31st March, 2009

The ‘Obama effect’ comes here too

by Sunny at 10:15 am    

I’ve highlighted in the past how the election of Obama had an impact on education achievement amongst black kids in America, and sent many in the fashion industry on a scramble to find more black models. Apparently, the symbolic effect of his election applies here too.

The Hansard Society’s sixth Audit of Political Engagement, published today, indicates that an ‘Obama effect’ may be developing among British black and ethnic minorities (BMEs):

- 41% of BMEs agree that ‘when people like me get involved in politics, they really can change the way that the country is run’ compared to 31% of whites – a 10% increase since last year’s Audit
- 42% of BMEs are ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ interested in politics –a 15% increase since last year’s Audit
- 43% think the present system of governing works well compared to 32% of whites – the first time in six annual Audits that BME respondents are more optimistic than whites
- 82% think voting is an effective way of having an impact on how Britain is run compared to 71% of whites
- 92% think voting is an important part of being a good citizen compared to 86% of whites
- 28% feel they have influence over local decision-making compared to 25% of whites – at national level the figures are 18% versus 14%

Interesting, that suddenly black and brown ppl here feel more empowered by the symbolic election of Obama too. Who says symbols don’t matter? I’d like to see how these numbers broke down from people of Indian origin (more likely to be middle-class and high earners) and those of Sri Lankan, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin.

Filed under: Culture,Race politics

Richard Sambrook hits back

by Sunny at 1:44 am    

The BBC’s global director of news, Richard Sambrook, replies to Nick Cohen’s column in the Observer:

He finishes by saying the BBC has a public duty to invest and broadcast the journalism others cannot afford. That would be why we maintain the biggest network of correspondents and bureaux of any broadcaster or newspaper and why today more money goes into journalism than at any time in the BBC’s history.

But to discover that, Nick might have had to do some research.

Pwned.
But look, the BBC is a vast left-wing conspiracy, so obviously you cannot believe anything they say. But you may want to listen to a freelance journalist.

Filed under: Media
30th March, 2009

Andrew Gilligan skewered!

by Sunny at 5:17 pm    

This post by Anton Vowl is a work of art. Update: Tory Troll has more, as does BorisWatch.

Filed under: Media

Policy Exchange forced to apologise for report

by Sunny at 3:10 pm    

The right-wing thinktank Policy Exchange has been forced into a humiliating climbdown over its report, ‘The Hijacking of British Islam’, for making allegations in the report that it now admits were unsubstantiated.

In late 2007 Policy Exchange published the report, reported in the right-wing press without any further fact-checking, that around a quarter of Mosques and Muslim centres of the 100 they visited, were carrying ‘hate literature’.

Only BBC Newsnight bothered looking further and found that some of the allegations made in the report were refuted by the very organisations accused of selling hate literature.

See the Newsnight report below:

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The Mythical Muslim

by Sid (Faisal) at 12:00 pm    

There was a time during the Iraq invasion when I agreed with every word Gary Younge wrote in protest against that vile and illegal war. But I parted company with Gary after he started writing articles like this one on Islam and Muslim identity.

In it, Younge uses the rhetorical device of the ‘mythical Muslim’, which in his view is just that: myth. What is revealing is that if you bother to deconstruct what Younge’s views of Muslims are in this society, we arrive at his view of the “actual Muslim”. For if you are to believe Younge, an ‘actual Muslim’ is the only type that actually lives, breathes and eats as opposed to the “mythical Muslim” which is simply a figment of the government’s imagination.

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The answer is yes

by Rumbold at 11:53 am    

Mosquewatch (remember them?) asks:

“Are we bonkers when concluding that Hitler has returned in the guise of a “Christian” belonging to the United Church of Christ when all the while he is a Marxist Muslim?”

Filed under: EDL

Nick Cohen rants about ‘conspiracy’

by Sunny at 9:35 am    

This video, courtesy of Alix Mortimer, is the funniest rant ever. Pure car-crash TV.

It’s impossible to take Nick Cohen seriously after this. He can’t even tell if it’s Combat18 or 88, and then blames everything on the vast liberal conspiracy of the Guardian and BBC! The funniest bit is when Peter Hitchens pipes up from the back saying he had said exactly the same last year (shame!) but he was at least sober!

Filed under: Humour,Media
29th March, 2009

Snakes Alive!

by Sid (Faisal) at 3:30 pm    

Bangladeshi authorities are continuing investigations of the personnel running the Green Crescent Madrassa, after a raid last week uncovered a small arms and explosives factory fronting as an orphanage. Four militant Islamists have been held for interrogation. The police have released reports that these charity workers were, in addition to providing food and shelter to these orphans under their care, actively indoctrinating the children with religious instruction and “lessons of jihad”.

