31st July, 2006
30th July, 2006
The production company adapting Monica Ali’s book Brick Lane for film has decided to avoid filming scenes on location due to threats of violence and blockades.
Yesterday around a hundred protestors peacefully marched through the street to register their anger at the film. They held placards with slogans such as “Monica’s book is full of lies”. When a young Asian man, who declined to give his name, asked the protestors if they had actually read the book, they grew angry and a scuffle was averted by one of the organisers.
The protest was much smaller and different to promises made by Mr Abdus Salique last week. He told the Guardian newspaper last week: “[If] she has the right to freedom of speech, we have the right to burn books. We will do it to show our anger. We don’t like Monica Ali.” [Asians in Media]
What’s also interesting is that a verbal scuffle has broken out between Salman Rushdie and Germaine Greer.
I didn’t like Greer’s article at all. Firstly, who is she to assume that Monica Ali wrote the book because she hates Sylhetis? Are Asian people not allowed to write about non-Asians now? If I write a book about a white character who does something wrong, will I have Germaine Greer telling me it’s just because I hate whites? The second point is about authenticity. I quote Gautam Malkani:
On one level a novelist should not have to represent anything other than the characters in the novel. It seems to me that if you’re an ethnic novelist from a small community, there would be extra criteria on you to be authentic and representative in a way that other white novelists don’t have. It’s just stupid.
Now please shut up Ms Greer.
Update: Also see Johann Hari article [tip AsifB], and I’ve written something for comment is free.
29th July, 2006
Ha! You thought I was going to reveal my grand plan didn’t you? Or maybe you didn’t *cough*. Anyway, now you can tell the world what you would do if given the chance, by some bizarre stroke of bad luck, to rule the world. Clairwil has created an interesting new blog called Postcard Manifesto, which doubles up as a social experiment, and invites people to send in postcards with their ideas. I just need to find a postcard big enough to contain my manifesto. Suffice to say it will contain the words “free chocolate”. What about you?
28th July, 2006
But it is not a very openthready weekend for me, I am afraid, because I stupidly volunteered to interview new recruits for work and am stuck in an antiquated building with no air conditioning for the whole entire weekend whilst everyone else is out having fun in the lovely slightly less hot and sticky weather.
So as I have to work and you don’t you can all entertain yourselves. Go on, off you go. But you could start by sharing your weekend plans with us here. You know, if you really want to.
In the meantime I must go and interview sweaty palmed newbies. Their fate rests in my hands. The power! THE POWER!
27th July, 2006
Over on comment is free, Khalid Mir – one of the most intelligent writers there, has put together something on the meaning of happiness. Taking that a step further for a lazy Friday afternoon, here are my views on happiness, presented as dialogue from the film Fight Club.
You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.
You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.
I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect. I say let’s evolve. Let the chips fall where they may.
26th July, 2006
I was wondering why we hadnâ€™t heard anything from the loony bunch from the caves. Almost on cue comes another al-Qaida message. And funnily enough it sounds very similar to one by an American politician.
25th July, 2006
Unsurprisingly, Gene over at Harry’s Place is busy trying to make excuses for the deaths of four UN observers killed by Israeli bombing. He says there is “absolutely no evidence”. His defensive attitude is slightly bizarre given the Israeli army knew exactly where the Observers were and were warned several times of their actions. No wonder Garry Smith calls it a joke.
But, you know, shit happens in war. As we are constantly told. Sure, gang fights happen all the time too and sometimes shit happens then too. It doesn’t make it any more right. Rather than making excuses or try to fudge the issue, it’s much better to accept that it was wrong and should be condemned. You maintain much more credibility then.
And the latest is: Israeli warplanes bombed 100 targets in southern Lebanon yesterday and one family of seven civilians was killed. More than 400 Lebanese have been killed in total. Hizbullah yesterday fired some 70 rockets into northern Israel, killing a 15-year-old girl. More than 40 Israelis have died in the violence, including 18 who have been killed by rockets.
Update: Let me clarify a point I made earlier. The Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has expressed “deep regret” over the deaths. He has not admitted the bombings may have been deliberate. I mistakenly gave that impression earlier.
But Annan is right to have suspicions they were deliberate, given the warnings, Israel’s advanced precision technology, and the IDF’s lack of attention to civilian casualties in Lebanon. If Hizbullah said all Israeli casualties were mistakes since they were aiming at military structures – would you believe them? I suspect Gene would treat such claims with disdain. Why exactly should we take the IDF at face value, given they want to bomb Lebanon to kingdom come and believe this is a clash of civilisations?
There is, quite clearly, a war taking place on two fronts; the military and the media. I think it’s important to seperate the two. The internet has made it very easy to get both sides of the story, and it has exacerbated calls of bias on both sides.
