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  • 15th September, 2010

    American church in Memphis welcomes neighbouring Islamic Centre

    by Jai at 11:45 am    

    As is now known worldwide, there has been a huge amount of publicity about the now-cancelled “Quran-burning” by Terry Jones, a pastor in Florida who not only attempted to link his own anti-Islam agenda to the ongoing “Ground Zero Mosque” issue involving Park51/Cordoba House in New York, but also views Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism as being literally “from the Devil”. In fact, if he’d wanted to “send a message to radical Islam” as he’d claimed, it would have made far more sense for him to burn a bonfire of photos of Osama bin Laden instead. It’s also worth remembering that by far the largest numbers of victims of Islamist militants have actually been ordinary Muslims; tens of thousands have been killed during the past decade alone.

    In relation to the Quran-burning issue in particular, Pickled Politics recently discussed the inordinate weight that many sections of the mainstream media have given to the extremists on all sides; the need for moderates everywhere to oppose the latter has also been emphasised by the Sufi Imam Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative. Readers may also be interested to hear that Imam Rauf was interviewed at great length by CNN last week, and a wide range of relevant issues were discussed in considerable detail (full transcript here).

    There are some horribly ironic facts in this situation: Not only has Imam Rauf been actively assisting the US Government with anti-Islamist-extremism efforts for a number of years (both the Bush Administration and now the Obama Administration), but Salafi-Jihadists like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban actually violently hate Sufi Muslims, because they regard Sufis as “heretics” who are “excessively liberal” and “excessively benevolent” towards non-Muslims. Therefore, we now have Sufis being persecuted by fundamentalist Christians, the American “conservative Right”, and militant Islamist extremists, aided and abetted by Fox News and their allies in the Republican Party.

    However, a more encouraging development in America which has unfortunately received comparatively little publicity is the following: During the course of the past year, members of a church in Memphis, Tennessee, have gone out of their way to welcome the presence of a neighbouring Islamic Centre which is in the process of being built. This has very recently been covered by CNN and MSNBC as a positive counterexample to the rising wave of anti-Muslim bigotry in other sections of American society.

    Continue Reading...
    12th September, 2010

    EDL members go to New York protest

    by Rumbold at 8:45 pm    

    Members of the English Defence League (EDL), perhaps confused about what their moniker actually means, have been in attendance at the anti-mosque protest in New York. Richard Bartholomew reports:

    A few specific groups and individuals could be identified; LGF shows a picture of several English Defence League members, and TPM picture 11 shows EDL activist Kevin Carroll (I previously blogged on Carroll here) [UPDATE: Apparently Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who heads the EDL as "Tommy Robinson", was refused entry at JFK Airport].

    Filed under: EDL,United States
    11th September, 2010

    Qur’an burning: Where does Freedom of Speech fit in?

    by guest at 11:32 am    

    This is a joint post by Shamit and Rumbold

    Global news media have had one common headline over the past few days – a Christian pastor wanting to burn the Qur’an. World leaders, including the Vatican, have condemned the proposed event in Gainesville Florida, yet violent protests have erupted in parts of the Muslim world.

    Pastor Terry Jones is an unpleasant individual. The minister behind the now-suspended Qur’an burning lives in luxury, yet forces his followers to live in accommodation he owns and work long hours for his business unpaid. His own daughter labelled his group a ‘cult’ which had no more than fifty followers until this whole controversy got the oxygen of 24×7 media publicity around the globe.

    Book burning is never right. It is not only vulgar, but also invokes memories of totalitarian regimes trying to destroy ideas they do not approve of. Furthermore, it indicates a failure of the burner to combat what is written, leaving them with no option but to try and erase what they could not challenge intellectually. And, in secular societies, such as the United States, a man of god should respect rights of others to practice their religion as they see fit.

    This proposed Qur’an burning has been widely condemned by plenty of prominent people; no doubt many of those share the aversion to book burning. But some have condemned the proposed actions of an unknown, leading a handful of people, not because of the hurt it causes to ordinary Muslims worldwide, but the expected violent reactions of a small community of criminals within the Muslim world that would attack and kill innocent people.

