29th February, 2008

Democrats have the numbers

by Sunny at 9:04 am    

CNN has an interesting look at how Democrat and Republican voters are shaping up:

Excluding caucuses, some 22 million Democratic votes have been cast in the primaries held to date. For Republicans, the number is 14.1 million. One reason Republicans cite now is the fact that the Democratic contest is highly competitive while the Republican race is all but over. But GOP turnout has been down since the beginning of the year — even when the Republican race was wide open.

But Republicans also see an upside: Despite the clear Democratic intensity advantage, Sen. John McCain still runs statistically even or better in most of the national polls looking ahead to the general election. The latest Ohio Poll also shows McCain very competitive in the state.

So there’s good and bad news. As long as Democrat voters across the US keep up their enthusiasm and vote in greater numbers than Republicans, they should be able to take the election.

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Political vs Politicised

by Sid (Faisal) at 6:00 am    

Salam ‘aleikum Asim Siddiqui, I agree with you completely:

The Islamic movements dominated Muslim political discourse in the 20th century. Political models coming from the west, such as representative democracy and accountable governments, were at best seen as tools to achieve an Islamic theocracy or at worst dismissed as unIslamic. Meanwhile monarchies, dictatorships and tyranny were able to thrive in the name of Islam. Much of the last 100 years has been spent politicising Islam rather than working for a just polity: the rule of law, equal citizenship and democratically accountable governments. The 21st century will see Islamist ideas dismantled by Muslims and western political models incorporated.

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Filed under: Uncategorized
28th February, 2008

Its about hearts and minds

by Kulvinder at 7:21 pm    

One of the myths the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have put to rest was the vague and hazy belief that the British Army was ‘better’ at peace making. The specifics seemed to reference Northern Ireland or the wearing of flat caps as opposed to helmets. The Americans were the ones without empathy for the local populations. British soldiers were diplomats to the man.

The reality of southern Iraq isn’t promising.

I’m unsure what to say about the bizarre applauding of Prince Harry. He does after all have the army protecting him, as well as a gun to shoot back with. Whats far more interesting is what the responce of Afghans and Muslims will be. My own opinion is this was an unwarranted aggravation of a sensitive situation. The shadows of empire still linger in that part of the world and having a high profile member of royalty kill your people just as his predecessors did won’t encourage the affection of the local people; let alone the wider Islamic world.

By all means those who wish to be bombastic about this can be so. But if public opinion in Afghanistan turns against Britain I hope they understand why. After all the reaction of the IRA to a member of the Royal family serving and killing in Northern Ireland during the troubles would have been predictable. I fear the reaction in this instance will be similarly obvious.

Debates and comments about the sensitivity of the armed forces are utterly pointless if the British Army cannot understand why images of Harry shooting Afghans and Muslims would inflame and alienate those they wish to placate.

Filed under: Current affairs

Talk to Hamas, Israelis tell government

by Leon at 12:09 pm    

Israel is under growing pressure to talk to the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas, which fired a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel yesterday, killing a student.

The strike followed the publication of a poll showing 64% of Israelis want their government to negotiate with Hamas to broker a ceasefire and secure the release of a soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was captured in 2006.

A Tel Aviv University professor, Camil Fuchs, who supervised the survey for Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper, said the results showed that Israeli’s were fed up with the conflict. “They’re tired, they want a normal life,” Fuchs said. [Via The Guardian]

Who doesn’t want a normal life? It’s heartening that the Israeli people are turning toward the reality of the situation with such pragmatism. How will their government respond and will the US government allow them the sovereignty of their decision if it aligns with public opinion on this matter?

Article about Southall Black Sisters

by Sunny at 8:35 am    

I’ve written an article for Comment is Free about SBS and related issues. “These days everybody wants to save Asian women. But very little of the hot air is backed up by action, or funding.” Click here to read it.

