30th November, 2006
29th November, 2006
The NGN manifestoâ€™s critics and responses continue. While theyâ€™ve been varied in both tone and maturity theyâ€™ve always been interesting to read (along with the resulting comments here and elsewhere). A Sivanandan (Director of the Institute of Race Relations) has chimed in with his thoughts:
It is absurd to think that we can speak of racism and religionism today without speaking of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the dismemberment of Palestine, the war on terror and the treatment meted out to asylum seekers and refugees – all of which have given “a certificate of respectability” to racism, anti-Muslim racism in particular, and worse, collapsed race into religion to produce a vicious cocktail of violence and mayhem.
The government’s strategy to remedy the social dislocation caused by its policies is not to admit that those may be wrong but to seal them with demands for integration and community cohesion. But integration into Britishness (as opposed to British society), together with the rejection of multiculturalism, amounts to assimilation. And community cohesion is not something that can be imposed from above. It arises in the course of a common struggle. The government’s version of community cohesion is a corollary of assimilation.
Yet the liberal elitists of the NGN are ready to go along with it, without recognising that New Labour has shifted the terms of debate from racism and deprivation to assimilation and community cohesion – and transferred the blame and the onus of change on to the minorities. [Via Comment is Free]
I’ll be on the excellent current affairs internet television station: 18 Doughty Street, in the evening from 9pm. Joining me, I believe, will be Ali Miraj.
Update: you can watch the video from here. Iain Dale says: “It was one of our best ever programmes!”
28th November, 2006
The problem with a lot of discussion around current affairs is a misunderstanding of identity politics. Identity trumps everything – it covers religion, race, culture, nationality, citizenship and a whole lot more. Understanding it not only makes us better at understanding the context of people’s actions, but also predicting their behaviour.
It is also a given that people have multiple identities and each matters more in different situations. Sometimes it is important to be able to transcend those identities and join with others on a common cause, without necessarily compromising your morals. For some a particular form of identity becomes so important (their race/religion usually) that they not only see everything through that prism but it becomes a mark of separation.
In February 2003 I marched in London against the Iraq war in fear that George Bush would royally screw it up (and make terrorism worse), because he previously showed little regard for the lives of non-Americans. I marched because I was against the death of innocent people, thinking that he would ultimately lead to more deaths in the Middle East than Saddam Hussain could get away with killing. The fact that I was marching to protect Muslims was immaterial to me or, I suspect, most of the approx 2 million others.
Of course many Muslims (and Muslim organisations) were there only because other Muslims were involved, and to many it didn’t matter. (I was there with Arif who is a pacifist anyway and in the latter camp). This is understandable – there was blanket coverage of 9/11 but little mention of the millions of Congolese who have died in recent years. Identity matters to journalists too.
But the primary point of the New Generation Network agenda was to say we need to go back to the basics of anti-prejudice – pushing universal progressive values instead of getting caught up in identity politics.
That meant not tolerating prejudice against black or white people; not accepting the demonisation of Muslims en-masse, and not turning a blind eye to the demonisation of Christians, Hindus or homosexuals; standing up against violence against women regardless of their race or religion.
People who want to oppose this agenda, on the left funnily enough, do so because they are so caught up in identity politics that they only want to promote their ‘tribe’ at the expense of others. The others don’t matter, only their own personal agendas do.
That, as I’ve said earlier, is a fool’s game in our current climate. Most of the big issues: institutional racism, terrorism, economic inequality, women’s rights, immoral foreign policy, the demonisation of Muslims en-masse, the assault on our civil liberties and free speech – require broad alliances and mass movements if they need to be tackled. They cannot be tackled with people following narrow agendas.
There were two good examples yesterday when people got this, beautifully. 1) Conor Foley, writing on Comment is free, and 2) Dave Hill, writing on Temperama, got it too. Both short articles are highly recommended.
Let’s all celebrate multiple identities. But we should not let them limit the extent of our compassion.
Police have appealed for witnesses today after two mourners were shot as they left a Sikh funeral in Birmingham. The double shooting happened at the Tollgate Shopping Precinct car park in Churchill Street, Smethwick, between 6 and 6.30pm yesterday.
