Hindus worldwide celebrate today as Krishna’s birthday, so “Happy Janmashtami” to PP readers who are marking the occasion.
According to Indian tradition, Krishna was born approximately 5000 years ago, although modern-day historians have estimated that the period of ancient Indian history described in the semi-mythological Mahabharata was more accurately around 3500 years ago. Festivities are held at Hindu temples around the world, including major temples in Britain such as the Swaminarayan temple in Neasden and Bhaktivedanata Manor near Watford. The late George Harrison left the latter building to the associated Hindu sect when he passed away and they usually hold large-scale festivities every year, involving tens of thousands of visitors during the course of several days and including music, free food etc. I’ve been to these annual events many times and they always have a nice, relaxed atmosphere, especially if the summer weather at the time is warm and sunny.
Last week, an Israeli military court convicted Abdallah Abu Rahmah, whom progressive Zionists have called a “Palestinian Gandhi,” of “incitement” and “organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations” for organizing protests against the confiscation of Palestinian land by the “Apartheid Wall” in the village of Bilin in the West Bank, following an eight month trial, during which he was kept in prison.
The European Union issued a protest. But as far as I am aware, no U.S. official has said anything and no U.S. newspaper columnist has denounced this act of repression; indeed, the U.S. press hasn’t even reported the news.
Many of Israel’s ardent supporters keep demanding where peaceful Palestinians protesters are, and yet remain silent when this kind of stuff happens. More at the Guardian.
Nadeem Badshah in the Guardian has highlighted the case of a taxi driver who picked up and returned fugitive women to their families. The women, many of whom were fleeing forced marriages or other ‘honour’-based violence, were ambushed by Zakir in return for payments of around £5,000:
While most locals in the tightly knit south Asian community thought Zakir was merely picking up and dropping off passengers each day, his work provided perfect cover to exploit his contacts with fellow drivers and shopkeepers to hunt down runaway teenagers. According to Zakir, some bounty hunters would also befriend officials in housing departments and in the Department for Work and Pensions to get National Insurance numbers – a strategy confirmed by campaigners against forced marriages.
The links with the DWP confirms other, earlier investigations, as often even an entry-level worker will have access to details of hundreds of people in the local area, and can get at those details with just a name/date of birth, without being detected. Nor is Zakir unique, as plenty of other bounty hunters operate in this manner; the article points out that some female bounty hunters will infiltrate women’s refuges posing as victims in order to find their targets.
What can be done about this? Heavy prosecutions are the obvious answer, but how can you stop, for example, DWP workers accessing personal data (even if they cannot transfer it to anything, they can write it down manually), and how can this be monitored?
This is meant to be a joke and should be taken in that context. No disrespect intended obviously to victims of terrorists attacks
Muslim suicide bombers in Britain are set to begin a three-day strike on Monday in a dispute over the number of virgins they are entitled to in the afterlife. Emergency talks with Al Qaeda have so far failed to produce an agreement.
The unrest began last Tuesday when Al Qaeda announced that the number of virgins a suicide bomber would receive after his death will be cut by 25% this February from 72 to only 60. The rationale for the cut was the increase in recent years of the number of suicide bombings and a subsequent shortage of virgins in the afterlife.
It was frustrating because 800-1,000 EDL came into Bradford acted appallingly and largely got away with it. They chanted disgusting anti-Muslim abuse, threw bottles and other missiles whenever they could, repeatedly attacked the police lines and then, when a group did break out, were able to run around the city without being picked up. The police were soft on the EDL and this only encouraged them to get even more rowdy and obnoxious.
The police failed to push back the EDL at the beginning so they were able to goad locals from across the road. Police dogs and horses were deployed in numbers but every single one of them were pointing at local people, something that only antagonised locals.
The day was however at the same time pleasing in that despite the EDL provocation the day appears to have passed off relatively peacefully. Certainly there was no repeat of the riots that rocked Bradford in 2001. From that point of view the day was a success. Despite provocation and considerable anger the locals didn’t rise to the EDL bait and everyone remain calm, or at least as calm as could have been expected in the circumstances.
The Telegraph quotes Assam Ali, a 17-year-old A level student from the town, said: “I just hope it doesn’t kick off. That’s not what Bradford needs because it will just lead to more racism and more police on the streets, like it did after 2001. We don’t want this to turn to chaos.”
EDL predicted 5,000 people at the demo – less than a thousand turned up. Even the Daily Mail pictures make them look like “far-right” thugs.
A singer who performed in front of a “mixed audience” of men and women was lashed 39 times to make him “repent,” after a ruling by a self-described rabbinic court on Wednesday.
Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, founder of the Shofar organization aimed at bringing Jews “back to religion” (hazara betshuva), has made it his recent mission to fight against musical performances for both men and women.
Yup – it’s from Israel. Religious extremists are a problem everywhere. by @PDberger
Fox News have recently been at the forefront of whipping up hysteria about the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”. This is actually quite a major turnaround for them, considering that Fox had previously interviewed both Imam Rauf (the head of the Cordoba Initiative) and his wife Daisy Khan, and their attitudes towards these individuals and their efforts were very positive indeed. Park51/Cordoba House was even explicitly discussed with Daisy Khan during an interview in December 2009, and the Fox anchor at the time stated “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it….I like what you’re trying to do.”
With the exception of the upbeat interview with Daisy Khan on Fox News after the New York Times published a detailed front-page article on 9th December 2009 about the plans for Park51/Corboda House, there was no reaction from the “conservative Right” and no newspaper articles about the subject at all for the next five months…..until Fox News began taking a stridently hostile view towards the building in May 2010.
Someone who has been a particularly vociferous opponent – and an individual who has subsequently been provided with considerable public exposure by Fox News — has been Pamela Geller of “Stop the Islamization of America”, who is allied with racist white supremacists in South Africa and has also openly praised the English Defence League/EDL on a number of occasions, to the extent that she’s repeatedly been in contact with the EDL’s leadership; apparently she also firmly believes that US President Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim.
Fox News’s own promotion of consistently anti-Muslim stories has of course become an established characteristic of the channel. And most recently, Fox News have run multiple news segments making sinister insinuations about a shadowy Saudi Arabian figure with alleged ties to radical Islamist extremists who owns the “Kingdom Foundation” (aka Kingdom Holding Company) and has allegedly been a major financier of Park51/Cordoba House. Fox News have never named this person on-air.
Yes, the stimulus has cut taxes for 95% of working Americans, bailed out every state, hustled record amounts of unemployment benefits and other aid to struggling families and funded more than 100,000 projects to upgrade roads, subways, schools, airports, military bases and much more.
But in the words of Vice President Joe Biden, Obama’s effusive Recovery Act point man, “Now the fun stuff starts!” The “fun stuff,” about one-sixth of the total cost, is an all-out effort to exploit the crisis to make green energy, green building and green transportation real; launch green manufacturing industries; computerize a pen-and-paper health system; promote data-driven school reforms; and ramp up the research of the future. “This is a chance to do something big, man!”
For starters, the Recovery Act is the most ambitious energy legislation in history, converting the Energy Department into the world’s largest venture-capital fund. It’s pouring $90 billion into clean energy, including unprecedented investments in a smart grid; energy efficiency; electric cars; renewable power from the sun, wind and earth; cleaner coal; advanced biofuels; and factories to manufacture green stuff in the U.S. The act will also triple the number of smart electric meters in our homes, quadruple the number of hybrids in the federal auto fleet and finance far-out energy research through a new government incubator modeled after the Pentagon agency that fathered the Internet.
All this is very encouraging and I hope it works and reaches somewhere. But there’s also a technological and economic incentive here – the US is trying to stay level with China, which is pouring billions into the same technology. The government there sees developing green tech and renewable energy as the technology of the future – allowing China to leapfrog the west in vital technology.
Obama knows this, and he wants to make sure the US doesn’t get left behind. This government? It’s cutting £1bn from science and research technology funding. And our investment into renewable energy is pitiful. You can never blame the Tories for long-term thinking.
SBS – the iconic west London based women’s group – has launched a fund raising appeal to support two women from India who were the victim of a horrific acid attack. I can’t publish the pictures here because they are that horrific.
Below is a letter they sent out to supporters, and wanted us to publish here:
* * * * * * * * * *
I am writing to you in the hope that you will be able to donate generously to finance the medical costs and rehabilitation of Samar (31) and Juwariya (25) Atique whose young lives and hopes were brutally crushed in October 2009 by two men who threw a jug of acid on their faces as the women were returning home from a day’s work in a rickshaw.
Their crime – Juwariya had turned down a marriage proposal from one of the men!
They sustained severe burns and injuries to their faces, their eyes and their upper bodies. In acid attack cases, the victims should be hosed down gently with a continuous stream of water immediately to stop the acid continuing to burn into their flesh. But they did not get treatment for five hours after the incident because the woman doctor was threatened with a similar attack by these men and their families.
