30th June, 2009
From Amnesty USA (via twitter):
The Israeli navy intercepted, boarded, and took control of a Greek cargo ship carrying foreign peace activists, including former US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel prize winner Mairead Maguire. Their ship was carrying humanitarian aid cargo for the residents of Gaza.
Right, a quick report from Friday’s even at City Circle, where I was talking with Salma Yaqoob from Respect and Fiyaz Mughal (Libdem Cllr and from Faith Matters).
I started by pointing out that I was not going to play to the gallery. I knew Salma would do that anyway and frankly I prefer to put counter-arguments to an audience than try and appeal to them. In other words I hadn’t gone there to make friends.
I said there were three strands to tackling the BNP:
1) Continual demonisation and pointing out their past and present activities
2) Organising and mobilising against them – urged people to volunteer for Hope Not Hate.
3) Taking on the issue of identity and culture that the BNP use to win votes.
After mentioning first and second briefly I went on to focus on the third. I said the rise of the BNP was not merely down to economic inequality and lack of social housing, though that was also an integral issue. It is also down to the fact that an increasing number of white people that they have nothing in common with ethnic minorities. Much of this discomfort is down to immigration and globalisation and movement of peoples – but nevertheless it is a problem of a lack of a shared identity.
29th June, 2009
I was, a couple of days ago, going to write an annoyed blog post condeming Prez. Barack Obama for not saying anything about the military coup against the president of Honduras. It’s the most pressing matter in the world I’m sure you’ll agree. I bet John Pilger was angrily sharpening up a column for the New Statesman calling him an Uncle Tom again. Anyway, Obama has now spoken out and said the coup was illegal. Phew! That saved me from criticising Obama and no doubt killed a few ‘No Change President‘ headlines.
BBC News reports today:
Neil Lewington, 43, had developed a bomb factory at his parents’ home in Reading, Berkshire, targeting those he thought “non-British”, jurors heard. The Old Bailey heard he was carrying bomb parts when arrested at Lowestoft, Suffolk, after abusing a conductor.
Later searches of Mr Lewington’s home revealed a notebook entitled “Waffen SS UK members’ handbook” which contained drawings of electronics and chemical mixtures, jurors were told. “In addition to all of that the police discovered evidence that the defendant sympathised with and quite clearly adhered to white supremacist and racist views,” said Mr Altman
I wonder where he got the idea that non-white people in the country were non-British? Bizarrely enough, this is not big enough news to splash on front pages either.
28th June, 2009
But really, just because Michael Jackson said that when he was alive doesn’t mean we have to believe him right? The New York Times reports today:
Jamie Foxx, the host of the Black Entertainment Television music awards, was unequivocal on Sunday night. â€œWe want to celebrate this black man,â€ Mr. Foxx said of Michael Jackson. â€œHe belongs to us and we shared him with everybody else.â€
Mr. Jackson was to music what Michael Jordan was to sports and Barack Obama to politics â€” a towering figure with crossover appeal, even if in life some of Mr. Jacksonâ€™s black fans wondered if he was as proud of his race as his race was of him. But since his death on Thursday, many African-Americans have embraced Mr. Jackson without ambivalence. In scores of interviews across the country over the weekend, few expressed the kind of resentment some once had for his strangeness, his changing appearance, his distance from the cherubic Michael of the Jackson 5.
I can understand the sentiment behind this – Michael Jackson was the first big black icon. So naturally African Americans feel a sense of ownership. But there is a danger here isn’t there? If every black person represents or belongs to the community then you end up defending the bad (OJ, Mike Tyson) along with trying to claim the good (MJ).
This happens a lot in the UK too. For the longest time, in the national newspapers, if one Muslim or black person did something bad then it was seen as representative of the entire ‘community’. Taking that cue from the papers – the same people end up trying to police everyone and condemning anyone from their community who steps out of line as bad.
