17th February, 2010
16th February, 2010
I said yesterday that many of those loudly pushing the Amnesty / Moazzam Begg story are doing merely so to malign Amnesty’s name. For them Gita Sahgal is just the latest excuse to push pre-prepared narratives.
Right on cue, here is Melanie Phillips:
The true intolerant, illiberal, unjust face of the â€˜human rightsâ€™ industry has been on graphic display in recent days in the case of Gita Sahgal.
The point is that her real crime has been to expose the extraordinary sympathy by white â€˜liberalsâ€™, committed to â€˜human rightsâ€™, for Islamic jihadists — who are committed to the extinction of human rights. This love-in by white â€˜liberalsâ€™ for theocratic totalitarianism is then further reflected by the totalitarian manner in which they themselves deal with anyone who opposes them.
Ergo, Amnesty are also committed to the extinction of human rights.
And what might be the reason for Mel Phillips’ ire?
When pondering the extraordinary obsession with Israel by the â€˜human rightsâ€™ industry and the way in which it ignores real human rights abuses in the third world…
Well that was a surprise wasn’t it? Damn those people at Amnesty for not publishing a statement about Congo in the last 6 weeks! Also, apparently, it is Amnesty and HRW that are to blame for why the world hasn’t heard much about Congo over the last decade. Nothing at all to do with the media industry and prominent newspapers that Mel Phillips writes for. The Daily Mail and Spectator are of course known for their unparalleled humanitarian coverage of atrocities around the world.
To put it another way, Amnesty is living in the make-believe world of a phoney war, where it thinks that liberals are free to form alliances with defenders of clerical fascists who want to do everything in their power to suppress liberals, most notably liberal-minded Muslims.
Oh wait – that was Nick Cohen – sounding exactly the same. The agenda here is so blatant that you’ll forgive me for being so gung-ho about cheering them on.
And to make an obvious point: this doesn’t mean I’m hating on Gita Sahgal. I’ve had the utmost respect for WAF and SBS from day one. I just don’t agree with them here, and don’t want to get sucked into Nick Cohen and Mel Phillips’ agenda. But I expect such a nuanced position will be hard for some to understand.
Also, Louise is spot on.
15th February, 2010
I’ve now got a clearer picture of what is going on with the Amnesty and Moazzam Begg saga.
And it’s easy to see why this is a campaign to Amnesty and its work. On 14th Feb the journalist who kicked this all off – Richard Kerbaj – published another article titled: Second Amnesty chief attacks Islamist links.
But actually that wasn’t quite correct because Amnesty’s Asia director Sam Zarifi says the article “mischaracterizes” his views.
I do not oppose our current initiative working with Moazzam Begg in the recent European tour seeking to convince European states to receive more of the GuantÃ¡namo detainees who cannot be repatriated because of the risk of further human rights abuses.
As I told my programme staff in the internal email leaked to your paper, my concern has been that AIâ€™s campaigning has not been sufficiently clear that when we defend somebodyâ€™s right to be free from torture or unlawful detention, we do not necessarily embrace their views totally.
So will the Sunday Times and the blogs that quoted Zarifi initially issue a retraction? Fat chance. This has turned into a straightforward campaign to malign Amnesty.
Exclusive: I’ve managed to get a statement by Moazzam Begg on why he pulled out of the Amnesty event tomorrow. I’ll have more on this tomorrow.
* * * * *
It has been my pleasure to have worked closely with Amnesty since my return from Guantanamo on highlighting the cases and campaigning against the human rights abuses that have occured in the name of fighting terrorism since the outset of the ‘War on Terror.’ The relationship I have with Amnesty goes back to the years when I was incarcerated in US custody and my father was receiving immense moral and practical support from the organisation – something both he and I will never forget.
There’s a website called: Is the BNP racist? You know, just in case people are confused. Please feel free to link it from your blogs too.
well done to Matt Wardman
If this The Independent now, as a newspaper supposedly holding up liberal ideals, then bring on bloody Rod Liddle – it can’t get worse.
Bruce Anderson starts off by saying:
Torture is revolting. A man can retain his human dignity in front of a firing squad or on the scaffold: not in a torture chamber. Torturers set out to break their victim: to take a human being and reduce him to a whimpering wreck. In so doing, they defile themselves and their society.
There is bound to be a ‘but’ here because Anderson is the resident war-mongering neo-con, employed by (supposed) liberal-left newspapers who like to think they should be balanced. Here’s his argument:
We and the Americans have long-established methods of intelligence co-operation, which are now even more important than they were in the Cold War. It also makes sense to work with other threatened nations, such as Pakistan, where a brave political elite is bearing a disproportionate burden, and receiving few thanks for doing so.