Got this from the Network of Sikh Organisations today, thought it was worth sharing:
Yesterday, Brenden Gormley, Head of the Disasters Emergency Committee commented that generous donations by the British public to flood relief in Pakistan were shaming politicians across the world. His words remind us how political concerns, like those over terrorism or corruption, can all too easily trump basic humanitarian considerations.
The suffering evokes poignant memories for many Sikhs The floods are in the land of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith; a land that saw the forceful expulsion of their grandparents during the partition of the sub-continent 63 years ago this month, in a frenzy of religious hate. Despite this, most Sikhs see it as their basic religious duty to help. Many Sikhs like others have contributed generously to the aid effort, while others are helping in Pakistan. But for some, the hurt of the past remains. So how do we break the chains of history to look to the needs of the present?
For Sikhs, the answer lies in two incidents. The first occurred a little over 300 years ago, when the infant Sikh community was defending itself from attack by the Mughal rulers. . In a particularly fierce battle, a Sikh water carrier called Kanyia was seen supplying water to the enemy wounded Angry Sikh soldiers dragged him before Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru asked if the charge was true. The bewildered Kanyia replied that it was, and said that he was simply doing what the teachings of Sikhism required him to do: look to those suffering whoever they might be. The delighted Guru embraced him, calling him ‘bhai’ or brother and gave him medicines and bandages to continue his good work.
The second incident lies in the experience of the war between India and Pakistan in 1971 when Punjabi Pakistani prisoners of war and their Punjabi Sikh captors embraced each other and swapped stories like long lost brothers. The incident showed the utter absurdity of man made borders drawn on maps to divide communities on the basis of politically induced communal fear and hate. Yet this has been done over and over again, and is still being done around the world today.
Helping those in need is not only a basic human duty, but here it can also play a small part in boosting confidence, trade and prosperity. More importantly, it can give a lie to the myth that people of different faiths cannot live together.
The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests.
In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups.
Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.
” The Kochs have given millions of dollars to nonprofit groups that criticize environmental regulation and support lower taxes for industry. Gus diZerega, the former friend, suggested that the Kochs’ youthful idealism about libertarianism had largely devolved into a rationale for corporate self-interest. He said of Charles, “Perhaps he has confused making money with freedom.”
These are also the guys who founded the US libertarian think-tank Cato Institute. When President Obama, in a 2008 speech, described the science on global warming as “beyond dispute,” the Cato Institute took out a full-page ad in the Times to contradict him.
The article also goes on to say that though the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently issued a report concluding the evidence for global warming is unequivocal, more Americans are convinced than at any time since 1997 that scientists have exaggerated the seriousness of global warming. “The Kochs promote this statistic on their company’s Web site but do not mention the role that their funding has played in fostering such doubt.”
In a 2002 memo, the Republican political consultant Frank Luntz wrote that so long as “voters believe there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community” the status quo would prevail.
It is perhaps the biggest myth that “libertarians” buy into – that the people they look up to are free-wheeling intellectuals who have no ties to the corporatist world that libertarians actually claim to hate. The Cato institute, the climate change denial industry – everything is funded by these mad-men. They don’t care for rationality, evidence or the planet – only their own bottom line.
The other point I wanted to make was… once you read the article you understand the kind of entrenched money and vested interests he is up against. Shifting the system is neither easy nor quick.
The generosity of the British public in helping Pakistan’s flood victims is “shaming politicians around the world”, the head of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has said. Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the DEC, said the UK public was leading the way in donations, but that further funds were urgently needed.
The DEC’s Pakistan Floods Appeal has now raised more than £30m.
This is a follow-up to the previous PP article discussing the Pakistani Sufi rock group Junoon and its founder/current lead singer Salman Ahmad (recently also interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine). As discussed previously, Junoon have been heavily involved in opposing Islamist extremism along with promoting pluralistic interfaith understanding & friendship; Salman himself is also a UN Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS, and has worked in conjunction with both the Clinton Global Initiative and Dr Tahir ul-Qadri’s Sufi organisation Minhaj ul-Quran, along with giving a concert at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2007.
Salman Ahmad, who is currently based primarily in New York, recently visited the UK and was interviewed at length by Stephen Sackur on BBC 24’s HARDtalk programme. They discussed a range of topics, including Islamist extremism, terrorism, Sufism, the West, and American Muslims, and you can see the full interview in three parts via Youtube below:
Muslim Americans are, by and large, both socially and economically conservative. Sixty-one percent of them would ban abortion except to save the life of the mother; 84 percent support school choice. Muslims overwhelmingly support traditional marriage. More than a quarter — over twice the national average — are self-employed small-business owners, and most support reducing taxes and the abolition of the estate tax. By all rights they should be Republicans — and not long ago they were. American Muslims voted two to one for George H.W. Bush in 1992. While they went for Bill Clinton by the same margin in 1996, they were brought back into the Republican fold in 2000 by George W. Bush.