I think it’s time to kill this attitude. Even the words ‘community’ or ‘communities’ should be banned. Who says white people belong ‘to communities’? And yet you see journalists now refer to minorities as belonging to ‘communities’ instead of one community. That’s not really an improvement is it. They should use ‘families’ or refer to them as individuals.
27th June, 2009
“GIVE Richard Dawkins a child for a weekâ€™s summer camp and he will try to give you an atheist for life…
The five-day camp in Somerset (motto: â€œItâ€™s beyond beliefâ€) is for children aged eight to 17 and will rival traditional faith-based breaks run by the Scouts and church groups.
Budding atheists will be given lessons to arm themselves in the ways of rational scepticism. There will be sessions in moral philosophy and evolutionary biology along with more conventional pursuits such as trekking and tug-of-war.”
This doesn’t seem particularly problematic to me. We already have camps with religious themes, while the children are just there to have fun and marshmallows, so won’t really care what they are being told. However, it will give more ammunition to those who accuse Richard Dawkins (and others) of turning atheism into a religion.
26th June, 2009
While Armed Forces Day sounds like a nice idea in theory, I do fear that it will be used by the government as a way of avoiding the big questions. Not just how long Britain will be in Afghanistan, but more basic concerns about the mental health of soldiers and their poor equipment. As the excellent Defence of the Realm points out, the government and Ministry of Defence have long made every effort to cover up problems rather than deal with them:
“The Ministry makes a considerable investment in coroners’ courts, supplying “liaison officers” whose task it is to “assist” inexperienced coroners in reaching the “right” verdict, helpfully supplying MoD documents and witnesses, while ensuring that hostile evidence is kept at bay.”
Whatever you like of the war in Afghanistan, no-one but the Taliban benefits from soldiers having substandard equipment. Soldiers with poor equipment become more distrustful of the local populace, which increases the number of times civilians are arrested or even killed by jumpy soldiers.
If you can make it, don’t forget I’m speaking at City Circle tonight in central London
on Google Map
The BNP â€“ How should we deal with them?
With: Fiyaz Mughal, Salma Yaqoob, and Sunny Hundal
on: Friday 26th June 2009, 6.45pm â€“ 8.30pm
at: 45 Crawford Place, London W1H 4LP More details here.
In 2005 I was invited to a discussion on BBC Asian Network when some Sikh groups were running a campaign to shut down the play Behzti. Of course, I was for the play carrying on. Anyway the Sikh Human Rights Commission wanted to sue the writer Gurpreet Bhatti for racial discrimination against Sikhs because of its content. She was Sikh herself. The stupid idea never went anywhere, thankfully.
I’m reminded of that again in yesterday’s ruling that a school discriminated against a Jewish boy on racial grounds, even though the school contends they didn’t allow him in on religious grounds (they said his mother wasn’t proper Jewish, and therefore he wasn’t).
As it is I have a problem with bodies officially sanctioning who can claim to be part of a religion. But more importantly this case lays bare the complex relationship between race and religion which I’ve repeatedly mentioned on PP. See, only Sikhs and Jews are defined as a race under the Race Relations Act for historical reasons. Those reasons may have been important then but they’ve become redundant now and this case says two things: one that schools should be forced to stop discriminating on the basis of religion; that legally defining religions as a race is a bad idea.
The Guardian’s excellent writer Afua Hirsch has an article which highlights this bit from the ruling:
A person who honestly believed, as the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa until recently believed, that God had made black people inferior and had destined them to live separately from whites, would be able to discriminate openly without breaking the law
A point well made. Civil law should, in my view, always take precedence over religious law and ruling. And minorities better get used to that quickly – including that silly Hindu group pushing for open-air cremations. The long-delayed Equalities Bill was supposed to sort this out but it’s got so many other things attached to it now, I fear it won’t actually get anywhere.
25th June, 2009
Yesterday the New York-based Campaign for Peace and Democracy circulated the open letter below from academics in support of the demonstrators in Iran.
