31st January, 2010

How the media become Anjem Choudhary’s puppets

by Sunny at 3:17 pm    

I’ve commented several times on the media habit of going overboard by playing into publicity stunts by Anjem Choudhary and now banned Islam4UK.

But I admit I can’t be as funny or spot-on as Charlie Brooker, here on Newswipe which is now on BBC4. You have to ffwd about 2 min in)

Filed under: Humour,Islamists,Media
30th January, 2010

UK student visas

by Rumbold at 9:59 pm    

After a large surge in student visa applications from northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal, potential students from these areas will not be allowed to apply for visas for the next month (at least). The decision came after visa applications increased tenfold, leading to fears of widespread fraud and a large backlog:

The director of the legal advice firm, London Immigration Advice and Appeal Services, Harjap Singh Bhangal, says a temporary suspension will prevent illegal immigration, but it will also adversely affect genuine students. He told the BBC: “It’s going to create a panic and we don’t know when this suspension is going to be lifted. I believe it’s for one month initially but it could run into several months.

“The problem that we’re going to have is that the genuine students who want to come over for the universities they’re going to suffer as a result and they won’t be able to get here in time for their courses.” India is currently the UK’s biggest visa operation in the world. More than 500,000 Indians visit the UK every year, among them tens of thousands of students.

I don’t know what the best solution is in situations like this. Obviously some students will lose out, but we know there are severe problems with bogus students coming to Britain and not actually studying. No system will ever be foolproof.

Moreover, many others suffer. Recently the Sikh Channel highlighted the plight of homeless Punjabis in Southall, a number of whom are foreign students. As Manvir Singh recounts:

It was shocking to see that there are at least 100 homeless Panjabis in Southall, and possibly more. There are many reasons why these people are on the streets. One of the reasons is linked to foreign students from India facing desperate times in the UK. These people are living in dustbins, cemeteries, disused garages and under bridges. To cope many have turned to class A Drugs, such as Heroin and Crack Cocaine, as well as other substances. The reason for this is to cope with the cold, to suppress their hunger and to help them sleep on the streets. Many are suffering from serious health conditions such as Hypothermia, Scabies, Gangrene and cannot get immediate medical attention.

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The OneVoice movement: Supporting moderates in Israel and Palestine

by Rumbold at 11:55 am    

Pickled Politics has recently been sent some information by BMSD (British Muslims for Secular Democracy) about the OneVoice movement, a group dedicated to supporting both Israeli and Palestinian moderates and facilitating a peaceful, mutually-beneficial resolution to the current conflict in the region. I thought it worth highlighting.

According to a OneVoice poll, 74% of Palestinians and 78% of Israelis are willing to accept a two-state solution. They have also had over 650,000 signatures in approximately equal numbers from both Israel and Palestine supporting them.

The OneVoice website explains their aspirations and methods:

OneVoice is an international movement of people fed up with the ongoing conflict. We are ready and eager to support a serious process leading to a comprehensive agreement fulfilling the hopes and beliefs of both the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples for a two state solution to end the conflict, and establish a viable and independent Palestinian state that lives at peace with Israel…

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Filed under: Current affairs
29th January, 2010

Speaking at Progressive London conf tomorrow

by Sunny at 4:56 pm    

Hello all: I’ll be at the Progressive London conference tomorrow, on:

WINNING THE ARGUMENT – NEW MEDIA AND THE ELECTION
• Clifford Singer, mydavidcameron.com
• Helen Gardner, Boriswatch.co.uk
• Andy Newman, Socialist Unity
• Sunny Hundal, Liberal Conspiracy
• Alex Smith, Labourlist
• CHAIR: Kevin Maguire, Associate Editor, The Mirror

maybe see you then!

Filed under: Blog

Pakistan massacres sabotage Baloch peace deal

by guest at 1:50 pm    

contribution by Peter Tatchell

This was first published on Guardian CIF, and Peter wanted to discuss it here too.

A series of massacres of peaceful protesters by Pakistani security forces look set to sink hopes of a settlement deal between the government in Islamabad and Baloch nationalists who are campaigning for self-rule. There are fears that the sinister, shadowy Pakistani military and intelligence agencies are behind these killings, in a deliberate attempt to sabotage the reconciliation package put forward by the government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

On 15 January, at least two Baloch political activists were shot dead and four others seriously wounded after Pakistani security forces opened fire on a peaceful, lawful protest organised by the Baloch Students Organization (BSO) in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan.

The rally had been called to protest against the recent murder of Baloch citizens in Karachi and the launching of a new military crackdown in Pakistani annexed and occupied Balochistan.

