We hardly need an open thread really this week, such is the bizarre nature of some of the comments in the thread below.
However it’s tradition, so we’re having one whether you like it or not. I’m off for lunch with two lady friends today. I’m rather excited as it’s been some time since I’ve socialised with ladies. I did have some female friends a while back but they all got boyfriends and started breeding apart from one who kept getting raped. It was quite peculiar, we’d be in the pub, I’d nip to the loo and by the time I got back someone would have tried to rape her. I haven’t seen her for a few years so I shudder to think what’s happened in my absence.
Now I must make an appeal on behalf of two of my fellow bloggers. The Ill Man is looking for soup recipes. Do drop in and help him out if you can. Our Zin Zin is feeling a bit unloved, so pop in and say hello and if you have any widow wooing tips I’m sure he’ll be delighted to hear them.
Usual stuff below, please. Lot’s of nonsense, no politics or dull stuff. First person to make me laugh out loud is the cats pyjamas.
As it’s Friday this is good for a laugh. On Wednesday night BBC Newsnight featured a short film by our tory blogger ‘friend’ Guido Fawkes, and later a studio discussion with him and Michael White of the Guardian, discussing whether mainstream journalists are too close to the Westminster circle to provide a good understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes. Paxo was moderating of course.
You can watch the short film and discussion from Chicken Yoghurt (from where I nicked the title).
It is the nearest you’ll get to car-crash TV, as Brownie on HP also points out. Guido, or Paul Staines, makes some good points but gets completely slaughtered in the discussion. It’s fun watching again and again.
My own view is that individual journalists do indeed end up sometimes getting too close to politicians, blatantly colouring their reporting and commentary as a result. And plus you have certain newspapers with their own pro-Labour or pro-Tory agenda. For example the Telegraph ran so many silly articles on the Smith Institute at the time Guido was trying to flind mud at them that it became almost comical. To that extent I welcome more media proliferation because I think a breaking of the traditional circle would encourage journalists to compete to break stories politicians would rather keep silent, or pass them on to blogs that do their work for them. Update: Since Amir’s become hysterical in the comments again, I’d like to rub salt in his wounds by pointing out this parody by Tim. (via Poons).
In my email exchange with Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain last week, I underestimated how adept he was at avoiding my questions. I wanted to explore the various ways in which we could tackle violent extremism; he only wanted to talk about the impact of the Iraq war (which I accepted ‘exacerbates’ the problem but he didn’t want to move on from that).
Inayat Bunglawala later adds: “HT are, however, a non-violent party and have every right to spread their ideas peacefully. As I said earlier, you seem to huff and puff a lot, but you just don’t seem to have anything of substance to offer on this topic.”
In an online article for Catalyst magazine (published by the CRE), Zohra Moosa has a short piece on how government policy of multiculturalism can negatively impact women. She takes the example of Canada, which after all invented the policy. The whole article is worth reading, if a bit academic in its language.
To summarise, she identifies two aspects to the Canadian approach:
1) The Canadian model presumes that the ethnic diversity dilemma posed by migrating people is about reconciling cultural differences. Its â€˜solutionâ€™ is to develop strategies that harmonise these differing â€˜culturesâ€™ and mitigate tensions between them. This conceptualisation implies that culture is a discrete entity with specific characteristics: that it is bounded, homogeneous, and static.
This also applies here, when people who challenge that ‘culture’ (mostly women) are sometimes not supported by the liberal or feminist movements because the latter are not sure if they are ‘being authentic’. A good example is Germaine Greer criticising Monica Ali when the Brick Lane film controversy arose. What a farce that was.
2) The second pitfall of Canadaâ€™s approach to multiculturalism is that culture in Canada is treated as something that â€˜otherâ€™ people have â€“ namely non-white, non-English-speaking, numerically in the minority people. In the national discourse, it is French Canadians and Aboriginal people (including First Nations, Inuit and Metis) and non-white immigrants that have culture. It is their customs and language and foods and clothing â€“ their â€˜waysâ€™ â€“ that illustrate â€˜cultureâ€™. White English Canadians are presented as the neutral backdrop against which â€˜otherâ€™ people are different. Multiculturalism, then, is something that is needed for the racially different Other.
What this leads to in practice is the ‘game’ that women are forced to play in order to get help.
However, in order to make a convincing case, women may need to play into stereotypical, racist renderings of â€˜their cultureâ€™. For example, South Asian women making claims sometimes have to rely on concepts that they are, as Sherene Razack says, â€˜victims of exceptionally patriarchal culturesâ€™ to convince officials that their lives are genuinely at risk. This then allows â€˜white Canadaâ€™ to conceive of itself as the culturally superior rescuer of the Other from backward â€˜cultural dysfunctionâ€™.