The statement was initiated by two scholars in the United Kingdom, Peter Hallward and Alberto Toscano. It has been signed by individuals from several countries; the initial signers include Etienne Balibar, Paris X, Nanterre, and University of California, Irvine; Jacques RanciÃ¨re, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris (St. Denis); Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley; Noam Chomsky, MIT, Cambridge MA USA; Rada Ivekovic, CollÃ¨ge international de philosophie, Paris, UniversitÃ© Jean-Monnet, Saint-Etienne; and Slavoj Å½iÅ¾ek, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and the European Graduate School.
The full list of signers is below.
The Libdems are re-starting their attempts to woo ethnic minorities to the party and to “support talented party members from black and minority ethnic backgrounds”. An event is being held next week for this. About time. I’ll report more when I get back.
Readers, does this not work for you any more? I’ve had various complaints but it works for me…
Nicholas Sarzoky’s attack on the burkha has garnered plenty of support, from people who are worried about the oppression of Muslim women to those who just want to use it as an excuse to attack Islam and Muslims.
There are plenty of reasons to criticise the burkha. It makes some people feel uncomfortable because it denies them face to face contact with the person underneath, while in certain situations, such as checking in at airports, it is clearly inappropriate. Some women are forced or pressured to wear it, while their husbands and male relatives go around uncovered. There is not even Qur’anic justification for it. Yet do these objections mean that it should be banned? No. There are two reasons for this: the practicality of such a ban, and the loss of liberty.
Enforcing such a ban would be hard. Would we have police ripping off women’s clothes if their faces were covered? Pregnant women and young mothers put behind bars for repeatedly defying the ban? Would anyone who covered their face up be breaking the law? Would Darth Vader impersonators be held? How much face would have to be covered up for it to be illegal?
At stake too is the liberty of individuals to decide what they wear. Some women choose to wear the burkha because they like it, and this should be their decision. The burkha itself isn’t a sign of repression. It is in some cases a product of repression, but it is unclear why women who are forced to wear the burkha would suddenly become freer. If anything, the opposite might happen, and women who were allowed to go out before could be forced to stay in. We as a society do need to do much more to help oppressed women, but regulating their clothes isn’t going to help.
24th June, 2009
From The Times today:
Lâ€™OrÃ©al, the French cosmetics giant, whose advertising campaigns proclaim â€œbecause youâ€™re worth itâ€, was found guilty of racial discrimination for considering black, Arab and Asian women unworthy of selling its shampoo. Franceâ€™s highest court was told that the group had sought an all-white team of sales staff to promote Fructis Style, a haircare product made by Garnier, Lâ€™OrÃ©alâ€™s beauty division.
The court ruled that Adecco, the temporary recruitment agency whose Districom division hired the hostesses, was also guilty of racial discrimination. The Paris Appeal Court had fined both Lâ€™OrÃ©al and Adecco â‚¬30,000 (Â£25,500) and ordered them to pay a further â‚¬30,000 each in damages to SOS Racisme, the anti-racist campaign group, which brought the case. The court upheld the fines but told the appeal court judges to reconsider the damages.
Well done to the anti-racist organisation that brought forward the case.
Most of the serious newspapers today are going big on the civil war on the streets of Iran, although BBC News still seems to be obsessed by F1. There’s no point doing in me doing a running commentary on the Iranian elections (though I’ve tweeted various links) because there is enough already out there. See this Guardian blog, the NY Times Lede blog and Andrew Sullivan’s coverage.
Some people also seem to think that just because I haven’t written enough about Iran indicates that I’m tacitly supporting Ahmedinijihad. Sigh. Well, we all know about the games that certain people like to play.
I’m interested in other angles to the saga. Asim Siddiqui from City Circle has an excellent article hinting at I think the biggest learn lesson to learn from those who already haven’t: that countries based on religious authority sooner or later turn authoritarian when the voice of the people is over-ruled, and riots follow.
I support the riots not because I think Moussavi is great. I support them because if they succeed in their goal then there is a good chance the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic and the Imams who rule it with a tight, dictatorial grip, collapses with it. That would ultimately be good for the people of Iran.
