Ayodhya, the site of communal violence in 1992 when Hindu extremists destroyed a 16th century mosque, has been under a heavy security presence in the last few days in anticipation of today’s court announcement, which saw the site divided between Hindus and Muslims. Before 1992, the site had long been a focus for Hindu extremists, who alleged that the Mughal emperor Babur had destroyed a temple on the site. The destruction and ensuring riots also helped to galvanise the BJP. The site is especially important since it is considered to be the birthplace of Lord Ram:
A court in India has said that a disputed holy site in Ayodhya should be split between Hindus and Muslims, lawyers for the Hindu petitioners say. However in a majority verdict, judges gave control of the main disputed section, where a mosque was torn down in 1992, to Hindus, lawyers said. Other parts of the site will be controlled by Muslims and a Hindu sect. The destruction of the mosque by Hindu extremists led to widespread rioting in which some 2,000 people died.
No ruling was ever going to be welcomed by all sides (both sides are likely to appeal). Nore is there an easy answer. We know Hindu extremists destroyed the mosque, but how far back does one go (if indeed Babur destroyed a temple)? Who holds the ‘rights’ to the site? Does one destruction cancel out another one? Does the site’s relative holiness to either religion have any bearing?
A prominent blogger in Iran has been jailed for nineteen and a half years by the Iranian regime:
Readers of the Guardian’s news section may have seen that Hossein Derakhshan, the prominent Iranian blogger, has been jailed for 19 and a half years by a court in Tehran.
Derakhshan, who also has Canadian citizenship, was apparently convicted of “co-operation with hostile countries, spreading propaganda against the establishment, promoting counter-revolutionary groups, insulting Islamic thought and religious figures and managing obscene websites”.
This continues the trend for Iran’s regime in handing out vicious and/or lengthy punishments to people who cross it, migrants or women.
This article follows directly from the PP article yesterday focusing on Newt Gingrich. Readers are therefore advised to read that part first before continuing below.
Fox News anchor & Tea Party icon Glenn Beck, who has described himself as a “borderline schizophrenic”, increasingly reminds me of Ron Perlman’s “right-wing media icon” demagogue in the 1995 film The Last Supper. Anyone who has seen that movie will understand exactly what I mean. And like his fictional counterpart, Beck has even started holding huge rallies with exactly the type of audience Perlman’s character was shown as being such a dangerous influence on. Life disturbingly imitating art, 15 years later.
A selection of examples focusing on Glenn Beck, Fox News and the Tea Party
· Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly has stated that Glenn Beck is the leader of the Tea Party movement. Beck has repeatedly declared that his aim is to oppose progressivism, which he calls a “cancer” in American society. Beck has also repeatedly claimed that there is currently a vast, secular, liberal, progressive conspiracy underway to seize control of America and destroy the republic in its present form by manipulating the democratic system and subverting the Constitution.
· As previously discussed on PP, an in-depth investigation by Jane Mayer of the New Yorker has revealed the huge scale of the Right-wing billionaire Koch brothers’ involvement in bankrolling & manipulating the Tea Party movement from the very start, with the deliberate intention of furthering their own agenda (also summarised by the New York Times). The Koch brothers have direct links to both Fox News and the Republican Party. Not only have the Koch brothers been doing everything they can to destroy Obama’s presidency, but one of their main aims is to destroy progressivism itself.
· Glenn Beck has an extensive history of extremely violent rhetoric. He has also openly stated that he is going to spend the rest of his life hunting down and “exposing” progressives. Furthermore, he has repeatedly made bizarre comments about his opponents potentially “shooting him in the head”, along with suggesting that the Obama Administration plans to kill 10% of the American population and is deliberately pushing the US towards a civil war.
An expert on Islamist prison radicalism is bemoaning the dominant strategy of those jailed for terrorism-related offences, in response to the head of MI5 warning about the dangers of soon to be released terrorists/terrorist supporters:
Rehabilitation is not the main priority of the British prison system. However, during my research, in the case of prisoners convicted of terrorist offences, it was not even taken into consideration. Rather, intense surveillance, sometimes to the limit of removing the prisoner’s human rights, and in some prisons, abuse by the other inmates (and in some cases prison officers) were often the norm rather than the exception…
The former government, as I explain in my book, made an enormous effort to show that radicalisation within prisons was controlled and the mass media reports of Muslim radicalisation behind bars were addressed. Yet it did not care about the future of prisoners or about the issues less covered by the media, such as re-integration.
