Filed under: Race politics,The BNP

On Egyptian bombings

by Sunny at 3:21 pm    

“You just proved the Israeli have divine supernatural powers,” I said. “In less than one week, they somehow managed to convince five men to blow up themselves. Now, that’s something!”

Why are Arabs and Muslims more inclined to believe in the most absurd conspiracy theories ever? I believe there are two main reasons. First, genuine accurate information is hard to be found in our region. Conspiracy theories flourish in an environment of biased and regulated information. Second, we as a nation, and especially the intelligentsia and religious leaders among us, do not want to admit that we have a terrorist problem as well as a greater problem in our culture and currently practiced religiosity.

Nations develop and flourish when they admit their wrongs and work on finding solutions for them. We have seen how those who claim to be adherents of Islam blow up themselves to kill others in areas stretching from Bali to New York. And judging from the supply chain of suicide bombers in Iraq, it is crystal clear that the world now has a surplus of these murderers.

This is by the Egyptian blogger Big Pharoah on this CIF article. The man speaketh the truth.

Stand by for take-off

by Sunny at 3:10 am    

It has been eight months since I launched this group blog with a motley crew of idealists. Scary how quickly time passes when you’re, errm wasting time. Anyway, there was a plan. Well, there always is a plan. As part of that plan the newly re-designed Pickled Politics will be unveiled next week.

In the meantime we are getting fatter. For a start, two new bloggers have joined us – Reformist Muslim (Shariq) and Leon. In addition, we have swallowed four bloggers: Aparita, Jay Singh, Siddartha and Sonia, and given them their own diaries. Why am I doing all this? I shall have an explanation for you soon enough.

If that did not keep me busy enough, I’ve also been working as part of an elite crew to re-launch The Sharpener next week on 4th May, day of the local elections (fingers crossed).

In the meanwhile, my latest article on CIF is something to chew on.

Filed under: Uncategorized
27th April, 2006

Black Wednesday Part 2: Local Election Watch

by SajiniW at 9:29 am    

Increased BNP support with the Tories hot on their trail: the timing couldn’t be worse for the current cabinet to experience mishap after mishap.

The past week has seen Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, getting booed universally in response to massive job losses at the UNISON conference earlier this week. The Deputy Prime Minister has added a mistress to his list of ministerial faux-pas and not wanting to be left out, the Home Secretary has found himself begot with his own incompetence.

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Filed under: Party politics

War?

by Rohin at 2:23 am    

Sri Lanka’s fragile peace continues to be eroded. Until we do piece together a more substantial post (and we welcome contributions), I thought I would get the debate started.

A suicide attack and a familiar Tiger denial. Retaliatory government air strikes and a mass exodus. Are we watching a country once more plunge headlong into war? There does remain a possibility of resolving this latest escalation in tension with talks, as President Rajapakse has suggested this – albeit wrapped in an ultimatum to the LTTE. Meanwhile the rebels have appealed to the international community to put pressure on the government to stop what they see as a “genocidal attempt on the Tamil-speaking people.”

Norway has acted as mediator between the two sides for many years and the small contingent of international ceasefire monitors and Norwegian mediators has stated they no longer feel they can cope without backup. An emergency meeting, however, has been called for Friday this week.

40,000 have fled Trinco, the last two days have seen at least 100 dead and Tamil Nadu’s coast has been put on alert. Indian police have been patrolling looking for boats landing and warning residents that Tigers may arrive posing as refugees.

TT:

26th April, 2006

Why Nepal matters

by Sunny at 5:06 pm    

Several developments make the people’s revolution in Nepal very interesting. When was the last time anyone remembered almost an entire country in revolt to install democracy? The fall of the Berlin wall probably comes the closest.

But put aside this unheard-of development, specially amongst Asians, and let’s concentrate on how Nepal has progressed since this all started. Immediately after King Gyanendra said he would begin the process to democracy, the USA and India said they welcomed the move. Guess what they got back…

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25th April, 2006

Political protest and religious identity

by Sunny at 8:04 pm    

Hanif Kureishi in the Saturday Guardian on why political theatre is needed:

Racism was a daily occurrence for most Asians in Britain. But the characters in the play refer often to the possibility of an “invasion”, something they were afraid of and disturbed by, as it had already happened.In April 1979, the police allowed the fascist National Front to hold a meeting in Asian Southall. Two weeks earlier the residents met the Labour home secretary, Merlyn Rees, to ask him to ban the Front’s meeting. On the day before the march, 5,000 people went to Ealing Town Hall in support of banning the National Front’s meeting, handing in a petition signed by 10,000 residents. Local factories also agreed to strike in protest. Rees refused to give way. It was a question of free speech, even for fascists.

