30th November, 2008

Sir Gulam Noon: raise drawbridge now I’m okay

by Rumbold at 9:30 pm    

Sir Gulam Noon, best known for making a loan to the Labour party in order to circumvent party funding rules, has called for Britain to close her borders for five or ten years, so that people like him, who landed in Britain with very little money but with hope, can be turned away:

“‘Bluntly, I think we are self-sufficient now,’ he writes. ‘We should wait for five or ten years, until all the newcomers have been properly integrated and assimilated into the country. Until then we should just shut the door.’”

Charming.

(Via David O’Keefe and Marvin)

Filed under: Current affairs

Lashkar-e-Taiba لشكرِ طيبه

by Sid (Faisal) at 2:00 pm    

Lashkar-e-Taiba (Urdu: لشكرِ طيبه laškar-ĕ ṯaiyyiba, literally Army of the Pure or Righteous, also transliterated as Lashkar-i-Tayyaba, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba or Lashkar-i-Taiba) is one of the largest and most active Islamic terrorist organizations in South Asia. The group was founded by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in the late 1980s becoming especially active after 1993 and has close ties to Al-Qaeda. The aim of the group is the end of Indian rule in Kashmir and establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is believed to be based near Lahore and is said to operate several militant training camps in Pakistani-administered Kashmir and is believed to receive support from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI). The group also receives support from South Asians Muslims living in the Persian Gulf region and through “Islamic charities.” Lashkar e-Taiba purports to train its hundreds of thousands of young members for an Islamic Jihad in the troubled region of Kashmir & Jammu.

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Andrew Gilligan comes to Sky

by Sunny at 3:42 am    

Got a press release this week:

Press TV, a 24-hour English language news channel, is set to give British viewers a genuine alternative to the western establishment consensus when it launches on Sky on December 1. The broadcaster, whose headquarters is in Tehran but which has bureaux in all major world capitals, will go out on Sky Channel 515 adding to its global footprint via a dozen other satellites and its website. Press TV offers in-depth analysis of news and current affairs especially focusing on the Middle East.

Press TV has signed a number of politically diverse and high-profile presenters including MPs George Galloway and Derek Conway, broadcast personalities Nick Ferrari and James Whale, and political journalists Andrew Gilligan, Yvonne Ridley and Lauren Booth.

Gilligan is in such good company there. Heh.

Filed under: Humour,Media
28th November, 2008

British Pakistanis in Mumbai unlikely

by Sunny at 11:06 pm    

It’s unlikely but not impossible. The front page of today’s Evening Standard loudly asserts that some of the terrorists were from Leeds and surrounding areas. Subsequent reports by the BBC say nothing has been confirmed.

At this point nothing is certain because there is a constant stream of conflicting reports from India. Media orgs there are jumping on anything anyone says, so take it with a bucket of salt. The Indian government pretty much makes it near impossible for British Pakistanis to get a visa there, whether on business or for pleasure. If Pakistanis want to travel, they not only have to register where they’re going to be staying but also have visas only for specific cities rather than the country. And even then, they’re watched by the police. I’m not even exaggerating. The only way a British Pakistani terrorist would have gotten to India is by smuggling on to a boat going from Karachi to Mumbai. This was advanced as a theory earlier but has now been withdrawn.
PS – Issam Ahmed has a good article on CIF on avoiding finger-pointing at Pakistan.

Filed under: India,Terrorism

Celebrating a recession

by Ala at 5:57 pm    

It looks like America’s and Britain’s fiscal stimulus packages could fail for more reasons than one: people aren’t going to spend the savings they make from tax cuts in a climate of fear and anxiety over future financial security… oh and some environmentalists are going to make a virtue of spending nothing at all.

Now in its 17th year, Buy Nothing Day, which is celebrated every November by environmentalists in over 65 countries, is set to take place on Black Friday in the United States at a time when retailers are looking to that day for salvation for their business.

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Quote for the Weekend/Open Thread

by Shariq at 3:10 pm    

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom always to tell the difference.”

From Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse 5.