Prisoners who still pose a danger to wider society are always a thorny issue, especially as it is draconian to continue to hold them after they have served their sentences, unless new and concrete evidence is presented in a court of law. Yet many of those released are unlikely to have softened their views of the British state or society, so what can be done? The system needs to be reformed, but what about those being released now? Certainly non-EU citizens should be deported, whilst the others should be watched initially, but without any other interference in their liberties (unless they are being released early under specified bail conditions).
Tea Party icons Newt Gingrich and Glenn Beck have recently been going into overdrive in terms of the scale of their extremism. During the past few weeks, there has been considerable controversy over Fox News contributor, senior Republican politician, and potential candidate for the 2012 presidential election Newt Gingrich in particular due to the following remarks he made about US President Barack Obama:
Citing a recent Forbes article by Dinesh D’Souza, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tells National Review Online that President Obama may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”
In January 2003, the British media splashed the news that anti-terror police had disrupted an Al-Qaeda cell, poised to unleash the deadly poison ricin on the capital. Police had reportedly found traces of ricin, as well as a panoply of bomb and poison-making equipment in the cell’s ‘factory of death’ – a shabby flat in north London.
‘This danger is present and real, and with us now’ announced prime minister Tony Blair.
But, when the ‘ricin plot’ came to trial at the Old Bailey, a very different story emerged: there was no ricin and no sophisticated plot. Rarely has a legal case been so shamelessly distorted by government, media and security forces to push their own ‘tough on terror’ agendas.
In this meticulously researched and compellingly written book, Lawrence Archer, the jury foreman at the trial, and journalist Fiona Bawdon, give the definitive story of the ricin plot, the trial and its aftermath.
Lawrence Archer is the telecoms engineer who was foreman of the jury at the 2005 ricin trial. He has followed the lives of the acquitted defendants ever since, including attending their High Court and immigration appeal hearings.
Fiona Bawdon is a freelance journalist. She writes on criminal and civil justice issues for the national and specialist legal press.
I will note be voting for the Labour party at the next election. Their long stay in government caused significant damage to this country, whether it was through overspending, curbing of civil liberties or any other number of reasons. I feel that the present government, for all its faults, has started off rather well, attempting to curb the massive deficit and increasing civil liberties. Logically then, I should want Labour to be as ineffective and divided as possible. But I don’t.
Governments should always be scrutinised as heavily as possible. This can be done by the media and voters, but the Opposition has a part to play too. The more competent and focused the Opposition, the better the scrutiny. They are there to question and highlight mistakes. It can be galling at times to watching Opposition politicians who helped to ruin the country doing this, but it needs to be done.
Of the three most plausible leadership candidates, Ed Miliband seemed the most likely to refocus the party on its primary task; providing Britain with an effective Opposition. Ed Balls was loathed by Blairites, David Miliband by Brownites. Ed Miliband seems to be relatively well regarded by various factions (even though he was close to Gordon Brown), and so should be able to unite (or Unite) them, as long as he avoids the trap of being the unions’ man in Parliament. A more unified Labour party should then provide better scrutiny of the executive, which benefits the country.
A newly-formed helpline called Love Commandos is taking calls from distraught couples. The Love Commandos include lawyers and social activists, and claims to have attracted 140,000 volunteers across India. They have helped rescue many couples from death by forcing police to intervene. Those in danger can now get instant help by simply dialing a number and telling their life is threatened or a girlfriend has been held captive.
The founder of Love Commandos, Harsh Malhotra, shares that “Whenever we get a call that a couple is being threatened, we contact our commandos and tell them to go there immediately to help them. If they face any problem, we inform the police. Our team of lawyers also reach there so that the couple is not attacked, threatened or mistreated.”
He briefly touch on the four sets of sanctions imposed on his country by the United Nations over Tehran’s refusal stop enriching uranium and to prove Iran is not trying to build an atomic bomb.
Some members of the Security Council have “equated nuclear energy with nuclear bombs,” Ahmadinejad said. He accused the United States of building up its nuclear arsenal instead of dismantling it and reiterated his call for a nuclear-free world.
“The nuclear bomb is the worst inhumane weapon and which must totally be eliminated. The NPT (Nonproliferation Treaty) prohibits its development and stockpiling and calls for nuclear disarmament,” the Iranian president said.
Of course, some people may choose not to believe him, but Ahmedinejad usually shoots straight from the hip. Besides, at least that’s better than threatening his neighbours with nukes.
