Boy, I think this was my toughest article on comment is free. It took so much re-wording that my head was hurting last night.
Anyway, following the controversy over Rev Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama, I thought i’d make a broader point about the dynamics with minority communities on “speaking out” and raising your head above the parapet etc.
What I like about Obama is that the man has to walk a very difficult tightrope. The Clintons and Republicans are doing everything to make it about his race, in coded terms (how patriotic are you really??), while Obama has to sit there and take it. He can’t acknowledge that shit because as soon as he does, they’ll just brand him a whiny black man complaining about racism. Its just not the done thing when you want to transcend race.
Karl Rove has written an homage to John McCain in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal. As far as the election goes, Rove and the GOP frontrunner can now be said to be in a sweet and tender embrace.
This is despite the fact that Rove was reportedly one of the team behind a vicious smear campaign to discredit McCain before the South Carolina primaries eight years ago. There, someone involved with the Bush campaign instigated a series of telephone calls in which Republican voters were asked whether they would be more or less likely to vote for McCain if they knew he’d “fathered an illegitimate black child”.
“It’s official: Asian women are less sexy than Gordon Brown in a fishmongers’ bin, with bits of dried haddock clinging to forehead. At least, that’s according to FHM’s highly-scientific annual 100 Famous Women Who Are Willing To Take Their Clothes Off For Lads’ Mags poll, which this week included no Asian women whatsoever for the 894th time…
Asian women make up a significant proportion of the UK’s population, but only one is considered a sex symbol, while the rest are largely seen as unavailable, sexless and unautonomous. No, a slot in a sexist lads’ mag poll isn’t going to change this, and I’d never advocate trying to snare one, but it would at least be a sign that Asian women weren’t sexually invisible. On a practical level, if there were more young Asian women on UK television, and if young female British Asian talents like Nerina Pallot and Kia Abdullah were as celebrated as they could be, maybe we’d begin to see British Asian women in a more positive, integrated and “non-oppressed” way.”
Press release sent to me
Results from the latest polls indicate that womenâ€™s votes are still up for grabs the race for Londonâ€™s mayor. Fifty four per cent of women surveyed in an Ipsos MORI poll (3) are certain to vote in the London Mayoral and London Assembly elections on May 1st.
However, only 61% of these women have decided their first choice for Mayor (4). Over a third of women said they are likely to change their mind on who they will vote for, indicating there is a mass of womenâ€™s votes yet to be secured by any candidate ahead of the elections.
Good pieces in the Indy today, by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, and yesterday in the Observer by Huma Qureshi about British Muslims being stereotyped. I particularly liked Huma’s piece:
A new five-part series on Muslim women called Women in Black starts next week. The series boldly goes where no undercover Dispatches investigative journalist has ever been before. Yes, you guessed it, under the burka. Ever wondered what lies beneath? Jack Straw did.
Last summer, I was asked to take part in the programme. The makers said they wanted to shatter stereotypes and show the empowered, modern, young, cool Muslim woman (presumably because we haven’t gone off the rails like the modern, young, British, uncool Muslim man). Would I take part? ‘Of course,’ I said. Am I not empowered and modern and Muslim and cool? Hell, yes.
‘Your dress is quite Western,’ they said ruefully. I was wearing jeans and a short-sleeved top (yes, I really do remember what I was wearing that day.
You see, burkas make good TV. I don’t. I’ve just taken a look at the show. What we get is the presenter donning an abaya and going to Yemen to show us all the fun things us Muslim women do, like wear long, black cloaks, party in the women’s quarters and put sparkly eyeshadow on.
If you ever want to find examples of how slavishly and bizarrely the mainstream media following similar lines of thinking – the current state of the American elections is a good one.
But before I expand on that, consider this. African Americans constitute around 14% of the American electorate. They also form around 50% of the Democratic party’s base and are seen as its most loyal constituency. So you’d think they would feature pretty importantly on what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama need to do win presidential election. With American voters so polarised its vital that any candidate reach all parts of the Democrat base and can do well with independents.
But here’s the thing. Everyone in the media since Pennsylvania has jumped on the same bandwagon that Obama is in trouble. He’s not and there are simple reasons why he’s not:
Well not yet, but it would be true if the fundamentalists had their way. From Reuters:
More than 1,000 Indonesian Muslims gathered in front of the presidential palace on Sunday to press the government to ban a Muslim sect that has been branded heretical by most Muslims.
An Indonesian government team is drafting a decree that will ban the Ahmadiyya sect, which views itself as Muslim but has been branded a heretical group by the Indonesian Ulema Council, the secular country’s highest Muslim authority.
Chanting “Allahu Akbar (God is Great)” and “Disband Ahmadiyya”, the members of the Indonesian Muslim Forum (FUI), a group of about 50 Muslim organisations, urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to issue the decree.
The FUI also asked the government to capture Ahmadiyya’s leaders and seize all its assets.
You may have your reasons for agreeing with these Indonesian fundamentalists, but I personally will always support the Ahmadiyya. Why you ask? Well, despite (or perhaps because of) their idiosyncratic beliefs, they are principled dissidents against the growing Wahhabi-Salafist sway over Muslims in South Asia. They face persecution in Bangladesh and Pakistan and now Indonesia.
Whether you regard the Ahmadiyya as a heretical sect or not, one thing that cannot be denied is that a pacifist, tolerant and rational strain runs through their ethos like a stick of rock.
Oh dear it looks like the knives are out for Brown now. Not long after his famous ‘not calling the election’ idiocy there were a few weeks were it looked like Brown was in real trouble. The moment passed, the news agenda moved on…
Levy said Blair still believed he could have won a fourth election, adding: ‘But Gordon? “He can’t defeat Cameron,” Tony told me. Blair believed Cameron had major strengths – political timing, a winning personality and a natural ability to communicate to Middle England that Gordon would be unable to match.’