Take the BBC. Conflict and war inflates their importance and viewership, yet they cannot enjoy the relentless accusations of pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian bias. How do we measure it? How do we make objective conclusions? Do images like this help the situation or do they simply widen the divide, making peace more difficult?
The Beeb haphazardly touches on the debate, like today, but I’m not sure they want to engage fully and constructively. Their recent report on the issue seemed more like a fudge. Though I find BBC News more palatable than say CNN or Al-Jazeera, CNN International and Channel 4 News seem to beat them on breadth of reporting and analysis respectively.
There was a brilliant essay in the New York Times last year that predicted a growing number of media outlets and fragmenting audiences would force them to focus on particular audiences to build a solid base. So for example as Fox News became more popular by pandering to the Republicans and the right, CNN was forced to follow suit in order to avoid losing that audience.
You can see that on blogs too. It has become harder to have a middle ground – people either want to post up pictures of dead Lebanese or Israelis being bombed. Or they avoid the issue. Some national newspapers have tried to maintain a balanced approach by publishing conflicting comment pieces that support both sides but I don’t think they help – people will simply take on board what fits into their prejudices. And the propaganda war carries on.
24th July, 2006
I’m a big fan of Professor Amartya Sen and he is in London all this week giving lectures to promote his new book: Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny. I’m currently reading it (along with a few others) and the first few chapters are very intellectually stimulating.
23rd July, 2006
As I step out of the shaka, I feel a warm sense of relief. Mr.Chiplunkar asks me how it wasâ€¦ I find my self mumbling: â€™twas great… But my mind was already calculating what other Picklers would say. What a story it would be; me going into the very lairs of RSS while King Sunny goes on about mowing the lawn at his Middlesex Manor.
22nd July, 2006
What does Mr Murdoch think of David Cameron, our increasingly likely Prime Minister in 2009? Well, “not much” according to a recent interview in the United States (via Greenslade). The Financial Times states it would potentially reduce “chances that Mr Murdoch’s media empire would give him its backing in the next general election”.
Now this is a bit bizarre given only a month ago Murdoch told The Australian he could see himself backing Cameron for the next election and wanted an 18 month “poll dance”, as Graham called it.
So what’s he playing at? People pay attention because he controls the editorial slants of The Sun, News of the World, Times and Sunday Times. Either he’s playing a game by turning hot or cold towards Blair/Brown/Cameron to keep his options open (which is what I would do); or he is genuinely confused and keeps changing his mind on their recent performance. Maybe Cameron has not been slavish enough towards US foreign policy in recent weeks for Murdoch and that annoys him.
Unfortunately that means the politicians will keep bending over backwards to please Murdoch as he plays the promiscuous suitor waiting until the last minute, or until the tide has decisely moved in one direction, to make his choice. Clever bastard.
Following on from my last post, it seems Glamsham has hurriedly changed Bollywood actress Rimi Sen’s racist quote from ‘He can make even a black African look pretty‘, to a more neutral ‘He can make anyone look pretty‘ (thanks Gaurav). I didn’t get in touch with them over it.
But I have contacted Yahoo, who still carry the original statement (screenshot). Unless Glamsham publishes an apology on that article for publishing the statement, I’ll still be pressing Yahoo to take them off the feed.
21st July, 2006
It’s hot, it’s sticky, it’s the weekend, it’s a thread. You know what to do.
Oh, all right, all right, I know that doesn’t really cut it. It is just that the heat is so hot today and I feel rather listless and floppy and really only in the mood for lying around whilst tall, handsome, muscle-bound men (who, for the record, can be fair, dark, black African or navy blue, I am not picky) bring me delicious iced drinks and peel grapes for me and feed me icecream and so on.
Normally I ban anything topical, serious or political from the weekend hot and sticky thread. However, I am going to break my own rule and, following on from Rohin’s post, add that being fair really is not all it’s cracked up to be. Being a redhead, and therefore about as fair as it gets, I am not really equipped to cope with heat. Whilst other girls happily peel off their clothes and frolic in the noon sun, slowly turning a smooth caramel brown, I can be spotted skulking pinkly in the background shade shrouded in a floppy hat and big baggy shirt, unless I coat myself in Factor 50 sunblock, which is thick and white like gloss paint and makes me look as if I have coated myself from top to toe in full-fat Philadelphia, which is not really the look to which I aspire. And I daren’t forget to apply it. Last Saturday I forgot to put any sunblock on and was trapped in traffic in an open-top car for almost an hour. At first it was all fine. Then the redness began. By the time the wedding had finished I was quite warm. By the time the dancing began I was bright red and sore across my chest, arms and shoulders, except for a diagonal stripe across my chest where my seatbelt was. I was referred to as the Human Stop Sign all evening on the Saturday. Oh how
they we laughed. And all because of an hour in the sun.