Meet Sadhvi Rithambara – she is a rabble rouser from India. She is also a leader at the Hindu militant group: Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and a founder of Durga Vahini (Army of Durga) – A Hindu women’s militant group in India.
DV trains women in India to become part of a growing militia. It works in tandem with the Bajrang Dal – the male version.
“Our aim is to insulate young girls from cultural pollution and teach them various ancient Indian traditions,” a VHP official said. He said TV was destroying Indian values and affecting young girls adversely. “The Vahini’s members discuss ways to protect Indian culture from the Western onslaught.”
A few years ago, the Indian govt established Liberhan Commission, investigating the demolition of 16th Century Babri Mosque by Hindu militants.
It held Sadhvi Rithambara and 67 other Hindu leaders in India guilty for demolishing the mosque and igniting the subsequent violence that killed some 3,000 people across India.
This woman is now on a tour of the UK, visiting temples and giving speeches. The Council of Indian Muslims (UK) are outraged. I doubt the press or any of the usual suspects will pay attention though – it doesn’t fit the narrative.
I was interviewed by Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament this week. Talked about why I decided to join the Labour party and how we should fight the cuts.
The interview is done by Reality Radio – who focus on politics related interviews.
(I apologise in advance for you having to see my face on the thing above. Not by my design, honest)
Several of my colleagues on the left, particularly Mehdi Hasan, have been highly critical of Obama’s foreign policy, in particular the decision to stay in Afghanistan.
Now, I supported the attempt to get rid of the Taliban, but I’ve also maintained that Obama’s foreign policy objectives are unlikely to have been under his control all the time.
This explosive Washington Post story detailing bits from Bob Woodward’s new book, shows the extent to which he faced resistance to his plans:
Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”
The Senate today blocked the start of debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, with Republicans objecting to a provision that would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The vote was 56 to 43, with 60 votes needed to break the filibuster. Two Democratic senators, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, both from Arkansas, voted with Republicans to block the bill. — reported by Talking Points Memo.
This is of course intensely annoying to supporters of Obama, but I highlight this to make two points. First, a lot of people criticised Obama for not moving on DADT quickly enough. He had good reason to: the Democrats didn’t have enough votes to pass it. And even now they don’t.
Secondly, and more importantly, it once again highlights why sometimes discipline is useful and important in politics. I bet there are more Democrat senators who did not like the idea of passing DADT. And I bet there were Republicans who wanted to. But the Republicans are extremely disciplined, which means they can block legislation and restrict Obama’s agenda. This also helps them electorally.
Democrats on the other hand are badly disciplined, and because some don’t buy Obama’s progressive agenda, continually shoot the party in the foot by stopping their own legislation.
This is worth noting when people use the voting records on TheyworkForYou.com to make a point about how terrible Labour cabinet ministers or MPs were. Their voting record doesn’t tell you anything other than what the leadership wanted. You might argue of course that these means Labour (or Tory MPs) are spineless. Perhaps. But there clear political advantages too in such a strategy. My only regret is that Barack Obama can’t threaten / whip his Democrat senators harder and get them to stand in line.
Home Secretary Theresa May has said it is time the Government stopped talking to Muslims only about counter-terrorism. The Government should instead treat the Muslim community as a “mature and fundamental part of our society”, break down barriers and tackle discrimination, she said.
It must also aim to achieve “a better balance between public safety and civil liberties, something the last government got badly wrong”.
I agree that the last government got the balance wrong (though they were slowly correcting their mistakes), though this doesn’t say much in terms of specific policy shifts. In fact I believe the last communities minister said the same thing at one point.
I wonder, is this an attempt to say some nice things before some big (negative) announcement is made? I wouldn’t put it past them. Though perhaps I’m being too cynical.
If I were to hazard a guess, one of the main ways in which British Muslims are primarily seen through the prism of counter-terrorism is thanks to the right-wing press. Only a couple of days ago the Daily Express did a big front-page about ‘Muslim terrorists’ targeting the Pope. Of course it turned out to be rubbish, but the negative connotations are repeatedly hammered. Will the government do something about the corrections process at tabloids? Doubt it. In which case I’m not sure what this translates to…
A new Policy Network paper finds that concerns about immigration are an important factor in explaining distrust in politicians and political institutions. The paper by Lauren McLaren, associate professor of politics at Nottingham University, finds that if citizens’ perception of immigration is negative, trust in politics is lower.
