30th October, 2010

G4S loses deportation contract

by Rumbold at 10:44 am    

After the death of a deportee and other controversies, the Home Office has decided to award the lucrative deportation contract to another firm (though G4S claimed the award was to do with the price of its bid):

The company that will now deport detainees from next year, Reliance Security Task Management Limited, already manages several contracts for the Prison Service.

Three G4S guards were released on bail this month after being questioned over the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan who collapsed and died on BA flight 77 as it was preparing to depart for Luanda. G4S said it had received assurances that the failure to renew its contract was related to the price of its bid “and not to recent events”.

The question is will anything change though? G4S had been using controversial measures for years without much problem:

The performance of G4S guards has been questioned for several years. A document obtained by the Guardian reveals the Home Office warned G4S in 2006 that restraint techniques used by its guards potentially impeded breathing and could result in a fatality.

The letter, headed “positional asphyxia” – a form of suffocation caused when people are placed in dangerous restraint holds – was circulated to all G4S staff in 2006 after guards were spotted using an unauthorised form of restraint.

Let us hope the change in contract results in an increase in scrutiny. Deporting people is never going to be problem free, but this was clearly unacceptable.

Filed under: Current affairs

Neo-con asks why Julian Assange isn’t dead yet

by Sunny at 4:44 am    

Jonah Goldberg is a regular contributor to Fox News, editor-at-large of National Review Onlien (right-wing US mag) and one of those highly rabid neo-conservatives. In an article for the Chicago Tribune, he asks: Why is Assange still alive?.

These people stop at nothing in order to silence anyone who exposes their projects (the Iraq war) as one massive scandal.

28th October, 2010

How faith groups are coming together to deal with the welfare crisis

by guest at 12:39 pm    

by Alex Goldberg and Asim Siddiqui

Some of the UK’s largest faith organisations have been having crisis management meetings discussions this week as they begin to explore the full impact of the public spending review is felt.

Religious communities have historically provided social care and education services and in the last few decades have been doing this increasingly in partnership with the welfare state, working with it on cradle to grave provision.

There is a real sense that the impact of the review will lead to an increase on demand for their care services as unemployment and social need rises whilst diminishing public resources for their work are cut.

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Filed under: Party politics

A glimpse of anti-fascism from the 1970s/80s

by Sunny at 9:20 am    

Much of this passed me by, but this video is excellent. Highlighted by Kevin Blowe, who says:

From a BBC Open Space programme from 1992, the much missed Newham anti-fascist activist and dockworker Mickey Fenn talks about the 1970s, when the most militant elements of the Socialist Workers Party and the Anti-Nazi League formed fighting ’squads’ to physically confront the fascists. The squads, which were later disowned by the leadership of the SWP, were the forerunners of Anti Fascist Action.

The clip talks of how the anti-fascists first confronted, and then later physically beat fascists off the streets to reclaim them back. Then only, they say, did people have the courage to come out and hold widespread marches against fascism.

At 3m 38s there’s guy in a red cap who says these immortal lines:

There’s probably quite a few liberals out there – trendy lefties – who are feeling quite uneasy at this talk of violence, and saying ‘there are other ways’. Well we’re not either – or – we’re both. We’ll try all methods. We have marches, carnivals, music events, we even have a travelling exhibition. Showng you all the truth of fascims. History’s proven that fascists based their philosophy on physical force.

If you’re not prepared to meet that force, with physical force, then you must retire from the political arena. Because the fascists feed on fear, and to ignore them is to encourage them.

I think the time for fighting back with physical violence is over, though I’m pretty sure if I was around during those more racist times I would have been involved in more than one scuffle.

Two points:
1) A guy talks about how housing is behind all these problems, and that rage makes the white youths easy pickings. Seems history constantly repeats itself.

2) Right-wingers (and this includes people like Boris Johnson’s advisor Munira Mirza) are fond of ignoring history and claiming that the rise of the BNP came as a result of ‘too much political correctness’ or ‘diversity policies gone mad’ – this shoots that down too.

The fascists weren’t carrying around banners saying ‘diversity officers out’ – it was more ‘pakis out’. That should give you an indication as to whether ‘identity politics’ fuelled the rise of the BNP or not.

