22nd July, 2008
On a recent blog post at Harry’s Place, one of the readers asked David T:
David, I know Sunny is a friend of yours but he is clearly losing the plot. Some of the recent stuff he wrote about the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Islam Expo was bizarre. There was a time when he was reliably hostile to the prumptions of Islamism but recently he seems to have become some kind of anti-anti-Islamist, preferring to focus his energy on attacking anyone who dares to point out the danger. Any insights into whatâ€™s going on?
To which David T replies:
No, I really donâ€™t know. All I can say is that this isn’t the perspective of all the Pickled Politics bloggers at all.
It is a bizarre response for two reasons. First, David is a regular reader and should have seen this post where I explained my reasons for a subtle change in my own editorial direction.
Secondly, my post on IslamExpo was actually more about the Quilliam Foundation, and the essential point was no different to what I had already said when writing about QF’s launch.
21st July, 2008
Its good at least that high gas prices are forcing Americans to finally talk more loudly about diversifying away from oil. Of course, George Bush is trying his best to avoid that by calling for more drilling. In this Faux news discussion, author Naomi Klein (who’s book No Logo is one of my top books ever), does a good job of slamming his plans. Interesting though that these ideas are now becoming more mainstream.
Expect Brendan O’Neill to write an article in the coming days that anyone who wants to deny oil companies drilling for oil and destroying wildlife is an authoritarian bastard in the pay of “environNazis” who should be strung up alongside the Dalai Lama.
“India is to temporailly release six jailed MPs to take part in a crucial vote next week that could seal the fate of the government. The MPs â€“ including murderers and and an extortionist â€“ are to spend two days out of jail on bail as Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh scrambles for support for a tight no-confidence vote on July 22 .
The vote was called after 59 communist MPs withdrew support from Mr Singh’s Congress Party-led federal coalition over a contentious civilian nuclear deal with the United States. The release of the jailed MPs â€“ five of whom are supporters of Mr Singh â€“ are approved under longstanding constitutional provisions.”
Two of the most charming are:
“Mohammed Shahabuddin from the lawless eastern state of Bihar, who is serving a life term for killing a political opponent. His bail has been granted on the condition that he pays his expenses and those of his police escort. Another is Rajesh Ranjan, a fellow National Socialist Party MP also from Bihar, who was imprisoned for murdering a local trade unionist.”
20th July, 2008
Some of my women Muslim friends have been asked in the past by Muslim “brothers” that they should cover up more because otherwise they’re opening themselves up to the male gaze and are then more in danger of being attacked or being leered at etc.
I’ve never bought this argument for two reasons. First, because the women are being blamed for the actions of men. After all, if a man is leering, saying vulgar things or goes as far as sexual harassment or rape, it is his fault at all times, not the woman’s. Obvious point, I know, but it is surprising how many times I have to make this. A man is responsible for his own actions.
The second point is that it doesn’t work. And a survey from Egypt points this out:
Participants in the survey were shown pictures of women wearing different kinds of dress – from the mini skirt to the niqab (full face veil) and asked which were more likely to be harassed. More than 60% – including female respondents – suggested the scantily clad woman was most at risk. But in reality the study concluded the majority of the victims of harassment were modestly dressed women wearing Islamic headscarves.
Perhaps nothing illustrates Egypt’s loss of a moral compass than the responses of some men in the ECWR study. Some said they harassed a woman simply because they were bored. One who abused a woman wearing the niqab said she must be beautiful, or hiding something.
19th July, 2008
Yesterday I attended a discussion about the issues that â€˜mixedâ€™ people face, whether because they are in a relationship that crosses religious and/or racial lines, or because they are the children of such a union. All the participants were agreed that mixed persons (I canâ€™t think of a better term), were neglected by the state and the media. There were a number of complaints about the way in which the Commission for Racial Equality and its head Trevor Phillips have failed to address the issues that mixed persons face, and the way in which the state only helps groups that one might term â€˜wholeâ€™ (blacks, whites etc.).