He also mentions the Satanic Verses controversy:

During the 10 years between the Southall riots and the demonstration against The Satanic Verses, the community had become politicised by radical Islam, something that had been developing throughout the Muslim world since decolonisation.

Once this ideology had been adopted – and political conversations could only take place within its terms – it entailed numerous constraints, locking the community in, as well as divorcing it from possible sources of creativity: dissidence, criticism, sexuality. [via Amitava Kumar]

This is, in essence, something not many Asians really understand. All the communities – Muslim, Sikh and Hindu over have become politicised the past decade as religion has become their main form of identity rather than race. But with that comes internal censorship. You do anything out of line, you’re not just insulting your community, you are seen as insulting the entire religion.

Blood suckers and the World Bank

by Rohin at 10:50 am    

Admirable and virtuous charity organisation, The World Bank, seems to have been caught telling fibs about malaria in Africa and India.

The Lancet carry an international report claiming that the WB (no, not the channel that shows Smallville) have published fake figures and have squandered millions on useless medicines. It also alleges that the WB have welched on a pledge to commit $300-$500 million in Africa. The Bank says this is poppycock and are investing one beelleeon dollars over the next few years. (more…)

Filed under: India,Science
24th April, 2006

Impress your literary friends

by Rohin at 10:52 pm    

I might soon be back in town, but you’ll be glad to know I won’t be making too much of a nuisance of myself as I have finals to look forward to at the start of June. And it is my desperate aversion to avoid studying that brings me to the subject of this post – it’s designed to help you show off next time you talk literature with friends.

Many of our glorious readers are Asian, which makes this even better for you as now you can demonstrate you could quite easily have sailed through medical school had it interested you, so tell Mum to be quiet…

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Filed under: Humour

Day 19

by Rohin at 8:58 pm    

In a follow up to Sunny’s post, I thought I’d share some more photos of the Nepali protests. Phalano has some fantastic pictures taken day by day and interesting comments, do visit (many of you will have seen some of these as they come via BoingBoing). Bloggers Nepal’s Photo Section has plenty to see and GVO has of course been covering the tumultuous time in Nepal. Amardeep Singh’s latest is a great post with more links for those interested, pulling together views from various news services and bloggers, including examining India’s role.

News articles roundup

by Sunny at 2:47 pm    

“By 2010, some estimate there will be two million patients in India on clinical trials.” – BBC Online reports on outsourcing patients to India. Who didn’t see that coming?

George Alagiah this weekend: “Some of today’s immigrants aren’t interested in making Britain their home. They see it as a place where they can live – but their real ties remain with their homelands.”

“I used to be an American Jew. And then I read Daniel Pipes,” says Bradley Burston in Ha’aretz on Daniel Pipes. He calls him the new kind of Israel basher.

For the climate change sceptics and environmentalists – the New York Times reviews the debate around global warming.

In April, Palestinian journalist Fawaz Turki was fired from the Saudi paper Arab News. Why? For criticising the government.

Shiv Malik profiles British suicide bomber Omar Sharif who killed innocent people in Israel. Also mentions the Hizb ut Tahrir link.

Plus – blogger Shabana Mir writes an interesting article about Literalistic Wahhabistic Sufism, while Immortal Radical writes about the BNP, racism and the working class. Both are well worth reading.

Read anything else interesting over the weekend? Post it in the comments.

Conjuring up Islamophobia

by Sunny at 3:59 am    

Blogger Bob Pitt at IW clearly cannot find enough relevant examples of Islamophobia otherwise he wouldn’t be linking to this lame campaign.

To summarise: The Times says Muslim students are complaining about teaching material at a madrasa that tells them to believe non-Muslims are filth. In addition it publishes another article saying the Qu’ran must be understood in context, and there should be more British born imams to teach this stuff, not literalist hard-liners from Iran. Given that British Muslims themselves want the same, this is not unreasonable, you may think.

But no. The Islamic Human Rights Commission, which hilariously thought the most Islamophobic person in Britain was Polly Toynbee at one point, says it’s another example of “Islamophobic bias“. Sheesh.

Filed under: Religion
23rd April, 2006

Indian mummy’s boys

by Sunny at 12:19 am    

I was on BBC Asian Network on Friday morning along with Bindiya Solanki (ex-Eastenders) and Nina Wadia (Goodness Gracious Me) commenting on a variety of things when this topic of marrying someone from the sub-continent came up.