27th February, 2008

Some Thoughts on The Extended Family

by Shariq at 3:05 pm    

Last week, Steve Sailer and then Razib Khan had a couple of very interesting posts on the negatives of large extended families. Their arguments are essentially that having lots of relatives with whom you socialise, means that discussion is reduced to a mind-numbing, lowest common denominator i.e. family gossip, at the expense of creativity and individuality. However, I’m not convinced that their link holds up.

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Filed under: Culture,South Asia

Earthquake in North England?

by Sunny at 1:20 am    

Ok, I just got a call from a friend saying she felt an earthquake about 15 mins ago. I laughed, thinking there couldn’t be an earthquake here. Except, according to this reading here, we’ve just had an earthquake!

Here’s a map of where it took place. It measured 4.7 in the Richter scale!

Update1: Sky News confirms it, BBC News 24 talking about China or something. Shame.

Filed under: Current affairs

Pictures from the Southall Black Sisters protest

by Sunny at 12:24 am    

Yesterday evening a protest was held in front of Ealing Council town hall against grant cuts by the council to Southall Black Sisters – perhaps the best known Asian women’s refuge group. Around a 100 people were there, mostly women. I went along to show my support and here are some pictures.

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26th February, 2008

Writing about Muslims

by Rumbold at 8:53 pm    

Some people worry that the media focuses far too much on Muslims. They argue that continual stories about Muslims help to reinforce a siege mentality amongst many of that faith. Pickled Politics is not immune from this charge; we often refer to Muslims, whether directly when talking about issues like sharia law or terrorism, or indirectly when talking about issues such as ‘honour’ killings. Whilst we never stereotype Muslims, it could still be argued that we contribute to the problem. Indeed, several far-right groups have linked gleefully to the news about a possible link between Sikh extremists and Al-Qaeda, viewing it as a chance to bash Muslims once again.

Muslims are individuals; their beliefs cannot be distilled down to soundbites, because they have so many different views, just like the rest of us. They worry about crime, jobs, housing, transport, taxes, foreign affairs, education and so on. And they will disagree with other Muslims on plenty of issues. If this sounds rather obvious to readers of Pickled Politics, then perhaps you should notify those who are happy to make sweeping statements about what Muslims believe. The one thing that separates Muslims from the rest of society though is the relentless media spotlight. This can only worsen any divisions that exist already, as even some perfectly normal, law-abiding Muslims begin to feel a people apart, and become withdrawn. Should Pickled Politics hardly ever mention Muslims then, even if we are only making the problem worse inadvertently? My answer would be no.

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Filed under: Blog,Media,Muslim

28 days: government offers “concessions”

by Sunny at 4:14 pm    

Via Anthony Barnett, I find that the home secretary is preparing to offer “concessions” in an attempt to avoid a rebellion against its plans to extend pre-detention charge for up to 42 days.

Under the proposal, MPs would be allowed to debate a decision to invoke the emergency powers within 10 days of a government decision. At the moment MPs would only be given a say within 30 days, a proposal seen as largely meaningless by critics – suspects could have been charged or released by the time MPs had a chance to scrutinise the need for an extension beyond the current limit of 28 days.

This is so meaningless as to be an insult to our intelligence. Martin Salter, Labour MP for Reading West, who Anthony rightly says is preparing to be a sellout, says we have: “got stuck in a sterile debate on the number of days”. So why not remove any delay of time in which MPs can debate the decision? It is cosmetic surgery and it is being thrown as crumbs to Labour MPs who still have control of their conscience. Feel free to write to Salter by email. As Anthony rightly adds: “There are few things more insufferable than MPs telling us how they are the guardians of our liberty and all the great things about Britain while the executive laughs up its sleeve and voters snort with derision.

Later this week I’ll be speaking alongside Liberty at an event organised by the Muslim debating group City Circle about how this campaign can be taken forward strategically. All are welcome to attend. 6.45pm – 8.45pm

British Sikh extremists exposed

by Sunny at 7:56 am    

Tonight is a big night. A documentary on Radio 4 will blow wide open various links between Sikh extremist groups in the UK and worldwide. It will expose groups here and the folly of our politicians who pander to them.

