Five years after unprecedented communal violence swept through Gujarat after arson on a train, the search for the truth behind the gory events and justice to the victims is still on — so are the survivors’ attempts to mend their lives.
At 9 a.m. on Feb 27 in 2002, the S-6 coach of the Ahmedabad-bound Sabarmati Express was set on fire – or, according to a railway ministry inquiry, caught fire – at Godhra, until then for most a little known town 140 km from here. The blaze killed 59 Hindu passengers, a majority of them members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) returning from the temple town of Ayodhya, sparking off one of the worst cases of sectarian strife in the country.
The violence, according to official estimates, left 1,169 Muslims and Hindus dead across the state over the next few weeks. Several activists belive the toll was higher. The city-based Centre for Social Justice, for example, reckons at least 2,000 people were killed, nearly 400 women raped, 563 places of worship destroyed and about 250,000 people were left homeless. The property damage has been estimated at Rs.38 billion (nearly $860 million).
An estimated 5,000 families continue to languish at some 50 makeshift refugee camps, without civic amenities, without employment for the adults and education for children. Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s government continues to face flak over their plight and the simmering communal divide. [from here]
Justice? Indian government? Hah! Sikhs are still waiting over 20 years later. I wish I could write more on this but I’m seriously strapped for time. Any trolling in the posts will be deleted immediately.
This is the second part to an article I wrote for comment is free today…
There is another part that we briefly covered in the documentary that I’d like to explore here – that of being called “a traitor” or similar when raising controversial issues within minority communities. I’m not the first, nor will I be the last.
Today is the day my first radio documentary – Lost in Translation – is broadcast at 6:30pm on the BBC Asian Network. I’ll be on the station at 9am in a debate discussing why so many British Asian men every year choose to marry a bride from South Asia.
I have also written an article (my first) for The Times newspaper today. You can buy a copy to see my picture or read it online here. I believe some of the Indian press will also be running something. I’m working on something for comment is free too.
The story about Hindu and Sikh girls being forcibly converted by Islamist fundamentalists on university campuses, so carelessly thrown around in the media last week, has a whiff of urban myth about it.
Apparently, as reported by a number of papers yesterday including The Metro, Hindu leaders want their own “security force” to protect these vulnerable, empty-headed girls who are being targeted by sinister Muslim radicals and are paid “up to Â£5,000 for each success”.
And boy do we need one. This website looks positively cloudy this weekend. You are a miserable bunch of gloomy people and no mistake. “Oh isn’t America horrible.” “No! America is lovely and YOU are horrible!” “No, YOU are horrible!” “No, YOU are horrible!” If these threads were in writing we’d have no rainforest left – and for what?
Now, cheer up, damn you all. It’s spring! Sort of. And it’s sunny! At least when it isn’t raining torrentially. And although someone drove straight into me whilst I was stationary at a zebra crossing earlier in the week and totalled my exhaust, I now have a lovely big silver car with a proper computer screen that tells you how to drive and has exciting buttons all over the steering wheel whilst they sort out the old one for me. It is a time for celebration.
So come and join me on the Open Thread for a big party about stuff which is good, like the fact that Dragnet is going to be on TV today, and where stuff that is bad is banned. No arguing about America. No mention of the hijab, the niqab or anything else with the suffix -ab. No monologues about education, no justification of cannibalism – it is not for nice people. No bad news, no political bombshells, no ranting, raging, haranguing, arguing, fighting, squabbling, nitpicking, henpecking, whingeing, bullying, carping, grouching, nidgying or insulting allowed. And anyone who breaks these rules will be set on fire. You have been warned…
Last week the Manchester Evening News wrote of a young Pakistani bride who managed to escape from home after months of abuse from her husband and in-laws.
Over the course of six months, she was treated as a slave, deprived of food and water and banned from speaking to relatives back home.
She was often punched, kicked and dragged by her hair by her husband and even his mother. On several occasions, she was so badly injured she required hospital treatment. But staff failed to realise what was happening and allowed the husband’s relatives to act as translators.