One of the speakers was Mixtogether, a regular visitor to Pickled Politics. He runs an online forum for interracial/interreligious couples, especially those whose relationship has been criticised by their family, friends or wider community. He pointed out that although there is very little data available, mixed-race couples represented around 5% of the couples (2001 census), and were the fasted growing group. Among the issues faced by some mixed couples, especially in the South Asian community, is the pressure from those close to them to break of the relationship and pick a â€˜suitableâ€™ mate.
18th July, 2008
I’ve hear from a friend that Ealing Council has backed down over its much condemned decision to cut funding for Southall Black Sisters. No surprise the original plans came from a Conservative run council, but I bet they were surprised at the strength of the opposition to their plans. The demonstration in support of SBS was on Thursday/Friday. Anyway, once I know more I’ll post it.
More by Cath Elliott on LiberalConspiracy
The past week has seen the American Army suffering losses in Afghanistan and a series of bomb blasts in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff has again highlighted the problem of Taliban fighters based in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Ahmed Rashidâ€™s new book, “Descent into Chaos: How the war against Islamic Extremism is being lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia” provides probably the most detailed examination yet, of how this sad state of affairs came to be and who is responsible for it.
17th July, 2008
This was one of the more shocking bits from Peter Oborne’s recent documentary ‘It shouldn’t happen to a Muslim’. A BNP activist tells Oborne about this views on Jews: “Probably seem as an ally…. for the future. There’s there’s the potential there for teamwork… the avenue there is for fresher cooperation.”
Then the BNP operatives run into this guy who is opposing the building of a local mosque…. (7 minutes in).
The full doc is on YouTube: part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4 / part 5 and part 6.
Part 6 features Michael Gove MP at the start (one of my favourite bits) – who is confronted with the article where he wrote that wearing the full veil in itself is a badge of allegiance to Islamist politics. In other words, if you wear the full veil you’re an al-Qaeda supporter. Of course, he’d hate to think that would inspire anyone to pull the veil off a woman… after all she’s only an al-qaeda supporter right? Michael Gove MP presumably interviewed a lot of niqabi women for the purposes of an article. Or maybe he was just inciting hatred. Who knows eh?
“A US judge has ruled that the first war crimes trial at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, involving Osama Bin Laden’s former driver, can go ahead. Judge James Robertson dismissed a claim from lawyers for Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni, that it should be stopped while he challenged the process’s legality.
The ruling came after a military judge at Guantanamo denied a postponement. Last month, the US Supreme Court ruled detainees had to be able to challenge their detention in civilian courts. It said the 270 men currently being detained at Guantanamo had “the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus” – the right for suspects to be heard by an independent judge on the legality of their detention.”
The situation is far from perfect, but at least some of the inmates are actually having trials, rather than being stuck in limbo. Hopefully whoever wins the Presidency will speed things up.
One of the world’s favourite topics by far, for many good and some unsavoury reasons, was raised by Nesrine Malik’s latest article on comment is free. She gives her take on the discussion of women and Islam at IslamExpo.
Her main point was,
We certainly need more freedom to question our faith without being accused of rejecting it.
I think everyone could do with that freedom, female or otherwise. There is a profound lack of self-criticism and openness in Muslim socities that is really a whole other kettle of fish.
As for individual rights, I say create avenues for people in Muslim communities to freely reject religious diktats without fearing for their lives or wellbeing. Of course, not without fearing ostracisation, that goes without saying, and there’s nothing that can be done about that.
Unfortunately, nothing can be done to allay people’s homocidal tendencies until they have been fulfilled (or at least hard evidence has been found that they are going to be fulfilled). But in areas where ghettoisation has created an impossible environment to think differently or leave, local government can work on funding refuges, for women and men alike. That would be my answer to the question of liberating Muslim women.
As for questioning the actual doctrinal framing of a woman’s status, it must be remembered that these doctrines are accepted and revered, by men and women alike, as abhorrent as they may seem to some. No one is going to accept the overhaul of what they see as sacrosanct by a bunch of liberal lefties. That might just turn out to be a wasted effort. What wouldn’t be a wasted effort is to tell people born to Muslim families that they have the choice of rejecting things they don’t like, and that if they do, they don’t have to fear for their lives.