Before 9/11, in front of some serious lawyers, I once argued that if there were a ticking bomb, the Government would not only have a right to use torture. It would have a duty to use torture.
After much agonising, I have come to the conclusion that there is only one answer to Sydney’s question. Torture the wife and children. It is a disgusting idea. It is almost a tragedy that we even have to discuss it, let alone think of acting upon it. But there is nothing to be gained from refusing to face facts, in the way that the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuburger, did last week.
There is a threat not only to individual lives, which is of minor importance, but to our way of life and our civilisation. Torture is revolting, but we cannot substitute aesthetics for thought.
If I wanted this kind of balance I’d read the bible of wingnut neo-conservatism – FrontPage Magazine. I thought that kind of crap was only limited to the US, but now we’re getting it here.
On Sunday, in the Observer, Nick Cohen was having a go at judges for the Binyam Mohammad ruling:
Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, added a further complication when he said that the Mohamed ruling provided a propaganda victory for our enemies. And I am sure he was right.
Nick Cohen has earlier justified torture under certain circumstances.
Now all Bruce Anderson needs to do is condemn Amnesty for not upholding human rights and the circle would be complete.
14th February, 2010
The BBC reports:
Australian former anti-immigration politician Pauline Hanson is selling up and heading to Britain, according to an interview with an Australian magazine.
She told Women’s Day that Australia was no longer a land of opportunity and she had “had enough” of living there. Ms Hanson built a career on claims that Australia was being “swamped by Asians”
You know I’d normally parody this but the amount of people who post on the Daily Mail site with something like: ‘I hate immigration so much I moved to Spain‘ that it’s almost become redundant. These people are the biggest hypocrites around. Any chance we could stop her from coming into the UK? Someone should start a petition…
This is a guest post. The author is a retired barrister.
They tried it on with me. But they struck unlucky because this little old lady had access to free legal advice – her own, remembered albeit from long ago.
When a novice pulled outplace into the main road at the point when my car was passing, his insurers said from the outset that they would not be disputing liability. The bodywork damage was assessed by my repairers and theirs at around Â£1500, and I was vaguely aware of a doctrine to the effect that insurers were entitled to limit their indemnity to the value of the vehicle.
Having discussed this with my insurers I suggested that they drop out and let me deal with the other driverâ€™s insurers with a view to securing a cash settlement. I also asked my own repairers to go ahead with repairs limited to around Â£750, which was enough to restore the carâ€™s appearance to respectability (there was no damage to the working parts) and from my searches on the Autotrader website I reckoned that this would be close to the value of my car.
13th February, 2010
Councillor Terry Kelly (Labour, Paisley) isn’t an easy man to defend. A fan of despotic regimes, he has praised Stalin in the past. I often find myself disagreeing strongly with his views, particularly on foreign countries (most notably Cuba and Israel), and have found them very unpleasant on occasion. He has frequently attacked others, most notably accusing Clairwil of this parish of being mentally ill. He refuses to provide evidence for most of his assertions, and has been investigated several times by the standards board.
Yet now he is the victim of a series of comments posted under his name. To my knowledge, Terry Kelly never leaves any comments on any blog other than his own. Examining the things he writes on his blog, it is unclear why he would leave comments under his own name and then pretend he never wrote them.
Given some of Terry Kelly’s blog posts in the past, why should people bother to stick up for him? Well, apart from basic human decency, there is also an important principle to defend: on the blogosphere we are all judged on the comments we leave and the blogposts we write. Compromising that (by having people post under our monikers) creates serious problems, particularly for those writing under their own names. Take the Terry Kelly case. An individual is under attack despite there being no actual evidence that he made said comments. Some left-wing blogs have recently seen an imposter pretending to be various bloggers/commentors.
Other dangers lurk too. Richard Bartholomew and Tim Ireland are still under attack from a thuggish group calling themselves ‘The Cheerleaders’. Tim has had his family threatened and has been smeared as a paedophile because he and Richard have worked on exposing the dubious nature of some ‘anti-jihadists’.
Ultimately, those of us who enjoy blogging are all in the same boat. In order to combat impersonators, we need to start taking denials at face value, especially when the comment seems out of character; after all, why leave a comment under your own name/moniker only to deny it later? As for threats, we need to highlight them as quickly as possible, as was achieved most notably in the Usimov affair.
12th February, 2010
Recently the Guardian interviewed the BNP’s Sikh, Rajinder Singh. Reading through the interview is both depressing and hilarious (at times).