Still, this weekend will be better. The terrible burns have faded, I have a blind date tomorrow afternoon and I intend to spend the rest of the weekend doing some serious lolling. What is everyone else doing?
I would hazard a guess that the whiter a country, the more a tan is valued. I’m sure some smart Alec will name an exception, but in a country like Estonia, despite only seeing one other non-white person, everyone was my colour.
Yet far from nordic blondes, in the Middle East, Africa and across Asia, women have a very different ideal of beauty. It’s something we’ve discussed a few times before on PP, but skin lightening continues to be huge business, which shows no signs of flagging – indeed, quite the opposite.
Due to the immense scale of the international demand for skin lightening products, it’s a difficult topic to approach in a humble blog post. One could examine the phenomenon area by area.
20th July, 2006
Rimi Sen who plays Nirali confesses that she also felt that she was a boy in the company of Ajay, Tusshar, Sharman and Arshad. “I play a sweet and beautiful girl in the film. The best thing that I like about the film is that though it has four heroes, I am the only heroine. Rohit Shetty is amazing as a director. He can make even a black African look pretty“. [Yahoo India, via POP]
She. Did. Not. Just. Say. That. I’m in shock. This is a feed from this article.
It is common knowledge that Bollywood and Indians in general are obsessed about fair skin, but this sort of racism takes the biscuit. It’s more surprising that Glamsham printed the quote and Yahoo India carried it. Their policy is clear about not carrying racist material In case Yahoo take the article down, I have a screenshot.
My suggestion: Write about this story and / or contact Yahoo through this form or email them and express at your disgust at Yahoo carrying the story and demand they pull Glamsham off their feed. We need to force Glamsham to apologise and make it clear racism will not be tolerated. Only a few news outlets have carried so far.
I don’t mean the headline in a figurative way. The BNP really is poor:
The BNP “seriously overstretched itself financially” in 2005, chairman Nick Griffin said in its annual accounts.
The cash crunch was caused by a dip in donations coupled with the cost of fighting a record 118 seats at the general election, said Mr Griffin. And although cashflow had improved, “efforts to permanently increase income or trim expenditure are clearly needed,” he added.
BNP membership went up by just 146 to 6,502 in 2005, the accounts reveal. This is despite Mr Griffin claiming a “fresh wave” of members joining after the 7 July attacks on London – which he said “startlingly vindicated” its views.
Britons unwilling to fall for BNP racism shock! Or not.
Some may feel the BNP will have done better this year given the local election and Margaret Hodge’s stupidity but I doubt it. General election coverage last year gave the BNP a big publicity boost too, as did the silly campaign to stop them from broadcasting their party political broadcast. And still they floundered. Heh.
Update: Leon points to Iain Dale, where the speculation is the BNP and UKIP may merge! Yay! Finally we’ll get a racist party worth making fun of.
Ritualistic killings are a not-uncommon problem for the Metropolitan police. The tragic circumstances of ‘torso on the Thames’, Child B and Victoria Climbie have resulted in repeated enquiries and investigations, without broader understanding. Now, Operation Violet, a taskforce has released a long-delayed report into factors involved in these killings.
Whilst the common perception of ritual killings is that it’s something for the Afro-Caribbean population to sort out, it’s interesting to note that five cases out of the thirty-eight investigated, were of South Asian origin, with four of these being Muslim and just the one Hindu. Such superstitions are often popular throughout Asian cultures, making the fact that comparatively few Asian children have been involved in such incidents, a very encouraging one. The five children investigated may represent the tip of an iceberg; medical models, such as the South East London Screening Study have long demonstrated that each case presenting to authorities has more often than not, got a comparable counterpart within the community.
Comparatively little investigation has been made into the fate of adults who die from similar means. The barbaric killing of Subramaniam Sivakumar bears shades of resemblance to a ritual killing. What is more interesting is the similarity of the gang responsible to LTTE front-organisations operating over the last few years. Extortion and threats are commonplace amongst the Tamil business community. Dissent has been more pronounced during recent years. Those who committed this brutal killing & attempted to prevent its investigation (the chief witness has been intimidated into hiding) should not be allowed to intimidate others in their community.
This incident should serve as a reminder to bolster, not silence the protest against terrorism.
It’s about individual rights regarding relationships and who you can have them with. Sunny has hit the nail on the head regarding ‘honour’ killings but in my opinion it’s a much broader problem…
19th July, 2006
Indian kids in America are quite known for their spelling powess, as over-representation on national contests has frequently proved. But clearly that talent does not extend to bureaucrats back in India. You thought Big Bhaiya was funny, get a load of this.