3) Well done to all the activists who stood up to the fascists.

26th October, 2010

Writer Arundhati Roy threatened with arrest for ‘sedition’; English PEN speaks out

by Sunny at 7:40 pm    

Update: I’ve changed the headline from ‘arrested’. That was my mistake.
News reports from India state that Roy, the author of the Booker Prize winning novel The God of Small Things, will be arrested and charged with ‘sedition’ over comments she made on Kashmir.

In statement issued to news organisations and campaigners (reproduced below), Roy claims she said only “what millions of people here say every day” and that her comments against India’s operations in Kashmir were made in support of her fellow countrymen.
Lisa Appignanesi, President of English PEN, said:

Since June, Kashmiri journalists and broadcasters attempting to report on unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir have been subject to violence and gagging.

Booker Prize winning novelist Arundhati Roy has now stepped forward to draw the world’s attention to the plight of Kashmiris. The truth of what is happening in Kashmir needs to be told. Brutality by the state, and the silencing of reporters, is no option for a modern India.

The author Hari Kunzru said:

I’m concerned to hear that Arundhati Roy may face sedition charges. India trumpets its status as the world’s largest democracy, but the Indian establishment is notoriously unwilling to listen to dissident voices. Whether or not one agrees with Roy’s positions on Kashmir or the Maoist insurgency in Central India, the issues she raises are important and deserve to be debated. The willingness by elements of the Indian establishment to use the legal system to intimidate critics is lamentable. India’s writers are an important part of the nation’s identity on the international stage. Supporting their right to free speech goes hand in hand with applauding them when they win the Booker prize. One is meaningless without the other.

Laws of ‘sedition’ (criticising the state) are routinely used by governments all around the world to threaten critics of official policy and state actions. In former British colonies, these are based on archaic English laws. Last year, English PEN campaigned successfully to ensure the remnants of such laws were removed from the English statute books, but elsewhere in the Commonwealth they remain law.

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Filed under: Civil liberties,India

Is Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai the slickest politician around?

by Sunny at 10:00 am    

Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, manages to unite the United States and Iran….. in, err, giving him bags of cash.

President Hamid Karzai acknowledged on Monday that he regularly receives bags of cash from the Iranian government in payments amounting to millions of dollars, as evidence mounted of a worsening rift between his government and its American and NATO supporters.

During an often hostile news conference, Mr. Karzai also accused the United States of financing the “killing” of Afghans by paying private security contractors to guard construction projects and convoys in Afghanistan. He has declined to postpone a December deadline he set for ending the use of private security forces despite urgent pleas from Western organizations, including development organizations, that need protection here.

To summarise: Nato presence in Afghanistan has become a joke and a massive waste of money. I think it’s probably best President Obama pulls out now, this situation does not look to be improving.

25th October, 2010

Tackling LGBT forced marriage

by Rumbold at 5:15 pm    

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) has reported an increase in the number of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) teenagers coming forward to ask for help from them:

This year, the FMU has dealt with 29 confirmed cases of forced marriage involving gay men and women. Last year, the unit offered support and advice to nearly 1,700 cases in total.

Just how many of those involved lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) victims is unknown, because not everyone is willing to divulge their sexuality. However, it is thought this emerging trend is just the tip of the iceberg, as more gay men and women seek assistance.

A number have been referred by the Albert Kennedy trust, which specialises in helping LGBT teenagers. Many of these teenagers have been forced into marriage either because their parents don’t know about their sexuality, or else see marriage as a way to ‘cure’ their children from being NEH (Not Exclusively Heterosexual). One girl, Reviva, interviewed by the BBC, spoke about her experiences once her parents found out about her sexuality:

The troubled teenager was taken to her grandmother’s house in the Middle East where, as she recalls with a chilling lack of emotion, her parents tried persuading her to take her own life. “I was damaging the family honour. I was making the family looking like a modernised, westernised, filthy family. So what they wanted to do is get rid of what is damaging the honour.

“They put you in a room on your own, I don’t get any food, or any water, and I have to just sit there and wait to die or kill myself.” To aid the process, a gun, a knife, and pills were left in the room, along with a can of petrol and a box of matches. In her view, Reviva says it would have amounted to murder, not suicide, should she have decided to kill herself.