If Clinton was, as the author Toni Morrison once quipped, America’s first black president, Bush was, at least momentarily, the country’s first Muslim president. As early as 1999, he hosted a series of meetings between Muslim and Republican leaders, and paid a visit himself to an Islamic center in Michigan — the first and only major presidential candidate to do so. The 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia was the first in either national party’s history to include a Muslim prayer. On the campaign trail, Bush celebrated the faith of Americans who regularly attended a “church, synagogue, or mosque.” After Muslim community leaders told him of their civil liberties concerns over a piece of 1996 immigration enforcement legislation signed into law by Clinton, Bush criticized it himself in one of his presidential debates against Vice President Al Gore.
The work paid off. By election day, Bush had been endorsed by eight major Muslim American organizations. He won more than 70 percent of the Muslim vote, including 46,200 ballots in Florida alone, prompting longtime conservative activist Grover Norquist — one of the few prominent movement figures to caution against the current wave of mosque demagoguery — to proclaim in the American Spectator that “Bush was elected President of the United States of America because of the Muslim vote.“
The problem for Republicans is that while fear-mongering is always good at getting the base fired up – ultimately it comes down to the demographic numbers and the votes. The party has turned psychotic – not just over the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ but even going far as saying that children born in the US of foreign parents should not be allowed to become citizens (that one aimed clearly at Hispanics).
The numbers of Latinos in the US matters more obviously and several pollsters have pointed out (see Huffington Post) that Republicans simply can’t win several states in the south (New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, California, parts of Texas) without the Hispanic vote. Get abandoned by these voters for a generation and the Republicans will stay out of power for the same time.
Dispatches today broadcast an investigation into first cousin marriages in the UK. The focus was on the British Pakistani community, where first cousin marriages are most prevalent. British Pakistanis make up around 1.5% of the population, but children born in this country to British Pakistanis account for around 33% of rare recessive genetic disorders. British Pakistani children are three times more likely to have learning difficulties. First cousin marriages in isolation don’t have a massive effect, but when they happen more than once the consequences can be severe, and this is the issue facing many British Pakistanis today.
Tazeen Ahmad, the presenter, was of British Pakistani stock and has a history of genetic disorder in her family; her grandparents were first cousins, three of her uncles were born deaf and five of her aunties died in their first few years. Ms. Ahmad focused on attitudes to first cousin marriage, why it was happening and what could be done about it.
There are a number of reasons for first cousin marriages continuing, despite the research into the genetic impact. Standard cultural ones include keeping property within the family, familiarity with one’s intended spouse and strengthening bonds between different branches. Younger British Pakistanis confessed to pressure and emotional blackmail when it came to cousin marriage, with the izzat (‘honour’) of the family being stressed.
Yet the interviews also revealed a high level of denial and ignorance. First cousins who married (somewhat understandably) refused to accept that this could have been the reason for their children’s disability, blaming instead fate or Western medicine. Others pointed to non-disabled children as the result of cousin marriages as evidence that there was no link, and kept insisting that there was no information available on the subject. One religious ‘scholar’ refused point blank to consider any medical evidence, then repeatedly claimed he was not aware of any evidence. One man said simply: “why wouldn’t you want to marry your cousin?”
A debate on radio or TV between various panelists took place yesterday, featuring Maajid Nawaz from Quilliam Foundation and Douglas Murray of Centre for Social Cohesion.
Thankfully – Maajid Nawaz made all the points I wanted to make – specifically highlighting Douglas Murray’s hypocrisy when it comes to Muslims. He didn’t want “sensitivity” shown to Muslims during the Danish cartoons furore – in fact he urged them to be published as a matter of principle. He wanted Geert Wilders to be let into the country as a matter of principle. And yet now he wants Muslims to “show sensitivity” in building some cultural centre several blocks away from Ground Zero 10 years after the terrorist attack – and even when the people building this centre are the kind of moderates Osama Bin Laden hates. What happened to those principles of free speech and right of religion now?
Then the discussion moves on to funding – and Murray asks why the money isn’t donated to Pakistan instead. Maajid makes the excellent point (which the panel then try and ignore) that the application was made several years ago.