The British Crime Survey, which is based on interviews with the public, revealed that nearly 130,000 violent offences involved a knife last year, down 43,000 on the previous year. In London, where the problem is worst, the Metropolitan police figures showed a 16% decrease in “knife enabled” crimes, the survey said.
But no people, we should panic! Make sure you have that knife-proof vest because according to Neil Clark, life was perfect in the 1950s and now all these multicultural people have made our lives sooooooo much more scary!
16th July, 2008
Ok, I’m a bit pissed off after learning that Catherine Fieschi has resigned as director of the think-tank Demos. She was undoubtedly one of the brightest people I’ve met ever and also one of the nicest. I don’t know why she has resigned yet. [update: It wasn't over the IslamExpo incident she told me]
Anyway, one of Catherine’s aim was to shed more light on the issue of how to deal with terrorism and figure out a common language forward. She was one of the main signatories to the New Generation Network manifesto and an influential supporter of the Quilliam Foundation. So I’m going to try and focus on this for the next few days, primarily because Demos was recently involved in a controversy over hosting a discussion at IslamExpo.
While I think it was fine for Martin Bright and others to pull out of IslamExpo because one of its organisers (linked to Hamas) was trying to sue Harry’s Place, there has been a terrible discussion about engaging with political Islamism. Nick Cohen wrote a piece for Harry’s Place expanding on his views, and basically I disagree with it. I’ll come back to that in subsequent posts.
I want to start with Ed Husain. I was supportive of Ed Husain and Maajid Nawaz’s Qulliam Foundation as many of you know, and personally friendly with both of them. I still am. But Ed wrote this piece recently, titled ‘Stop Pandering to Islamist Extremists‘ recently. Unfortunately, its so cliched and ill-thought out that I think the project is now in danger of rapidly falling apart. And this is a shame because Catherine Fieschi was one of the biggest supporters of Quilliam but I suspect she will understand where I’m coming from.
Site was down temporarily in the morning. Don’t know why. But, like the bubonic plague, we keep coming back.
15th July, 2008
The protest to support Southall Black Sisters is this Thursday and Friday. I got this:
Please arrive for the demo from 9.30am – 4pm on both 17th & 18th July
SBS will maintain a presence all day outside the High Court on both days so if you can only make it during your lunch hour, please do still come along. There will be a particularly large presence at this time as those who will be in the public gallery for the hearing will join the demo outside – this is a critical time to make the general public aware of the situation of the Southall Black Sisters.
For more information please see: their website
Tariq Ahmed has been appointed Vvice chairman for Cities for the Conservative Party, taking over from Kulveer Ranger’s brief (who is now managing transport for Boris). Before Kulveer it was Sayeeda Warsi in that role. Is this like the Tory ‘ethnic seat’ or something? Anyway, well done to Tariq.
Update - more here.
Brendan O’Neill is possibly the most vacuous robotic writer today. Though, Rod Liddle and Jon Gaunt come close. O’ Neill is the editor of Spiked-online, an online magazine that grew out of the ashes of Living Marxism – which died after being sued to bankruptcy by ITN for libel.
In their amusingly bad attempts to be contrarian for its own sake, they’ve now decided that ‘environmentalism’ is the greatest threat to humanity. Of course it is Brendan – are there bogeymen underneath your bed too? Oh, and look the BNP care for the environment so environmentalists must be nazis too. The guy isn’t beyond parody, he’s just an insult to everyone’s intelligence. Say loud and proud – I’m an environmentalist. That article is so bad he gives libertarians a bad name.
Last week I said this media outrage over knife crime was really silly. And so it continues. Sadie Smith has a good post calling out media hypocrisy over a supposed government ‘u-turn’. And Paul Walter has a more incisive and measured blog post saying this is all getting rather silly.
As I said earlier, the stupidest thing a government can do is pretend that its taking action when the media collectively kick off some outrage. And I’m really astonished at how naive this government can be. Let me explain why.