For anyone who has done a bit of research around this area, stories such as this are not new. For me and many others, helping brides who come to the UK learn English is one of the key areas of empowerment. Yesterday the Commission for Cohesion made a similar suggestion – immigrants and brides coming to the UK should learn English to help integration. It makes sense, as Rehna Azim points out on CIF today, but it’s more important for me that learning English is seen as a tool of empowerment, especially for brides since they’ve come to a country where they have no one.
On Monday the BBC Asian Network will be airing a documentary authored and presented by me at 6:30pm on, co-incidentally, the very same issue. You can download and listen to the trailer. I’m also writing various articles that I will link in due course.
Regular readers will know that I’ve never been in favour of sweeping social problems underneath the carpet, pretending as if any discussion will demonise people and make things worse. If anything, inaction over these pressing issues makes things worse and means that thousands of women continue to be abandoned by society (and especially the Asian community) every year. That to me is more unacceptable.
Who would’ve thought it? It seems a significant minority of “ethnic-friendly” Lib-Dem councillors in Burnley have made friends in all sorts of places.
The Liberal Democrats have since taken steps to suspend John Jones and Jeff Sumner. Both men are known to have backed a BNP representative for a key local position. They’ve since retracted an apology for their actions, telling the Guardian that they had ‘no regrets’ about voting for BNP councillor Sharon Wilkinson – over her Labour rival – to join the board of a publicly-funded regeneration initiative.
Whilst the votes cast had no bearing on the final outcome (Cllr Wilkinson was not elected), words were exchanged between the gentlemen concerned and their fellow Lib-Dem council leader, telling them that “this was conduct not becoming of an elected Liberal Democrat representative”.
It’s interesting to note these individuals have supposedly ‘breached’ the party line. Given the furore over the BNP ballerina, I’d like to know whether you think it is acceptable to have members of racist parties on publicly-funded initiatives?
It was almost a year ago during the Shabina Begum case that I said banning girls from wearing the niqab would probably lead them to being home schooled, and as a result they’d have less contact with the ‘outside world’
Another case has come up in Buckinghamshire. The girl in question has been taking lessons at home since October, and I for one am doubtful if she’ll go back to school now. Her three older sisters were apparently allowed to enroll whilst wearing the niqab. The justification for the ruling is a tad odd
the veil prevented teachers from seeing facial expressions – a key element in effective classroom interaction
Says who? Personally I much prefer written text to spoken presentations. Regardless I’ve interacted with women who wear the niqab, and have never had a problem understanding them.
the necessity to enforce a school uniform policy under which girls of different faiths would have a sense of equality and identity
Forced ‘equality’ is nothing but the act of a despot. If the parents have contributed, via their taxes, to the funding of the school they should be allowed to let their daughters wear whatever they like.
security – the head teacher had said an unwelcome visitor could move around the school incognito
It would take a pretty spectacular level of incompetence to miss someone moving about a building in a niqab. Besides which I hate decisions based on ‘security’
the need to avoid peer pressure on girls to take up wearing the veil
Ah there we go, knew we’d get there eventually. Its really about social engineering.
The glee with which some greet the stripping of these girls of their identity is quite frankly shocking. I have no doubt that some will do little more than rejoice at this ruling, but I for one feel desperately sorry for a girl who has had her sense of self undermined by school bureaucrats. Costs were awarded against the family. I’m sure she feels happy and free.
Tory TV, Fox News lite, 18 Doughty Street TV has a new “attack ad” up entitled ‘A world with America’. According to them their aim is as follows:
At a time of rampant anti-Americanism this ad – produced with BritainAndAmerica.com – aims to remind the world of the great economic, technological and political benefits that the US has brought to the world.
You can watch the full ad here:
Is 18DS bang on the money or far off the mark? What would a world without America be like?
Making fun of Daily Mail stories (especially when Melanie Phillips is ranting) is like shooting fish in a barrel. However I want to provide an example of constant demonisation. Last week the Mail ran a story titled: Swim centre bars two-year-old girl because she isn’t Muslim, (via Osama), which was rubbish because further reading makes it clear the little girl wasn’t allowed because she had her dad with her instead of her mum. To their credit even most of the people who replied to the article saw through the Mail’s sleight of hand.