It’s also amusing that anti-Islamists constantly rubbish the idea of ‘the Ummah’ and say Muslims in the west should be loyal first to their own countries. But as soon as a Muslim country is crisis-stricken, they mock Muslims for not helping their brethren enough.
(This article is an immediate continuation of Part 1. Readers are therefore strongly advised to read that part first before continuing below).
Indian history and “the Sikh 9/11”
Firstly, during India’s “Great Mughal” era, the 6th Sikh Guru actually had a mosque built for the ordinary Muslims who had settled in the town he had founded in Punjab – despite the fact that his own father had been severely tortured over a period of several days upon the orders of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, and ultimately died of his horrific injuries. In fact, that same mosque was very recently jointly renovated by Sikh and Muslim volunteers in India as part of a major restoration project. There are even mosques in Amritsar itself, the “holy city” of the Sikhs. It’s certainly a far cry from Newt Gingrich’s “no mosques until there are churches in Saudi Arabia” rhetoric, given that he’s effectively recommending that the United States should duplicate fundamentalist Wahhabi Saudi Arabian attitudes towards places of worship; furthermore, the notion of holding your own country’s citizens hostage to – and penalising them for – the actions of a foreign government because they happen to be affiliated with superficially the same religion (despite being from very different “denominations”) isn’t just irrational and barbaric, it’s also morally bankrupt.
In his post on Labour List, Sunny argues that Labour centrists undermined the message on the economy, by adopting Tory language. I think Sunny is correct in identifying that centrists for the sake of being centrists are a problem. By shifting because of new conservative positions, you lose consistency and start arguing on their terms.
However, I don’t think this is what Alistair Darling was doing during the elections. The Labour argument for reducing the deficit, but not immediately, was clear. That Labour believed this would cause a double dip was also clear. Gordon Brown could not go 2 sentences without mentioning it.
What was misssing were the negative consequences of a double dip. For example, that it would make the recovery longer or more painful. Or perhaps more significantly, that it would cause established, productive businesses going to the wall, which would harm the long term productivity of the economy.
Much has recently been said about the proposed Cordoba House facility in New York, dubbed the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”. As is now widely known, CNN anchor and Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria returned his award to the ADL and explained his rationale extremely well (he’s subsequently also summarised Sufism and the reasons for Al-Qaeda’s hatred of it); Alex Massie also recently discussed the issue and made a number of brilliant points. This article in the New York Times by the acclaimed historian William Dalrymple about the Cordoba Initiative’s Sufi connection is excellent too, as is this article by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. This segment from MSNBC by Keith Olbermann forcefully argues against the escalating bigotry towards Muslims and also discusses the potential ramifications for America if these attitudes are allowed to continue. US President Barack Obama himself has now emphatically voiced his support for the right of the founders of Cordoba House to build the proposed centre (also see here). Even Christopher Hitchens has been demolishing the arguments of many of the people opposed to Cordoba House (including Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin) and has condemned their sectarian prejudice and often staggering level of ignorance. The quote at the top of this paragraph by the Roman philosopher Seneca clearly still has great resonance 2000 years later; coincidentally, the great man was born in Cordoba himself.
One of the recurring arguments against the plan is that, however well-intentioned its backers may be, it represents an unfortunate and unnecessary “provocation”. Even if those involved mean no harm and don’t mean to “provoke” they should have been wise enough to appreciate that their proposal was bound to provoke a hostile reaction. Which means they should think again.
That’s certainly an argument; I just don’t think it’s a very good one. It is a familiar one, however. Cast your mind back 20 years and remember the rumpus that erupted when Salman Rushdie had the temerity, the gall, the bare-arsed effrontery to publish The Satanic Verses. There were those – including plenty of so-called liberals – who effectively sided with the book-burners and maniacs who protested against Rushdie (and the Penguin group) calling for the book to be banned.
Rushdie, you see, should have appreciated that publishing was bound to provoke people and, this being so, he should have been wise enough to pulp his novel. Yes, yes, of course we all believe in the right to freedom of expression but, in this instance, is it really sensible to insist upon it in such a provocative fashion? If there’s a backlash, well, poor Rushdie has brought it upon himself hasn’t he? He should have known better.
You will not be surprised to hear that most people now complaining that GZM is a “provocation” were also arguing earlier that Muslims should learn to provocative works like Rushdie’s books. There is no reasoning with such people really.
Meanwhile – the Democrats have lost any spine they had. I am now officially depressed with the Obama administration for doing exactly what they accused previous Democrat administrations of doing – leading by polls and ineffective triangulation rather than taking strong stances and having the strength of their convictions. I hope the Labour party will learn from this, but I doubt it will.