Many LGBT teenagers, whatever their backgrounds, feel that they have no one to turn to about their issues (though organisations do exist, as shown above), given the bullying and abuse that can result from such a revelation, whether at school or at home. Until this is tackled, LGBT teenagers forced into a marriage will feel even more isolated than their heterosexual counterparts. That is certainly not to excuse the attitudes which lead to forced marriage, but rather highlight areas others can work on in order to reduce this practice by making LGBT teenagers feel as though there are more people they can turn to.

Update: The 5 Live Investigates programme is here and an interview with the head of the Forced Marriage Unit is here (thanks to Richard for sending in the links).

Tories are for debating white extremists, but not Muslim ones

by Sunny at 10:22 am    

Most Tories say they’re against the ‘no-platform’ stance with extremists like the BNP. They put up Baroness Warsi against Nick Griffin on BBC Question Time even though Labour MPs like Peter Hain refused to share a platform with the BNP.

Their reasoning is that white extremists should be debated rather than shunned, otherwise the problem gets worse. And debating solves everything, right?

But you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s one rule for white extremists and another rule for Muslims. The Observer reported yesterday that David Cameron has banned Baroness Warsi from attending the Global Peace and Unity event organised by the Islam Channel. Since it’s the IC, you can expect some Muslim extremists to also be part of the proceedings. But the Tories don’t want them to be debated. Neither does Paul Goodman of ConservativeHome – who previously argued that we should debate the BNP.

Oh, bloggers at Harry’s Place are also applauding this decision, but they gave up any pretence on having equal standards on free speech ages ago.

As I’ve documented before – this hypocrisy of neo-conservatives, on the left and right, crops up regularly. Tories are against racial profiling when it’s to encourage equality in representation, but for it when arguing for black and Asian men to be stopped and searched. They want to allow white extremists like Geert Wilders coming into this country, but not Muslim ones like al-Qaradawi. They wouldn’t like white extremist groups like the BNP to be banned, but happy to advocate for groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir to be banned.

I don’t suppose it makes the heads of these ideologues explode with irony and hypocrisy, but you’d think at least government ministers who claim to care for free speech and civil liberties engage their brains a bit more. For the record: I’m not fussed either way – what pisses me off is the double-standards. Either say you’re going to debate all extremists, or don’t share a platform with any.

Filed under: Civil liberties,Media
24th October, 2010

A school that forces women to wear the niqab is attacking tolerance

by guest at 8:15 pm    

by Tehmina Kazi from British Muslims for Secular Democracy

The website of the Madani Girls School in Tower Hamlets is replete with slogans about “educating for an Islamic life.” Amidst all the glittering reports of a 100% pass rate at GCSE, and a recent OFSTED inspection where inspectors praised the school for the “motivated staff and the enthusiastic and polite nature of the pupils,” one section lies conspicuously blank: school uniform policy.

This school – as well as the Jameah Al Kauthar in Lancaster and Jameah Girls’ Academy in Leicester – came under fire this weekend for insisting that all girls must wear a niqab (face-veil) when travelling to and from school.

The Sunday Telegraph, having captured the Madani Girls School uniform policy before it was removed from their website, confirmed: “The present uniform conforms to the Islamic Code of dressing. Outside the school, this comprises of the black Burka and Niqab.”

Nobody is calling the school’s outstanding results into question; they go some way towards justifying the £1,900-a-year fees that parents have to pay (in cold, hard cash as opposed to cheques, which the school refuses to accept).

It goes without saying that tolerance is a two-way street, which is why an absolute ban on niqab in public spaces was always going to be a bad idea.

However, it is disingenuous for niqab advocates to use the language of choice and empowerment when advocating their religious freedoms, then to deny these same concepts to young girls in the same breath. It is one thing for a mature adult to make a decision about covering her face in public, but quite another to impose a face-covering onto girls as young as eleven.

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Asian journo faces £1m libel case over article

by Sunny at 6:01 am    

This from a press release
At the High Court in London this week, Lady Justice Smith granted Indian national ‘His Holiness Sant Baba Jeet Singh ji Maharaj’ the right to appeal in his libel case against British journalist Hardeep Singh. The case will now go before three judges at the Court of Appeal to decide whether it should proceed to a full trial.