The shootings are the latest of many Pakistani killings of Baloch protesters and nationalist leaders.

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27th January, 2010

The right to end lives?

by guest at 1:23 pm    

contribution by Sarah Ismail

Kay Gilderdale, the mother of Lynn Gilderdale, 31, who lived with severe ME for 17 years, has been found not guilty of her daughter’s murder. In December 2008, Mrs Gilderdale helped to end Lynn’s life by handing her daughter two syringes of morphine, which Miss Gilderdale injected into herself.

When Mrs Gilderdale felt that the morphine had not achieved Miss Gilderdale’s aim of ending her own life, she crushed some tablets and gave them to her daughter through the feeding tube Miss Gilderdale used because she was unable to swallow.

On her personal blog, reprinted in the Times yesterday, Lynn Gilderdale wrote:

I really, really, really want to die and have had enough of being so sick and in so much pain every second of everyday and, basically, one serious health crisis after another. I am tired, so very, very tired and I just don’t think I can keep hanging on for that elusive illness-free existence.

Mum regularly goes through everything with me. I never waver, I just become more and more sure as time passes. I have always stated that if I was unable to make a decision myself the power goes jointly to my parents. I trust them implicitly with my life and death. I know they won’t do the selfish thing in keeping me here purely for themselves.

Last week, Frances Inglis was found guilty of the murder of her son, Thomas, 22, who became brain damaged in 2007. In November 2008, she went to his room at his care home and injected him with heroin.

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‘The Niqab has no place in Islam’

by Sunny at 9:25 am    

guest post by Shaaz Mahboob of British Muslims for Secular Democracy

Discrimination of any form is considered unacceptable is all civilised societies. The burqa or the niqab does just that. It allows one person to remain anonymous during face-to-face communication, thus depriving the right of the other to reciprocate whilst registering the changes in facial expressions, which is vital in such communication, in conjunction to voice that is used for everyday communication.
Whether in public offices, educational institutions or out on the streets, the disadvantage to those who are required to deal with women covered under a niqab or burqa is immense.

Furthermore, to all the men out there, it is insulting since it implies that every man on the street would somehow get aroused by the sight of a woman’s face and in therefore to protect these women, they must be put behind a suffocating layer of thick clothing.

This might be true for certain societies where men rarely get a glimpse of women’s faces or skin altogether, and any such sight might awaken their natural instincts.

Whereas in Western societies, especially within the French society, this rationale does not hold much weight since members of the public are exposed to significant display of the skin of the opposite sex, which perhaps renders them immune to any such mental state where they would readily pounce on a woman upon seeing her uncovered face.

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26th January, 2010

I thought UKIP believed in freedom of speech?

by Sunny at 4:59 pm    

You’ll remember that a year ago UKIP leader Lord Pearson invited over Geert Wilders to show his “film” Fitna because he wanted to start a debate about extremism. Or so he claimed anyway. When Wilders was banned there was a lot of huffing and puffing by UKIP acolytes about free speech and free expression being restricted in the UK.

For example, see the Telegraph blogger Ed West, who at the time also said, “Wilders is not ‘far-Right’ by any reasonable standard – he is a classical liberal who thinks immigration has gone way too far”

Classically liberal eh? Geert Wilders also came up with a 10-point plan to save the west, which included measures like: encouraging voluntary repatriation; have every member of a non-Western minority sign a legally binding contract of assimilation; stop building new mosques; getting rid of the current weak leaders, etc.

So either I misunderstand what it means to be ‘classically liberal’ or Ed West is talking complete horse-shit. Perhaps Tim Worstall can clarify since he’s not only a UKIP comms director but also claims to be ‘classically liberal’.

Anyway, the point is that recently the former head of UKIP Nigel Farage called for the ‘burqa’ to be banned. No one listens to Farage anyway: it was a classic tactic of trying to get some media attention since he is fighting a very difficult seat in Buckingham. The guy wants some publicity so he tried a classic UKIP dog-whistle.

When asked about this policy, Lord Pearson claimed: “the burqa ban is a ban for freedom”. A ban for freedom! Haha! Either these people give ‘classic liberals’ a bad name or they are complete fuckwits.

Anyway, Ed West from UKIP Telegraph now says: ‘Don’t ban the burka. Ban liberals instead’ – how very tolerant of freedom of expression. It seems UKIP only believe in free speech when it applies to criticising or demonising Muslims, not otherwise.

25th January, 2010

Another video of violence from EDL Stoke demo

by Sunny at 9:19 am    

This video contains strong, racist language btw.