Mr. Singh confesses to only put the turban on for the media, not because he feels it has any importance:
It feels strange to hear these words from a man in a turban, but Singh Âadmits he’s only wearing it for my Âbenefit. He’s not a religious man and is clean shaven, but he wore a turban the first time he ever had “media exposure” â€“ on BNPTV, the party’s online Âchannel â€“ and has decided to do so whenever speaking to the media because “the message carries more weight” coming from a turban-wearing Sikh.
The there is this bit:
He’s been to several party meetings and says he never feels awkward in their company. “They treat me normally,” he insists. “I feel at home.” I ask if he thinks many BNP members can tell the difference between Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. “They might think of me as a Paki,” he replies. “I’ve had people shout ‘Paki Go Home!’ when I walk down the street. But that speaks much about the ‘Paki’ reputation â€“ it’s a negative reaction to Pakistan.”
In other words, “my mates are racist towards me but its my own fault for being brown.”
I’m speaking at an event later this month (23rd Feb) on how the media needs to ‘expose the BNP‘.
The political and media consensus appears to be that the way to tackle the BNP is to meet it half way, by talking up tough anti-immigration measures and airing this racist partyâ€™s lies. This conventional wisdom must urgently be challenged.
says James Macintyre of the New Statesman, and he’s right.
And to reinforce that point, here is Simon Darby, deputy leader of the BNP:
Dealing with the press on a daily basis it is hard not to develop a healthy disrespect for the people who quite rightly can be blamed for the state this country is in today. However, certainly over the last year I am not the only one here at BNP Towers that has noticed a distinct thaw in the attitude towards us from some aspects of the media.
It has occurred to such an extent that the latest move by a small gaggle of z-list journalists to deliberately spike coverage concerning the BNP looks almost prehistoric. I used to worry about these things a few years ago, but now I welcome them safe in the knowledge that many within their own profession will find this sinister, clumsy or just plain comical.
Come and hear me (and others) listen. I’m going to be talking about strategies to tackle the media’s love of the BNP.
11th February, 2010
People reading political blogs generally seem to hate nuanced positions, but I’m going to try anyway. For that it’s likely I’ll get slammed by both sides but that’s fine. I need to get this out of my system.
Many of you will know the background to the Amnesty/Gita Sahgal/Moazzam Begg/Cage Prisoners saga. Well, even if you don’t, you can read on. I’ll focus on each of the main actors – none of who come out smelling of roses I think.
I’ll start by saying I have had great respect for Women Against Fundamentalism and Southall Black Sisters (who Gita was associated with). I’ve made several docs where I’ve worked extensively with women from SBS and lobbied hard when their funding was being cut.
I think Gita was right to raise concerns over Amnesty’s link with Cage Prisoners (CP), who Moazzam Begg (MB) leads, for reasons I’ll come to later. But she’s wrong on various counts:
1. Her implication is that Amnesty is being affected in its support for human rights across the Middle East by giving MB/CP a platform. There is no proof for this. If she’s only arguing that Amnesty’s reputation would be damaged, I’d argue that having a public spat did far more damage to Amnesty.
2. She has also argued that Amnesty has “never done any research on the networks developing in Britain or Europe or the US” – but that’s not their job. They don’t do counter-terrorism they do protection of human rights. And on that basis they have to argue for the rights of all people including Islamists and even white fascists.
3. I’m also unsure of what Gita is specifically accusing MB of? This is unclear. She knows that Amnesty does not have any formal links with CP or Begg. She also knows they are not consulted on for Amnesty reports. So how exactly are Amnesty being affected by them?
This is the Daily Mail cartoon today. Some background on Libcon.
As low as Jan Moir. It’s unbelievable the depths to which the Daily Mail will sink to.
10th February, 2010
contribution by author and analyst Dr Nafeez Ahmed
Former assistant director of FBIâ€™s counter-terrorism division Dale Watson; former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf; current Pakistani President Asif Zardari; Afghan President Hamid Karzai; late Benazir Bhutto; Israeli intelligence sources; Pakistani and Afghan sources, including Taliban leaders â€“ all have reported Osama bin Laden to be â€œprobably deadâ€ since December 2001.
Several independent experts agreed with this assessment, as reported by the Daily Mail last year. One said: “All the evidence suggests Elvis Presley is more alive today than Osama Bin Laden.”
We cannot know for sure whether bin Laden is dead or alive, although multiple credible sources from the region give strong reason to doubt that he is indeed alive.
And so the recent bin Laden tape, which emerged on Sunday 24th January, was dismissed by White House advisor David Axelrod by saying they could not “confirm the authenticity of the tape.”
I was going to stay out of this because there’s little good to say about an idiot copper who beat up someone over a few hundred quid and then went on to pevert the course of justice by pretending to be the victim.