Apart from being deeply profound on a personal level, for me this is a beautifully succinct summary of what the left should aspire to. Atheists, feel free to substitute whatever you want in place of God :p

Filed under: Current affairs

What does India do now? Some thoughts

by Sunny at 10:48 am    

The Mumbai terror attacks have been referred to as India’s 9/11 so many times I’ve lost count. In such circumstances its easy to reach for emotions and hyperbole to make sense of it all, but I would prefer to be a bit more dispassionate.

There are two broad elements to a response: intelligence led counter-terrorism, and political diplomacy.

Political diplomacy
1) Saying ‘we never negotiate with terrorists’ is a naive idea when its unclear who the terrorists are. In every such situation you have to wean away the moderates and non-violent agitators while minimising the danger that violent extremists can cause. This means winning hearts and minds. There are legitimate reasons for anger against the Indian govt: the Gujarat riots and subsequent failure of justice, discrimination against Muslims generally and human rights violations in Kashmir. These need to be resolved for human rights reasons anyway, regardless of whether its portrayed as ‘appeasement’.

At the same time, its also worth stating that: there’s no reason why Muslims should be angry at ordinary Indians for what happened in Gujarat and; its not just Muslims who are discriminated against – the Dalits are generally in a worse situation (and there’s more of them).

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Law against forced marriages comes into force

by Sunny at 8:50 am    

The BBC reports:

Laws to prevent forced marriages and protect those who have already fallen victim have been introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The laws mean anyone convicted of trying to force someone into marriage could be jailed for up to two years.

A victim, friend or police can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order. These court injunctions will forbid families from actions such as taking people abroad for marriage, seizing passports or intimidating victims.

People are split over the law – not just Asians generally but the women’s groups themselves. Some like Karma Nirvana want a specific law against forced marriage that makes it a criminal offence (something the Tories propose to do). Others like Southall Black Sisters, who drafted this bill with Lord Lester, wanted to skirt around it so that victims don’t feel that their parents will be put into prison.

To be honest, I think the second situation is more confusing than the first. We’ll have to wait and see if this symbolic piece of legislation has any real impact. Otherwise I bet the voices calling for full criminalisation will get louder. And just to make it clear: forced marriage isn’t itself legal, but the police have to use other laws (kidnapping, coercion etc) to charge someone rather than charging them and the family straight for forcing someone into a marriage. I’m in favour of this act, but I do want it to go further.

Filed under: Culture
27th November, 2008

Tory frontbencher Damian Green arrested

by Leon at 9:36 pm    

The BBC reports:

Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green, was arrested earlier and had his home and Commons office searched by police.

He was held on suspicion of “conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office,” the Metropolitan Police said. He has not been charged but is being questioned by police. The Conservatives say he denies any wrongdoing.

It is understood to be connected to alleged leaks of information from the Home Office.

Interesting news, I wonder how many leakers must be a little more nervous than usual tonight?

Update: An excellent piece over at Liberal Conspiracy by Unity about this case.

Update 2: There’s been a fair amount of bloggers getting riled up about this, I’m not going to link to them all but suffice to say Iain Dale’s leading the charge, albeit slightly verging on self parody in my opinion, with this ditty . Along with Unity above Hopi Sen has some sensible things to say including this:

When Lord Levy, Ruth Turner and John McTernan were arrested by the Metropolitan police, It was Labour people who were outraged by police tactics, and right wing blogs who were cheering on the arresting officers and calling for the Prime Minister to be arrested. I don’t remember too many comments about the politicisation of the police or how similar it was to the age of Stalin.

Filed under: Current affairs

‘There are Muslims who are Sikhs’

by Sunny at 4:44 pm    

I can’t resist this. David Miliband is giving a press conference now regarding the Mumbai attacks and said: “There are Indians who are Muslims, there are Indians who are Hindus… and there are Muslims who are Sikhs.” That’s news to me! A slip-up, but a funny one nevertheless

Filed under: Humour

On Al-Jazeera English at 9:30pm

by Sunny at 4:28 pm    

I’ve been asked to come on Al-Jazeera English tonight at 9:30pm to talk about the Mumbai bombings (they want a British perspective)… which is in advance of a Question Time Extra debate at 11:30pm on BBC News 24, which I suspect might also focus on the Mumbai bombings now.
I’m going to try and pull together some thoughts on what this means for India and Pakistan, having written about their approach to terrorism recently for CIF while I was travelling through those countries.