After banning the blogspot domain and others last week they have apparently clarified which websites they are after. Read this article, and then read Gawker’s take on their complete and hilarious incompetence.
(please don’t ban us)
Update: More hilarity and domain names.
I’ve just returned from the joint hottest place in the UK on the hottest ever July day (Teddington – 39.3), so please forgive any speling and gramer errers. Hence, something light whilst we all swelter.
The Beeb today announces that Dutch behemoth’s subcontinental arm, Endemol India, are planning a celeb Big Brother Bharat, although – no sex please, we’re Indian. A spokesperson for the production company said “India is a conservative society and is not ready for the raunchy scenes that so characterise the programmes in the West.”
Muslims are starting a new body to combat extremism, saying not enough is being done by community leaders. A number of senior politicians, including a minister, are attending the launch of the Sufi Muslim Council at Westminster in London.
The group’s leaders say that it represents a silent majority frustrated with slow progress since the London bombings in July last year.
Haras Rafiq, co-founder of the council, said the SMC had already formed a partnership with the British Muslim Forum (BMF), an organisation emerging in the Midlands and northern England that represents 300 mosques.
The BMF was recently at the centre of a deal that brought competing Muslim bodies together to develop a watchdog for standards in mosques. [BBC News]
Good luck to them. We have always supported a big diversity of voices from our communities and these people will be a welcome addition.
[hat tip: Expat teacher]
18th July, 2006
The Sunday Times has apologised and paid Â£20,000 to a lawyer it falsely accused of advising immigrants wanting a passport to enter into a fake gay marriage.
The Sunday paper admitted its reporter never interviewed Dr Akbar Malik of immigration legal firm Malik Law Chambers in the east end of London, for its February 19 article headlined “Migrants use gay marriage loophole”.
The story wrongly alleged that Dr Malik had advised a Sunday Times undercover reporter on how to obtain a passport by entering into a sham civil partnership. Dr Malik was in fact overseas at the time. [Guardian]
Wow, you’d never think the British media made up stories to demonise immigrants, would you?
17th July, 2006
Hey Picklers, I’m back in town. I hesitated posting up anything about the kerfuffle surrounding the shooting of Monica Ali’s Brick Lane until now, as I wanted to offer a slightly different slant to what has been reported in the media so far.
Sunny has already thoroughly addressed the issue over at AiM and I advise you to have a read if this story is new to you. I have just watched an entirely Asian panel on the BBC News discuss the book and the plans to begin filming.
Obviously any threats of violence or actual violence are inexcusable – but do the protestors have a valid reason to be unhappy? It seems like a familiar theme here PP, an Asian author is attacked for their ‘unrealistic’ portrayal of community X because they are not from community X. True to form, Bangladeshi residents in and around Brick Lane are unhappy with how they are depicted in a work of fiction. Monica Ali is mixed race, middle class and not from Brick Lane – hence this book must be rubbish.
When the Picklers met last month for the first time, in the ensuing discussion we generally agreed on one point at least: we need to challenge the dominant patriarchal nature of Asian families.
It is my belief this needs a lot of debate and direct action. It is also a fight that the current crop of “community leaders” and race relations expert are afraid to raise because they are bound by the desire not to offend anyone. This is not how we work.
The sentencing following Samaira Nazir’s sickening murder has brought this most important of issues to the surface: “honour killings”.
So, what avenues are open to us to challenge this?
They used to be called Al-Muhajiroun after they split from Hizb ut Tahrir under the “leadership” of Omar Bakri. They then disbanded and re-emerged as Al-Ghurabaa. With Sheikh Goat hiding in Lebanon, Anjem Choudhary has more lately been leading the so-called “saved sect”. The government has finally decided to ban them. Thank the lord.
Though, Islamophobia Watch still calls it ‘state opression’.
Update: David T think they should not be banned, but I disagree with him on CiF.
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The CPS has decided not to charge any officers in relation to the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting. They have instead decided to pursue the Met Police. I’m ambivalent about the situation. The general public and media seem to be ‘forgiving’ of the police and individual officers when they make mistakes. Even if those mistakes end in the death of innocent civilians. I hold no grudge against the officers concerned but I can’t help but compare this situation to that of a doctor, nurse or teacher in charge when tragedy occurs.
The notion of ‘killer medics’ or ‘incompetent teachers’ is, to my mind anyway, far more widespread than similar feelings about the police. I’m sure the press will write righteous editorials on how the police are protecting us from harm and that accidents occur. I broadly support the decision of the CPS, charge the organisation not the individuals.
Retire or transfer those involved if need be but don’t find scapegoats for the failings of an entire system. I just wish the CPS, the law, the police and society would think likewise when dealing with other professionals in a similar situation.