30th April, 2009
A new report from The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq makes for depressing reading:
“The report shows that gender-based violence remains one of the key unaddressed problems throughout Iraq. Numerous murders of women under the guise of so-called â€œhonour killingsâ€ are still being recorded as suicides, the report shows, while in the Northern Region of Kurdistan the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) remains a tolerated practice.”
Not that this sort of behaviour is unique to Iraq, but it is dispiriting that it is happening right under our noses, and in a climate that we have helped create.
The Tribune in India reports:
Taliban militants have demolished 11 homes of members of the minority Sikh community in Pakistan’s troubled Aurakzai tribal region after they failed to pay jiziya or a tax levied on non-Muslims.
Though the Sikhs have been living in Aurakzai Agency for centuries, the Taliban asked them earlier this month to pay Rs 50 million a year as jiziya. The militants claimed this was being done as Shariah or Islamic law had been enforced in the area and all non-Muslims had to pay “protection money”.
50 million rupees? It’s obvious that the Taliban are trying to drive out or kill anyone non-Muslim in Pakistan.
I was asked to contribute an article to X-Bow, the publication by the centre-right thinktank Bow Group. Here it is.
The Death of Capitalism
If capitalism isnâ€™t dead then someone should certainly strangle it and put it out of its misery. And once that is done, it would be nice to have a sane economy back. The precipitous decline of financial companies and the knock-on effect on other industries has been described by many as a â€œonce in a centuryâ€ event. But it is clear that in many ways, capitalism and Milton Friedmanâ€™s free market model, which had become prominent since the late 70s, is now beating a hasty retreat.
Laissez-faire, as John Maynard Keynes famously said, could be at an end. Again. Here are some reasons why. For one, government intervention as a lender of last resort has become fashionable again to the point where even analysts on the American network CNBC, a haven for free-marketeers, have opined that the government may have to nationalise large parts of the financial sector to ensure it doesnâ€™t go under.
With government intervention and rescue of banks comes added regulation. Many blame the hands-off approach in the US and UK that led to companies developing lax lending standards, but the problem here is two-fold. Not only has it become painfully obvious that governments have to maintain tight regulation in sectors including finance, but that those companies failed overwhelmingly to adequately assess their own risks and financial models. As Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, said recently, â€œthose of us who have looked to the selfinterest of lending institutions to protect shareholderâ€™s equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief.â€
29th April, 2009
The Islam Channel is the largest satellite channel aimed specifically at British and European Muslims. The Islam Channel says it is committed to giving a platform to a range of views from across Britain’s Muslim and non-Muslim communities. This is a complete fiction.
What it is has done is to give an un-due prominence to Islamist voices that represent only a small minority of British Muslims. This over-representation has also led to other voices â€“ for instance from the UK’s Shia community or from non-Islamist Muslim groups â€“ being under-represented on the channel.
Many of its speakers are Islamist extremists from organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir who use the channel to promote intolerant and bigoted interpretations of Islam. Others are Wahhabi graduates of Saudi universities who have denied the Holocaust and promoted hatred of Shia Muslims. Other presenters are Islamists who have been suspended from their jobs in government due to their extremist statements or who are from organisations that the government has broken ties with due to their leading membersâ€™ alleged support for terrorism.
One of the most worrying aspects of Islam Channel is the promotion of its extremist agenda via the views and politics of its presenters. Amongst these have been the Wahhabi cleric and anti-semite Yasir Qadhi, and Azad Ali of the Islamic Forum Europe (IFE), who was suspended from his position of civil servant earlier this year, following the publication of extremist jihadi literature on the IFE blog.
An article in the Economist summed up the behaviour of the two sides very well.
“A well-organised and vicious terrorist group, expert in brainwashing and suicide-blasting, the LTTE has maintained its fiefâ€”which until late 2006 extended over almost a third of the countryâ€”by murder and fear. Moreover, having sabotaged a peace initiative of the previous government, and helped it lose an election by imposing a boycott on Tamil voters under its sway, Mr Prabhakaran has had the war he was asking for.”