What has annoyed me however is the range of bloggers who’ve seen this as somehow vindication that Dizaei only got away with it for so long because he was non-white. Bullshit.
Jim Jay points out:
Dizaei was accused of spying for Iran, but there was no evidence. He was accused of using prostitutes, but there was no evidence. He was accused of fiddling his fuel mileage, but there was no evidence nor any reason to think that he had. Just as there was no reason to believe he was an illegal drug user.
The resources the force poured into Operation Helios were phenomenal.
They bugged his phones, his family’s phones, his friends phones. They followed him, taped him, watched him like a hawk with a team of officers assigned to his case round the clock. They even followed him to the US when he went to speak at a convention there. They intimidated his friends, lovers, even owners of restaurants he ate in. They tried a clumsy attempt at a sting operation. Even MI5 were brought in on the act.
When all of these efforts failed to turn up one scrap of evidence worth mentioning they still tried to convict him.
That is the full extent of this sorry story. In the end they got him – and he was an idiot for giving them the opportunity to do so. There’s also an account by Brian Paddick which carefully hints at the extent to some of this but also points out why Dizaei was an awkward one for the Met. But if you’ve had such a vendetta against by your bosses – would you be well-disposed towards them?
9th February, 2010
One of the joys of being a (somewhat) well known blogger is that when certain stories come up, you can be accused of saying what you didn’t say about it, or not saying anything at all – at the same time! There are people out there waiting for me to write about everything, and if I don’t – see, we knew he was like that!
Meanwhile, Jewish rabbi blames gays for Haiti disaster. [link fixed]
Gita Sahgal, a senior figure in Amnesty International, was suspended by that organisation following comments made by her to the Sunday Times. This concerned Amnesty’s continued support for Mozzam Begg and his Cage Prisoners’ group, a controversial organisation which Ms. Sahgal felt should be treated with caution. Here’s what she had to say on the matter:
The story of the judge who said he wanted to allow Sikhs to walk around with kirpans has prompted some debate across blogs that I quickly want to weigh in on.
My position, as I’ve said previously when writing on knife crime, is that schools should have the right to make up their own policy. In some cases a kirpan may not be of consequence, in other cases a school may be worried that knife crime is out of control. There may even be cases where Sikhs are running around stabbing people – in which case a school may like to step in and put in a complete ban. I’m in favour of local decisions based on local conditions, simply because there is a danger of some Sikhs abusing the rules that govern usage of the dagger.
Jako from Frank Owen’s Paintbrush says:
Insisting that Sikhs should have the right to walk around with their ceremonial daggers â€“ even in schools â€“ certainly suggests the man is possessed by a religious arrogance of such massive proportions that there isnâ€™t room for any other considerations.
Pity the BBC Asian Network didnâ€™t bother finding an opposing point of view. Iâ€™m sure thereâ€™s a sensible Sikh out there willing to say that some of the more eccentric teachings of their faith should not be given privilege over the law of the land (and of course basic common sense).
The chances of finding a Sikh saying that the kirpan is “eccentric” are as low as the chances of a Sikh saying that the Gurus were idiots. Not. Going. To. Happen. I’m not particularly religious (I don’t follow Sikhism but I do say I have a Sikh heritage) but I wouldn’t go that far.
But there is a point about religion in the public space, and I think Dave Semple is spot on:
This principle is not at stake in this case. Quite the opposite. Thinking secularists would surely defend the right of anyone to do anything, provided that it was unlikely to result in harm or the coercion of any individual.
When Jako claims that â€˜the more eccentic teachings of their faith should not be given privilege over the law of the landâ€ I am at a loss to explain such anti-religious nonsense, a parody, almost, of real secularism. Just because something is a law does not justify it.
If we take the incident of the Sikh girl and her kara from a few years back, where no health and safety issues were at stake, the courts quite rightly ruled that to exclude her for wearing something so connected to her beliefs was discriminatory. So the law is not so uncomplicated as Jako thinks anyway.
Dave’s whole article is very worth reading. But I want to make a wider point here: there is a strain on the left that is militantly anti-religion, and not just pro-secularist. I’ve pointed out in the past that the National Secular Society also makes this mistake of conflating secularism with atheism and represents the latter view that a nuanced former view.
Politically, this means is that many lefties ends up pissing off people, especially Christians, who want to retain their religious identity in public. I don’t think religious people should get special treatment or be absolved of discrimination – but this misunderstanding of secularism really is a political liability.
If the left becomes anti-religion then we’ll never be able to build coalitions on many issues like fighting poverty, sustaining welfare programmes and get near any sort of power.