The media narrative – ‘OMG, knife crime is going crazy and we’re all gonna dieeeee!‘ – is a trap. There is no quick fix solution for a start. And then, a Labour govt is traditionally seen as soft on crime anyway, so it is a debate that is had on right-wing territory. It was inevitable that David Cameron was going to announce that he would lock up everyone in sight and get plaudits from the Daily Mail. What else is he going to say, the guy doesn’t have an original bone in his body. So if you don’t challenge this media narrative to begin with then you’re fighting on their territory and you’re bound to lose. It’s a basic rule of war – never fight on your opponent’s territory.
And this is exactly what has happened. The home secretary Jacqui Smith announced a series of proposals in panic because the Labour govt must be seen to be doing something. As day surely follows night, those proposals were immediately attacked in every conceivable way. She’s been accused of a u-turn, been accused of coming out with half-baked proposals (no shit sherlock, what did you expect?) and been accused of nanny-statism (hello, I told you so!). Jesus. New Labour is supposed to be the party of spin but they don’t even see a media trap when its calling out to them.
Update: And now Neil Clark has written one of the most hilariously bad article on knife crime attacking me on my stance. Brilliant.
14th July, 2008
In an interview with the Guardian when Midnight’s Children was crowned Booker of Bookers (no, I couldn’t finish it either), Salman Rushdie defends Martin Amis by saying:
The point is this: I don’t have to agree with what you or anybody says to defend their right to say it. To have Martin articulating a public fear in this rather knockabout way was justified. If we don’t say what we think or articulate what is being generally thought, then we are self-censoring, which is wimpish.
Look, I hate to keep going over this but no one is denying Amis the right to say what he wants. Newspapers clamour to interview him all the time. But a bit like his mate Ian McEwan, Rushdie is being a bit silly. I’ll say it again. People have the right to say stupid things. People legally have the right to articulate thoughts about locking up Muslims enmasse. If you want to think it or say it – fine. But please…please do not tell me or others that we cannot accuse Martin Amis of bigotry for doing so. He has his right, I have my right. Martin Amis is a bigot who felt an urge to lock up Muslims enmasse. There’s no argument here: Amis, McEwan and Rushdie can keep on defending each other since they’re mates. I still call a spade a spade. And no can deny that right either.
Post-colonial South Asia has had a turbulent time when it comes to military coups. Pakistan and Bangladesh have experienced numerous coups, while in Nepal and Sri Lanka the military has retained immense power thanks to the long civil wars in both those countries. India, for whatever reason, has not had the same troubles.
Yet the Indian army today is facing increasingly levels of discontent amongst its officer class, mainly because of the pay, which is dwarfed by what one can earn in the private sector, or even many non-military civil service positions. The Indian army (as opposed to the whole of the armed forces), is facing a shortage of 11,238 officers, or nearly 25% of the total. Despite spending about Â£17 billion per year on defence, the government pay commission, which meets every ten years to decide state salaries, only recommended a 15% rise for the armed forces. That would be it for the next ten years, which given that annual inflation is running at 12%, is really not that impressive. Officers and veterans went on protests, and there was even a hunger strike. To quote former army chief General Shankar Roy Choundhury:
“Political apathy and bureaucratic design and indifference are responsible. Army is one good institution. For heaven’s sake, don’t destroy it like you have destroyed everything else.”
The Italian version of Vogue magazine recently decided to run with a daring experiment: in honour of Obama’s impending presidency (I believe it even if you don’t suckers!), the July issue is full of black models! Horror!
As the Facebook group says:
Major magazine distributors across Europe have said that they expect the Italian Vogue magazine that will feature all black models to be the worst selling edition ever. As part of the Black BUT Invisible campaign to promote and get more models of colour into mainstream fashion we are actively supporting the push to make this the biggest selling issue ever by getting everyone to join this group and buy a copy of Italian Vogue.
And the always amusing Gawker adds:
Jeff Bercovici points out that the April cover of Vogue with Lebron James (a black man) was the magazine’s worst-selling April cover since 2001. They tried! Scrap the experiment! The world isn’t ready for black people in fashion!
Of course, the best solution to all of this would be to let black people be models in high fashion magazines as a matter of course, just like everybody else. No need for a special occasion to run topless Naomi Campbell photos. And as pointing-out machine Bercovici also points out, Vogue‘s worst-selling issue of the year so far had Gwyneth Paltrow on the cover. Failure brings us all together!