Lancaster Unity reports:

EDL say they support British laws and that they’re not racist or connected to the BNP, but after the EDL demo in Stoke on 23 Jan 2010, EDL supporters “dispersed” into side-streets to break windows and attack cars owned by Stoke residents. EDL co-founder and convicted knife criminal Jeff Marsh filmed the police ID-ing him by name (0:02 “Jeff Marsh, turn round and go back”) and then filmed EDL supporters chanting “BNP, BNP, BNP” (0:26).

Police then chased the EDL into a nearby park where EDL accused police officers of being “Paki loving bastards” (0:35), “Fucking cunts”, and one officer of being a “wanker” and “Fucking paki lover”

Funny that – they claim only to be against Muslim extremists, like a lot of other internet warriors. Not the same as what comes out of their mouths though.

24th January, 2010

English Defence League violence in Stoke

by Sunny at 9:28 am    

Well that’s no surprise is it? Watch the video too.

Seventeen people were arrested at an English Defence League (EDL) rally in Stoke-on-Trent after trouble broke out.
Four officers were injured and vehicles were damaged when EDL supporters broke through police cordons. Two of the officers needed hospital treatment.

There’s more coverage and videos over at A Very Public Sociologist blog. Definitely worth reading.

Good to see that Unite Against Fascism have learnt from previous mistakes and behaved very civilised in contrast. Let the racists make a fool of themselves.

Filed under: Race politics
23rd January, 2010

US lifts visa restriction on Tariq Ramadan

by Sunny at 11:47 am    

Six years after using the Patriot Act to revoke the visa of a prominent Muslim academic, the United States State Department reversed itself and said Wednesday that it would no longer bar the scholar from entering the United States.

Civil rights campaigners have long argued that the two cases were particularly blatant examples of how the Bush administration used the Patriot Act as a way to bar people whose political views were at odds with its own.

New York Times reports. Good move by Obama.

Ken Loach boycotts Iranian film festival

by Sunny at 10:09 am    

The Independent reports:

It is Iran’s answer to Cannes, Venice and Berlin rolled into one. The cinematic and cultural highlight of the Islamic republic’s calendar, the annual Fajr festival in Tehran is a 10-day extravaganza of film, drama, poetry and literature. This year’s event, which opens on Monday, ought to be a magnet for the country’s artistic elite and a host of international stars.

But Ken Loach and the British theatre director Peter Brook are among leading Western artistic figures who have informed the Islamic regime they are pulling out in protest at its brutal crackdown on the opposition, which includes torture, prison rapes, countless killings and Stalinist-style televised show trials of reformists.

Ken Loach, of course, did the right thing. But I can just imagine certain blogs on either sides of the spectrum where heads will asplode in trying to figure out how to deal with this.

Filed under: Humour,Media

Drug addiction and trafficking in Punjab

by Sunny at 5:02 am    

Interesting report from Al-Jazeera. I’ve been to Amritsar a few times and didn’t realise the incidents of drug abuse were that high. Really? I’m somewhat doubtful without official figures. Nevertheless – she’s got some excellent footage and interviews.

via The Langar Hall

PS: TLH also says a local Sikh charity in the US, focusing on victims of domestic violence, needs your help to get a big pot of cash to carry on!

How? You just need to log on to Facebook and vote for it! If you need more info, it’s here.

22nd January, 2010

Terror level in UK raised to ‘severe’

by Sunny at 10:35 pm    

The threat to the UK from international terrorism was tonight raised from substantial to severe – meaning an attack is “highly likely”.

Home secretary Alan Johnson said although the threat had increased, there was no intelligence to suggest an attack was imminent.

He said: “The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has today raised the threat to the UK from international terrorism from substantial to severe.

– Guardian.

WTF is going on??

Filed under: Current affairs

Hari Kunzru comes to Rod Liddle’s defence

by Sunny at 7:45 pm    

I fear that Hari Kunzru is making the exact same mistake as Catherine Bennett (though his point is made much better) that we’re going after Rod Liddle’s speech by campaigning against him being editor of the Indy.

I respond:

Catherine Bennett made the same accusations, and I replied to her here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/jan/19/twitter-mob-rules-people-power

Being liberal doesn’t mean you can’t campaign against or for anything. No one is taking Rod Liddle’s free speech away – he still blogs away at Spectator and writes for the Sunday Times.

If they want to legitimise and help such an obnoxious misogynist and racist – that’s their problem: I don’t buy them.

But to say that liberals (I’m a left liberal, the name of the site is meant to be ironic) cannot campaign or criticise anyone because it somehow takes away their freedom of speech isn’t an argument. I’m not like the Chinese authorities. I’m not calling for him to be imprisoned.