Filed under: Media,South Asia

Hitler fails as an artist…again

by Rumbold at 4:21 pm    

(After the Mumbai terror attacks perhaps some light relief is needed.)

A painting by Hitler from the first world war failed to meet its reserve price of £2,800 at auction. The seller had been given the painting two years ago by her son as a birthday gift, who paid £10,500 for it, but she hated it so much that she was happy to sell it at a loss.

Who buys their mother a painting by Hitler? I can just imagine the scene now:

Proud son: “Mum, I got you a painting by that artist you like.”

Mother: “Actually, I said that I didn’t like Hitler.”

Son: “Oh.”

Filed under: Humour

More on the Mumbai blasts

by Sunny at 1:47 pm    


Some more snippets. The terrorists are definitely Muslim:

A militant holed up inside Mumbai’s Oberoi Hotel told India TV on Thursday that seven attackers were holding hostages inside the luxury establisment. There are seven of us inside hotel Oberoi,” the man identified as Sahadullah told India TV. “We want all Mujahideens held in India released and only after that we will release the people. Release all the Mujahideens, and Muslims living in India should not be troubled,” he said.

Yeah I can really see them releasing more mujahadeens.

********

Sajjad Karim MEP was at Taj Hotel when it was attacked and told the Guardian:

“All I saw was one man on foot carrying a machine-gun type of weapon – which I then saw him firing from and I saw people hitting the floor, people right next to me,” said Sajjad Karim, MEP for the north-west of England. “I was in the lobby of the hotel when gunmen came in and people started running. There were about 25 or 30 of us,” said the Tory MEP, speaking by mobile phone from a barricaded basement room. “Some of us split one way and some another. A gunman just stood there spraying bullets around, right next to me.

“I managed to turn away and I ran into the hotel kitchen and then we were shunted into a restaurant in the basement of the hotel. We are now in the dark in this room and we’ve barricaded all the doors. It’s really bad.”

Constantly updated blogs:
Mumbai Metblogs
NY Times Lede blog
A Google Map of where the attacks took place

26th November, 2008

Mumbai hit by multiple bombs and hostage-taking

by Rumbold at 8:01 pm    

Sunny updates
The Times of India reports:

In one of the most violent terror attacks on Indian soil, Mumbai came under an unprecedented night attack as terrorists used heavy machine guns, including AK-47s, and grenades to strike at the city’s most high-profile targets — the hyper-busy CST (formerly VT) rail terminus; the landmark Taj Hotel at the Gateway and the luxury Oberoi Trident at Nariman Point; the domestic airport at Santa Cruz; the Cama and GT hospitals near CST; the Metro Adlabs multiplex and Mazgaon Dockyard — killing at least 80 and sending more than 900 to hospital, according to latest reports.

The attacks appeared to be aimed at getting international attention as the terrorists took upto 40 British nationals and other foreigners hostage. The chairman of Hindustan Unilever Harish Manwani and CEO of the company Nitin Paranjpe were among the guests trapped at the Oberoi. All the internal board members of the multinational giant were reported to be holed up in the Oberoi hotel.

Two terrorists were reported holed up inside the Oberoi Hotel and commando operation was on. An unknown outfit, Deccan Mujahideen, has sent an email to news organizations claiming that it carried out the Mumbai attacks.

The Saudi pecking order

by Sid (Faisal) at 7:00 pm    

Now that we’re on the brink of of a long term recession, and given that the Saudi royal family are amongst the few people lucky enough to have the cash to bail out British banks, you might have considered working in Saudi Arabia.

In which case you might find it useful to read this breakdown of social scales in the GCC by blogger Lucky Fatima (“Can I be straight with you?”) before you go.

This is part of a balanced, well-informed and enjoyable read on Racism against Asians in the Arabian Gulf.

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Filed under: Current affairs

Give Brown and Darling Some Credit

by Shariq at 4:17 pm    

It may turn out that their decisions were wrong. However the moves to recapitalise the banks were backed by most economists, finance people and business journalists as a sound measure to try and restore confidence in the markets and prevent an economic catastrophe.