Hardeep Singh said: “I’ve been fighting this case for three years already; this adds a minimum of another six months of torment. If I lose, it will cost me over £1 million, let alone my costs so far and a tenth of my life. This feels like the biggest game of poker you can possibly play: all for exercising my right to free expression.”

He added: “I’m hoping the government take reform of our libel laws seriously and we get a robust bill in the New Year.”

Mike Harris from Index on Censorship said: “When individuals like Hardeep Singh risk £1million and bankruptcy all for a single newspaper article, it really hits home how important libel reform is. I hope the government backs the Libel Reform Campaign’s call for wholesale reform of our libel laws so free speech is protected.”

Síle Lane from Sense About Science said: ‘Change in the libel laws cannot come soon enough. Singh’s case highlights that the laws as they stand are unfair, unduly costly, out of date and against the public interest. Until we have a clear, strong public interest defence against libel actions writers, bloggers, NGOs and journalists will be forced to back down in the face of threats.’

The case centres on an article that Hardeep Singh wrote in August 2007 for the Sikh Times, a British newspaper, in which he claimed that Jeet Singh was an “accused Cult leader” whose teachings were not in line with mainstream Sikh doctrine. In May 2010 Mr Justice Eady threw the case out with no right to appeal.

Eady’s judgment held that secular courts should not make a judgment on a religious dispute. This week’s application for appeal was granted on the limited basis that there are arguable issues in Singh’s article that do not tread on the forbidden area of doctrinal dispute.

Filed under: Civil liberties,Media
23rd October, 2010

Luftur Rahman wins in Tower Hamlets

by Rumbold at 10:35 am    

Luftur Rahman, the former Labour council leader, has been elected as the mayor of Tower Hamlets. Mr Rahman was exposed earlier this year as working with a group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, which pushed an Islamist agenda at the council:

The council chamber has hosted at least one debate with an anti-homosexual Islamic preacher. Until last month, Tower Hamlets public libraries stocked hundreds of items of extremist Islamic literature, bought at taxpayers’ expense and available to borrow. These included hundreds of audio tapes of sermons by the extremist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, blamed for inspiring September 11, the Fort Hood terrorist massacre and the underwear bomb plot.

After Dispatches exposed this entryism, Mr Rahman’s position became increasingly precarious, and led to his removal as leader of the council and Labour’s candidate for mayor of Tower Hamlets, leading Mr. Rahman to stand as an independent. Thanks to the support of people like Ken Livingstone, Mr. Rahman was elected, winning just over half the vote. No doubt part of this vote was due to the support of the IFE, but it also reflects a communalist, block voting tendency (which major parties are happy to exploit when it suits them).

21st October, 2010

Hindu fundamentalists in Indian try to ban book

by Sunny at 7:33 am    

Yesterday the Guardian reported:

The prize-winning author Rohinton Mistry was today at the centre of a row in India after his novel Such a Long Journey was cut from a university reading list after complaints from an extremist group.

The decision to withdraw the book by the vice chancellor of Mumbai University, Dr Rajan M Welukar, shocked many in India’s cosmopolitan commercial centre. Supporters of Mistry and free speech campaigners criticised the university for agreeing to the demands of the nationalist Shiv Sena, which has a reputation for using violence to intimidate opponents.

The bastards. I loved that book as well. It’s an outrage that academics in India are so spineless and the government does nothing about it (as was the case during Satanic Verses).

Now, Rohinton Mistry has hit out:

via Sunder Katwala

Filed under: Media
19th October, 2010

UK rapper MIA wears a burqa on the red carpet

by Sunny at 3:33 pm    

Well, I guess it’s definitely become a fashion item now!

via @monaeltahawy

Filed under: Humour

Right-wing idiots throw bricks at each other

by Sunny at 7:02 am    

This is just for amusement purposes. The odious Rod Liddle yesterday wrote a blog post dissing the even more odious James Delingpole (climate change denier-in-chief on the right), calling him ‘politically correct’ for getting outraged over the 10:10 video.