    Continue Reading...
    10th September, 2010

    On Eid, The Success of a Pakistani Tennis Player is a Great Story

    by Shariq at 11:34 pm    

    For those who don’t know Pakistan’s Aisam ul Haq Qureishi reached the final of the men’s double and mixed doubles at the US Open tennis. This post contains my reflections on his achievements and compares his story to that of Mohammad Amir, the Pakistani cricketer currently suspended for his role in the alleged ‘spot-fixing’ scandal.

    Pakistani cricketers are often seen as players blessed with talents from the Gods. Like footballers in this country, when they are successful they are put on a pedestal, and when as recently they perform poorly and disgrace themselves, they are vilified.

    One of the players implicated in the spot fixing scandal is the young fast bowler Mohammad Amir. His story is remarkable and one which resonates throughout the world. As a boy he was once delayed to getting to practice because of a Taliban blockade. Despite his humble background and the many obstacles in his path, he became the most exciting talent in the game. Then, as if part of a Shakesparean tragedy, it appears he succumbed to the temptation of money, leading to his downfall.

    Aisam ul Haq Qureishi’s story is not Mohammad Amir’s story. His mother was Pakistan’s number 1 tennis player, his grandfather was a top tennis player and his father is a successful businessman. His world is not Mohammad Amir’s world. Playing tennis growing up he would have been served by the ball boys seen at the elite private clubs throughout Pakistan.

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    Eid ul-Fitr and Rosh Hashanah

    by Jai at 10:00 am    

    Muslims and Jews around the world will currently be celebrating Eid and Rosh Hashanah respectively. Islam and Judaism, along with Christianity, are of course from the same “Abrahamic” group of religions.

    Eid marks the last day of Ramadan (or “Ramzan”, as we South Asians pronounce it), and is a major public holiday in India due to the country’s large Muslim population. Non-Muslim Indians often join in the festivities with Muslim friends. In the subcontinent, the night before Eid is called “Chand Raat”, meaning “the night of the moon”, and it is upon the sighting of the new moon that Eid is declared.

    Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the Jewish New Year. The majority of Indian Jews (many of whose ancestors had been there for thousands of years) migrated to Israel after the formation of that country, but there are still small communities of Jews in India. Historically they frequently lived in the same residential areas as Muslims. India is still a popular tourist destination for large numbers of Israelis every year.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Muslim,Religion
    9th September, 2010

    Backlash against France’s anti-Roma policy

    by Rumbold at 9:34 pm    

    The European Parliament has criticised Nicholas Sarkozy’s mass deportations of Roma people from France:

    A parliament resolution denouncing the French government’s policy of deporting Roma families and demolishing their encampments was carried by a much bigger majority than expected – a vote of 337 to 245, bringing an uncommon victory for the centre-left and liberals in a chamber dominated by conservatives.

    The Economist recently had a good piece on the Roma.

    8th September, 2010

    Castro to Ahmedinijad - stop your bloody anti-semitism

    by Sunny at 9:50 am    

    I don’t have much time for some of the dishonest reporting that Jeffrey Goldberg does (search the blog for examples), but this account with Fidel Castro (if true) is interesting:

    Castro’s message to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, was not so abstract, however. Over the course of this first, five-hour discussion, Castro repeatedly returned to his excoriation of anti-Semitism. He criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the “unique” history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence.

    Castro went on to analyze the conflict between Israel and Iran. He said he understood Iranian fears of Israeli-American aggression and he added that, in his view, American sanctions and Israeli threats will not dissuade the Iranian leadership from pursuing nuclear weapons. “This problem is not going to get resolved, because the Iranians are not going to back down in the face of threats. That’s my opinion,” he said. He then noted that, unlike Cuba, Iran is a “profoundly religious country,” and he said that religious leaders are less apt to compromise. He noted that even secular Cuba has resisted various American demands over the past 50 years.

    I think both points are spot on. Mahmoud Ahmedinijad is indefensible because he is a racist and anti-semitic quasi-dictator. But at the same time, Iranians are also paranoid about US-Israeli aggression and unlikely to give up attempts at pursuing nuclear weapons (if that is indeed the case) if aggression is the main tactic used against them. They’re not going to back down because they don’t trust US motives and expect the country to be turned into a military colonised hell-hole that Iraq has become.