“In its rush to exterminate the Tigersâ€”partly in justified fear of their skill at manipulating foreign opinionâ€”the army has shown a cruel disregard for Tamil civilians crowding the battlefield. Earlier this month the UN estimated that since early January, when the Tigersâ€™ fled their northern capital, Kilinochchi, driving perhaps 200,000 civilians before them, some 4,500 had been killed and 12,000 wounded. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has evacuated over 10,000 wounded civilians and their relatives from the no-fire zone, said on April 20th that hundreds more had been killed or wounded since the army made its breach.”
The question is, how does the international community ensure that the Tamils are treated well in the post-war period?
28th April, 2009
There is an absolutely fascinating article in the Washington Independent about how the anti-jihadists in America are fighting a massive civil war.
To summarise, one one side stands Charles Johnson of LittleGreenFootballs, and on the other side stands Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and a whole bunch of blogs that include Atlas Shrugs, Gates of Vienna, Brussels Journal and Gateway Pundit. Now this may come as a surprise to many who follow the lunatic anti-jihadis in the United States, but Johnson is actually attacking Robert Spencer for being a racist idiot who will join with anyone, including racist nutjobs, to further his agenda. It doesn’t get any mind-bending than this but for the first time I actually have some respect for Charles Johnson.
I’ve written an article about this for CIF which should be published soon. But what’s doubly fascinating about all this is that LGF is a really massive website and basically it’s targetting the core of the lunatic anti-jihadis in the United States – who mostly coalesce around Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch – so the repercussions will be huge.
In fact there are so many things to say about all this that I don’t even know where to start. In many ways it feels like the car crash, which was happening in slow motion since the debacle of Iraq, is now accelerating. The neocons and their supporters are heading straight for the wall – a point underscored by the fact that now only 21% of Americans identify as Republican and Obama is on the verge of a 60 seat majority in the Senate. But rather than watch this explode while eating popcorn – I have this strange yearning to add fuel to the fire. I want the neocons and their supporters, in the US and the UK, to be burnt badly. To explode gloriously. Watch this space.
Quite a bit has been happening in Pakistan recently. We’ve had Taliban advances to within 100km of Islamabad (though they then abandoned that position), the increasing adoption of Sharia law in various parts of the country, and renewed contempt for a government that seems incapable of dealing with this threat. Oh, and don’t forget an economy hit by the world recession (though not as badly as one might think), widespread corruption and heightened tensions with India. However bad the government has been though, I am not sure whether any power could solve these problems easily.
27th April, 2009
Janic Turner wrote in The Times recently:
The disturbing thing about Alistair Darling’s Budget was not that it extracted a few extra thou from the few, the fortunate 350,000 or so who already enjoy six times the average British salary. It was the implication that taxation for the rich is a punishment, some vindictive redress for the misdeeds of the bankrupting bankers called for by a torches-and- pitchfork-wielding posse, rather than what it should be, what it is for the rest of us: an enduring social obligation, a mark of citizenship, a duty.
And a decade of wealth worship perpetuated the notion that money turns people into delicate super-beings who might take fright at mortal rules and financial regulation. The Â£30k flat tax imposed on non-doms last year – a sum Notting Hill bankers might spend unthinkingly on flying their family to Antigua for Christmas – was received with threats, as yet empty, of escape to Gstaad. And now we learn that if our wealthiest few pay 50 per cent tax on earnings over Â£150,000 it could kill their work ethic entirely. While most of us toil to pay the mortgage, to keep our jobs or – weird thought – to contribute to society, the rich… well, take away a tiny fragment more and they might just stop trying, or give up altogether. If people now revile the rich – and The Times poll yesterday suggests that 57 per cent regard the tax hike as fair – it is because so many have spent a decade being loathsome.
All spot on, of course. What I find interesting are the hypocritical arguments used by many about the economy.
1) Where is the actual evidence that raising taxes to 50% will lead to lower tax receipts? The Laffer curve is a theory – I’d like to see actual evidence.
2) Why is the thinking that lower pay will lead to a flight of talent not applied to public sector workers? That’s the first thing Tories want to cut – why not assume talent will also leave there, leaving us with less talented teachers, doctors and police constables?
3) How it is ‘class-war’ if it only affects less than half a million people out of a population of 60 million? The right-wing media really is insane.