The film begins with a teacher explaining the 10:10 thing to her class of kids and asking them if they fancy doing anything to help cut carbon emissions. Most eagerly sign up, but two kids do not. The teacher says ok, fair enough, never mind – and then presses a red button and the recidivist kids explode, showering their class mates with gore. I saw the film and thought it quite funny, and nicely done and even self-deprecatingly ironic. And – here’s the point – if it had been George Monbiot and Lord Stern exploding I suspect James would have been howling with laughter, instead of foaming with indignation.

Unfortunately, I have to agree with Rod Liddle over this. But even a stopped clock shows the right time twice a day.

Delingpole goes ballistic, with none of the ‘humour’ that Liddle attributes to him:

Rod Liddle knows even less about Climate Change than I do about Millwall FC
In a shameless attempt to win some readers for his little known Spectator blog, Rod Liddle has thrown together a desperate post with the highly offensive and almost certainly libellous headline The Politically Correct James Delingpole. It’s about my reaction to Richard Curtis’s ecofascist snuff movie No Pressure, which Rod reckons was overdone.

See? It is sometimes amusing to read these head-bangers.

Filed under: Humour,Media
18th October, 2010

The problem with tackling benefit fraud

by Rumbold at 12:01 pm    

George Osborne has compared benefit fraudsters to muggers in a recent speech:

“Frankly, a welfare cheat is no different from someone who comes up and robs you in the street. It’s your money. “You’re leaving the house at seven in the morning or whatever to go to work and paying your taxes – and then the person down the street is defrauding the welfare system.

The comparison seems somewhat tenuous, as often muggings are violent and can leave the victim traumatised (presumably the comparison holds for everyone who has defrauded the taxpayer).

That aside, there are some problems cracking down on benefit fraud. Some fraud is unintentional; the system can be monstrously complex and people often find themselves receiving benefits without realising the precise rules. Take somebody who is receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for a damaged spleen, as well as Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit, who then goes back to work. If she works under sixteen hours a week, and earns under £94 a week, all her benefits will continue for a year, then will be reviewed. If she earns over £94 a week or work over sixteen hours, she will lose her ESA and have her Housing Benefit and Council Tax pro-rated depending on income. She may be entitled to Working Tax Credit (a varied sum) depending on her previous year’s income and expected income for the next year. She could also get Return to Work Credit of £40 a week for a year if she earns under £15,000 a year, unless she is a lone parent, which will see her net £60 a week in the form of an in-work credit instead (in that case her Child Tax Credit will also be affected too).

That’s the straightforward bit. The real difficulty is letting everyone know. Once a person goes back to work, all the relevant divisions have to be contacted. The benefits delivery centre needs to be contacted (and they can only be accessed by telephone, not face to face) to inform them about going back to work. The Return to Work/In Work Credit form should be completed via the job centre; the Working Tax Credit office needs to be phoned, and it is very difficult to get through to them. the local council’s housing department needs to be told too. All this should be done in the first couple of weeks of returning to work, during office hours, which can be rather difficult if a person is working full time. Any of the divisions may be tardy in getting back to her, leaving her without an income from that particular source (even if it is backdated later). And woe betide if her circumstances change (such as her earnings rising to £15,000+) and she doesn’t inform everyone quickly enough. She may have her future benefits/tax credits docked to repay any overpayment (even if it was not her fault); she may even be prosecuted for benefit fraud.

Filed under: Current affairs

South Asian Literature Festival this week

by Sunny at 6:21 am    

I should have blogged this before (oops!)

The inaugural South Asian Literature Festival takes place in London from 15th – 25th October, followed by outreach events in Brighton, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester at the end of October.

Some events have already taken place, but here are upcoming ones:
Words Without Borders: Literature in a Time of War
19 October, Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3GA, 4pm
Acclaimed Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif along with special guests from the region will offer their perspectives on the effects of war on South Asian writers. Can great literature thrive and new voices be found in this environment? What impact do conflicts have on freedom of expression?

From Fatwa to Jihad
19 October, Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3GA, 6pm
An examination of how the rise of terrorism in the last 20 years has led to a curtailing of freedom of expression and civil liberties in the UK. Writer and broadcaster Kenan Malik and journalist Shiv Malik explore multiculturalism, terror, free speech and the “culture of offence” in modern Britain.