This is like saying Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League marches shouldn’t have happened because they restricted the right of the BNP and National Front to say what they want.

To which Hari responds with:

@ Sunny – I don’t think you’re answering my point at all. I’m not saying the same thing as Catherine Bennett. I’m asking you to think about the limits of campaigning. When does legitimate campaigning become something else? I’m not saying you’re the Chinese government. It’s a silly comparison. I also don’t buy the RaR analogy. Rod Liddle is an individual, not an ideology (afaik). You’ve already won the point about Liddle’s unsuitability to edit the Indie – this is very much in the public domain. What’s the end/purpose of your campaign now? How ‘non grata’ do you want his persona? I’m not saying you can’t campaign or criticise.

I’m saying that beyond a certain point, mass campaigns have a chilling effect on free speech. Is this the case with Liddle? Possibly not – as you say he’s robust, and has plenty of media outlets and allies. But it’s something that needs to be thought about if you care about freedom. Would you be more circumspect if he was weaker or less well-known? You’re in the trenches right now (judging by an fb post you made today) and I wonder if your exhiliration at breaking the Millwall stuff is overtaking a sense of proportion. How do you respond, for example, to my charge that this is potentially damaging to your own politics – beyond a certain point isn’t this trivial? Doesn’t it risk delegitimising the more important stuff you campaign about?

Frankly I don’t really care if criticising Rod Liddle means there is less casual racism and misogyny in public life – I’d welcome that, thanks. Is the fact there is now much less overt anti-semitism in public life a bad thing?

The purpose of the campaign is to say that Rod Liddle’s views go against those of the Indy’s principles and it’s readers. He is a troll and is only being considered because Simon Kelner thinks what the Indy really needs is someone who can make it talked about.

But that won’t bring it loyal readers and it will only herald the demise of Britain’s only other left-liberal newspaper. I don’t see that as a good thing. Hence the campaign. That’s how citizens roll.

This airy-fairy liberal thinking that if we’re nasty to poor old Wod Widdle then it’s going to make life difficult for others is frankly horse-shit. In the US, Colour of Change ran a campaign against Glenn Beck for his on-air racism. Was freedom of speech in the US curtailed?

Sorry, I’m not buying this argument at all. Sarah Ditum covered this quite well too – this liberal intelligentsia penchant for mixing up criticism and campaigning with censorship really should be ignored.

Filed under: Civil liberties,Media

Video: ‘They started it dammit’!

by Sunny at 7:35 pm    

You may have heard about the controversy where markings from the Bible were found on weapons used by US and UK soldiers.

This is how the people from Fox News respond:

Nice

Filed under: Religion

Asian ozone raising levels of smog in US

by Sunny at 7:34 pm    

The Guardian reports:

Ozone blowing over from Asia is raising background levels of a major ingredient of smog in the skies over western US states, according to a new study appearing in today’s edition of the journal Nature.

The amounts are small and, so far, only found in a region of the atmosphere known as the free troposphere, at an altitude of two to five miles, but the development could complicate US efforts to control air pollution.

Though the levels are small, they have been steadily rising since 1995, and probably longer, said lead author Owen R Cooper, a research scientist at the University of Colorado attached to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

“The important aspect of this study for North America is that we have a strong indication that baseline ozone is increasing,” said Cooper. “We still don’t know how much is coming down to the surface. If the surface ozone is increasing along with the free tropospheric ozone, that could make it more difficult for the US to meet its ozone air quality standard.”

Filed under: Environmentalism

I wonder what the homophobes will say?

by Sunny at 7:33 pm    

File this under: WTF?!!?!?

The BBC today launched a major research project into what its audiences – including those with homophobic views – think about its portrayal of gay, lesbian and bisexual people on TV and radio.

Licence-fee payers will be asked what they think of on-screen talent, humour, language, tone and stereotyping relating to the portrayal of gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

The three-part project will begin with a qualitative research study (in-depth interviews), which will help determine the questions for a follow-up quantitative survey (a larger number of multiple-choice interviews) in a few months. Finally, the BBC also wants members of the public to contribute via a public consultation website.

The qualitative study will cover 28 different audience sectors, including gay, lesbian and bisexual people, but also ethnic and religious groups, with some respondents expected to express homophobic views.

Filed under: Current affairs

This is bloody hilarious

by Sunny at 7:32 pm    

Chris Morris’s Four Lions: exclusive clip from the ‘jihadist comedy’

Four Lions, the eagerly-awaited feature film debut from Brass Eye’s Chris Morris, premieres at the Sundance film festival on Saturday. In this exclusive clip, we see how not to buy a dozen bottles of bomb-making bleach

Check out the link above, the clip is hilarious.