Maulana Mohammad Russell of Green Crescent Madrasa used to motivate his students to take part in jihad, which investigators believe he did to raise them as militants in the future.

“Our huzur [teacher] Russell often told us that Allah has created us to establish the Almighty’s rule through jihad,” one of three madrasa students told investigators who visited their homes yesterday.

“The sermon was given after Asr prayers,” an investigator of the discovery of a mini arms factory at the madrasa told reporters.

Wishing anonymity, the investigator said the students aged between seven and eight were given such preaching to turn them religiously blind and involve them in militant activities.

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Lord Nazir-Ali booted off

by Sunny at 2:33 pm    

Excellent news! Last year I asked: Is it over for Bishop Nazir-Ali? Well, yes, it is now. Glad to hear this bigot has been booted from the Church of England.

It’s also typical of the right-wing press that they have faithfully repeated the meme that Lord Nazir-Ali received death-threats for saying that Britain had created ‘Muslim no-go areas’. He didn’t receive any death threats. Furthermore, when asked where the no-go areas where, Nazir-Ali could not actually name a single one. Good riddance to a fool.

Filed under: Race politics,Religion
28th March, 2009

New Labour, power and ‘egalitarian capitalism’

by Sunny at 11:05 am    

Sunder Katwala of the Fabian Society highlights a speech by cabinet minister James Purnell. Here’s an excerpt:

What would egalitarian capitalism mean for policy?

It means the left no longer needs to be shy about equality. But we should be smart about it. We can’t create equality in the old way. We can’t simply take money from one set of people and give it to another, and call that equality. That is a palliative. It is trying to compensate for an unequal society not trying to tackle its causes.

Instead, the left needs to remember that it started off as a movement about power. We need to recognise that income inequality is just part of a wider struggle against the inequality of power. The greatest injustice is when people cannot achieve their goals because someone else with power stops them. The credit crunch was a power failure. Too much power was invested in bankers and too little in regulators. Too much power went to the market and too little to democracy. We had the power all in the wrong place – too concentrated, too many bankers with monopoly power. So disperse the power and don’t allow one interest to predominate.

All this may be true, but Labour politicians have this amazing ability to say the right things in front of an audience and get them fired up, and then do the complete office when back in their offices. I’ve seen Hazel Blears at close range talk about how she wanted the Labour party to get in touch with its grassroots!

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27th March, 2009

Protests in London this week – who’s going?

by Sunny at 5:51 pm    

I’ll be in London tomorrow at the Put People First / Stop Climate Chaos march/protest. Anyone else coming? On Wednesday, I’ll be going to the anti-G20 march, as part of the environmental strand, because I want to and have to write it up for the Guardian. Who else will be around?

Filed under: Events

Review: Making of Mr Hai’s Daughter by Yasmin Hai

by Shariq at 4:00 pm    

The Asian immigrant experience to the UK is not a monolithic one. Yasmin Hai’s life story is a testament to that. However, there have been enough common experiences which mean that rather than simply being a charming memoir, this book provides a personal account of many of our debates on immigration and multi-culturalism, as well as providing genuine insight into the human condition.

The book starts of with a bit of biography about her father (naturally, given the title of the book).

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Inequality leads to bad public life

by Sunny at 1:05 pm    

This post has an interesting conclusion:

And what Wilkinson and Pickett’s study points to is that the inequality inherent in hierarchy is unhealthy and unsuccessful. You can listen to the authors interviewed about it here. They emphasise that inequality results in a decline of trust, reciprocity and community life, or as Kropotkin would have it, mutual aid. I would take this analysis further and suggest that if we are to have a successful and healthy public sector, we not only need to question the distribution of wealth, but also deal with the distribution of power and how it is exercised, especially in our day-to-day working environments.

New Labour placed great store in a form of Fabian managerialism, enthusiastically setting themselves targets as much as they imposed them on others. The discontents registered by Radice point to the dysfunctions of such an approach. Rather than transparency and efficiency, they certainly led to well-documented failures attributed to target chasing, but perhaps there was something more intangible happening as well, the erosion of the sense of common purpose and ethics on which the public sector depends. Those 19th Century Anarchists may just have been on to something.