Will the Daily Mail be running stories on daddies and their little girls being excluded because elderly Jewish ladies have booked out a local swimming pool? Will it be running a campaign against people of any faith or women not being able to hire a pool for themselves? I suspect not. They need a negative story where Muslims are involved because that suits their agenda of demonisation.
There are frequently similar examples in the Daily Express (which is not even worth using as toilet paper), The Sun (remember Alton Towers?) and the Daily Telegraph these days, and all they do is make tackling religious extremism, which is the real problem, even more difficult by demonising ordinary Muslims.
Meanwhile, on Friday the BBC’s Inside Out programme did a little test to see if people in South England were willing to break the law to discriminate against Asians. No problem there. In fact the estate agents sounded as if they had requests for ‘No Asians please’ all the time.
This gives rise to the obvious question – who is really to blame for ethnic segregation? We get Rod Liddle and other ‘anti-multiculturalism’ bandwagon jumpers constantly demonising brown and black minorities for segregation. But where is the empirical proof they themselves are to blame? Instead why not focus on such discrimination, local council policies and ‘white flight’?
George Monbiot comes out swinging against the 9/11 conspiracy nuts again today. Really – the day anyone thinks Monbiot is under the control of “military paymasters” is the day their brain has officially lost any sense of proportion.
But I think there are two wider issues here. Firstly that the internet makes dissemination of conspiracy theories easy and people are still willing to believe stuff just because it’s on a website. This is the obvious point.
More importantly, governments in the UK and United States have collectively lost the trust of their people in a way they haven’t yet come to terms with. The amount of people I met in California who had absolutely no trust in their own government was a bit hairraising (although one may expect that in Cali anyway). But this isn’t just a liberal issue since conservatives and libertarians are traditionally even more distrustful of the state and its intentions.
It’s more that in this information age we’re easily exposed to govt duplicity and that makes us distrustful. The dodgy dossier on Iraq anyone? Covering up the BAE/Saudi scandal anyone? The “ethical foreign policy” initiative? And yet politicians don’t look like they’ve come to terms with how hypocritical they constantly look – blaming it instead on the media or the people’s lack of authority. They still carry one like the 60s and 70s when events were easily covered up.
In this context it isn’t surprising that conspiracy theorists are abundant and big events like 9/11 provide enough material to push any sort of prejudice. That doesn’t mean we should all buy it though. As Monbiot points out, it only helps the government dismiss all their critics as nutters and carry on as normal.
(and no, this isn’t an invitation to conspiracy nuts; if you post rubbish you will be deleted).
Right-wing bloggers Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale have, over the past few weeks, consistently been questioning whether the think-tank Smith Institute is too close to Gordon Brown and breaking some of its rules as a charity. In fact Guido, aka Paul Staines, has gone as far as lodging a complaint himself with the Charity Commission and it is now being investigated.
This has predictably annoyed many on the left because a Brownite think-tank is under attack. I have no sympathy for that view because political organisations on both sides of the political spectrum should be more transparent and accountable. Others are annoyed because of the implication that Iain and Paul pretend to be non-partisan and should be looking closer to home. I think it’s a tad bit hypocritical, but they are entitled to be non-partisan. That is the way politics goes.
Then, last week things got a bit hotter.
[contains part of an interview with Guido Fawkes aka Paul Staines]
Or morning as it is to me having only got up at lunchtime. My weekend plans include more decorating and clearing of clutter, fannying about the internet and maybe the odd stroll. There will also be red wine.
I haven’t so much as glanced at newspaper or switched on the TV today. Has anything interesting happened? On second thoughts don’t tell me I’m rather enjoying my total ignorance.
I’ll also be getting about this weekend if only online. For those that are interested I’ll be hosting The Scottish Blogging Round Up tomorrow. Do drop in if you have a moment.