4) Why should we have sympathy for ‘wealth creators’ who only destroyed all the wealth created over the last decade? Where is the evidence that courting these tax dodgers is good for the economy over the long term, instead of ordinary people who earn less than Â£100,000? We should be rewarding the hard-working middle-classes not the freeloading, tax evading super-rich.
Brilliant stuff. Why do I get the feeling Phil Woolas is only taking a hardline on this because he wants to convince the country that Labour are not ‘soft touch’ on immigration? The best line on this issue though is by Jamie Sport:
A spokesman for The Mail said: ‘While immigrants are undoubtedly A Bad Thing, these ones are acceptable because they’ve stood alongside our boys and shot foreigners, which is good. It may seem contradictory of us to campaign for an overly severe cap on immigration while simultaneously declaring some immigrants should be allowed in but, in fact, it is not.’
26th April, 2009
Geoffrey Aldermnan is right to ask why there is Silence over Sri Lanka. But he’s trying that rhetorical trick whereby if you want to cast doubts over your political enemy’s motives over human rights, you find a tragedy they haven’t written about and then say: see, you’re not really that dedicated to human rights are you? why this obsession with Israel?.
But here’s the curious thing. The last time that same rhetorical trick was tried on blogs, it was on Harry’s Place in February. I replied by pointing out several reasons why Israel gets more coverage than Sri Lanka. Since then, there’s been radio silence about Sri Lanka on Harry’s Place. A cynic might even begin to think the people who try this rhetorical trick only use mention Sri Lanka for their own little battles rather than actual concern for those people.
There’s a good article by Salil Tripathi in the New Statesman about how the 1979 fights in Southall, which led to the death of Blair Peach (below), radicalised a generation of British Asians who felt they had to fight for their right rather than take abuse from the National Front lying down.
The artist and film-maker Shakila Taranum Maan, who grew up in Northolt, Middlesex, near Southall, recalls the late 1970s vividly. She remembers the terrifying experience of seeing her mother encircled by hate-filled white teenagers. â€œOur days were spent dodging Paki-bashers. The [Southall] riot came as no surprise, as people were very angry, and keen to shed their passive skins. I wanted to be in Southall the next day, but my dad didnâ€™t want me to go. I had a huge argument with him, and I welcomed the uprising, and saw the strength in a group of people which had for too long been reduced to mere shadows.â€
The Southall Monitoring Group emerged in the aftermath of 1979, initially to monitor racial abuse of Asians, but soon expanding its remit. (The group was at the forefront in supporting the families of the Chinese cockle-pickers swept away by the tide at Morecambe Bay in 2004.) Another organisation to emerge was Southall Black Sisters, campaigning against gender- and race-based discrimination. Its campaigns against religious fundamentalism in the Asian community, where patriarchs have a disproportionate role in determining how their sisters, daughters and wives should dress or behave, and its unstinting care for the victims of domestic violence, have helped build British opinion against forced marriages and honour killings.
There’s a point to be made here about identity politics – that in some contexts it works and it’s necessary. If people are attacking you because you’re brown or black, the natural reaction amongst people of those origins is to bunch together with those in the same predicament and then fight back. It’s not just natural but actually required if the law does not protect you adequately.
So this is the dilemma for liberals who hate identity politics – how do you ensure a society whereby one group of people aren’t picked upon? Or at least how do you stop even a powerful group asserting its identity? I pointed out the example last week of various Christian groups lobbying through the national newspapers to stop a Muslim becoming the head of religion at the BBC purely because of his religion. There are Christian lobby groups in the UK and they are powerful because newspapers like the Daily Telegraph act as their mouthpieces. Do you ignore that? Deny them the opportunity to push their interests (especially if private companies are aligned with those interests), and how?
I don’t think there is an adequate answer to that.
Written by Chris Searle for the IRR
A friend and colleague remembers Blair Peach, killed by a member of the Special Patrol Group in Southall during a demonstration against the National Front (NF) on 23 April 1979.
Blair Peach was born in New Zealand in 1946. After earning his degree at Victoria University and periods of work as a fireman and hospital orderly, he arrived in London in 1969.
