1) I think the actual report is more interesting than the silly headline statements because there is a lot of interesting discussion and polling inside it. It is worth reading without the results of the poll.Continue Reading...
Despite attempts by some to show there is lots of opposition to this Bill – the opposite is clearly the case. Even among Asian peers there is near unanimity that it is needed.Continue Reading...
What a surprise – MPs want an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act. Conservative party MP David MacLean is trying to quietly pass such a bill through (via Unity). So far only the Guardian seems to have noticed this:
A bill to exempt MPs from inquiries made under the Freedom of Information Act was sneaked through the Commons last Friday without any debate. On the day Westminster was convulsed by the revelations surrounding the dawn arrest of Ruth Turner, the senior Downing Street aide, in the cash-for-honours investigation, MPs approved on the nod the second reading of a bill to exclude parliament from the Freedom of Information Act.
Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, who last month won a decision at the information tribunal forcing the disclosure of more details of MPs’ travel expenses, said last night: ” This proposal is outrageous. What particularly amazes me is that everyone knows government whips can easily object to a private member’s bill and stop it going anywhere. In this case the government whips were silent, which I can only assume means they are secretly sympathetic to this proposal as it fits in with their plans to curb the Freedom of Information Act.”
Suffice to say MPs should not be allowed to escape FoI inquiries. Index on Censorship magazine has published a strong letter against this, with support from English PEN and Article 19.
The bill now seeks to put MPs beyond the reach of the Act, when surely they should be the most accountable individuals in the UK. In addition, it proposes that Parliament as a whole, the most important of all our public institutions, be exempted from the Act.
This would put the UK out of step even with the newest and most fragile European democracies, such as Bosnia and Serbia, who have recently legislated to open up their parliaments to public scrutiny.
Wtf? Why isn’t more noise being made about this? Unity reckons bloggers should be making a fuss over this and I agree.
What should be said about the Policy Exchange report out today, authored by Munira Mirza, Abi Senthilkumaran and Zein Ja’far? Some of the headline statements from a poll informing this research say that:
- 59% of Muslims would prefer to live under British law, compared to 28% who would prefer to live under sharia law. 37% of 16-24 year olds prefer sharia compared to 17% of 55+ year olds.
- 36% of 16-24 year olds believe if a Muslim converts to another religion they should be punished by death, compared to 19% of 55+ year olds.
- 7% â€œadmire organisations like Al-Qaeda that are prepared to fight the Westâ€™. 13% of 16-24 year olds agreed with this statement compared to 3% of 55+ year olds.
There is a saying attributed to Guru Nanak Dev (founder of Sikhism) something along the lines of – a world without problems and challenges is a dreamworld. A shorter and modern version would be: ‘no pain no gain’. I believe the findings present a challenge to British society that we need to sort out together and to this extent I’ve written an article for Comment is Free.
This is not something to be depressed about but rather an opportunity to make our democracy even more vibrant. It’s like the maxim goes: If people are not buying your product, it’s not because they don’t want to listen but because you haven’t sold it properly.
Meanwhile Madeleine Bunting is pounding ‘liberal progressives’ over the head with a pan because of the Catholic gay adoption controversy. Given that I fit into that category, and because I quite admire MB (no, really!), I’m going to take this up. She says:
Increasingly, the stridency with which the non-religious attack the religious belies their own profound insecurity – that the progress they like to attribute to western or enlightenment values is a much-compromised property. It is challenged by almost everything we see around us: climate change, rising levels of mental ill-health, growing economic inequality fuelled by debt and hyper-consumerism.
The atheist attack on the religious is a continual source of annoyance to me too, and I have argued against it, but we can easily turn MB’s argument around. What if the intolerance of religious groups is a result of their own insecurity: watching the world become more secular, chaotic and difficult to understand?
The last 100 years or so have seen conservatives lose almost all the social battles – liberal progressives have reigned supreme and continue to set the agenda on social (if not economic) policy. The battle over gay adoption is simply a continuation of those politics and in our multi-cultural world it is even more important to stress equality and civil rights for all. The only way the religious can get anywhere is if their liberal elements come out of hiding and take over the agenda – showing that religion can also be a force for good not just strife. Madeleine may see it as an ‘absurd reaction’, I think it is business as usual and an important step towards universal equality. Booyakasha!
Writing in the Observer yesterday David Cameron provided some clues on how his vision for a more cohesive Britain may shape up. You could say it was his response to Tony Blair’s speech in December on multiculturalism, with a promise he would “set out a clear and consistent path” with specific recommendations this week. I may bring you running commentary as they come, but it may be worth unpacking his article in the meantime.Continue Reading...