I wonder though which is the bigger marketing stunt – saying you have a all-black models issue, or quietly releasing feelers out there saying you expect it to be the worst selling issue, so immediately getting a whole load of ethnic minorities buying it to prove otherwise. Hmmm….
Writers for Pickled Politics are meeting at a secret location in London on 2nd August to conspire for world domination (what else?). If anyone else wants to join us, please get in touch through the contact page. Would love to have some of the regulars readers and writers there…
12th July, 2008
I still don’t understand why The Observer keeps paying Andrew Anthony to write about race and religion – he’s so infuriatingly clueless. I destroyed his long, boring essay on how he was disillusioned by the liberal-left a while back, and yet he keeps coming back with examples that illustrate his ignorance.
In this review of Kenan Malik’s interesting new book (I like KM), he says:
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for members of religious or cultural groups to be classified as races. It’s also perfectly routine to ascribe race to skin colour (except in cases of ‘mixed’ heritage, when a light skin is always referred to as ‘black’). And the standard position of anti-racists is to deny that race is important while simultaneously celebrating racial diversity. For anyone who finds themselves confused or bemused by the ‘race debate’, and perhaps even more so for those who know exactly where they stand, Strange Fruit, Kenan Malik’s excellent new book, is essential reading.
Normally Clairwil or someone else would post some funny Japanese/1970s quasi-porn video, but as they are not around, here instead is a master class in how to perform synchronized dancing on buses, and on trains.
Recently a few people have floated the idea of a Pickled Politics book club. For a trial period, perhaps the best way to do this would be for people who had read a book that they liked to write a review of it, whether it be a few lines or five hundred words, then send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Then we would publish the reviews in bunches of half a dozen or so, in one post.
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A few days ago I wrote about Ariane Sherine‘s delightful ‘Atheist Bus’ article / idea which has been taken up by others and is still attracting attention on various websites and blogs. The Facebook pledge page has over 500 signed up (I think she should start a FB group to let it spread wider but anyway).
Now Ariane has added to that discussion by saying:
Now that it looks as though the advert may become reality, I hope that the campaign stays positive and tolerant. Lately, there have been a few suggestions for slogans which would (a) be strongly anti- particular religious groups, or (b) turn the slogan into a much more controversial message. (a) is not what the campaign is about: it is about being pro-reason, pro-science and pro-freedom of thought, not anti- specific religions. And, though I understand why many atheists would prefer (b), and why many would like to remove the word ‘probably’ from the slogan, I inserted it because the ad won’t be allowed to run if the wording is too strong.
Yes, all atheists would like things to be different. And hopefully, one day in the near future, they will be, and we’ll live in a properly secular society. But change takes time, and if the “atheist bus” advert runs, the most helpful thing it could do would be to make people feel a bit brighter, and generate debate within society, rather than set itself above groups of people who might otherwise consider its message.
I think this is spot on. What annoys people like myself about religion is that too often the preachers use negativity to keep people in line or attack others. They are the nasty unbelievers… they will go to hell… this is why our religion is the best… OMG if you do that you’re gonna burn in hell for eternity!! etc.
Religion has become one big turf war and much of that relies on negativity towards the other religions. Of course they all believe in ‘tolerance’ but scratch underneath the surface and the venom can quickly spill out. To modern day religious self-styled leaders, only the numbers matter. They want to protect their patch or extend their empires rather than inspire people with positivity. We see this play out especially in India where religious groups offer incentives to new converts or try and prevent people from converting.
Which is why I think Ariane is right to resist deleting the ‘probably’ from the original suggestion: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life.” Her motive for the ad seems more towards trying to get people to think past the negativity of modern-day religion. Unfortunately a fair amount of supporters just want to stick one up at the believers. The problem with the second approach, to me, is that it’s just another turf war – this time between the religious and the atheist. And a turf war invitably means more negativity, which she clearly wants to avoid. So well done to her.
If you haven’t signed up the pledge on FB or online, do so already!