    It’s bizarre that it takes someone like Castro to point out the obvious. I wonder if Goldberg himself will be intelligent enough to pay heed.

    7th September, 2010

    Blogger’s children under attack

    by Rumbold at 9:44 pm    

    Tim Ireland, the blogger who helped expose fantasist Glen Jenvey’s false claims about extremist Muslims targeting Sir Alan Sugar, has now reported that his children have become targets of internet smears. This is the latest in a long running campaign to discredit and smear Tim Ireland by various factions.

    Glen Jenvey was close to Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP. When Tim exposed him, the smearing started, with Tim being branded a paedophile. Tim approached Iain Dale for help in warning Patrick Mercer in order to discredit Glen Jenvey, but no help was forthcoming. This situation has continued, with Tory MP Nadine Dorries and others suggesting Tim is a potentially violent stalker (by linking him to the individual who stabbed the MP Stephen Timms).

    At times the anti-Iain Dale sentiment of some bloggers is rather overblown. If historians one day reconstruct the blogosphere of this age using others’ posts, they may conclude that the only reason why it was Herod who massacred the innocents was because Iain Dale had to pull out at the last minute to do the Sky News paper review. There is also a lot of bad blood between himself and Tim. But this has gone much too far. A fellow blogger’s children are being threatened. Iain Dale rightly criticised some of the media storm surrounding William Hague. He now needs to do what he can to help Tim Ireland defend his children from these smears.

    Update: Iain responds in the comments.
    [the post's language has been clarified by Sunny]

    Filed under: Media

    This isn’t the way to deal with anti-semitism

    by guest at 2:17 pm    

    guest post by Ben White

    Imagine a conference on racism featuring presentations by individuals who have supported, or even live in, colonies of segregated privilege in militarily-occupied territory. Sounds bizarre, but that’s exactly what happened two weeks ago, when Yale hosted ‘Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity’, a project of The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA).

    So at this kind of gathering, what explains the presence of British self-defined progressives and antiracism campaigners, given the concern that the conference’s focus, in the words of Indiana University professor Shaul Magid served “to affirm a right-leaning political ideology regarding Israel, viewing Israel as the front-line against a global attack on America.”

    Among the participants [PDF] presenting papers were Robert Fine from Warwick and David Hirsh of Goldsmiths. The latter is the co-founder of ‘Engage‘, which describes itself as an “anti-racist campaign against antisemitism” and “a resource that aims to help people counter the boycott Israel campaign”.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Race politics,Religion

    Long investigation article on ‘honour’ crimes

    by Sunny at 11:14 am    

    The Independent today has a long article by Robert Fisk on ‘honour’ crimes against women across the world.

    A 10-month investigation by The Independent in Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank has unearthed terrifying details of murder most foul. Men are also killed for “honour” and, despite its identification by journalists as a largely Muslim practice, Christian and Hindu communities have stooped to the same crimes. Indeed, the “honour” (or ird) of families, communities and tribes transcends religion and human mercy. But voluntary women’s groups, human rights organisations, Amnesty International and news archives suggest that the slaughter of the innocent for “dishonouring” their families is increasing by the year.

    Most of it focuses on women across the world, but there’s also the UK cases:

    And, of course, we should perhaps end this catalogue of crime in Britain, where only in the past few years have we ourselves woken to the reality of “honour” crimes; of Surjit Athwal, a Punjabi Sikh woman murdered on the orders of her London-based mother-in-law for trying to escape a violent marriage; of 15-year-old Tulay Goren, a Turkish Kurd from north London, tortured and murdered by her Shia Muslim father because she wished to marry a Sunni Muslim man; of Heshu Yones, 16, stabbed to death by her father in 2005 for going out with a Christian boy; of Caneze Riaz, burned alive by her husband in Accrington, along with their four children – the youngest 10 years old – because of their “Western ways”. Mohamed Riaz was a Muslim Pakistani from the North-West Frontier Province. He died of burns two days after the murders.

    Scotland Yard long ago admitted it would have to review over a hundred deaths, some going back more than a decade, which now appear to have been “honour” killings.

    It’s an excellent piece worth reading.