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, the annual rememberance event now in its 6th year. The date is chosen, according to Wikipedia, because today is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Union in 1945. A poll published last week found:
Nearly half of Britons believe a Holocaust could erupt in the UK, according to a YouGov survey. The poll of 2,400 Britons, released to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27, found that 41% of people thought another Holocaust was possible and 36% believed most people would do nothing to stop it. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s chairman, Stephen Smith, described the findings as “alarming”. The survey also found that 79% were unaware that black people were persecuted by the Nazis, and 50% did not know that lesbians, gays, disabled people and the Roma were targeted.
The human tendency to explain away hatred and bigotry still continues to alarm me, but only by continuing to remember such a huge blot on our collective history can we build a better future.
Thank the deity of your choice -it’s the weekend. Work is a curse, so let’s spare a thought for the poor souls who will be working over the weekend, like Mr Choudray in Shop Smart on the High Street. Truly the hardest working man in small retail. Join me in giving him a round of applause.
Whilst I’m in a grateful mood I’d also like to thank good, old Mr Clairwil for being the voice of reason earlier this week. There are times when I don’t need encouraging.
My weekend plans are somewhat lazy as ever, nothing more strenuous that a stroll up to St Mungo’s museum on Sunday for one of their fine lectures. Oh and I expect I’ll spend Saturday marvelling at The Guardian’s latest wallchart. I must have about a million of those things. I realise The Guardian attracts the more affluent type but no-one can have that much wall space, except the Queen and I am reliably informed that she takes The Sun so this glut of wall charts can’t be for her benefit.
As ever I’d be delighted to hear your jokes, hilarious anecdotes, suggestions for what I can do with wallchart mountain, weekend plans, Kismet Hardy’s sexual fantasies and words of comfort for anyone reading this on the fly from nasty, dreaded work.
Now did I just hear Gus on Eastenders say ‘I am a sausage’? Good God I think I did.
In November last year, Lord Lester and Southall Black Sisters teamed up to introduce introduce a Private Members Bill on forced marriages.
— “The object and purpose of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill is to provide protection for the victims of forced marriage by means of civil remedies in the family courts. It seeks to empower and protect vulnerable women and men against serious abuse, involving violence, threats of violence and other forms of improper coercion” — from here.
The Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 16th Nov and will have its second reading today. That page linked above has summary notes on what the bill covers and what the current laws are like. SBS held a meeting earlier this month to invite comments by other groups, although I felt it was badly organised and badly publicised. They didn’t even respond to emails. A friend went and said some women groups were annoyed at not being informed well in advance. I’m sure they’ll get involved now, they still have time.
But there isn’t complete consensus amongst womens groups on whether a) a specific bill is needed or b) not, or c) whether provisions should be added to existing laws against domestic violence. There is also disagreement over whether it should be a civil protection bill (as it is now) or whether forced marriages should be criminalised (so parents who force kids into a marriage are treated as criminals, as the last consulation asked). Organisations such as Karma Nirvana (set up by Jasvinder Sanghera, who has just published her autobiography) pushed for criminalisation and wanted the last bill to go through, while SBS opposed it last time because they wanted a civil protection bill as it is now.
It’s a bit of a fudge. Parents won’t be treated as criminals if this bill gets passed in the hope that those affected aren’t afraid of seeking help. But they hope that since it is still a standalone bill, it will send out a signal that the police won’t tolerate forced marriages. In other words it is still a symbolic move against forced marriages. I think it’s a fudge because unless a whole family gets banged up in prison for trying to force their daughter into marriage, the rest of Asian society isn’t going to wake up. I laid out my reasoning earlier here.
This is an issue about violence against women – an attempt to control their lives and force them into doing other people’s biddings. I know it’s an obvious point to make, but the implication is that it should be treated as, and dealt with, as gender violence. The religion of victims is irrelevant and thus it annoys me to no end when politicians and journalists start asking the likes of the Hindu Council / MCB / Sikh Federation for their opinion. Exactly what experience do these people have in helping women suffering from domestic violence? I’m not sure why Michael White asks Sadiq Khan MP for his opinion in an article today – could he not have asked other womens groups? Unsurprisingly Khan is more worried about “ghettoising” and “stereotyping” than the lives of British Asian women.
My rant on comment is free about this.
British ethnic minorities are constantly told by politicians and the media that this is a tolerant country and that if people want to come here they should fit in with those values. Sure, this is a tolerant country, but what about the intolerance of ‘the natives’? What should be done about them? I only ask because:
British National Party (BNP) councillor David Enderby has so far refused to step down as a councillor in Redditch, in the west Midlands, despite his conviction for assault yesterday.