The paper, which compares the situation in different European countries, also finds that:
• Political trust does not appear to be related to actual levels of immigration, but rather to how people perceive the effects of immigration.
• The popularity of far-right parties does not appear to be related to levels of political trust.
• In countries where policies are more conducive to the integration of immigrants, the impact of concerns about immigration is stronger than in countries where immigrants face greater barriers to finding work and becoming citizens.
To summarise, the paper says that immigration leads to a breakdown in trust about political institutions and process. Which in turn means that politics is seen as less trusting.
It also occurs to me that if you view from from a left-right prism, where lefties depend more on ‘faith in the political system for working for people‘ – immigration is better news for the right than the left.
Sally Bercow, best known as the wife of the Speaker, has come in for criticism once again after repeatedly tweeting various controversial views. Sally Bercow deserves to be heavily criticised for her use of ‘mental’ to describe George Osbone; a sadly all too common theme amongst people who feel that mocking mental issues and the people who suffer from them is the best way to criticise an opponent’s policies.
That aside, some of the criticism is unfair and sexist. A number of critics have called for the Speaker to ‘rein in’ his wife, as if she is some sort of animal. Mrs. Bercow is entitled to air her opinions on whatever she sees fit. It was her husband who was elected to the speaker’s chair, not her. She should be free to continue her political career, providing that she doesn’t not use the resources of the Speaker’s office to do so:
Some critics have said her comments cheapen the historic office of Speaker. And the fact that the Speaker is supposed to be impartial is undermined by Mrs Bercow’s attempts to find a Labour seat so she can become an MP, they claim. In May, Mrs Bercow failed in an attempt to become a Labour councillor.
Tory MP Nadine Dorries said Mrs Bercow only had a platform because of her husband and should not be using it to attack her party. She said: ‘It is absolutely outrageous that she should now be commenting on debates that the Speaker may or may not have granted. ‘It is totally unprecedented, unseemly and in bad taste. Mrs Bercow is letting down Parliament and the majority of people think she should just shut up.
Moreover, John Bercow was already politically compromised when he was elected, having been put in the chair despite massive expenses fraud, solely to annoy Conservative MPs.
Nick Cohen actually has a good article in the Observer today (no, I’m not joking!) about the so-called Twitter trial. Read the whole thing, though this bit caught my eye specifically:
Beyond the law lies the politics. The hounding of Paul Chambers stinks of Labour authoritarianism. The prosecuting authorities showed no respect for free speech. They could not take a joke. They carried on prosecuting Chambers even when they knew he was harmless. They turned a trifle into a crime because a conviction helped them hit performance targets. Inside their bureaucratic hierarchies, it was dangerous to speak out against a superior’s stupidity. Better to let an injustice take place than risk a black mark against your name.
What surprises me is that anyone thought it was going to turn out any other way.
I’ve opposed most anti-terrorism legislation precisely because it had the potential (and likelihood) of being abused to get anyone the police did not like. They used it to stop protests during the pro-Tibetan rally in London; they’ve used these laws against environmental protesters for years.
But Nick Cohen and his mates were adamant that Islamists represented the biggest threat to western civilisation ever, and so the extra vigilance was necessary.
Most of the British do not behave as if they are at war. Every third-rate political pundit has ruled that we cannot say that we are in a “war on terror”. Meanwhile, politicians will not allow us to say that we are in a “war against radical Islam” because they have to pretend that religion does not motivate religious extremists.
We’re at war people. And what happens when we’re at war? Yes, the executive usually ask for extra powers and justify excessive force in the name of national security.
It’s quite amusing to see a columnist who helped in raising the temperature through his rhetoric is now lamenting that the anti-terror laws that came as a result are a bastard.
Israel reiterated on Friday its refusal to extend curbs on settlement building that expire this month, despite US pressure and Palestinian threats to walk out of peace talks.
Meanwhile, US envoy George Mitchell met Lebanese President Michel Sleiman as part of Washington’s target of forging a comprehensive Middle East peace. “The prime minister has not changed his position on this issue, there is no question of extending the moratorium,” a senior Israeli government official told AFP, asking not to be named.
The 10-month measure to curb construction of settler homes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank concludes at the end of this month.
Abbas told Netanyahu during the talks that he would walk out of the negotiations if Israel does not renew the moratorium, according to an aide.
And yet it’s always Palestinians being blamed for the peace process going nowhere. I wonder if any of Israel’s usual supporters will condemn this and put pressure on the govt to stop the settlements. Don’t hold your breath though.