From that year until his death on the streets of Southall on 23 April 1979, he worked at Phoenix School in Bow, East London. He was a dedicated and brilliant teacher who was much appreciated by his pupils. As one of them wrote, after Blair’s death:
He was a different kind of teacher. His interest in his pupils was not confined to the schoolroom but extended into their homes, where he would visit and give advice and practical help whenever he could.
He was a man of high ideals, but ideals are no good if they are not put into practice. He always practised what he preached. At school he instituted a special class to help those children who had difficulty in reading and those classes were extended into the school holidays. He did this because he cared about these children and wanted them to be free thinking adults who would not be pushed about by the system. I know I will never forget him and he will always be remembered as a friend of the people.
25th April, 2009
There’s a good article by Cath Elliot today in which she attacks those who try and tell mothers where they should give birth:
“Thinking of having a home birth? Don’t be so backward and selfish. How about an elective caesarean? What’s the matter with you, too posh to push? And don’t even get me started on the breast versus bottle-feeding debate. It seems that no matter what parents do, or what decisions they make, there’s always some sanctimonious do-gooder somewhere ready to tell them how and why they’ve got it all wrong.”
Providing there aren’t any health risks, I don’t see the problem with home birth. This is just another example of the hectoring attitude that many people take to legal activities which they frown upon.
Bhagwan Das: In Pursuit of Ambedkar
6pm on 28 April 2009
London School of Economics
H103 in Connaught House on the Aldwych (building next to the Old Building).
Martin Kettle makes a very crucial point in the Guardian: this isnâ€™t 1997, this is a global recession of unprecedented proportions. Tory sound-bites are propelling them in the polls and will likely gain them victory in the next general election. But then what? They need to state clearly what they plan to do about the current crisis.
As Martin Kettle notes:
There are still plenty of senior Tories who see the current Labour overspend as a huge opportunity to press for a far more ideologically driven cuts agenda than Cameron â€“ and plenty of potential Tory voters â€“ would like. The public is entitled to know which Tory approach it is buying and, the longer the answer is denied, the more suspicious they have a right to be.
Apart from keeping suspiciously quiet and giving the media an endless supply of platitudes, theyâ€™ve done the normal opposition thing and opposed every Labour move. This means that where Labour have U-turned, on public spending for instance, so have they, yet no one seems to have a problem with this. They are using this crisis as a stepping stone to power, yet offering no solutions -apart from leaving everything to market forces which got us into this mess in the first place
24th April, 2009
Most people don’t believe that others are biologically inferior because of the colour of their skin. However, you do get a few racists, like Charles Murray, who try and claim some link between (for example), intelligence and skin colour. In a neat article, Gracchi highlights these misconceptions and lies, and explains why they are scientifically unsound:
“The heart of this is an argument that scientifically the concept of large races- based on geographical units and imagined cultural communities- make about as much sense as the sun circling the earth does, and it is based on the same kind of data- not scientific proof or experiment but the supposition that an apparant distinction (skin colour in this case) is a real one. What goes on above the skin, as Stephen Jones argues, doesn’t tell you much about what goes on below.”
There’s something about Gurkhas which just seems to rile British governments. Despite massive support from opposition parties and a huge groundswell of good feeling across society as a whole, Gurkhas always seem to find themselves the losers, whether it’s to do with pensions or settlement rights. And so the cycle continues:
“In September 2008, the High Court ruled that immigration rules denying Gurkhas who retired before 1997 – about 36,000 – an automatic right to stay in the UK were unlawful…”
But the government ignored this, and brought in their own criteria:
“Campaigners have reacted with anger to new rules on the eligibility of Gurkha veterans to live in the UK. The Home Office said that new rules would allow about 4,300 more to settle, but the Gurkha Justice Campaign said it would be just 100.”
23rd April, 2009
The character John Bull first appeared in 1712 in the work The History of John Bull, authored by John Arbuthnot, Queen Anne’s physician. In this satirical work of fiction Bull was a minor cloth trader, â€œwho found himself embroiled in a law suit with his European neighbours; Nicholas Frog (the Dutch), Lewis Baboon (Louis Bourbon of France), Philip Baboon (the king of Spain), Esquire South (the Austrian archduke), Sister Peg (Scotland), and various others.â€ The work was meant as an attack on Whig foreign policy and on the financiers who were benefiting from English intervention in Europe (in the War of the Spanish Succession). John Bull wasnâ€™t the first English character to be portrayed as an â€œarchetypal Englishman; blunt, irritable, and prone to take to the bottle, nor the first association of Englishness with bovine characteristics: the bull, the ox, and beef had often symbolized the English nation.â€ However, he would eventually come to symbolise those traits.