Enderby has shown no sign of giving up his seat, and the thousands of pounds of taxpayers money he pockets as a result. He is the second BNP councillor to be found guilty of violence recently. Kevin Hughes, Enderbyâ€™s agent in the elections, was sentenced to three months in prison for racially aggravated common assault last June.
Only two weeks ago the BNP Parliamentary candidate for Hull, Brian Wainwright, was found guilty after a campaign of hate mail against the local mosque, a Muslim councillor and a local anti-fascist activist.
In the same week a BNP activist in Swindon, Mark Bulman, who has used the pseudonym Bullock, was sentenced to five years after attempting to firebomb a local mosque using a BNP leaflet as a fuse.
Is it ok to tolerate convicted thugs being part of the political process even if they want to ‘spill the blood’ of citizens? What does that say about the notions of tolerance? Where do the boundaries lie?
1) Priyamvada Gopal has a brilliant article in today’s Guardian about the CBB / Shilpa Shetty controversy. She has solidly hit the nail on the head (she is a NGN signatory after all).
For British Asians, the public display of familiar battles poked at raw wounds, inspiring large numbers to protest. I would feel a lot more excited about this apparent resurgence of anti-racist awareness if recent years had shown more evidence of a genuine activist spirit among us. Where were these tens of thousands of protesting voices when young Zahid Mubarak died at the hands of a white racist cellmate with whom he should not have been made to share a cell? When a few hundred Sikh women protested alone at discriminatory treatment by British Airways meal supplier Gate Gourmet?
A large part of the problem is that, apart from the sterling work done by a few dedicated individuals and organisations, anti-racist politics has become a facile “representation” game that involves appeasing the fragile sensitivities of a vocal few claiming to represent the whole community. It is about harassing artists and writers, demanding that they conform to “right” ways of representing the community.
Just as nauseating is the play-off between ugly white slags and beautiful Indian princesses – a familiar Orientalist male fantasy.
2) The Fawcett Society has published a report from a round-table discussion it held in December on the subject of feminism and Muslim women, taking into account the veil controversy last year. Worth reading for sure and I’ll be publishing an article about it this week.
3) I’m not sure if the big G wants to attract more British Muslim readers or get more non-Muslims to engage in a controlled (but relaxed) media space. Either way the first of the paper’s Islamophonic podcasts by journalist Riazat Butt went online yesterday. But I have a few issues:
Firstly they seem unsure of their audience otherwise they wouldn’t be reycling old arguments most British Muslims would have already heard on the war and terrorism.
Secondly: what about British Hindus and Sikhs? I say this because it’s meant to be a humorous and relaxed insight into British Muslim life but the obvious subtext is – ‘we’re only doing this because people are interested in Muslims since they’re blowing people up’. If that is not the subtext or they want to avoid it, they should include other minority groups at least so it develops a broader feel that hasn’t got the T-word hanging over it.
Government Minister Harriet Harman has revamped her website and started blogging. This is the second Government Minister to join the blogging craze but to my mind sheâ€™s a little more in touch with the idea of blogging.
Probably because David Miliband has been criticised for cost and blandness, Harriet has gone to some lengths to counter this. So far she seems to be speaking her mind (as much as any politician is able).
In my view itâ€™s a good thing that a Government Minister find new ways of making themselves accountable, new media can have great leveling effect and one the enthusiastic progressive should put to good use.
Ok, they haven’t expressed love for the asylum seekers but editors at both mid-market dailies are claiming that they are not biased against asylum seekers. Oh look, a flying pig!
The Daily Express editor, Peter Hill, and the Daily Mail executive managing editor, Robin Esser, were giving evidence to the joint committee on human rights at the houses of parliament.
“I would never put any of my journalists under pressure to write something that they wouldn’t want to write. I would never do that,” Mr Hill told the committee. Mr Esser said: “No journalist on the Daily Mail is ever told to write a story in a particular way.”
For journalists that last statement is probably akin to George Bush stating he had no desire to tell other people how to live their lives. Apparently, the idea that “they are running around looking for inflammatory things to say about asylum seekers is wrong,” adds Mr Esser, which is surely meant to be said tongue-in-cheek?
Daily Express readers believed that 21% of the population were immigrants, Daily Mail readers thought that 19% of the population were immigrants and Guardian readers thought that 11% of the population were immigrants. In reality 7% of the population were immigrants, Mr Travis said.
The Met’s latest dilemma is a female Muslim police officer refusing to shake hands with their very own head honcho.