On the other hand the deal which Hank Paulson has given to bail out Citigroup has been universally condemned as being too generous and not safeguarding taxpayers interests. Via Kevin Drum, here is a summary of what economists have said about the deal.

Do check it out. It seems staggering that this is being allowed to happen. Unfortunately Obama is sticking firmly to his ‘one president at a time’ mantra because he doesn’t want to be associated with what Paulson does. I guess that’s fair enough but it would be nice if someone tried to stop this happening.

Sunny updates: I can’t wait for the right-wing libertarian trolls to exclaim somewhere that Citibank should be allowed to fail or that this isn’t symptomatic of most financial companies badly failing obligations to shareholders.

Filed under: Economics

The ‘wealth creators’ myth

by Sunny at 12:56 pm    

So, taxes are raised slightly for high income earners and suddenly some people are up in arms. Here is Boris Johnson’s policy advisor Anthony Browne stupidly stating the obvious:

Short of introducing a London banker tax, this is as close a direct hit that the Chancellor could get on those who brought the country to its knees. It is overall an Old Labour redistributive budget, yanking up taxes on the rich to help the poor.

Yes, progressive taxes usually are redistributive and most people including economist Adam Smith were in favour. Boris Johnson himself turned up on TV later saying higher taxes would hit the ‘wealth creators’ who were the life-blood of the economy.

Let’s shoot this fallacy down right here. The bankers from London’s Sqare Mile, earning over £150,000 a year have actually been net wealth destroyers over the past decade. All the wealth created by the big banks here and in the US has been destroyed and much more – taking other industries down with them. These former Masters of the Universe were so rubbish at gauging risk and so good at flogging off bad debt that when the wobble came – confidence crashed everywhere.

Destruction so swift comes only when people know they are living in a house of cards. They knew the boom would not last because the models were dubious, and would not withstand a crisis of confidence.

Furthermore, these so-called Wealth Creators have been Wealth Re-distributors too: enriching themselves during the boom while playing around with other people’s money. But now that the economy has crashed and pension funds have lost money – do these Wealth Creators give any of their money back? Nope. They made their money while the going was good, now tax-payers have to pick up the pieces.

Starbucks to go fully fair-trade

by Sunny at 5:03 am    

Yay! I can finally buy coffee at Starbucks now.

Filed under: Environmentalism

The killing of Rashid Rauf

by Sunny at 2:06 am    

Not much has been said about the death of Rashid Rauf, an alleged terrorist, that intelligence services recently said was killed by a US strike. But I thought this article by Conservative MP Patrick Mercer (via Dave Bones) was spot on:

The world of intelligence is murky – necessarily so. There is a series of carefully enforced procedures governing the passing of British intelligence to other agencies when it might lead to the death or torture of suspects. But as Richard Beeston wrote in The Times yesterday of US operations inside Pakistan: “As long as terrorist suspects… are being killed or live in fear of being killed [London] is quite happy to see the policy continue.” It is certainly possible that British intelligence services were in some way complicit in Rauf’s death. Our forces do informally share information with intelligence services, such as those of Pakistan and the US.

I will not recite at length the arguments about the need to operate within the law other than to cite the chaos that ensued when the world was made to believe that British Forces were pursing a “shoot to kill” policy in Northern Ireland. Clearly, martyrdom is an important tool for the terrorist and once security forces step outside the law, the advantage passes from us to them.

Not only illegal and against the values that we claim to be fighting for, but also counter-productive. Well said and the government should take note. However, I doubt that if the Tories got into power things would be very different; it’s easy to take the moral high-ground when out of power.

25th November, 2008

Ghaffur settles claim

by Rumbold at 6:39 pm    

Assistant police Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has withdrawn his allegations of racial discrimination against Sir Ian Blair and the Metropolitan Police in return for a settlement:

“A statement confirming the settlement was issued on Tuesday on behalf of Mr Ghaffur, Sir Ian Blair, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Bryan, the Met Police and the Met Police Authority (MPA). It read: “The MPA has paid a sum of money in settlement of Assistant Commissioner Ghaffur’s claims including contractual obligations and a contribution to his legal costs. Assistant Commissioner Ghaffur has withdrawn the proceedings and his claims that Sir Ian Blair and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Bryan acted in a racist or other discriminatory way towards him.”