By the 1760s, depictions of John Bull depended on who was drawing him, and for what purpose. Bull was usually shown to be a nationalist, but not one who cared much for war, as that meant higher taxes. As Miles Taylor puts it, his enemies (The Scots, the French) might change, but â€œhis reputation as a down-to-earth, liberty-loving, beer-drinking, and pugnacious admirer of all things English remained intact.â€ Only a few cartoonists, alarmed at the radicalism of the French revolution (1790s), depicted John Bull as a negative embodiment of democracy; common and coarse. Interestingly, even when drawn in a positive way, John Bull also had severe shortcomings: he was easily tricked by schemers, and lacked any real foresight. Thus he wasnâ€™t so much the ideal Englishman as perhaps the epitome of the ways in which many English saw themselves.
22nd April, 2009
A leaked BNP document orders BNP members not to refer to “British Asians” (or other such groups), as the correct term clearly is “racial foreigners.” When defending it, Nick Griffin argued that immigration has caused a “bloodless genocide”, which presumably means that the Anglo-Saxon members of the BNP are guilty of genocide as well. Although nothing in the document was too much of a surprise, it once again helps to undermine the BNP’s image that they like to project; that of good, honest, no-nonsense stout British yeomen. Rather they are a (fairly) media-savvy group of unpleasant racists.
I haven’t examined all of it, but it seems to run as follows:
More debt, tax rises, and no spending cuts. Oh, and subsidising car production while promising to reduce carbon emissions.
21st April, 2009
This is a guest post by a moderator from Sarbat.net.
Last week was Vaisakhi, one of the most important festivals in the Sikh calendar. Although originally celebrated as the spring harvest festival in the predominantly agricultural-based society of northern South Asia, its significance for Sikhs comes from the fact that the Khalsa, or the â€˜Brotherhood of the Pureâ€™, was created by the last living Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, on the day of Vaisakhi in 1699 AD.
However, there are some Sikhs who feel excluded from any concept of a Sikh brotherhood due to prejudices within South Asian culture rather than for any dogmatic reasons. One specific group of Sikhs who feel particularly marginalised are those who are gay.
The monarchy is an integral part of Britain’s constitutional fabric: laws are not passed until they have received royal assent; ministers hold their offices courtesy of the crown; MPs speak in the chamber by addressing their remarks to the monarch’s representative (the Speaker); and the monarch is the head of the armed forces. Yet while these constitutional niceties have lip service paid to them, in reality it is the government of the day that really controls the country, in conjunction with the European Commission. Thus, debates about whether we should have a monarchical state or republic lack urgency, as Britain would neither dive into destruction nor soar into the clouds were we to abolish the monarchy. Therefore, the debate ultimately boils down to little more than personal preference.
Graham Smith, head of the republican lobby group Republic, is not a fan of the monarchy. Fair enough. Yet he fails to make much of a case for a republic in his latest attack on Prince Charles, in which he accuses the prince of ‘political meddling’, amongst other things.
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This is an exclusive extract from Kenan Malik’s new book ‘From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy’:
On 9 September 1985 police arrested a young black man near the Acapulco CafÃ© in the Handsworth area of Birmingham. A few hours later they launched a drugs raid on the nearby Villa Cross pub. Hundreds of people â€“ blacks, whites and Asians â€“ took to the streets in protest, attacked police and property, looting, smashing and setting off firebombs. Two people were killed and dozens injured. It was almost the last flicker of the eighties inner-city conflagrations.
Almost exactly twenty years later, on 22 October 2005, another riot erupted in Lozells, next door to Handsworth. This time the fighting was not between youths and police but between blacks and Asians. An unsubstantiated â€“ and untrue â€“ rumour that a Jamaican girl had been raped by a group of Asian men, led to a violent clash between the two communities during which a young African Caribbean man was murdered by an Asian gang.