PS – I’ve been invited to play in a charity cricket match on 1st August in Walthamstow to support leftists in Iran. Come down!
The BNP thrive off an anti-establishment and anti-politics fervour. They thrive on a victim mentality that is ingrained in their hardcore supporters and attract whites who buy into that victim mentality. I get that. And MaidMarian in the comments earlier made a good point about the BNP being more about getting their message to be common currency, with votes and political office only as a secondary concern.
But there is a danger of going the other way too far. I don’t think BNP affiliated teachers should be banned from the classroom, and Neil Robertson makes a good case here, but some seem to worry that we should avoid doing anything that helps Nick Griffin play the victim card.
Listen folks, if you want to stop the BNP then volunteer for the Hope Not Hate campaign, don’t become so afraid of stepping on the BNP’s toes. There is a need to continue delegitimising the BNP while not letting them paint themselves as victims. But I refuse to go so far that we have to accept the BNP as equal partners because the alternative is that we feed their sense of victimhood. When will people call them out for that?
23rd June, 2009
… except that its action contradict its actual words:
Israel’s defence ministry has proposed legalising 60 existing homes at a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, and building another 240 homes at the site, despite US calls for a halt to settlement growth. Construction at the outpost, known as Water Reservoir Hill, near the Talmon settlement, north of Ramallah, would “greatly damage” the freedom of movement of Palestinian farmers in the area, according to Bimkom, an Israeli planning rights group.
So far, Israel has resisted Washington’s pressure for a halt to construction in settlements and the issue is fast becoming a test of wills between the two governments. In an interview yesterday Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said arguing about settlement activity was a waste of time. Last week, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, told Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that Washington wanted “to see a stop to the settlements”.
I’ve not really commented on I/P much recently, especially since we were going through a period of flux. But it seems clear now that the Israeli government doesn’t actually want peace. They were presented with an opportunity to negotiate and use Obama to force Palestinians into a deal, especially since most lefties around the world support Obama. And yet not only as Netanyahu pointedly refused to do anything about the illegal settlements – they’re actually expanding them. This is not only flouting international law – but signalling that Israel isn’t interested in peace.
You must be aware the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is saying it may launch a legal action against the BNP for its discriminatory membership policies. Their press release today states:
The letter, sent to the party chairman Nick Griffin, outlines the Commissionâ€™s concerns about the BNPâ€™s compliance with the Race Relations Act. The letter asks the BNP to provide written undertakings by 20th July that it will make the changes required by the Commission. Failure to do so may result in the Commission issuing an application for a legal injunction against the BNP.
The Commission has a statutory duty, under the Equality Act 2006, to enforce the provisions of the Act and to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination. This duty includes preventing discrimination by political parties.
The Commission thinks that the BNPâ€™s constitution and membership criteria may discriminate on the grounds of race and colour, contrary to the Race Relations Act. The partyâ€™s membership criteria appear to restrict membership to those within what the BNP regards as particular â€œethnic groupsâ€ and those whose skin colour is white. This exclusion is contrary to the Race Relations Act which the party is legally obliged to comply with. The Commission therefore thinks that the BNP may have acted, and be acting, illegally.
Anything that continues to highlight the BNP’s racist policies is good for me, especially since the BNP cannot say here that their membership policies merely echo those organisations such as the National Black Police Association (which has never had a bar on race).
But why has it taken them so long to launch this anyway? It’s good publicity now for everyone involved, but this BNP policy isn’t new, is it? Is this a belated attempt by Trevor Phillips to shore up his position?
Watch the press conference here (info via Zohra at the F Word)
Update: Afua Hirsch writes on the legal hoops it may have to jump.