While we will never know the full story, thanks to all the gagging orders, the whole thing leaves an unsavoury taste in the mouth. Either Mr Ghaffur had suffered racial discrimination or not. If so, why isn’t Sir Ian Blair being punished? If not, why is the taxpayer paying Mr Ghaffur compensation, as well as some of his legal costs?

Anti-immigrant tide slowed

by Rumbold at 11:04 am    

In 2005, one of the Conservatives’ election slogans, ‘it’s not racist to talk about immigration’, was widely condemned as, er, racist. While the slogan itself wasn’t racist, the implication was that it was an attempt to lure more anti-immigration voters back to the Conservatives by suggesting that the time had come to crack down.

Yet three years on, that slogan looks positively tame by comparison with the tabloid-pleasing anti-immigrant stances taken by the Conservative and Labour parties these days. Immigrants now vie with Muslims and youths for the title of most vilified group of the day. So it was refreshing to see that Boris Johnson has called for a nationwide amnesty for illegal immigrants, subject to conditions. Yes, there are issues with an amnesty, and the Tory front bench have condemned these proposals, but isn’t it nice to hear a high profile politician standing up for immigrants, rather than attacking them in order to get his or her name in the Sun?

Global Blasphemy Law

by Sid (Faisal) at 7:00 am    

Oh. my. god.

Washington – World leaders gathering at the United Nations this week for a special session of the General Assembly to advance interfaith dialogue should have no illusions that their efforts will miraculously promote mutual respect between religious communities or end abuses of religious freedom.

Saudi King Abdullah, who initiated this week’s special session, is quietly enlisting the leaders’ support for a global law to punish blasphemy – a campaign championed by the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference that puts the rights of religions ahead of individual liberties.

If the campaign succeeds, states that presume to speak in the name of religion will be able to crush religious freedom not only in their own country, but abroad.

The UN session is designed to endorse a meeting of religious leaders in Spain last summer that was the brainchild of King Abdullah and organized by the Muslim World League. That meeting resulted in a final statement counseling promotion of “respect for religions, their places of worship, and their symbols … therefore preventing the derision of what people consider sacred.”

No prizes for guessing that this lofty sounding message is nothing more than a proposal for the criminalisation of speech and activities that allow clerics to decide what is or isn’t an “insult to religion”.

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Filed under: Current affairs

On Question Time Extra, Thursday

by Sunny at 5:12 am    

I’ll be on Question Time Extra on thursday, in case you feel like throwing tomatoes at your TV / computer screen. Also, apologies for being so bad at blogging lately. I’m actually not getting much work done, even at a time when things are not that busy. I blame the cold weather. Need… more… discipline…

Filed under: Blog
24th November, 2008

Down and out in Waziristan

by Sid (Faisal) at 4:00 pm    

A US missile attack on a house in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan has reportedly killed Rashid Rauf, a top “al-Qaeda” suspect. The airstrike was by an unmanned Predator, armed with Hellfire missiles and precision-guided bombs. This is the first time the US have targeted a British suspect in the North Waziristan region of the US.

This makes it missile attack number 24 on the “lawless” northwestern Pakistan region since August.

Says the Times:

US forces based in Afghanistan have carried out about 24 missile attacks in northwestern Pakistan since August, reflecting American impatience at Islamabad’s efforts to curb militants on its own soil.

British intelligence sources say the reluctance on the part of the Pakistani authorities to clamp down on Kashmiri militant organisations is still enabling al-Qaeda to recruit young British Muslims for attacks on the UK.

Rashid Rauf was the son of a baker from Birmingham. He was arrested in August 2006 in Bhawalpur in connection with the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot. He was said to be one of the ringleaders of the plot. In December 2006, the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi found no evidence that he had been involved in terrorist activities, and his charges were downgraded to forgery and possession of explosives.

Is this the unlawful killing of a British subject by US spooks who care little about “due-diligence” or even the sharing of classified procedures with their British counterparts? Or is this is a clinically precise, and therefore the only, way to kill terrorists in a country which has proven unable and unwilling to deal with known operatives in centres of Islamist activity flourishing under their own noses?

Filed under: Current affairs
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