Similarly, a number of cases have been documented where ethnic minority men have been able to effectively use â€˜cultureâ€™ as a defence when charged with assaulting their wives. Arguing that their abuse is â€˜culturally appropriate behaviourâ€™, men in these cases have been able to secure more lenient sentences in court. In one case, judicial comments claimed that an abusive relationship was sanctioned by the â€˜South Vietnamese cultural backgroundsâ€™ of the man and woman involved.
I’ve argued against this kind of ‘cultural understanding’ many times in the past. If someone is breaking the law by beating their wife or forcing their children into marriage etc, then the law needs to be invoked and they should be treated as common criminals like others. Cultural differences can be based on history, languages, food, music, religion and such like. But there should always be a commonly enfored and applicable law. When that isn’t applied, multiculturalism fails.
[PS - Zohra published Feminism and Islam on PP too last month. On Canada, it's also worth reading Ehsan Masood's recent trip there and describing its approach to Muslims.]
At the slavery abolition bicentenary yesterday, Toyin Agbetu from Ligali disrupted the proceedings by striding into the middle of the event and shouting for the Queen to apologise properly. The Guardian has an account here.
The Archbishop had just delivered his main address and the service had moved on to “confession and absolution”. But the reading was stopped in its tracks by Mr Agbetu’s outburst: “You should be ashamed. We should not be here. This is an insult to us. I want all the Christians who are Africans to walk out of here with me!”
Perhaps once we have winnowed out the future goodies, baddies and uglies in the coming generations, we could dress them in colour-coded clothes depending on their status. And maybe tattoo a barcode on them.
I can’t wait to hear what the tests will consist of.
I’ve been invited to the BBC to take part in an internal debate tomorrow on whether the BBC should embrace ‘radical impartiality’. This was a term coined by its current head of TV News, Peter Horrocks, in a recent speech to the Reuters Institute at Oxford. He explained:
So, the days of middle-of-the-road, balancing left and right, impartiality are dead. Instead I believe we need to consider adopting what I like to think of as a much wider â€œradical impartialityâ€ – the need to hear the widest range of views â€“all sides of the story.
So we need more Taleban interviews, more BNP interviews – of course put on air with due consideration â€“ and the full range of moderate opinions. All those views need to be treated with the same level of sceptical inquiry and respect.
The Daily Mail called it ‘political correctness called mad’ – nothing new there. But is Peter Horrocks right in his assessment? Part of the BBC’s problem is that it gets it in the neck from all side, especially over the Middle East. Globalisation and increasing proliferation of media makes it difficult for them to compete with organisations that preach to the converted. Fox News is perhaps the best example.
A few months before Horrocks’ speech, I coincidentally wrote an article titled The death of debate for CIF on the same issue, disagreement with the jist of what he was to say (hence the reason for my invitation). I did say, almost rhetorically, that they should invite the BNP on more regularly ‘for balance’ because they keep extending the courtesy to Al-Muhajiroun types, but the point is of course that I’d prefer neither were.
What do readers think: should the BBC change or stay the same? Is ‘radical impartiality’ a silly buzzword or a necessary direction? Would like to hear your thoughts. I may even feed them into my debate.
Who Speaks for Us? Representing the Diversity of Opinion in Britainâ€™s Multicultural Society
Panel of speakers: Rokhsana Fiaz (Founding Director, The Change Institute), Sunny Hundal (New Generation Network), Professor Susie Orbach (Independent Jewish Voices), Asim Siddiqui (Chairman, The City Circle).
Chair: Jonathan Freedland (Guardian)
Updated: And after, Alif-Aleph UK and Rumi Foundation invite you come and celebrate almost 5years of inter-faith dialogue!
(not connected to JPR event)
If it’s anything to do with the meaning of life then I’m the wrong person. But if you want to talk social cohesion then the answer is in this short film: people finding ways of mixing with each other, getting their fears and grievances aired, and just making the effort to be nice. It sounds very utopian, but this shows there is lots of good work being done around the country to make this a nicer place to live.
Video sent by Nick from Podnosh.
The minimum age at which foreign nationals can receive marriage visas to enter Britain is to be raised from 18 to 21 in an attempt to crack down on forced marriages, writes David Cracknell.
It will mean that about 3,000 people a year, mainly women from India, will be prevented from coming to the UK. Their intended spouse will also have to be at least 21 for them to be allowed into the country. The government also intends to introduce confidential interviews for people entering the country who might have been forced into marriage.
The Metropolitan police have called for forced marriage to be made a criminal offence, suggesting a link between the practice and â€œhonourâ€ killings and arguing that it would make prosecutions easier. However, the government has rejected this. [The Times]
I don’t have a problem with this. There are still far too many cases of girls as young as 16 are married from South Asia and brought here as brides. I would go as far as preferring 24 but 21 is better than 18.