Twin Dynasties
21 October, Kings Place Hall 2, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG, 7pm
Two dynasties come together with Nayantara Sahgal and Fatima Bhutto. Nayantara descends from the Nehru family while Fatima is the granddaughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the niece of Benazir, both former Pakistani prime ministers. Both will meet for the first time and discuss their experiences of growing up in such powerful families.

More details on their website. I also think @ImanQureshi is live tweeting from all of them…

Filed under: Media
17th October, 2010

Germany blames immigrants for ‘not fitting in’ after years of trying to exclude them

by Sunny at 1:35 am    

I remember a few years ago I was asked to contribute to a paper about about citizenship and identity (can’t remember who for, now), and I looked at how other western democracies dealt with multiculturalism.

One of my main points was that whatever a country does, it should avoid being like Germany – where immigrants were deliberately excluded from being Germans for decades.

Under previous German law, children born to foreigners in Germany were not entitled to German citizenship[citation needed] because the law was based on jus sanguinis, in other words on a blood connection. This was modified in 1991 and in 1999 German citizenship law recognised jus soli whereby people born in Germany could now claim citizenship.[86] In 2000, legislation was passed which conferred German citizenship on the German-born children of foreigners (born after 1990), and the naturalisation process was made easier, though dual citizenship is still not tolerated and any person possessing it by virtue of birth to foreign parents must choose between the ages of 18 and 23 which citizenship she or he wishes to retain, and forfeit the other

And now Angela Merkel, desperately trying to shore up her dire political situation, claims that German multicultural society has failed.

Well blow me down with a feather. You treat Turks like second-class citizens for most of their lives and then you expect them to integrate?

I wonder if this has anything to do with the German Greens now polling nearly as much as the ruling [Merkel's] CDU party.
hat tip @ImanQureshi

14th October, 2010

Migration Watch bollocks on new students and ‘strain’ on education

by Sunny at 5:44 pm    

Last night I noted that a BBC story on Migration Watch’s latest “report” on how foreign students were going to place considerable “strain” on our education system didn’t bother with any balance at all. It just regurgitated the MW press release and contained only their comment.

By this morning, the report had been updated to include a comment by Tim Finch of ippr. There’s a rebuttal here by Phillipe Legrain:

1) By using cumulative figures. If you add up spending on anything over a long period of time, it looks much bigger than it really is. Using a single year’s statistics, 2009, and MW’s deeply flawed methodology, the cost of schooling the children of migrants who have arrived since 1998 is £4.6 billion, out of an education budget of £88 billion.

2) By counting children who have one parent who was born abroad as half due to migration. Since Nick Clegg has a Spanish wife, they include half the cost of educating their kids as being due to migration. Excluding that dodogy use of statistics, the cost in 2009 falls to £3.6bn.

3) By ignoring the taxes that migrants pay. Research by the Home Office, IPPR, Christian Dustmann at UCL and others show that migrants pay more in taxes than they take out in benefits and public services. Allowing for that, it is not UK-born taxpayers who are paying to educate migrants’ children, it is migrants who are subsidising the education of the children of people born in the UK.

Will you see any of this basic analysis in the BBC report? Of course not. Their job is to just convert press releases into stories, and let others offer soundbites. The BBC’s reporting has become a joke.

Update Actually it gets worse. Full Fact report:

Moreover, MigrationWatch say that their figures are based on “the ‘principal projection’ by ONS of UK population over the period 2008 – 2033, projects a total of births of 19.8 million, of which 2.3 million are projected to occur, directly or indirectly, because of net migration”.

But after much searching and head-scratching, Full Fact was unable to discover any ONS projections which broke down predicted birth rates by the parents’ place of birth.

A call to the ONS confirmed that no such statistics exist: “”We certainly don’t publish population projection data by country of migrant or any kind of ethnic background,” said a spokesperson, “the sums themselves won’t have been done by us.”

But you wouldn’t get the BBC report pointing that out either, because they can’t actually be bothered to ask some basic questions.

Filed under: Race politics

Shariah council story in the Indy today

by Sunny at 11:00 am    

The Independent have picked up the Sharia Council leader story I blogged yesterday. I hope the Muslim cleric has to resign – his views blatantly contradict UK law and should not be tolerated by an authority that claims to dispense justice.