Below is the blurb about the programme. I’m going to post more stuff later on in the day.

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25th February, 2008

Shock, horror: Obama in turban!

by Leon at 5:42 pm    

Barack ObamaOh my god what is the world coming to?! Sen Barack Obama has shocked the world by daring to dress in traditional African clothes, and wear a Turban too! To many this will look ‘Muslim’ and of course we all know that’s officially A Bad Thing. How can he be President now…?

Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, blamed the Clinton team for distributing the picture on the internet and described as the worst piece of fear-mongering of the election campaign so far.

The picture, which first appeared on the Drudge Report, is likely to be picked up by the many websites that have falsely claimed he is a Muslim. It was taken in 2006 when Obama, whose father was Kenyan, visited Wajir in the north-east of the African country and was dressed by the locals as a Somali elder.

The Drudge report said it had obtained the picture after it was circulated in an email between Clinton’s staff under the heading: “Wouldn’t we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were [Hillary Clinton]?”

It’s terrifying isn’t it? Those Clinton’s and their nasty little smear campaign tactics have done the American people a great service by alerting them (and us) to this horrifying image. Well done on them working with the rightwing blog The Drudge Report to bring this to light.

More on SBS closure plans

by Sunny at 5:36 pm    

Leon earlier pointed out that a rally is taking place tomorrow in Ealing in protest at the Council’s decision to pull vital funding from Southall Black Sisters. I’ll be there too, lending my support.

Here’s an example letter you can send in protest at Ealing Council’s decision:

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Filed under: Current affairs

Pakistani people see hope

by Fe'reeha at 10:28 am    

Fe’reeha is currently in Pakistan, and reporting from there

I spent all last week talking to the people on the streets of Pakistan. I traveled to Islamabad, Lahore and was on the roads in Karachi. As far as I can see even most cynics are embracing themselves for change in Pakistan.

A general feeling on the ground for Pakistanis is of hope and aspirations. After the turmoil of almost a year, the general public is hoping for stability and economic progress from the new government. A naïve but well founded reason to hope against hope.

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24th February, 2008

Hope in a dark tale

by Rumbold at 7:38 pm    

The Daily Telegraph reports a disturbing story about a Hindu-Muslim marriage in India which ended in tragedy (via SaveDelara at the International Campaign Against Honour Killings):

“A tale of forbidden love that ended in a man’s violent death has sparked rioting in Calcutta and led to the removal of the city’s police chief. The fate of Rizwanur Rahman has exposed the religious and class divisions in modern India. Mr Rahman, 30, was a computer graphics teacher from a Muslim family of modest means. His widow, Priyanka Todi, 23, is the daughter of a wealthy Hindu clothing manufacturer. Investigators are now trying to determine whether Mr Rahman, 30, who was discovered in September lying dead on a city railway track with a head wound, committed suicide or was murdered.”

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23rd February, 2008

The Open Thread

by Clairwil at 7:29 pm    

Hello folks,
Apologies for my extended absence, I’ve been caught up with one of my projects and a couple of unexpected social outings that took a day or two to sleep off.

Other than that it’s been work, work, work and marvelling at the performance of Phillip Glenister as DCI Hunt in Ashes to Ashes. I’m reserving judgement on the programme itself until it’s got another couple of episodes under it’s belt but Glenister alone makes it worth watching.

I hope you’re all well and getting up to mischief either online or in the real world which I’ve been led to understand still exists despite my absence.

As usual keep your comments light, your links amusing and your danders up.

Cheerio

Filed under: Current affairs
22nd February, 2008

Save Southall Black Sisters

by Leon at 4:20 pm    

I’ve just been alerted to this call to action on the IRR website:

A picket to show support for Southall Black Sisters which is facing closure following a decision by Ealing council to withdraw funding.