Blair’s spokesman said the former PM ‘doesn’t agree with the views attributed to him by Lord Levy and fully believes Labour with Gordon Brown’s leadership can win the next election.’
Levy’s disclosures will fuel growing panic in Labour ranks, with ministers now openly discussing whether Brown could be persuaded to stand aside if Labour does badly in Thursday’s London and local elections. His prospects were not helped by an oil refinery strike in Scotland prompting panic-buying of petrol and fears of rationing yesterday.
You can read more about Lord Levy’s comments and watch a clip of the interview here.
The state has an obligation under the Race Relations Act to ensure that different ethnic groups are not disproportionately disadvantaged by government policies. This requirement has been invoked by Hounslow Race Equality Council and Friends of the Earth in order to challenge the proposed third runway at Heathrow:
“The Government has been forced to review the impact of Heathrow airport expansion on local ethnic minority communities following a legal challenge from Hounslow Race Equality Council (Hounslow REC), represented by Friends of the Earth’s Rights and Justice Centre.
The Government denied that changes in their proposals for expanding the airport were likely to result in a disproportionate noise burden on the large ethnic minority population in the area  – but was forced to rethink when Hounslow REC sought legal action and lodged judicial review proceedings at the High Court .
Hounslow REC argued that proposals to allow easterly departures off the northern runway over the heavily populated area of Cranford would cause noise pollution affecting mostly ethnic minority communities , and that work was needed to assess the effect of lowering planes on the southern flight path to the airport.”
Great news for Ken supporters and probably slightly less so for those who like the increasingly odd YouGov polls:
Ken Livingstone has edged ahead of his Tory rival, Boris Johnson, in the race to become the next mayor of London, according to an opinion poll released today.
The survey conducted by Ipsos Mori puts Livingstone on 53% – six points ahead of Johnson on 47% – among those certain to vote in next Thursday’s election, once crucial second preferences are taken into account.
It is Livingstone’s biggest lead since the campaign started.
This race really is on a knife edge; it’s almost become impossible to tell who’s going to win. The interesting thing is just how much a comment this is on Boris Johnson. Despite an amazing campaign of smears in the media (and obliging Tory/rightwing bloggers) he’s not doing as well as he should be.
If Ken is as bad as his detractors make out why aren’t voters turning against him in huge numbers? Could it be that despite his flaws it’s better the devil you know than the bumbling idiot you don’t?
The Post, a Pakistani newspaper, highlights the number of females dead as a result of gender bias, particularly in Asia. It points out that Amartya Sen estimated that in India and China alone, there are 83 million few women then there should have been, because of a preference for a boy over a girl:
“It is important to understand that these 100 million women should have been alive and living today if not for the fact that they were killed, often directly in the form of abortion, killing after birth and death due to medical negligence and discrimination over food. It is important to understand that unlike in war where state institutions and politics is responsible for the deaths, here parents and close relatives of the unborn girl and the girl child are responsible for the deaths…
Heh, I’m not talking about my experiences here by the way, just in case you thought I was getting all personal.
I’m doing an interview with Sathnam Sanghera about his just-published book, which I’m reading right now. It’s quite good actually, in a therapeutic sort of way. This is one of the questions I asked him:
Did the book help you get your head around dating women in general?
Ken Livingstone was editor of the Labour Herald in 1982 when it published an anti-semitic cartoon, comparing Israel to Hitler. As Livingstone supporters have quoted liberally from the Spectator under Boris Johnson’s editorship, this might be seen as simply a tit-for-tat response. However, as Dizzy points out, the key point is that Livingstone claimed on Tuesday that the cartoon was a response to the Sabra and Shatilla massacres, when in fact those massacres took place months after the publication of the cartoon.
I doubt that Livingstone cares about stories like this. His supporters usually brush off any criticism of his behaviour regarding Jews, claiming either that he is naÃ¯ve (ignoring the fact that he is one of the shrewdest politicians in the country with strong ideological convictions), or that he is critical of Israel, but not Jews (a line he frequently crosses). I suspect he will win the mayoral election, as anti-semitic outbursts do not really cost him any votes.
In many ways, the launch of QF reminds me of the reception that my own initiative, New Generation Network, and then Independent Jewish Voices got. There are entrenched interests and people hate the consensus being shaken up.
What riles Muslims here is that Ed Husain goes on TV and openly talks about Muslims being seduced by extremist ideology and becoming terrorists. Its easy to ignore or criticise someone like Melanie Phillips when she does it. Ed adds credibility to the argument that there are active terror cells in this country looking to recruit, brainwash and persuade more Muslims to blow themselves up. He does go overboard in blaming Muslims and ‘liberals’, but the fact that he says it really riles fellow Muslims.
The smell of defeat has led some in the Labour government to consider their career options as PR Week reports:
Hordes of senior Labour special advisers are said to be passing their CVs to headhunters and recruitment consultants amid concern that their stock is falling.
With Gordon Brown’s poll ratings plummeting, many Labour aides are now understood to be enquiring about roles at PR consultancies and large companies. A September cabinet reshuffle is also on the cards.
JFL Recruitment managing director Ros Kindersley said: â€˜The political climate is changing, and whenever there’s a change in the political climate we get enquiries. More people are open to moving. It’s been across the board, including people in the top ranks.’
From the press release: “The tragic and disturbing patterns of violence between young people are a legitimate cause for concern and for media coverage. Too many young people are victims or perpetrators of violent crime in our towns and cities. Yet an analysis of the reporting of violent crime for two months of 2007 shows that the deaths of Black victims are of less concern to the print media than those of White victims.”