    How China took advantage of the global recession

    by Sunny at 1:55 am    

    I suspect historians will look back one day at the global crash of 2008 and say what idiots western governments were at not having a bit of forward thinking on their minds.

    Throughout the crisis, the Chinese economy continued to grow at an amazing pace, in part as a consequence of massive fiscal stimulus. When anyone wants an example of how effective a Keynesian counter-cyclical strategy can be, internationally as well as domestically, they need look no further than China’s four-trillion-renminbi stimulus of 2008-2009.

    Apart from a six-month period after the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, in which trade finance stopped and the world did look as if it was close to Great Depression circumstances, China and other emerging markets helped those export-oriented industrial economies to recover.

    It was not just Europe that benefited from China’s willingness to take on the mantle of “lender of last resort.” The new-found dynamism of African economies is a consequence of the Chinese drive to build up and secure sources of raw materials.

    Unfortunately, the article is underlined by an assumption that the Chinese don’t care for multilateralism in a way the US does. This is rubbish. The US has ignored multilateral institutions when it was in its interest and China will do the same. In fact - it will learn from the US and, once powerful enough, will behave how Americans did.

    It’s always been useful for the American right to disparage international institutions like the UN when it suited them. Soon they’ll be in the amusing position of demanding China listen to the UN in a way they never did themselves.

    Filed under: China,Current affairs
    6th September, 2010

    Changes in student visas planned

    by Rumbold at 10:07 am    

    Damien Green, the immigration minister, is going to say in a speech later on today that there will be more a focus on student visas. Most discussions previously have tended to revolve around the immigration system letting too many people in, but one of the major immigration issues is when people overstay on their visas. Mr. Green is also going to question whether the students who are issued with visas are the ‘right’ ones for Britain, as only half of student visas are issued for students going to university:

    The Home Office study tracked non-EU migrants who came to the UK in 2004. The largest group - some 185,000 people - were students, and 21% were still in the country five years later… [The] Office for National Statistics figures released last month showed net migration to the UK increased by 33,000 to 196,000 in 2009. The number of visas issued to students went up by 35% to 362,015. Mr Green said the figures were proof the coalition government had inherited an immigration system “largely out of control”.

    Mr. Green is wrong to characterise the system as ‘largely out of control’, which is an exaggeration. He is right though to tackle the student issue, as plenty of students come here not only to study, but to (illegally) work long hours as well. This system is facilitated by agents in their native countries, who promise the potential students good, well-paying jobs once they come to Britain, which isn’t the reality. Southall has been hit particularly badly, with over a hundred homeless Punjabis, many of whom who came here on student visas, not getting the jobs they were promised. Tightening the system should help stop, or at least minimise, situations like this.

    Filed under: Current affairs
    4th September, 2010

    MP returns to job he is paid to do

    by Rumbold at 1:46 pm    

    An MP today announced that he was going to do the job he is paid by taxpayers to do. The MP, who represents a constituency, announced that, after only making one brief appearance in the Commons in the last few months, he was planning to return there to vote (though that may have been because the whips were putting pressure on MPs).

    Sarcasm aside, former ministers who carry on enjoying the benefits of being an MP without bothering to undertake their most important responsibility (holding the executive to account) should come in for a lot more criticism, whatever party they are from. In many ways, this is no different from claiming phantom/excessive expenses, since they are not doing the job they are supposed to do. Voting in the Commons isn’t the only thing that matters, but there should be plenty of Commons intervention nonetheless. And if ministers want a break after a long and tiring ministerial career, that is fine, since all they need to do is resign.

    Filed under: Current affairs

    Bloggers and the mainstream media

    by Sunny at 2:42 am    

    My latest article for the Guardian went up yesterday. An excerpt:

    In fact, as several (left-liberal) bloggers point out, the picture of Hague with his adviser and veiled insinuations first surfaced at the Mail on Sunday on 21 August. The Telegraph followed.

    That was immediately used as a springboard by Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) to stir the pot more viciously and submit an FOI request. In a coincidentally symbiotic relationship, both the Daily Mail and Telegraph quickly jumped on that publicity stunt as a hook to ask the questions they really wanted to.