I’d agree with that…

Impact of the Hazel Blears / MCB saga

by Sunny at 9:38 am    

I was going to come to the point Geoffrey Alderman made on CIF yesterday: that the Blears / MCB saga can set a dangerous precedent. Let’s be clear about the situation here first.

The government hasn’t given any money to the Muslim Council of Britain for several years, focusing instead on the Sufi Muslim Council and British Muslim Forum more recently to develop them. (To what extent, I’m unclear). So Hazel Blears’ attempts to strong-arm the MCB into dropping Daud Abdullah is down to the fact she doesn’t like their position on a certain issue.

Let’s take that further. The new Israeli government includes one foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who is certifiably racist and a fascist. So a British-Jewish group hosting him or the government that appointed this minister would look like its endorsing a fascist, right? Presumably then, we can call upon this government to distance itself and stop engaging or supporting that group too? This is what Mr Alderman is worried about:

For instance, is Defra to say to animal welfare groups that it will not deal with any whose elected leaders have expressed any support for animal rights activists? Campaigning is presently under way for the presidency and other offices of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Are we to take it that Blears will not engage with anyone who has expressed support for Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, which the UK government regards as illegal?

Indeed, what about Jewish groups that express support for illegal settlements? And what of groups that host Israeli ministers in the UK? In the interests of balance – I think we should call for Hazel Blears to withdraw support from them too.

Press conference on East London Gurdwara fire

by Sunny at 2:55 am    

Got this email yesterday
Please note tha Gurdwara Sikh Sangar is holding a press conference with all the UK media and MET police on Friday 27th March 2009, outside Gurdwara Sikh Sangat, Harley Grove, London E3, at 2pm. The police will also be giving their report. All press is invited.

Filed under: Organisations,Sikh
26th March, 2009

Situation worsens for minorities in Pakistan

by Rumbold at 8:53 pm    

Before the latest round of violence, the situation was already bad for minorities in Pakistan. But now increased numbers are fleeing as more of them are targeted by religious extremists.

Government to monitor social networking sites

by Rumbold at 4:49 pm    

As Sam Leith asks, why?

“The main problem with our security services monitoring social networking sites is that it will be a colossal waste of time. Facebook is the Reuters of inanity: a news agency for stuff nobody wants to know. “Dave is playing on Facebook. Dave is a bit annoyed. Dave is going for a drink. Dave has found a toothsome bit of cheese under the nail on his big toe.”

Are we seriously expecting al-Qaida to organise its next atrocity through Twitter? “@Osama going to shops to buy fertilisers lol ;) ” … “@Mo on bus, OMG, virginz here I cum!”"

British Charity linked to Bangladeshi Terrorism

by Sid (Faisal) at 2:00 pm    

This news story broke yesterday via the Bangladeshi newspaper, the Daily Star:

In a chilling reminder of how the militants are still alive and kicking, the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) yesterday unearthed a mini-ammunition factory inside a madrasa-cum-orphanage in a remote village of Bhola.

During the bust, they recovered a huge cache of firearms and ammunition, explosive substances, four pairs of German-made uniforms and booklets on jihad, Moulana Moududi and al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

Besides, the elite crime-busters arrested four suspected militants–Abul Kalam, Abdul Halim, Jasim and Moulana Mohammad Russell.

Earlier at night, the coastal district’s Superintendent of Police Azizur Rahman told The Daily Star that the arrestees did not yet disclose their organisational identity. But the materials seized suggest they are lined to a banned Islamist group like Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

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MCB should ‘adopt Britney Spears as their mascot’

by Sunny at 12:55 pm    

I was discussing the Contest 2 report with someone somewhat close to the MCB and he said of the MCB / Daud Abdullah business: “…these guys should adopt Britney Spears as their mascot…’Oops, we did it again…‘ ” — I think that’s exactly right. The MCB looks to be more obsessed with worldwide Muslim politics, and ensuring its standing amongst the Muslim Brotherhood network of organisations than actually producing strategies and ideas and engagement for Muslims in the UK. It staggers from one gaffe to another.

Anyway, here’s five thoughts on recent events.

1) I think the Hazel Blears / MCB spat is a silly sideshow that gets the right crowd excited because they think the government is taking a hardline against fanatics. But the government isn’t funding the MCB now is it? So that point of the grandstanding is moot. If Blears says she won’t even talk to the MCB because of this — well that’s a pretty stupid position because a government should talk to a wide range of opinion whether it likes that opinion or not.
From the MCB’s point of view, I suspect the controversy works in their favour because they’ve long been accused of being New Labour stooges. Everyone’s happy.