Two men aged 49 and 28 from the Birmingham area were exiting the car park in their vehicle, when they were shot by a man, with what is believed to be a handgun. The 49-year-old man received a gun shot wound to his leg and the 28-year-old man was shot in his shoulder and pelvis. [24 Dash]
Anyone remember Shere Punjab? A source tells me that the shootings are connected to a newer crop of gang-members of SP trying to take over the Smethwick Gurudwara. Make of that what you will.
This has nothing to do with the Lozells shooting a few weeks ago.
Well well, I didn’t know the MCB and their entire clique were such avid readers of Pickled Politics that they were able to reference year old articles. But anyway, here is the reply I posted (slightly cleaned up) underneath Salma Yaqoob’s article today. Many of the points were also addressed in my CIF article yesterday.
27th November, 2006
On his own blog, preferring to eschew the high profile platform of Comment is Free (I did ask him), Yahya Birt has written a much more substantive, intelligent and considered reply to the NGN manifesto.
It is worth reading in full because he understands many of the points we make. But I’ll concentrate here on his criticisms (which have been condensed – read their full explanations on his site) and provide an answer from my own perspective rather than claiming to speak on behalf of others.
26th November, 2006
The Sunday Telegraph had an interesting article titled ‘Is this the last generation of British Jews?‘:
“The Jewish community in England, as in other parts of Europe, is demographically unviable,” he said. “It is a dying community, without even counting assimilation. They say that in order to remain stable, a community needs to average 2.2 children. I don’t think this is the case in Anglo-Jewry. Whatever the figure, when you add the devastating devaluation of assimilation and intermarriage, it is becoming smaller all the time.”
His comments are borne out by the decline in the outward expressions of Judaism, from weddings to synagogue attendance, and the disappearance of its cultural heritage, with Jewish architecture said to be more at risk than ever before.
It is the continual rise in the number of Jews marrying gentiles that poses the biggest challenge facing the community. In 1990, there were estimated to be about 340,000 Jews in Britain, but the population has declined by a fifth to only 270,000 today. According to the 1996 Jewish Policy Review, nearly one in two are marrying people who do not share their faith.
It is unnecessarily apocalyptic? Compared to British Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims there is probably less outward expressions of faith and lesser number of children being born. Inter-marriage is probably also a higher percentage. But then we know British Asian parents stress about the exact same issues regarding their own offspring. The article also states that while mainstream followers are in decline, the ultra-orthodox sections are growing, another parallel that can be drawn with Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities. The real issue is this:
However, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, the president-elect of Liberal Judaism, argues that this decline would not be as steep if synagogues were more welcoming to those who still identify with Judaism, but have married out. She argues that many people retain a residual sense of their Jewish heritage, which often grows as they approach marriage or starting a family.
Lady Neuberger believes that Anglo-Jewry is at a crossroads, faced with a choice between following the ultra-Orthodox path and risking becoming isolated, or embracing people such as Lynne Walmsley who have married out and are no longer considered Jewish by many Orthodox rabbis.
A dilemma that will increasingly be debated within other minority religions too I bet.
I love reading articles by CIF’s Soumaya Ghannoushi. They’re so flowery and full of passion with long meaningless prose that stretches the the text unnecessarily. But she does it with flair and I like that, even if she dances around the issue like a Bollywood heroine without making a succint point. In a reply to our manifesto she ends with the phrase: “the camel laboured and gave birth to a mouse.” That actually sums up all her articles.
This is the problem when academics try and be journalists; it turns out to be all hot air and indignation without structure and reference points. She certainly gets the boys all excited.
The article has something about citizenship, not confronting structural inequalities, some bizarre reference to “Edmund Burke’s critique of the French revolutionaries”, says we are apparently in bed with the Sufi Muslim Council, labours about the CEHR and then plugs her own talk at the end. Hello? Is there a point hidden in there somewhere?
She seems to think we were lining up behind Blair (she’ll find we actually blame the Labour govt more than anyone); or promoting the SMC (no, we don’t want any sole representatives) or that we planned to write exclusively about the “structural” challenges we faced.
The last point betrays a fundamental misreading of our aims. The problems can be debated until the cows come home but to get anywhere you need a more effective and constructive conversation with parties that are geared towards the same goal.
Our central point has been that you cannot make alliances with bigots who do not have an interest in community cohesion. Our other point was that “structural problems” can be resolved but should not be politicised into being specifically about race or religion otherwise racists will use that against you and make statements such as “blacks are poor because they’re stupid” or “Muslims fight in gangs because it’s in their religion”.