* Tuesday 26 February 2008, 6-7pm
* Ealing Town Hall, Uxbridge Road, Ealing W5 2BY

Please contact Southall Black Sisters (SBS) if you plan to attend – Southall Black Sisters on 020 8571 9595 or email: southallblacksisters@btconnect.com.

For those who don’t know about SBS you can read about them and their work here.

Filed under: Current affairs

Supporting and protecting war-criminals

by Sunny at 3:31 pm    

This is extraordinary:

Scotland Yard allowed a suspected war criminal to escape Britain because officers feared an attempt to stop him would lead to a gun battle at Heathrow airport, police documents seen by the Guardian reveal. The former senior Israeli officer was supposed to be detained as he arrived in London for a speaking engagement after a British court had ordered his arrest.

But detectives watched on as he landed and hid on the plane for two hours, before flying off to escape justice. In the documents, counter-terrorism police say they did not try to board the Israeli civilian jet partly because they feared armed guards on the plane would open fire on British officers.

A UK court had issued a secret arrest warrant for Major General Doron Almog over alleged war crimes under the Geneva conventions of ordering the demolition of 59 civilian Palestinian homes.

Israeli diplomats were tipped off after Almog’s plane left Israel on September 11 2005. Once it landed in London, a military attaché from the Israeli embassy boarded the jet and warned Almog to stay on board. He refused to leave the plane until it took off again for Israel, two hours later.

So we have Israeli diplomats in London purposely supporting and harbouring war-criminals and murderers. I wonder if the usual squad will scream and shout about this. But I suspect not. Shame on Scotland Yard for having no balls either.

Opposing all-black shortlists

by Sunny at 8:48 am    

This was also sent to me yesterday:

In a speech tonight Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg will pledge to make the Liberal Democrats more representative of modern Britain.

Nick Clegg will be speaking in Manchester at an event to raise money to fund Liberal Democrat campaigns against the British National Party and other far right parties. In his first major speech on diversity since becoming Leader of the Liberal Democrats in December, Nick Clegg made four specific commitments:

· Liberal Democrats will increase fundraising to increase diversity
· To establish a Liberal Democrat Academy to provide training for future national and community leaders
· Support moves to permit political parties to legally choose all black and minority ethnic shortlists for candidate selections
· Increase the diversity of the senior leadership of the Party

After some discussion about this, I’ve decided to oppose the idea of changing the law so political parties can force the candidate short-list for a seat (for parliament) to only have brown / black people listed. The idea is to ensure more black and brown people get into politics but I think it will backfire hugely. It’s officially a bad idea. The Libdems need to make their party more representative, but all minority shortlists are not the way.

I’ll say more on this soon, but happy to hear reader’s thoughts. I might write something for the Libdem websites about this too.

Tories propose criminalising forced marriages

by Sunny at 5:46 am    

I’m publishing the press release because it explains everything

Conservative Party Leader David Cameron today unveiled measures to clamp down on forced marriages. Describing the practice of forced marriages as “utterly bizarre and frankly unacceptable” he said a Conservative Government would consider making them illegal.

Key proposals are:
* The age limit to be raised to 21 for both spouse and sponsor for marriages from abroad.
* Spouses to register before going abroad to marry.
* Potential spouses coming to the UK to take the ‘Life in the UK’ citizenship test.
* Awareness packs for schools on how to deal with the problem.
* Children’s Services Departments to be given greater role in protecting vulnerable children.

Continue Reading...
21st February, 2008

Tony Blair has too much time on his hands

by Sunny at 1:45 am    

First he tried to become a peace ambassador for the Middle East. That failed. Then he started trying for the EU presidency. That is facing stiff resistance. It looks like his latest plan of action is to bring peace and harmony to the UK by visiting ‘the ethnics’. This is a picture at Southall’s Gurdwara. I’m perplexed as to why he didn’t cover his head though, as tradition demands.