The reason for this refusal? Faith. (She clearly hadn’t read this little gem before meeting him.)
The unnamed officer was granted the exemption at a passing-out ceremony where new recruits met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair.
Her refusal was based on her view that her faith prevented her touching a man other than her husband or a close relative. The call of duty, according to Sheikh Ibraham Mogra from the MCB and the recruit herself, is one where social courtesies give way to professional ones.
“If she has to resuscitate a dying person, Muslim law will then change and allow her all sorts of physical contact because a life is at risk and life is so precious. Muslim law isn’t set in concrete, after all”.
This is the third in a series of Muslim-related incidents for the Met, the former being an officer who refused to serve outside the Israeli embassy, the latter being a rather embarrassing report detailing how Muslim officers are more ‘culturally-inclined’ towards corruption in comparison to their white counterparts.
I’m of the opinion that Scotland Yard have more pressing matters to attend to such as the recently-introduced ‘quota’ system for recruits. Textual evidence reveals that nearly all the 7000 recruits requested for London’s targets will have to be from ethnic/sexual minorities.
Since recruitment is slow, and violent crime is on the rise, I’d like to know why the police have chosen to discourage white, straight males from applying when crime-prevention is supposed to be their number one priority?
On Saturday the Mayor held a conference / debate with the American polemicist Daniel Pipes as guest speaker. The event was seriously over-subscribed, with interest and passions running high. I only attended the morning event since the rest of the conference was peppered with boring sounding discussions with people who would end up largely agreeing with each other. My bet is that Livingstone didn’t want to invite too many of his detractors other than Pipes and Murray.
The morning opened with Ken Livingstone going first, then Daniel Pipes, then Salma Yaqoob and finally Douglas Murray. Each said nothing new but their arguments were interesting. I managed to ask Pipes a question at the end, with hilarious results. I’ll come back to that.Continue Reading...
I say boycott Qantas airlines.
A passenger barred from a Qantas airlines flight for wearing a T-shirt depicting US President George Bush as a terrorist has threatened legal action. Allen Jasson said he was sticking up for the principle of free speech by challenging the decision by the Australian flag carrier. Mr Jasson was stopped as he was about to board the flight from Melbourne to London last Friday.
Mr Jasson was ordered to remove the T-shirt after being told it was a security threat and an item which might cause offence to other passengers.
It looks as if the first controversy over the right to wear a niqab (full veil) at school is nearly upon us. Tory blogger Iain Dale, who has covered this quite even-handedly, reveals that:
The head teacher of Wycombe High School in Buckinghamshire has told a fourteen year old muslim girl that she will no longer be allowed to attend school if she continues to wear the Niqab as it does not conform to the ethos of the school. The school allows pupils of muslim faith to wear a veil as long as it does not cover the face.
The girl’s father has now applied to for a Judicial Review (funded by legal aid, natch), which is expected to be heard in the High Court in February. The head teacher of the school, Jane Wainwright, believes that the School must fight the case and has asked the County Council for its support and its financial backing. … If the girl’s father wins the case a very important precedent will be set.
Could this be another Shabina Begum? That case was an individual ruling rather than a general one, hence it seems to have set no precedent for the future. My view is the same as before: given that the school uniform allows for most interpretations of the religion, there is no need to allow every child their own rules. The same would apply if any Sikh kid wanted to bring a full-length sword to school – they can make do with a small symbolic kirpan. I wonder how long it will take for the papers to pick this up.
I think this is my first open thread of the new year, or possibly my second. I can’t remember. But the important point is that PP is reaching saturation point on Big Brother and some of you may now be clutching your throats and making choking, gargling sorts of noises.
Well, help is at hand. Here is a thread upon which you can discuss things that are not BB-related. Such as:
(a) how your week has been (I have moved jobs! Hurray!).
(b) what you are doing over the weekend (I am going to a Surprise Birthday Party this evening and have a Hot Date tomorrow evening! Hurray!)
(c) what you might be doing next week (er, working. That sort of thing.)
(d) Amusing videos in YouTube
(e) Other funny stuff
No politics, no arguing, no fighting, and no Big Brother please. Away you go…
Since you guys can’t seem to stop talking about it… this is the weekend thread on CBB. Yesterday I wrote a slightly satirical piece for comment is free. Today, BBC magazine has an article asking when – ‘when does ignorance become racism‘, which quotes me along with other people. A bit of a grey area this, so maybe a useful talking point. To be honest I’m bored with CBB already though. This is now simply a bandwagon which is going nowhere.