Such nuanced points clearly missed Ms Ghannoushi by completely and she launched into a prose-laden tirade designed to protect the hegemony of her friends. That is hardly surprising but by doing so she only betrays the Muslim communities she claims to be looking out for.
I replied underneath her article, to which she replied, to which I replied. Then she ran away.
24th November, 2006
Well this should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has been following the “race-relations industry” for a while. Oh most of you haven’t? I’m not surprised, it is actually rather boring and banal. Allow me to bring you up to speed.
Lee Jasper and Trevor Phillips hate each other. In fact, I’m told, they try and avoid being in the same room as each other. Actually the London Mayor and Jasper together hate Phillips. Today’s Observer says all out war has been declared.
I don’t know if it’s the last ever, or just the last for a while, but I definitely need a break. This is not about anything that anyone in particular has said or done on the site recently.
In the meantime, here’s an open thread. Weekend plans, interesting news, you all know the rules. Nothing political, no political comments, no links to any political sites. Any comments along those lines will be deleted.
Have fun, all.
Sunny adds: Off-topic, Claire Simpson has emailed in to say she has started a blog on the collapse of Farepak and the impact it has had on families in similar situations.
Support Unfarepack, spread the word!
23rd November, 2006
22nd November, 2006
I don’t usually find I’m on the same side as ol’ Fiddy but I think he has a point.
50 Cent is accusing Hollywood of double standards after seeing the new James Bond holding a gun in posters for Casino Royale – a year after billboards of him sporting a weapon caused a furore. The rapper – real name Curtis Jackson – is appalled by the fact no one has raised a fuss about Daniel Craig’s gun-toting posters when he was castigated for posing with a weapon in billboards for movie Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.
He says, “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ comes out and they want to protest because they see a gun in my hand but James Bond comes out or Mr + Mrs Smith will come out with guns and it’s acceptable. “You can see any kind of gun there is to see on the covers of films. You can go in Blockbuster and see every gun that was ever made.” The rap star calls for one universal ruling about weapons in movie posters – and he’ll accept whatever the Hollywood film police decide.
He adds, “Let’s not start with 50 Cent and stop with 50 Cent. Let’s do it everywhere else and make it unacceptable period. I would gladly join the rest of entertainment if we get there.” [Contact Music]
Yeah, funny that. No one has yet accused James Bond of glamourising violence.
This is the motion being proposed by the Cambridge Union at a debate to be held tomorrow evening. They have invited me to debate against this motion. Anne Atkins (Telegraph agony aunt) and Lynette Burrows (author, accused of homophobic comments on the BBC) will be in favour, and Lindsey German (Respect candidate for Mayor of London) will be speaking against. There will also be a student speaker on either side of the motion.
Just great, I’m on the side of a Respect party candidate. I’m happy with my stance although sometimes I do believe PC goes too far, so I’ll be trying to take the middle ground. Given my crap oratory skills (points noted Nyrone), I need more practise so this is a good opportunity. What do readers think? Any examples?
21st November, 2006
Unsurprisingly there have been two kinds of responses to the agenda published by the New Generation Network.
1) That we simply to install ourselves as alternative “community leaders” or push someone else in place. And that we don’t want minority groups to be organised. This completely misses the central points made in the manifesto. We don’t want to see anyone claiming to represent vast swathes of people without a democratic mandate. If we started saying we represent other people, or that we want someone else to be in their place – then it would be hypocritical. We have stated clearly we want to see organisations designated and treated as lobby groups not “representatives”.
In addition to the obvious point that they cannot hope to represent contradictory points of view, we have also laid out why this system serves only to help the government in politicising race and religion, and in shifting responsibility. And yet, Inayat Bunglawala and Salma Yaqoob have studiously avoided those points.
2) Gary Younge says we should not be attacking “our own” when the priority should be white racists. Again, I believe this is a fatal flaw in the present day anti-racist movement. How can you hope to demand equality and social justice and bring community cohesion when you are allying yourself with people who don’t have that agenda?
The BNP, insitutional racism and soft racism are absolutely a major issue. But the platform is anti-racism, anti-bigotry and anti-prejudice. That cannot be shared with those who do not espouse those values completely. Otherwise you lose your direction and fail miserably.