Filed under: Muslim,Organisations

Why voting records are a crap indicator of anything

by Sunny at 9:45 am    

All manner of people constantly cite voting records to justify their outrage. In some cases this is relevant, in many other cases it’s not.

Yesterday, not a single Libdem MP voted for PR. You might look at their voting record and think – why would they vote against PR, it’s absurd! The amendment was put forward by Caroline Lucas, who wanted PR on the referendum question. But Nick Clegg had made a deal with Cameron so the only question on the ballot would be for AV. And so you have the bizarre scenario of Libdems voting against the one thing they’ve always been steadfastly for.

Another example. I went to a public meeting yesterday where Caroline Lucas gave a short speech. She said the Westminster amendments and voting system was archaic and confusing (not to her, but outsiders). She pointed out that sometimes people would table amendments to a specific bill. But there was no guarantee it would be debated or voted on – that was entirely under the discretion of the person in charge of dealing with amendments. They could let through completely irrelevant amendments while ignoring important ones, they didn’t even have to give a reason.

Furthermore, she said, you could have several things attached to each other. So a vote on spending more on renewable energy could be coupled with another amendment for investing more in nuclear energy. And so you couldn’t vote for one while voting against the other – you had to vote on them together. And if you didn’t vote, then it looked like you couldn’t be bothered to turn up to Parliament to vote.

The point I’m making here is that people who use voting records as an indicator of what that person thinks, or will do in the future really annoy me. It is embarrassing to watch people make that argument.

Filed under: Party politics
13th October, 2010

President of Islamic Sharia Council claims there ‘cannot’ be rape in marriage

by Sunny at 10:30 am    

This is astounding. The excellent blog The Samosa have done an interview with the head of the UK’s Islamic Sharia Council, Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed. Note – this isn’t an official body, they just call themselves that. Nevertheless, they do handle case where both parties have agreed to have their civil dispute dealt with by a Shariah court in the UK.

Chaminda Jayanetti reports:

I asked Sheikh Sayeed whether he considered non-consensual marital sex to be rape. “No,” he replied. “Clearly there cannot be any ‘rape’ within the marriage. Maybe ‘aggression’, maybe ‘indecent activity’.”

He said it was “not Islamic” to classify non-consensual marital sex as rape and prosecute offenders, adding that “to make it exactly as the Western culture demands is as if we are compromising Islamic religion with secular non-Islamic values.”

The Islamic Sharia Council handles very few cases of alleged marital rape – Sheikh Sayeed said there had only been two or three such cases since the Council was founded in 1982. It is therefore unlikely that the Council’s views on this issue, or those of Sheikh Sayeed himself, directly impact upon a significant number of marital rape victims.

He claims there have only been two or three cases, but there may have been more, which are quietly buried. And this is the problem I have with Shariah courts: unless they at least mirror national criminal and civil law on the important issues, there will be abuses like this.

A Muslim woman raped within marriage, especially one afraid to go to the police or to courts, could be pressured to just go to a Sharia court where the offence may be buried. And who would know or do anything about it?

Sayeed goes on to say:

Because within the marriage contract it is inherent there that man will have sexual intercourse with his wife. Of course, if he does something against her wish or in a bad time etc, then he is not fulfilling the etiquettes, not that he is breaching any code of sharia – he is not coming to that point. He may be disciplined, and he may be made to ask forgiveness. That should be enough.

I’m sorry but regardless of his interpretation of Islamic law – British law is clear that even within marriage, a man does not have automatic right to have non-consensual sex with his wife. Such a stance is in blatant contradiction of British law. The head of the Sharia Council needs to resign.

This is not a conflict

by Sunny at 8:30 am    

These are the people who came to the streets to oppose the English Defence League in Leicester last weekend.
A marked contrast, don’t you think? (organised by Hope Not Hate and One Leicester)

Filed under: Race politics
12th October, 2010

Andrew Marr smackdown

by Sunny at 8:49 pm    

In response to the Andrew Marr comments, I think there is only thing to say:

It’s a curious remark coming from a journalist who used the ‘rumours on the internet’ excuse when asking Gordon Brown if he was popping pills. Marr clearly reads political blogs and even absorbs the rumours. So it’s absurd to turn around and caricature them now.

And that I love drinking and blogging. #longlivewhisky

Filed under: Humour,Media
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