Dr Tahir Abbas, the well known academic from Birmingham university, has published an interesting ‘British Muslim Manifesto for 2007′ on his blog.
He has also just got back from Poland on commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day and writes about his experiences and thoughts on that.
Jews died for what they believed. They died because a fascistic killing machine deemed it so. And yet, we sit aside and avoid an official recognition. An important spiritual, cultural and politically strategic opportunity is being sadly missed, and it does not bode well for British Muslims if the official voice of British Islam continues to refuse to attend this austere occasion.
Kiran Matharu, England’s youngest successful golfer, who happens to be female and Asian, has signed a six-figure deal (I’m assuming sponsorship), Urmee Khan finds in an interview for the Guardian. It’s enough to almost make me regret giving up golf when I was young.
In the world of professional golf, Kiran Matharu is an outsider thrice over: young, female and Asian. Late last year she qualified for the Ladies’ European Tour and will be its youngest player when she plays her first match at the beginning of February. She has won the English Ladies’ Amateur Championship, and the Faldo Junior Series, twice; and represented Great Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup. At 17, she is the same age as the international golfing superstar, Michelle Wie, but is already being touted as a better player.
C’mon Urmee, you could have told us more about this deal?
While we’re on the subject, the Sunday Times last weekend had a long article about the lack of Asian players in football. Worth reading for research and background etc.
This will be the last CBB thread I promise. Probably. Unless some silly kid in India decides to burn himself in protest at Shilpa Shetty’s treatment. Either way it’s all getting quite silly now isn’t it? As I’m short on time, CBB is a useful time filler.
Anyway, Channel 4 first said: “Shilpa has not voiced any concerns of racial abuse to Big Brother.” Now that she has, C4 seems to have changed it’s stance to condemning “Unambiguous racist behaviour and language”. The Daily Mirror today has a brilliant attempt at trying to get comments out of any Channel 4 executive and failing. Over at the Guardian, Stephen Brook and his readers are quite annoyed at the continuing spectacle too.
But my stance remains the same: No, Channel 4 should not stop or axe this series of CBB. Simply because I believe such examples of bullying (by Jade Goody) and subtle racism (by the other two) should be exposed and aired so people can see that even in 2007 such ignorant attitudes exist and should be condemned. The trio have already hung themselves and become objects of hate… a clear line in the sand has been drawn. Just as long as no one gets hurt in the process I’m happy to see this spectacle continue and people be repulsed by the nasty views on display.
Oh and I’ll be on Sky News at 1:30pm saying the same.
Update: Carphone Warehouse has suspended sponsoring Big Brother (thanks Billy), though it still leaves them the option to come back. Readers can put their effigies of Charles Dunstone on hold for now.
Update 2: The media bandwagon keeps rolling! I’ll be on Channel 4 News at 7pm tonight.
Let me start by saying I’m not a fan of Jade Goody and the trio of chavs on Celebrity Big Brother picking on Shilpa Shetty. At the least they are bullies and at the most a bunch of ignorant and racist dimwits. Big deal.
If anything I have more reason to be aggrieved than most given that when I was young and came to this country most people also mimicked my Indian accent. Except it was mostly other Indians who did this, not white or black people. Have many of you already forgotten the British Asian attitude towards ‘freshies’? I had to work hard to dumb down my English and change my accent to fit in.
Anyway, that hypocrisy aside I believe there are other reasons why this farce is being blown out of proportion.
[Erm, I'll be on BBC 4 (TV) and BBC Worldwide tonight at 8pm and on Asian Network (radio) tomorrow 9am saying the same.]Continue Reading...
I think the toothless Press Complaints Commission has finally managed to force The Sun to do what it really hates – apologise for lying. Remember the ‘Brave heroes hounded out by Muslim yobs‘ story it splashed on the front page, that we pointed out was a lie (thanks to Unity, obsolete and Clive)? Guess what, The Scum finally apologised on Monday – only three months after with four lines of regret. I wonder how many other lies Rebekah Wade has slipped under the radar (via obsolete and d-notice).
No apologies from Tory MP Philip Davies who told the non-existent “Muslim thugs” to “f*** off” or Migrationwatch. We also await retractions from uber-nutcase Melanie Phillips and Jihad Watch who tried to run a mile with the story.
Time to move on to more serious events I think, more specifically about the situation in Bangladesh. First, Mash provides some background.
Bangladesh was scheduled to hold national parliamentary elections on January 22, 2007. However, those elections were postponed and a State of Emergency was declared by the President on January 9th. Now Bangladesh faces an uncertain future.
Could the country become “another Afghanistan”?Continue Reading...