Lastly, I also intend to respond to Frank Fisher’s article later on the difference between race and religion. That is an interesting discussion in itself.
19th November, 2006
It was the seat which senior Conservatives believed would only pick “a white, middle-class male”. But Tories in Witham, Essex have wrongfooted their critics by choosing an Asian woman as their candidate – rejecting a sitting MP in the process.
Priti Patel beat James Brokenshire, MP for Hornchurch, to the right to stand in the new constituency, which the Conservatives should win with ease at the next election. [Guardian]
If elected at the next General Election, Priti Patel will be the first Asian woman MP in the country I believe. That is providing Sayeeda Warsi does not tip her to the post. I also hear that Labour is planning to put up a young-ish Asian woman in Southall after Piara Khabra abdicates his little fiefdom. Or maybe Rupa Huq if she gets a good seat?
A Tory party member called me today to declare (a bit too eagerly): “see, we are not the nasty party any longer!” Priti Patel was elected by 300 local constituency members, not just dropped in by senior party members. So there is still hope yet.
17th November, 2006
The Guardian’s Comment is Free website today publishes a ‘Race and faith: a new agenda‘, a sort of a manifesto that I spearheaded and is signed by over 30 writers, commentators, journalists, academics and barristers. The list of signatories is expanding as we speak as emails keep coming in. The newly launched website for New Generation Network will have a full list from later today updated constantly.
I have also written an article for the Guardian’s comment pages introducing the document and laying out why this system of “community leaders” is hurting the people it is supposed to protect. Read that here.
Coverage elsewhere: Guardian news, Today programme, Five Live and Asian Network (11:15am)
(entire article re-written)
16th November, 2006
It seems there is a bit of tension in Birmingham because of recent violence. On Wednesday, Meshack Tesfa Bernard-Brown was shot dead on his 20th birthday. The police are declining to say much but a source tells me it was an Asian gang. Or to be more specific, a bunch of British Pakistanis. A 25 year old man has been arrested and some are still on the run.
It was apparently some sort of a revenge attack. I’m told they they also got the “wrong guy”, which makes retaliatory attacks all the more likely unfortunately. This isn’t racial but the kind of gang-violence that has increasingly become a feature of Birmingham. Meshack’s father and “community leaders” have appealed for calm but what influence they have over criminal gangs is arguable. I’m not even sure why people make it into an issue of race when it is straight forward crime. Here’s hoping it doesn’t spark into something bigger. RIP Meshack.
15th November, 2006
Prez Musharraf sees some sense shock.
A Briton sentenced to death in Pakistan has had his punishment commuted, according to a Pakistani official.
He will now be eligible for release having served 18 years in a Pakistani jail for the crime. The request for his life to be spared was reportedly made by Prince Charles, who recently toured Pakistan.
Mushy looks like he’s had an attack of common sense recently. Pakistan is also finally doing something about the blasted hudood laws. About f*cking time.
Pakistan’s national assembly has voted to amend the country’s strict Sharia laws on rape and adultery. Until now rape cases were dealt with in Sharia courts. Victims had to have four male witnesses to the crime – if not they faced prosecution for adultery. Now civil courts will be able to try rape cases, assuming the upper house and the president ratify the move.
Religious parties boycotted the vote, saying the bill encouraged “free sex”.
What they actually said was: “Oh no! No more free sex!” The journalist was just being polite.
BBC News is reporting:
A US Army soldier has pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and helping murder her and her family. A criminal investigation began in June into the alleged killing by US troops of the family of four in their home in Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad.
Four US soldiers are alleged to have helped a former private – who has since left the army – to plan, carry out and cover up the attack. Two of the soldiers could face the death penalty if found guilty.
Update: CBS News has more.
14th November, 2006
In an earlier article on freedom of speech and expression, I said this right was our only real protection against state intimidation and preserving democracy and human rights. And yet it annoys me when most debates around FoS or civil liberties around Muslims, as if they present the real danger. No, the government does because only it has the absolute power to take away those rights.
A few weeks ago the government announced that the Freedom of Information Act was costing them too much money, time and hassle and so maybe scaled down. This is a brazen attempt at censorship but no real furore has followed.
ENGLAND spin bowler Monty Panesar was racially abused by an Australian cricket fan in a warm-up match ahead of the eagerly anticipated Ashes series, according to a report.