Actually it’s not my birthday until Monday but I expect I shall have forgotten about it by next week. So I’m starting early.
My weekend plans involve loafing, taking snaps and staring out the window, perhaps a spot of scribbling but all nice relaxing stuff. I have no doubt all you naughty picklers are yawning at the next round of orgies or taking part in ‘extreme sports’. Feel free to share.
I suppose I should give you all something interesting to look at to reward you for dropping by, so here’s what’s come to my attention this week:
Inayat Bunglawala and I had been exchanging emails all this week on the subject of ‘How can we defeat violent extremism?‘. Comment is Free has just posted the exchange here. But there’s a final reply I wanted to post (I forgot we initially agreed on 5 responses each).
To celebrate 35 Years of Bangladeshi Independence, human rights organisation Drishtipat are hosting an evening of festivities including a reading by acclaimed new author Tahmima Anam from her book ‘A Golden Age’ and musical performance by the exciting folk and blues band Parapar today at 5.45pm, the Brady Centre, Hanbury, Street, London, E1.
Sid recently interviewed Tahmima Anam on his blog.
Virtual Stoa helpfully points out that the Melanie Phillips Naziometer, which counts how many times the words Nazi, Nazis or Nazism appear on the front page of her diary, is back. It was initially developed by Chris Lightfoot but stopped working after his unfortunate death. Now it has been resurrected in his name.
The problem with the National Secular Society is that while they preach secularism, they actually prefer atheism. By conflating the two they not only wreck it for the non-atheist secularists but also help their opponents keep confusing the two. And it’s pi**ing me right off. For example on Monday its president Terry Sanderson wrote this piece of crap for CIF. The money quote:
I’ve come to realise that the delusions of the liberals are not qualitatively different from those entertained by the Pat Robertsons or Abu Hamzas of this world.
The danger that these apparently harmless liberals pose is that of enabling the fanatics, who happily use them as human shields. Just as the terrorists of the Middle East will hide out in schools and hospitals to avoid being targeted by enemy bombs, so the ideological terrorists hide behind the liberals and the good-natured in order to spread their doctrine of intimidation and terror.
Really, that is intellectual dishonesty. It may be that religious conservatives like the Muslim Brotherhood / Jamaat/Hizb ut-Tahrir types try and explain away Al-Qaeda, in the same way that the RSS/VHP/BJP Hindu nationalists in India provide cover for the real militants like the Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena (and worse). But most ordinary religious liberals just want to live their lives in peace, let alone get involved in these debates. The few who do take a more progressive path get it in the neck from conservatives and now these atheists. To say they’re simply “providing cover” is just, well, ignorant.
People such as Sanderson are not only trying to polarise the debate, as Simon Barrow points out, but also making themselves more irrelevant in the wider debate. What is the point of involving the NSS in a debate about keeping religion out of state control if what they really want is something else? Terry Sanderson and the NSS not only misunderstand religion, they hate it. They should call themselves the National Atheists Society instead of getting confused and annoying those who want to bring about real change. Update:Matt Murrell, Not Saussure and Matt Wardman pile in.
Although I’ve frequently explained the process and the reasoning behind which the Labour government has engaged with brown people in the UK, especially Muslims, I haven’t explained it properly in one article. Thankfully now I don’t have to because Steve at Pub Philosopher has done it for me. An excerpt:
Just as the maharajahs were, the community leaders are offered a deal. In return for controlling the more violent elements and helping to keep order, they are co-opted into the outer fringes of the establishment. Membership of local committees, involvement in state funded projects and consultation on local issues help to build up the local leaders’ prestige. Political parties, especially the Labour party, often sign up the community leaders as local council candidates, drawing them and, hopefully, their communities into the party fold.
For the Muslim Council of Britain, this political patronage was especially important. Although it was not officially formed until 1997, its roots go back to the time of the Rushdie troubles. The formation of the MCB was enthusiastically encouraged by the Home Office under Michael Howard, during the mid 1990s. Once again, the British establishment, when faced with rioting brown people, resorted to its tried and tested solution – create an organisation to channel the discontent. That way, you know who you are dealing with and you can exert some control over the unruly mob.
Iqbal Sacranie may have had the full maharajah treatment, going from organising anti-Rushdie protests to sitting with government ministers in ten years, but he couldn’t stop the bombing of the London tube. Sir Iqbal got his knighthood but didn’t keep his side of the bargain. Although he may not have known it, he was only invited into the corridors of power on the assumption that he could channel Muslim aggression into the political process. Now that the MCB has both failed to stop the extremists and appears to be colluding with some of them, the government is looking around for new allies in the form of the British Muslim Forum. Of course, this won’t work either.