When the previous speaker, Michael Martin, stepped down as result of the expenses scandal, it was widely that believed that this was in part due to his own questionable use of taxpayers’ money. This assertion has now been shattered after MPs voted to elect John Bercow, who flipped his home (a dishonest practice) in order to avoid Capital Gains Tax (which people pay if they sell a property which isn’t their primary residence), while spending taxpayers’ money on an accountant (no business would ever be allowed to claim back such fees). And this is the man MPs think can clean up Parliament.
There’s not much one can add. They have damned themselves.
(Links Via Devil’s Kitchen)
22nd June, 2009
I can’t believe anyone sane could have any admiration left for Galloway after watching this video where he pretty much licks Iran’s Ahmedinijad up and down (sorry if I triggered your imagination there but there’s no other way to describe it, is there?). No mention of all the brutal killings. No discussion of why hundreds of thousands of people were angrily on the street.
George Galloway isn’t on the far-left any more; he has simply become a supporter of a brutal autocratic theocracy. There’s no ideological justification – he just wants more of that Iranian cream. Sick stuff. (via Stroppybird, who is actually on the socialist-left). The UK group Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI), to which I’m a signatory, has some good coverage too. Galloway is on his own.
If anyone wants evidence the vote was rigged – it’s there.
Recently eGov sent the BNP a list of the ’85 Questions’. We have now received an answer to the first twenty questions, while the other questions remain unanswered, with no indication of when they will be. The response was written by Lee John Barnes, a member of the BNPâ€™s legal affairsâ€™ team and a well-known blogger. Below his unedited response, a number of us have printed our collective reaction to his answers:
Well, the title is self-explanatory. Here is the blurb:
The BNP – How should we deal with them?
A Panel Discussion with:
Fiyaz Mughal, Salma Yaqoob, and Sunny Hundal
on: Friday 26th June 2009, 6.45pm – 8.30pm
at: 45 Crawford Place, London W1H 4LP
The recent election of two BNP members to the European parliament has brought to the fore concerns around the rise of far-right extremism in the UK. How should this challenge be confronted?
21st June, 2009
Before I write a more important post, it’s time to chuck out a few links.
- BNP Wives, Sky Three – you can watch the whole thing on Google Video. (h/t: @poorva)
- Video shows surveillance protesters bundled to ground by police – this is big news. I need to write about how environmentalists now increasingly bear the brunt of our attack on civil liberties. And yet all those Tories and Libertarians who get so exercised by stuff like smoking bans don’t even bother saying anything about this.
- More strikes ahead at power plants as oil refinery row rumbles on, says the Guardian. I say bring it on – am fully behind the Lindsey Oil Strikes. There’s a better piece in the Indy titled: How the issue of foreign workers has poisoned industrial relations – need to come back to this.
- Spiked Online: don’t you just hate it? I do. Anyway, a good blog post by Naomi McAuliffe taking down its stupid misogyny. There’s also one by Gimpy challenging another Spiked article on passive smoking. But the most interesting is this one by Richard Wilson questioning the editorial bent behind Spiked and its funders.
- Interesting article in the Washington Post about Obama’s approach to the civil-war in Iran. Let’s be clear about this: I support the voting out of Ahmedinijad because he’s a repressive, Holocaust-denying, racist tyrant. I’m not enamoured with Moussavi but he’s better than the former. It’s also pretty obvious, except to the idiotic rag-tag of people who supported the war in Iraq or are Tory that Obama must do something, without taking into account how that plays into Ahmedinijad’s hand. When will these people learn?
- Also according to Richard Wilson, though Tory MEP Daniel Hannan loves talking about transparency etc, his voting record in fact betrays the exact opposite. Typical.
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Remember that fictitious front-page Sun news story where some Muslims on a forum had drawn up a Jewish hit-list? It got taken down after questions were asked about “anti-terrorism expert” Glen Jenvey who apparently sold the story to the Sun. Anyway, here’s an update.
Apparently he’s converted to Islam. LOL. No seriously, Dave Bones emailed earlier and has now blogged it. Richard Bartholomew has much more. This really is a bizarre story. If this guy does become a big disciple of Anjem Choudhary then expect him on TV soon.