The bearded Sikh was called a “stupid Indian” during a tour match against New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday, according to The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
The incident comes after Australian cricket authorities warned fans that “idiots” would not be tolerated at the grounds in the wake of racial abuse hurled at South African players during a tour earlier this year. [The Australian]
via Dave Hill. It’s not like this doesn’t happen regularly.
13th November, 2006
… tomorrow I believe. Yesterday the Media Guardian had a story on the new English edition of the channel.
Originally due on air in late 2005, then spring of this year, then September, the long-delayed 24-hour global channel, providing news with a Middle Eastern perspective will at last start on Wednesday. Ask any of those dashing around its impressive hi-tech newsroom – all open plan studios and glass offices – and they will tell you the delay was all about technical hitches.
The channel is planning to off er high definition pictures and will broadcast from one of four studios throughout the day, following the sun to deliver the news in turn from Kuala Lumpur, Doha, London and Washington. Much of the global news battle is about sheer size and heft, and al-Jazeera International (AJI) will not go short as it goes head to head with CNN and the BBC. It has 18 bureaux around the world, 60 when taken together with the Arabic channels’ offices, and 500 staff of its own.
The other “negative stuff ‘ – the perception that al-Jazeera is a mouthpiece for terrorists, the baseless rumour that it broadcast beheadings – is already dissipating and will drift away as the scales drop from western eyes, Phillips confidently predicts. [Rageh] Omaar is more forthright. “I get very annoyed and frustrated. I have worked a lot with al-Jazeera journalists across the world. Every single assertion is based on hearsay and is totally devoid of fact. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Arabic channel and I think their journalism is excellent,” he says, pointing out that it gets just as much flak from Middle Eastern regimes as the west.
I have in the past said Al-Jaz is like Fox News. On reflection it may be more like CNN; sticking to the values of its main viewer base but taking a degree of flak from all sides.
I don’t feel the urge to do what many people sick of the BBC or CNN do however: hail it as a new media saviour that will ‘tell the truth’. It will simply show a different side to the same story which will probably be as biased as CNN. If there was a way to juxtapose both channels together it would probably be the most balanced.
More media fragmentation / choice… better or worse?
You heard it here first. Though I can’t be too specific what “it” is… erm, yet. Next week will be a big week for the reasons why Pickled Politics was launched and something I’ve been working on with many other talented and intelligent people.
On 17th and 18th Nov (coming Friday and Saturday), Goodenough College is hosting a debate on “multi-culturalism”. The full flyer is here (PDF). You will notice that on Saturday afternoon, on the last panel, I’m scheduled to speak. I am generally not a great speaker but my aim will be to lay out the future of race-relations, multi-culturalism and modern Britain. The timing is perfect because next week we will be launching a big debate on the same issue.
I wish I could say more but until everything is finalised I don’t want to show my cards. On top of that I have a big article to write for the Media Guardian so I’m absolutely snowed under with work. Blogging will be a bit light this week I’m afraid.
11th November, 2006
I’d heard of Kriss Donald only fleetingly before the three scumbags were convicted for his horrific murder last week. His name was frequently cited by BNP sympathisers as a supposed example of the media playing down racist murder perpetrated against whites.
Now that we know media restrictions prevented extensive coverage until last week, the trolls have already moved on to other victims who can be used as a means for their political ends. To their immense credit Kriss’s parents did their best to ensure he was not used as a recruitment flyer for the BNP.
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Blimey, it is open thread time again. I completely forgot about it. Too busy cooking delicious things and generally being efficient, organised and disciplined. Oh yes. This is the birth of a new Katy that you are witnessing right here and now.
Except for having forgotten about the open thread, which was an old-Katy relapse. Or possibly a quantum-level evil twin Katy temporarily possessing my body and making me forget about being disciplined and instead causing me to act in a disorganised and forgetful way, which is COMPLETELY OUT OF CHARACTER.
Or at least is completely out of character as of this morning when the new organised Katy was born.
I would love to talk about my new organisedness and disciplinedness and punctualityness for much much longer but talking about it has already made me late to pick up my friend, who is waiting for me at the bus station.
So what I am doing here, really, is putting down a sort of marker, and I will write more exciting stuff about my Rebirth tomorrow.
If I remember.
In the meantime, do please disguise the poor quality of this open thread with some funny and interesting stuff in the comments box. I thank you.