It’s an old topic but bear with me. My position is that marriage is ideally with someone you can relate to culturally, hence it’s much better to find a British partner than, out of desperation, finding someone from there. Both my co-panelists made a point I hadn’t really thought about too much – that it’s always the guys more willing to find a wife from the sub-continent than the women. The latter usually prefer that as the last resort.

This would support my thesis that anyone who wants to marry a wife from home essentially wants a slave who can cook and clean for them and not complain about it. Why might this be the case? In yesterday’s Financial Times Gautam Malkani, author of Londonstani, explains his theory:

Indian boys are renowned for being mummy’s boys; Indian dads are renowned for being emotionally detached patriarchal figures; while Indian mums are renowned for being domineering, emotionally involved patriarchal figures. Although prescriptive hypotheses like this have a tendency to prove self-fulfilling, the usefulness of this theory seemed to be confirmed during interview after interview.

If Asian ‘rudeboys’ were thereby overshooting their masculinity and looking for cultural props with which to do so, no wonder they’d also reached out to gangsta rap music, successfully blending the elements of machismo, misogyny and homophobia in their parent’s culture with that inherent in hip-hop.

That would also explain the need for a woman from back home – they need someone to replace their mother.

What is interesting about Malkani’s piece, which is the basis of his book, is that when he went out to study Hounslow boys for his project (he was raised there too), he was asked to interpret his study in gender terms rather than racial terms. A stroke of brilliance.

Read the article in full [hat tip: al], there is a lot to chew on. There is something else mentioned that I want to highlight for another discussion later.

Filed under: Culture,South Asia
22nd April, 2006

Weekend open thread

by Sunny at 4:49 am    

Unbuckle that belt and let it all hang out.

Filed under: Uncategorized
21st April, 2006

Democracy comes to Nepal

by Sunny at 2:54 pm    

BBC News has just sent out a news alert saying King Gyanendra has bowed to the pro-democracy protests and says he will hold elections and give power back to the people. This is excellent news for the Nepalese, with yesterday being the second day of mass protests in the capital Kathmandu despite a shoot-on-sight curfew. The people stood up for their rights and the King had to give in.

A pro-democracy protest had been planned in London for the 25th. Not sure if it will continue.

As an aside, Lenin yesterday called for the Maoists to take Nepal. Although I agree with him most of the time, I thought the call was incredibly uninformed and totally dismissed the 10s of 1000s of people the Maoists have killed and terrorised over the years.
News update: Bloomberg and IBN-Live

Dealing with superstitious villagers

by Sunny at 2:22 am    

A Bangladeshi woman who shook a baby boy so violently that he suffered brain damage walked free from court yesterday because a judge conceded that she did not know how to behave in the West.

Rahella Khanom, 24, caused the five-month-old boy in her care to suffer fractures to his breast bone and ribs as she tried to rid him of evil spirits, Southwark Crown Court was told.

“I accept you were kept really quite isolated from our society by your community and it would seem to a large extent by your husband as well. Under these circumstances I do not feel it is in the public interest to pass an immediate custodial sentence.” [The Times, via Wardyblog]

How does one deal with this? One the one hand I hate judges who let off criminals using the “it maybe in your culture” argument. No, if the person has done something criminal please lock them up. Stop treating Asians with kid-gloves as if they should be held to a lower standard of criminality or stupidity.

But will locking such villagers with mad superstitious tendencies help? I doubt it. They’ll remain forever locked to that mindset. The main problem seems to be that she is under severe stress since coming over and being ignored by her husband. So she takes it out on the kid.

Consequence: After being let off lightly, she is no better off. Others use this as a “multi-culturalism is bad” example. ‘Community leaders’ turn a blind eye. Government enacts some silly legislation after Daily Mail hysteria. Then ‘community groups’ complain of a nanny state. Nothing actually improves.
What may be the correct way to deal with this?

Filed under: Culture,South Asia
20th April, 2006

Sikh goalie forced to take off kara

by Sunny at 1:56 pm    

A young Sikh footballer had to have his religious bracelet removed with wire-cutters before the referee would allow the game to go ahead. Sonny Singh, 18, who plays in goal for West Didsbury and Chorlton FC, was told by match official Les Lever that it could be a danger on the pitch.