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East London Gurdwara burnt – updates?

by Sunny at 10:14 am    

A Facebook group about an East London Gurdwara being burnt down has accumulated about 20,000 people in 10 days. There was a story in the Evening Standard on the 17th.


Does anyone know if it actually was the result of a racist attack? Any updates on the arrests? Apparently the Indian SGPC is trying to take it up with the Indian Prime Minister (huh? What for?). Haven’t heard anything about this since.

Filed under: Organisations,Sikh

Does the left need to re-connect too?

by Sunny at 1:05 am    

There’s an interesting article on Washington Monthly about an American conservative magazine (Culture11) that eventually folded sooner after launching. But, the writer says, it was trying an interesting experiment. Here’s a good quote:

For decades, the Nixonian notion of the silent majority created a strong temptation for conservatives to simply wall off the parts of society that they didn’t like or understand, secure in the belief that there were more people on their side of the wall. Ballot for ballot, this may have been true in the 1970s and ’80s, and even into the ’90s. But if you build a border fence, it’s difficult to see what’s happening on the other side of it. Which is why in 2008 the Republican Party awoke to a world in which it was losing every politically important demographic battle and had essentially ceded the field on issues like education, where it hadn’t contributed a new policy idea since the school voucher, and energy, where the best plan it could come up with was a renewed push for offshore drilling. Big Hollywood’s mania for ideological categorization stems from the same mind-set—shared even by some of the smarter reform conservatives—that produced the Bush administration’s disastrous loyalty-over-performance hiring practices: the instinct to see everything, from the Sundance Film Festival to NASA’s atmospheric research programs, as just another battleground. What Culture11’s editors got right was the observation that, regardless of what you think of the world as it is, you can’t figure out how to wrestle with it until you understand what’s actually happening in it.

I’m not a conservative, so while I understand that above paragraph is true – I also wonder whether it affects parts of the left in the UK. I saw this because clearly I see myself on the liberal-left, and I’d like those values/ideas to triumph.

But the article quite rightly states that what was different about Culture11 was not that it wanted to enter battle with liberals, but that it understood some conservatives needed to do some serious rethinking if they wanted power again. Does that apply to the left? Possibly (though the next person who says: ‘the left needs to stop appeasing fascism’ deserves to be shot by death squad).

I also wonder if internet communities – which have a tendency to attract similar minded folks, and then achieve cohesiveness by attacking ‘the enemy’ and constantly being in a state of battle against them – end up then reinforcing bad ideas and a victim mentality. Could the internet lead to more ideological battles that only end up reinforcing bad ideas?

Filed under: Media
25th March, 2009

Counter-terrorism: What are our shared values?

by guest at 3:32 pm    

This is a guest post by Dilwar Hussain of Policy Research Centre.

You have to pity local government and local delivery agencies. Just when everyone was beginning to get their heads around the last strategy for tackling violent extremism unveiled in 2007, along comes a revised version of Contest, the UK Strategy for Countering International Terrorism (or Contest 2).

Contest has four pillars to tackle terrorism: pursue, prevent, protect and prepare. The new strategy places greater emphasis on preventing terrorism and violent extremism and also quite crucially emphasises ‘shared values’. There seems to be stronger emphasis on community cohesion, community empowerment and race equality. So far, so good.

The major shift, as expected, seems to be a blurring of the differentiation between violent extremism and extremism more generally.

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Producing a proper strategy for counter-terrorism

by Sunny at 9:20 am    

I wrote this for Guardian’s CIF yesterday. More soon on the actual report.

Today, the government is publishing an updated version of its counterterrorism strategy, Contest 2. Let me tell you why I think it’s unlikely to make us much safer. But first, a brief background explanation is needed.

Contest 1 had a four-pronged approach to counterterrorism: protect, pursue, prepare and prevent. The prevent (violent extremism – PVE) strategy involved spending between £70m and £90m in supporting local Muslim groups that could help deradicalise extremists and pull them back from the brink of becoming terrorists.

So far so good in theory, except that a series of blunders, highlighted and amplified by various journalists, bloggers and thinktanks, have forced the government to redefine its rules of engagement.

The new rules, leaked to the Guardian last month, stated people would be branded as “extremists” if they believed in certain things such as sharia law or that Islam banned homosexuality.

Critics of Contest 1 say “extremists” only ended up giving cover to violent radicals. Supporters of existing policy say that unless the government engages with a wide range of Muslim groups, including those whose views it is ideologically opposed to, it will cut itself off from the very people who have credibility with radicals.

It’s worth briefly explaining the case for PVE money.

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