Update: I agree with Paul Sims on the Humaist blog
8th February, 2010
contribution by Shaaz Mahboob of British Muslims for Secular Democracy
The case of Dr Aafia Siddiquiâ€™s involvement in terrorism and the alleged maltreatment at Bargam Airbase in Afghanistan has somewhat transformed into a cause cÃ©lÃ¨bre amongst Muslim communities in particular British Muslims of Pakistani origin who share the same geographical and cultural origin with her.
Ironically, non-Pakistani Muslims, especially Arab Muslims do not appear to be much concerned about the alleged sole female Al Qaeda operative bearing in mind the roots of Al Qaeda run deep within Arab societies.
I too, was initially appalled at reading the plight of the short statured woman who was allegedly kept under illegal confinement in Afghanistan for over 5 years before finally being produced in a US court of law. To everyoneâ€™s relief, she was finally put on trial in New York on terrorism related charges, including one involving an attempted shooting of a US Army guard by his own M16 rifle. She has since then been found guilty of this charge.
Operation Black Vote have launched their MP shadowing scheme again.
The MP Shadowing Scheme is looking for 25 BME individuals from across the country to gain an invaluable insight into the roles and responsibilities of an MP. MP Shadows will spend six months shadowing high level MPs from the three main political parties.
In their role as Parliamentary Ambassadors, participants will also play a vital role helping to raise awareness amongst Black and minority ethnic communities about our democratic institutions.
Check out: http://www.obv.org.uk
7th February, 2010
Sajid Javid set to be Tories’ first Muslim MP
English-born Mr Javid, who went to a state school and studied economics and politics at Exeter University, had a successful career as a banker. He became the youngest vice president in the history of Chase Manhattan Bank at the age of 24 before being headhunted by Deutsche Bank. He has since left banking but describes himself as a ‘businessman and private investor’.
Plan for anti-Muslim march blasted
Five men have been arrested after a Facebook site was set up declaring â€œall Muslims should be thrown out of Walesâ€. Around 150 people joined the group on the social networking site claiming they would march through the Rhondda Valleys to make their feelings known. The proposed march has been described as â€œmindless bigotryâ€ by racial equality groups. But South Wales Police have now stepped in and arrested five men for religiously aggravated public order offences.
Sarah Palin fires up Tea Party faithful
My view – please, run Sarah run! I remember when her spectre first came up and Tories warned she was formidable while fake lefties warned us she was formidable too. She is – at energising Democrats and turning off Independents. She is among Obama’s best Republican weapons.
Sikh judge criticises banning of Kirpan
Sikhs should be allowed to wear their ceremonial daggers – known as Kirpans – to school and other public places, Britain’s first Asian judge has said. There have been a number of cases of Sikhs being refused entry to venues because they wear the Kirpan or other religious artefacts
This is a follow-up article to the previous two-part article published during the autumn (Part 1, Part 2).
Some fantastic official clips of Rahat Fateh Ali Khanâ€™s huge UK concerts last October in conjunction with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in tribute to his late uncle, the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, have finally surfaced on Youtube, so a selection is presented below along with a few more videos I thought it would be constructive to include. You can also read some reviews of the concerts at the end of this article.
â€Jhoole Lalâ€, a tribute to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (1177 â€“ 1274), the most famous historical Sufi from Sindh and a friend of Baba Farid (the Punjabi Sufi whose hymns were later included in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scriptures of Sikhism). Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was renowned for his message of mutual religious tolerance and friendship between Muslims and Hindus, and is still venerated by members of both groups in the subcontinent (video here).
6th February, 2010
Nick Griffin has his work cut out for him as a poll revealed that a third of Britons believe him to be an unfunny, unpleasant, repetitive misogynist. Oh wait…
Liz Jones makes a reasonable point about the sort of woman society idealises (ignore the article’s headline).
The Home Secretary is to reduce the number of student visas after continuing worries about abuses.
Concerns over the BBC Asian Network’s performance and cost has led to renewed calls for a change in which the channel is run. Campaigners want to see the network become more relevant to younger British Asians, with more features on things like homosexuality and mixed relationships.
Laura Woodhouse at The F-Word highlights the plight of asylum seekers who left their children behind, and who now want to be reunited with them.
Gracchi discusses the overlap between the Spanish and British empires.
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Given the ongoing discussions about niqabs, burkhas and so on, along with some of the scaremongering caricatures of Muslims which are being promoted in some quarters, this may be a good time to mention Pakistan Fashion Week. Itâ€™s a major annual event involving Pakistani designers and high-end fashion shows in major cities such as Lahore and Karachi, where such fashion shows occur on a regular basis.