That’s more than enough about my plans. Let’s hear yours as well as your jokes, amusing links, prison survival tips, hilarious stories about elderly relatives and anything else frivolous you’d like to share with the group.
A couple of weeks ago I was on Sky News discussing news stories when the subject of installing respect amongst youngsters came up. The presenter asked if it wasn’t the responsibility of teachers to make sure young kids respected authority. I disagreed. It should be the parents with the primary responsibility to ensure their kids have a healthy respect for authority and be provided a stable environment at home so they don’t become criminals. Somewhere along this line I was accused of being on the authoritarian right! Hold on a second, does espousing a stable family make you part of the conservative right? Not in my view.
Writing in the Guardian today Joseph Harker similarly says the problem of violence amongst young black youths isn’t of guns but a breakdown of the family. I agree.
In some ways this also applies to Asian families. A respected writer recently said in a conversation that one of the reasons why there are problems with Asian boys (in Southall, Tower Hamlets, Oldham) is because of the breakdown in communication. 1st gen Asian parents find it difficult as it is to communicate and understand their children. Feeling helpless and bound by their traditional bias towards males, they end up focusing on controlling the girls while turning a blind eye to what the boys are doing.
On Sunday 11th Feb I published an article here that was first written for the Guardian on May 31st 1986. The article related to what Paul Staines, aka blogger Guido Fawkes, may or may not have been up to while at Hull university when leader of the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS). I’d wanted him to explain the article – given he is commonly regarded as an influential blogger in political / media circles and extensively courted by the Conservative Party.
Shortly after publication, Guido Fawkes emailed myself and several other bloggers stating it was an attempt at defaming him and issued a legal notice to take the posting down. He also sent a letter dated 1990 that seemed to be from David Rose, the journalist who wrote the original article, apologising for the way the original story was written. There was nothing in the letter to suggest the Guardian had retracted the story. I checked with the newspaper before publishing to ensure there was no legal notes on the article or any retractions associated with it on the internal editnet system. There weren’t.
As it’s Valentines day today and the atmosphere is supposed to be all romantic and cuddly, I thought of finding some pictures of teddy bears and chocolates for our readers. To set the mood you know.
Actually I didn’t. I saw this story and thought it would be more relevant: Is sex on a plane legal? Surely that is the big question? It’s one of those trivial questions you need to know and Valentines day seems the apt time to ask it. No? Ok maybe that’s just me then.
He wanted to shoot Tony Blair and amassed a “record haul” of explosive material. And yet the story of Robert Cottage being arrested never made the national news agenda, only blogs. Anyway, the trial finally started yesterday.
Anil Bhanot of the Hindu Council has written an article on comment is free today, arguing against reforming the House of Lords to get rid of some bishops. In the comments section LibertyCentral pops up and summarises the whole article as:
Jack’s offering guaranteed seats in the second chamber to other faith groups.
I’d like one.
Heh! I suspect the annoyed commenters are reacting to arguments like: “In my view, the church is mostly a positive influence on society and government. The relationship between church and state also has a reforming effect on the church, ensuring it moves with the times as new legislation sometimes challenges archaic and prejudicial opinions.”
Oh please. The Church establishment has been way behind contemporary society in following through with the ideals of equality, no different to the religious establishment of other religions. They’re all dominated by middle-aged to old men who refuse to share power with women or the youth, let alone show compassion towards homosexuals or other minorities.
The religious establishment all want a piece of the government pie to maintain their eroding influence, when in fact the best thing that could happen to this country is a move towards total secularism – a complete separation between religious bodies and the state. That is the only way to establish equality between how religions are treated and to ensure the government does not compromise its own ideals to please the Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Jewish “community leaders”. I think this needs fleshing out further in more detail later, but I’d like to hear your views.
In case you missed it the Sunday Telegraph apologised yesterday for making untrue allegations about Samih Ahmad in connection with the “liquid bombs” and “terror in the skies” arrests. Shameful journalism. And they had to pay libel damages.
Hello readers, old and new! A lot has happened in the last 24 hours and it’s been quite amusing I must say. Just a quick recap.