    You might think both episodes were about rightwing bloggers, but you’d be wrong. Blogger Stephen Tall nails it: “This was not a ‘political’ blogger acting in isolation, but in concert with two newspapers which are happy to ape the worst tactics of the Guido Fawkes smear-machine when it suits them.”

    It partially looks like I’m letting P Staines off the hook. I’m not. He’s responsible for trying to stir the ‘Gordon Brown is mentally insane’ pot relentlessly without anything substantive to go on. The man is unhealthily obsessed with Brown. But what annoys me more is that the mainstream media are happy to regurgitate these smears without any sort of fact-checking or quality-control that the profession is supposed to be out. They’ve not only abdicated their responsibilities - they’re trying to blame bloggers for doing it too.

    Filed under: Media
    3rd September, 2010

    Right-wing billionaires exposed as financing “Tea Party” movement

    by Jai at 1:00 pm    

    Further to my recent articles about Fox News’s bankrolling of the Republican Party and Jon Stewart’s exposé of the connections between Fox News and the “Ground Zero Mosque’s” alleged Saudi financier, some more information is continuing to come to light about the sheer scale of what is actually going on behind the scenes.

    Firstly, let’s start with Fox News’s connection with the Republicans. It goes far beyond the $1 million which the channel’s parent company News Corp has now been confirmed to have donated to the Republican Party:

    Via ‘Media Matters for America’:

    “In recent years, at least twenty Fox News personalities have endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or causes, or against Democratic candidates or causes, in more than 300 instances and in all 50 states. Republican parties and officials have routinely touted these personalities’ affiliations with Fox News to sell and promote their events.”

    The rest of the Media Matters article gives a detailed breakdown of exactly who has been involved, what activities they’ve undertaken, dates & locations etc.

    Comprehensive details about the exact amount of money involving people associated with Fox News during the 2010 election cycle alone can be read here. Apparently it comes to nearly $50 million to date, with far more pending.

    However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. During the past few days, both the New York Times and the New Yorker have published articles revealing the billionaires who are actually bankrolling the “Tea Party” movement and doing everything they can to destroy Barack Obama’s presidency. The details below expand considerably on Sunny’s recent PP article which also mentioned the matter, although that article focused on environmental issues.

    Continue Reading...
    1st September, 2010

    Fox News confirmed as bankrolling Republican Party

    by Jai at 11:45 am    

    As recently discussed on Pickled Politics, last week Jon Stewart and The Daily Show brilliantly exposed the fact that the unnamed person Fox News had been repeatedly claiming was allegedly financing Park51/Cordoba House (aka the “Ground Zero Mosque”) and with implied ties to radical Islamist extremists was actually the Saudi Arabian Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, the second-largest shareholder of Fox News’s parent company News Corp and an individual closely affiliated with News Corp’s primary owner Rupert Murdoch himself. Fox News have subsequently completely dropped their stories about the shadowy “unnamed financier”, and are apparently also refusing to respond to post-Daily Show queries about the matter. Nevertheless, the issue raises the following questions:

    · Why is Prince Al-Waheed continuing to work closely with an American news channel which is a) actively involved in pandering to negative stereotypes about Muslims en masse and b) is simultaneously playing an active role in damaging relations between the West (especially the United States) and Muslim populations overseas ?
    · Why are Fox News violating the principles of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, considering that the latter was signed in 1797 directly by the Founding Father & 2nd US president John Adams and ratified & unanimously approved by Congress, and explicitly states that “as the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion….it has in itself no character of enmity towards the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen [ie. Muslims]” ?
    · Why are Fox News effectively promoting militant Wahhabism as the “default” version of Islam ?
    · Why are Fox News persecuting Sufis, the Muslim group which is the most forcefully opposed to Islamist extremism (particularly militant Wahhabism) and whom both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have a murderous level of hatred for ?
    · In summary, why are Fox News effectively doing Al-Qaeda’s dirty work for them ?

    Some further facts about Fox News have also subsequently come to light. Despite the channel’s claims of being “fair and balanced” and their repeated denials of any bias towards, or association with, any of the major American political parties, the channel’s parent company, News Corp, has now been confirmed as making a $1 million donation to the Republican Party. This is actually the single largest donation by any corporation, and has a number of ramifications, as summarised in the extracts below:

    Continue Reading...
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