Sonny argued that it was an important symbol of his religion and hadn’t been off his wrist for seven years. He also pointed out that it would be covered by his goalkeeper’s gloves anyway. Sonny covered the bracelet with masking tape but the referee was unmoved and team-mates finally had to make a phone call to get someone to bring a set of wire-cutters to clip the metal band off. [Manc Evening News]

I don’t know where I stand on this. It would hardly be sacreliege to take it off for 90 minutes, on the other hand it posed no danger while being fully covered.

For the uninitiated, a kara is a steel bracelet – one of 5 Ks that baptised Sikhs are obliged to wear.

19th April, 2006

The poor, harassed Michelle Malkin

by Sunny at 6:20 pm    

It’s not strictly PP fare but I couldn’t resist, sorry. You have to love it though when a conservative blogger such as Michelle Malkin plays the race card. First, a quick recap of an ongoing controversy.

Malkin has been repeatedly publishing personal contact details of uni. students protesting against military recruiters on campuses. Inevitably, that attracted death threats towards the students. From Malkin’s readers that is expected, since their vocabulary rarely goes past “moonbats” and “anti-war thugs”. Then I just saw this piece, where our poor Malkin claims she’s getting death threats too! Not only that it says:

Michelle surmises that the Left feels a sense of betrayal with her; many feel that she should be on their side because they believe that is where all women and non-whites should be.

Race card alert! No Michelle, there are plenty of non-white right-wing women hardliners. They’re just not as pathetic as you.

Doctors planning to protest

by Sunny at 3:11 pm    

Hundreds doctors on the NHS, of Indian origin, are planning a demonstration outside the Department of Health on Friday to protest against recent changes to immigration laws. The change may hit up to 15,000 international medics.

The Guardian explains:

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said that an estimated 15,000 international trainee doctors seeking posts or working on short-term contracts will be unable to complete their training and be forced to go home because of a law brought in as part of last month’s overhaul of immigration, which ruled that junior doctors from outside the EU should only be eligible for jobs that cannot be filled by a “homegrown” candidate.

Dr Billoo Joy, from Kerala, India, came to England two years ago, and is on a two-year contract in Norwich which will not be renewed. “I am still around £2,000 in debt from doing my Plab [the test to allow doctors to practise in the UK] and paying rent. It’s been a real struggle. I didn’t expect further uncertainty.

“If I had been told four years ago that this would have been the case I never would have come, but now if I go back to India I will have lost that training and will have to start again with no hope of paying off my debts. Before it was difficult to get a job. Now it’s impossible.”

While I see the need to encourage home-grown doctors, the government has quickly passed the law without any regard for the doctors already here. They are left stranded, unable to finish their terms or pay off debts, because employers have been told to overlook them.

Shashi Tharoor in town

by Sunny at 2:28 am    

London-born Shashi Tharoor, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, is giving a talk tomorrow in London at the Nehru centre.

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Filed under: Events
18th April, 2006

Pro-democracy protests in Nepal…

by Sunny at 8:21 pm    

….now entering the 12th day. Pictures from here. This is excellent news. It’s about time Nepal had democracy. The people are stuck between an autocratic King on one side and the brutal Maoist rebels on the other.

17th April, 2006

Dealing with the rise of the BNP

by Sunny at 8:02 pm    

Is the BNP on the rise? Today’s Guardian certainly seems to think so. But, taking this simply as ‘people are becoming more racist’ or ‘this is unsurprising given unchecked immigration’ is being lazy. There are lots of reasons that the BNP has prospered in local elections rather than national elections, and I want to use this thread to formulate a more considered response. Peter Black for e.g. says:

In many ways that is fortunate as I am still having difficulty getting past my anger at [Margaret Hodge's] stupidity. I do not know if eight out of ten of voters in Barking and Dagenham were thinking of voting for the BNP before, but after this outburst it is almost certain that they are now.

It seems that Mrs Hodge has been talking to her electors but not listening. If many of them are considering voting for the BNP then it is because they are disillusioned with the Labour Government and the local Council. The BNP may be racists but it is not racists who they appeal to. Instead, they latch onto dissatisfaction and apply a simplistic and popularist solution to local problems. Often this can involve finding scapegoats, in all cases it involves casting themselves as an anti-establishment force who local people can identify with.

That’s hit the nail on the head. But there’s another problem. The traditional Asian response to the BNP has been to rush into the arms of the government and want some sort of censorship. Not only that, Labour has been comprehensively rubbish in putting forward the case for immigration (another area that needs dealing with).

We need to get more intelligent than that. More strategic. I plan to use this thread to gather some ideas and links of my own to formulate a more detailed response a bit later. Comments and ideas are welcome.

Update: Written an article for Comment Is Free to the same effect – drew a huge response.

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