On Sunday I exclusively published an article about Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines) 20 years ago. He wasn’t too happy about that and threatened legal action. Although I had anticipated this, some legal complications made it necessary for me to take it down. Paul and I have reached a compromise of sorts.
Tomorrow we’re going to meet. He has agreed to give me his first ever interview on record. He wants ‘a fair hearing’ and as a journalist it’s my duty to facilitate that. You can be assured we will be talking about ‘the letter’ and others criticisms that fellow bloggers have made. So until then please don’t speculate unnecessarily and wait for the interview.
All my fellow picklers will be spending Saturday afternoon on a pickle meet. Naturally I was invited (I was! -I can prove it) but London is a bit awkward for me to get to at short notice. So I’m relying on you all to stop me feeling left out and lonely. In other words I’m making a bold bid for attention.
I’ve been off work all week with a touch of the ‘Winston Churchills’ (depression not alcoholism) so I’m a bit bored, though oddly cheery. For some reason the depression goes every time I leave work. Do you think there could be a connection? So I’ll be after cheerful stuff only please. If your dog has left you and your wife has worms you have my sympathy but I don’t wish to hear about it. Sorry but it’s holiday plans, jokes, japes, funny links and pictures of dogs in dinner jackets only.
To kick off the funny stuff I’d like to introduce you to Scottish Hip Hop, more specifically Glaswegian Hip Hop. It’s hard to know how to describe it, though piss yourself hilarious isn’t a bad start. More so when one considers ‘The Schemes’ video was recorded to show another side of Arden after it’s rather grim showing on Channel Five recently. Quite how depicting it as a shithole full of lousy rappers improves things is beyond my understanding. Poor Steg G the tragedy of the man’s life is that coming from Arden just doesn’t conjure up the same danger and swagger as being say being from Compton. As one fellow comments beneath his truly remarkable video ‘I’ve heard better beats watching two boys fighting on the estate’ and I have no doubt he’s right. Beyond parody. Beyond belief.
In an article today for comment is free, I show how the reaction to and criticism of Independent Jewish voices has been very similar to when the MCB get criticised, with examples. British Jews have had longer to integrate in the UK and develop more secular voices, so I’m disappointed the reaction has been so vociferous, especially given that British Muslims are still largely young, more conservative and constantly pillorised in the media. And yet the latter still have more public disagreement over issues.
From a personal perspective, I identify as both a Muslim and a feminist and I don’t see this as in any way contradictory. To this end, I’d like to discuss five potential challenges to a reconciliation between feminism and Islam.
From a professional perspective, I am interested in how policy can support Muslim women’s rights and interests accepting that the term ‘Muslim women’ includes myriad of people not all of whom agree with each other.
This is based on a talk hosted by the LSE Student Union’s Islamic and Feminist Societies on 22nd January 2007.
I met these lovely women in San Diego on new years eve and asked to take a picture. Their only condition was that I receive a hug after taking a picture, to which I obliged of course.
The interesting point is that they were part of some conservative Christian students coalition and this was simply part of their outreach work, where they would offer hugs to people and even listen to them. Some may become interested in their work and maybe even the word of Jesus Christ.
It’s an obvious point to make isn’t it – if all preachers had such a genuinely friendly and warm attitude towards others religion wouldn’t get such a bad name. Most religious people think a faith should be able to sell itself but I disagree. There are usually two ways to ‘spread the word’: striking fear / guilt in the hearts of believers, or inspiring them with good deeds and practicing what you preach. Guess which approach most go for? This is why I genuinely appreciated the hug. All power to them.
Suffice to say, press coverage of the recent arrests in Birmingham over the alleged plot to behead a Muslim soldier have been a disgrace. In other cases such as the BNP chemicals case the press wrote nothing in order to avoid prejudicing the trial, and yet in this case Al-Qaeda was dragged in without any demonstrable evidence and without the trial having even started.
Today, the human rights group Liberty has written to the home secretary asking for details of briefings given to journalists about the arrests. Also voicing concerns are the Conservatives and articles in the Guardian.