The best caption wins a prize!

Filed under: Current affairs,Humour

Al Jazeera stands up for free speech

by Sunny at 1:39 am    

Yesterday’s Media Guardian had this article:

The head of al-Jazeera has launched a scathing attack on Middle East governments, accusing them of framing new laws giving them powers to close down the Arabic-language news channel and other broadcasters. Wadah Khanfar, al-Jazeera’s director general, said a charter published last week by the Arab League, which represents 22 states in the Middle East, is the most serious threat to media freedom in the region for more than a decade.

“Who is going to decide if a leader in a particular country has been ‘insulted’? In this region, regimes have never been in favour of a free press or freedom of expression, so to hand over to them the right to decide [who broadcasts what] is very dangerous,” Khanfar added.

Most seriously, al-Jazeera believes the charter could give Middle East governments the power to switch off satellite signals and force broadcasters off air. All satellite broadcasters rely on just two groups; Arabsat, based in Saudi Arabia, and Egypt’s NileSat.

All kudos to them in my view. The Middle East won’t get anywhere without more freedom and democracy.

20th February, 2008

Proposed new rules for gaining citizenship

by Rumbold at 2:05 pm    

The Home Office has yet again proposed a tweaking of the system which allows foreigners to become subjects of Her Majesty Elizabeth II:

“Immigrants who want to become British and settle permanently in the UK will need to pass more tests to “prove their worth” to the country under new plans. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said migrants would need to demonstrate their contribution to society beyond simply working and paying taxes.

Some migrants may also have to pay into a fund towards public services and have a period of “probationary citizenship”. The Tories called the plans, which do not cover EU citizens, a “gimmick”. Unveiling the proposals, Ms Smith said reforming how people become citizens was the unfinished business of the UK’s migration system.

She said that future migrants would need to “earn” citizenship. This scraps the current system which allows people to apply for naturalisation on the basis of how long they have lived in the UK.”

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19th February, 2008

Home Affairs Select Committee on domestic violence

by Rumbold at 6:00 pm    

This morning the Home Affairs Select Committee heard evidence from three witnesses (all members of groups which help victims of domestic violence) on the progress, or lack of, made in tackling domestic violence. I went along because some of the evidence was to do with forced marriages and ‘honour’ killings, and one of the witnesses was Jasvinder Sanghera, author of a book on her experiences of forced marriage, and a representative of Karma Nirvana. The other two witnesses were Sandra Horley and Nicola Harwin, representatives of Refuge and Women’s Aid respectively.

Even though the majority of the discussion was to do with domestic violence in the general sense, there were still some important lessons to emerge with respect to forced marriage and ‘honour’ killings specifically. (This is a rather long piece, so there is a summary of the salient points at the bottom. Throughout I refer to ‘victims’, echoing the language of the hearing, even if some of those mentioned were victims in the sense that something was about to happen to them). This is how the hearing progressed:

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More pressure on the BBC

by Sunny at 3:47 pm    

Ekklesia reports today:

Mr Hundal’s letter to the BBC says: “[My] complaint refers principally to coverage on BBC News 24 and news bulletins on BBC television and radio on Friday 8 February and the weekend of 9 & 10th February 2008.”

Hundal stresses: “[T]his does not mean I endorse sharia or want it to be fully introduced in the UK. I believe in one civil law for all citizens. However, BBC News bulletins did not make any attempts to offer any context to its own coverage.”

Commentator Matt Wardman goes further, accusing the BBC of instigating the political firestorm with a misleading headline trailing its interview with him.

The BBC knows it went too far with its coverage because editor Peter Rippon wrote this blog after backtracking somewhat and trying to give silly justifications for the corporation’s sensationalism. Matt W tells me that comments made by him and others criticising Rippon underneath that blog-post were not published. So, sensationalism and censorship against criticism. The corporation acts like the Daily Mail more every day.

Filed under: Current affairs,Media
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