It’s also worth noting Iqbal Sacranie changed the constitution to ensure he could stay in power for another two years, got his knighthood, and then went completely quiet. Since then the MCB has become extremely critical of the government. It’s all a coincidence of course. Any wonder the Hindu and Sikh organisations want to jump on this bandwagon? Is it any wonder the Sikh Federation, “has told Sikh youths to assert their identity even if it means turning to radicalism”.
[The film] 300 reminds us too that for all the current misperception of America as global bully, the West is in truth the eternal underdog. In a world always ready to fall back into tyranny and superstition, only the Greeks and their inheritors know the value and the power of individual human beings. When we are set free, we can bring down giants, but we always play David to the worldâ€™s Goliath. Refusing to kneel before the Persian horde, Gerard Butlerâ€™s Leonidas and his buffed-up men are an army of Michelangeloâ€™s Davids.
They are simultaneously the progenitors and inheritors of the best of the West. Their reception in 2007 is proof that ordinary westerners retain a sense of their civilisation and its essential values. Our elite gatekeepers may find the unofficial western mottoâ€”freedom or death; war is not the worst of evilsâ€”hard to grasp. 300 shows that everyone else gets it. There is hope for us yet.
Hahaha! I’ve never read so much tripe in my life. Is the British right that desperate to clutch at anything that offers them comfort? Looks like it. The above is a review of the film 300 on New Culture Forum, a think-tank for British conservatives. It’s hilarious to watch the extent to which these people are painting themselves (and ‘the West’ as a whole) as victims.
It’s a political ad that, in a few days, has already clocked up over a million views and looks to hit Hillary Clinton hard. The really interesting thing is that the candidate listed at the end is not the one who made it; a supporter did. After watching it, read this Indy article. For political candidates this is the beginning of a very dangerous era. I love it.
Britain’s non-white population amounts to less than 10% so the commercial imperative to follow US trends seems less important. But any demographer will tell you that this population of five million is growing faster than the non-white population. For advertisers,recognising that potential is only a matter of time.
For editors it is not just about sales but effective journalism; reflecting audiences regardless of their class or race. Editors not only have to find stories that matter to their readers, but cover them without a patronising or tokenistic tone. Within that approach newspapers cannot ignore the different lifestyles of their readers or treat them as monolithic blocs. Newspapers need to write not just about minorities but for them. They have to adapt. As Daniel Hernandez pointed out: “Everyone here [in LA] interfaces daily with Latinos, speaks some form of Spanish, and knows Mexican culture and cuisine. In effect, everyone in LA is Latino. Does your morning paper feel like it’s at all cognizant of this?”
I was recently forwarded a document which may or may not have been confidential, prepared by the Met Police. It has some stats on stop and search which I thought I’d share, since they seem to demonstrate that the actual stats are not as bad as many make them out to be.
They’ve had a decade of being courted by government ministers, sipping orange juice with policy wonks and being sent on trips around the world for arbitary reasons. And now the MCB’s reign is over, according to Ruth Kelly, who snubs them in favour of mentioning the British Muslim Forum instead in an article for the Observer today. For those who watch these things closely this comes as no surprise at all. Ruth Kelly says a lot more that needs further dissection but I don’t have any time right now unfortunately.
Is the move towards supporting the BMF good? In some ways yes. Their chief executive is a woman and has written on empowering Muslim women and the part they can play in tackling extremism. Following 7/7 they also organised 500 imams to jointly issue a fatwa condemning terrorism.
But just because one is better than the other doesn’t mean this is a welcome development. As I stated when launcing NGN’s manifesto, the government cannot treat minority communities like during the British Raj – appointing and getting rid of ‘community leaders’ who don’t serve their purpose. They need to engage with everyone and listen to all points of view whether they like them or not. The MCB represent a certain mindset as do the BMF (and others). Listen to all of them and stop playing this silly game Ms Kelly.
Last week I told you that Mike of Troubled Diva had decided to publish a compilation of funny blog posts for Comic Relief, right? Well, he did. And there it is.
You can order your copy here. It costs Â£8.96 and all profits go to Comic Relief. The publishers are also donating their profits to Comic Relief. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it NOW.
Anyway, now that that shameless plug is out of the way, on to the open thread happiness. The usual rules apply. No politics, no serious stuff, no backbiting, scrapping, clawing, mouthing, whingeing, carping, sniping, whimpering, insult-exchanging or refusing to buy Shaggy Blog Stories on the very reasonable terms outlined above. Anyone who breaks these rules will be outed as a big miserable grumpy pants who never does anything nice for anyone. You have been warned.
Comment is free yesterday ran a series of short articles by bloggers on what change they’d like to see by next year. There’s lots of good ones, but this one by the Iranian blogger Hoder is worth posting in full.