Filed under: Humour,Terrorism

Douglas Murray: A Clarification

by Sunny at 7:20 pm    

On my blog for 9 September 2009 about the English Defence League, I suggested that Douglas Murray of the Centre for Social Cohesion was a friend and supporter of the EDL and Christian Action Network. I was wrong about this. Mr Murray has clarified to me that he supports neither of these organisations and I apologise.

Filed under: Blog

Stories for today (Friday)

by Sunny at 9:10 am    

Robert Fisk: Hizbollah and Israel are preparing for war
The Hizbollah claimed that the 2006 war with Israel was a “divine victory” – it didn’t feel that way to us in southern Lebanon at the time – yet even Israel admits it was a near-defeat for its own ill-trained soldiers. But how would Israel react if the Hizbollah managed to enter Israel itself? Israeli army commanders are talking about this in the Israeli press. A fast, dramatic spring across the frontier to the west – in the direction of Naharia, perhaps, or a grab at the settlement of Kiryat Shmona – and Hizbollah would announce it had “liberated” part of historic “Palestine”. Israel would have to bomb its own territory to get them out.

Muslim sect launches ‘peace’ ad campaign
It is being launched by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of UK, who represent a small sect of Islam, and will include ads on buses as well as doorstep leafleting. It is supported by a new website: LoveForAllHatredForNone.org, which they say seeks to change the perception of Islam, “by clarifying its true teachings and emphasising the need for these to be put in practice by all Muslims”.

‘No idea when Guantanamo Bay will be closed’
The White House admitted yesterday that they did not know when Guantanamo Bay will be closed.
The response came a year after President Obama vowed to close the controversial facility. But yesterday the White House admitted it a time-table was now up in the air.

Shahid Mursaleen: A fatwa can support peace rather than terrorism
The only person that has been able to produce what is an unprecedented 600-page fatwa [religious edict] against terrorism is a leading authority in Islam, Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri. In what is the most comprehensive edict on this topic in the history of Islam, Dr Qadri has explained how suicide bombings and terrorism is unequivocally un-Islamic. In his Fatwa book he has stated that “all these acts are grave violations of human rights Islamic law.”

Filed under: Current affairs

Pakistan and the IPL

by Rumbold at 2:26 am    

Indo-Pak relations have soured once again after the Indian Premier League’s auction of cricket players failed to produce a single bid for a Pakistani cricketer. This was in spite of the fact that Pakistan can boast some of the world’s top cricketers. One IPL grandee claimed it was because they were unsure whether or not they could get visas for Pakistan players. Yet surely the Indian government could have confirmed or denied this before the auction? More plausible was the reason given by an unnamed source:

But another franchise official – who said there had been no formal ban by the Indian authorities – told the Hindustan Times: “The IPL is a commercial proposition, owned by businessmen and no one wanted to risk upsetting the government.”

Is if this true, then it is wrong-headed on a number of levels. Apart from the sporting angle, diplomatically it is also foolish, as it has antagonised Pakistan for no reason. Sport can be a divider (see Egypt and Algeria), but more often than not it brings them a bit closer (‘soft diplomacy’). I can’t see the rationale behind it.

Filed under: India,Pakistan,Sports
21st January, 2010

Meet the English Defence League’s Asian poster-boy

by guest at 9:30 am    

contribution by Secunder Kermani, published first at The Samosa

Ever since its formation last year, the English Defence League (EDL) has insisted it is not racist and doesn’t have a problem with ordinary Muslims, just radical extremists.

Amit Singh is a British-born Sikh and EDL activist who will address the EDL’s demonstration in Stoke this Saturday to try and show British Asians that the group is neither racist nor anti-Muslim. But as I discovered, scratch beneath the moderate surface and a very different picture of the EDL’s Asian poster boy emerges – one of vitriolic rants against Muslims in general.

Amit Singh is a British-born Sikh in his late 20s, and one of the leading EDL activists in his hometown in the Midlands. He was introduced to me by an EDL spokesman, himself of mixed-race descent. He told me that people like Amit were of crucial importance in highlighting the fact that the EDL weren’t racist, and in helping spread the group’s message within their own communities.

Amit’s doing his speech to highlight the fact that we’re not white supremacist, skinhead boot boys basically,” the spokesman explained. “It would be a hell of a lot nicer to get more multicultural people there.” He said he wanted support from as many different communities as possible, including, he said, moderate Muslims.

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