The musician Salman Ahmad (from the Pakistani Sufi rock group Junoon; previously discussed on PP here and here) and Deepak Chopra, who has previously written the bestselling books Buddha and Jesus, will be discussing his latest book Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet, where he shares the life and insights of Muhammad.
Dr Chopra was recently interviewed by the New York Times about the book’s contents and his motivations for writing it. It’s a very interesting article, and indicates that as a “semi-fictionalised biography”, the nature of the book may not necessarily be quite what many people may expect. The article also includes some comments about Sufism and current issues such as the ongoing controversy surrounding the Sufi Imam Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative’s Park51 (the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”). Three quotes in particular stand out:
Are you concerned someone will issue a fatwa against you?
I wrote the book factually and with respect. Beyond that, I can’t control anyone’s reaction.
You refer to Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is overseeing the planned Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. Are you saying Sufism represents the reform branch of Islam?
Yes. Traditional Islam is a mixture of all obedience to Allah, and if that requires militancy, so be it. Whereas Sufism exalts beauty, intuition, tenderness, affection, nurturing and love, which we associate with feminine qualities.
If someone asks what religion you are, what do you say?
I say God gave humans the truth, and the Devil came and said, “Let’s organize it, we’ll call it religion.”
Supporters of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman facing death by stoning, have organised a London protest for her this Saturday:
We, all supporters of Sakineh and opposers of torture, call you to action. A protest will take place at 12pm midday 2:00pm September 18 at Hyde Park CornerTrafalgar Square, North Terrace (opposite the National Gallery) in London. Please join us, make your own banners, posters, bring your cameras and video cameras. Spread the word and let’s maintain the incredible momentum this campaign has created to keep pressuring the Iranian authorities to back down.
Update: The protest will now be in Trafalgar Square, North Terrace (opposite the National Gallery), at 2:00pm to 3:30pm.
Sorry I’ve not blogged for a little while – been very busy with work and writing. I was also in Macedonia this week for a conference which was quite entertaining, and relaxing. The views were amazing.
I’ll be back soon, promise!
This was the view from my hotel room! (looking towards Albania)
With the Pope’s visit potentially costing taxpayers millions of pounds, perhaps the papal embassy should be thinking about self-funding, in order to ensure better relations with the British public. That is why Pickled Politics is launching the Papal Spending Challenge, to help His Holiness pay the bills. Ideas so far include:
Sponsorship- Football clubs do it, so why shouldn’t the pontiff maximus wear a major sponsor on his robes? No doubt a big corporation would pay millions for the exposure.
Bar work- Some tourists pay their way by working in bars during their time in the UK. Thanks to decades in the Church, Benedict XVI should be a dab hand at dishing out wafers and wine.
Please make your own suggestions in the comment box.
The Office for National Statistics has published a report into the public-private sector pay gap. The report found that, including pension contributions, public sectors were paid on average thousands of pounds more a year then private sector workers. I haven’t read through the methodology, so can’t comment on any flaws or caveats. What I am more interested in is the reaction to the report, specifically by a senior TUC official:
Adam Lent, the head of economics for the TUC, said: “You can’t make direct comparisons. The public sector has many more professional and highly skilled workers within it than the private sector. Averages simply do not tell us anything useful.”
This might indeed be true. But what does it say about the TUC’s stance? Firstly, it could suggest that the TUC supports a free market in employment, which means they will no longer be campaigning against pay freezes. This can be deduced by the fact that Mr. Lent feels that the market should determine workers’ wages (by their qualifications), and not any external factors.
This may be a incorrect interpretation however. The other way to read it is that Mr. Lent feels that people with degrees/professional qualifications are better than those without, and so deserve higher wages. This is not a fallacy restricted to the TUC. An article in the Guardian recently articulated the same feelings. Why is this so? Well, if we let the market decide, that is not a problem. But if you don’t support a free market in employment (which the TUC doesn’t), then you have to make the case that degree-educated workers deserve more. Why though? Because they have sat in a classroom for a few years, as opposed to gaining experience working? This lacks an inherent logic (pay is determined by supply and demand, not educational achievement), as there is no reason other than market forces why say, a civil servant should receive higher wages than a cleaner. There is also a social mobility argument. Private school pupils are overrerepresented at the best universities, so presumably the way to encourage social mobility is for the state to place less emphasis on degree-educated individuals.
Since there is no intrinsic reason why degree-educated people and those with professional qualifications should receive higher pay than those without, the only justification could be snobbery and a sense of entitlement.