30th November, 2010

England’s tawdry world cup bid

by Rumbold at 8:01 pm    

England’s bid to host the 2018 football world cup suffered a set back yesterday after a BBC Panorama investigation into corruption accused a number of senior FIFA figures of receiving bribes from ISL years ago when the company was bidding for broadcast rights. This may or may not be a good thing from an economic point of view: the costs of hosting are unclear as there will be the costs of upgrading stadia (especially as FIFA dislike English stadiums as they are nestled into towns so cannot provide the space for sponsors’ boards); FIFA also take a large share of the profits, and pay little tax on them. Other economic factors (such as transport) play a part too.

Leaving aside economics though, what was disappointing was the reaction of senior England figures to the Panorama programme. David Cameron, amongst others, rushed to mollify the FIFA executives accused of corruption (several of whom have been convicted of past offences), as if the BBC were the ones in the wrong. How embarrassing, and what a message to send out to those who look to the world cup to promote ‘legacies’.

Filed under: Sports
29th November, 2010

Dowry Laws Every Indian Must Know

by Rumbold at 10:01 am    

The 50 Million Missing Campaign, which fights against female foeticide and for gender equality, have composed an excellent and detailed list of questions and answers on dowry:

Q. Is Dowry legal in India?

Dowry is illegal in India under the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961.

Q. Who is the offender under the Dowry Prohibition Law?

Under the Dowry Prohibition Law it is an offense to both take dowry OR to give dowry. So the groom and his family who have taken dowry can be charged. And if the bride’s family has complied with the dowry demand and given dowry, they can also be charged as guilty as under this law.

The punishment for violating the law is 5 years imprisonment + Rs.15000/- fine or the value of the dowry given, whichever is more.

Q. What is considered to be Dowry?

Any kind of demand made by the groom or his family, that involves a direct or indirect “deal” in connection with the wedding, is considered a dowry. This demand can be made before, or during, or after the wedding. It can be cash, valuable security, property or any other favors.

It includes anything that is sought either directly by the groom’s family or indirectly through a third party. Examples of dowry demands can include things like: “We need our mortgage paid, so we can have the money for the wedding,’ or ‘Our younger son has got into medical school and we need his fees paid,’ or ‘Find a job for this relative,’ or ‘We need a car so your daughter can live comfortably with us.’

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28th November, 2010

Faith Matters report into the EDL

by Rumbold at 10:13 am    

Nigel Copsey, a professor of modern history, has produced a report investigating the English Defence League’s (EDL) structure and focus (PDF) for the group Faith Matters. It is a useful summary of the group, its motivations and future direction. It is a fairly comprehensive study of the EDL, and looks at the sub-divisions opening within the EDL itself:

As well as aggravating religious tensions, the EDL has established a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Division to “defend” gay people from Sharia law. There are also specialist divisions for women, soldiers and disabled people. The report warns these communities to be vigilant against “selective racism” and the EDL’s attempts at manipulation.

The EDL continues to grow because it ostensibly focuses on Islamic extremism, meaning that it can claim not to be racist, just anti-Islamic. It is not clear whether it will be able to maintain that pretence in the long term.

Filed under: EDL
27th November, 2010

How Gandhian Are Obama’s Politics?

by guest at 12:01 pm    

This is a guest post by Rita Banerji

The news of President Obama’s admiration for Gandhi preceded his visit to India. How Gandhi has inspired his life, and how a portrait of his hangs in his Senate office. He told the Indian Parliament that he owes his own Presidency to Gandhi. So how closely does Obama follow in his mentor’s footsteps?

To sum up Gandhi’s ideologies, they included the rejection of all of the following: war and weaponry, capitalism, large-scale industries, and science and technology. On the eve before his departure President Obama assured an economically depressed U.S., “I’m going to be leaving tomorrow for India, and the primary purpose is to take a bunch of US companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia and some of the fastest-growing markets in the world.” And he did exactly that by striking some hard, billion dollars sales deals with India on the purchase of weapons, warfare systems and Boeing aircraft.

Though it might seem like Obama is contradicting Gandhi’s ideologies, he isn’t doing anything that Gandhi himself didn’t.

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Cyberwarfare, and how it was used against the Iranian nuclear programme

by Sunny at 4:26 am    

Wow. This article on FoxNews (yes, I know, but you have to read it) is something out of a thriller novel.

Basically, it details how intelligence agencies, perhaps more than one, designed a vastly advanced computer worm that was designed solely to disrupt Iran’s nuclear energy programme. Fox calls it ‘Nuclear Weapons’ but of course the Iranian govt can’t build those under the Non-Proliferation Treaty rules (officially).

The construction of the worm was so advanced, it was “like the arrival of an F-35 into a World War I battlefield,” says Ralph Langner, the computer expert who was the first to sound the alarm about Stuxnet. Others have called it the first “weaponized” computer virus.

Simply put, Stuxnet is an incredibly advanced, undetectable computer worm that took years to construct and was designed to jump from computer to computer until it found the specific, protected control system that it aimed to destroy: Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

The target was seemingly impenetrable; for security reasons, it lay several stories underground and was not connected to the World Wide Web. And that meant Stuxnet had to act as sort of a computer cruise missile: As it made its passage through a set of unconnected computers, it had to grow and adapt to security measures and other changes until it reached one that could bring it into the nuclear facility.

When it ultimately found its target, it would have to secretly manipulate it until it was so compromised it ceased normal functions.

The whole thing is an excellent read; and actually, I have no problems with this. Sure, it’s illegal, but I prefer knocking out nuclear ambitions with cyber-warfare than real guns. If it lowers the chances of war with Iran – excellent.

The long-term problem of course is that it sets off a cyber arms-race. Not with Iran (with how little the Middle East invests in education, it has no hope of catching up) but China. What happens when China learns and takes over your computer systems? Or what about India? (we can probably wait for a bit there too for the same reasons). We’re heading into uncertain territory, but at least it has its silver lining too.

26th November, 2010

OMG Melanie Phillips apologises!

by Sunny at 10:04 am    

Can’t believe I missed this earlier. The Indy’s Matthew Norman reported on Monday:

Lovers of the unusual, rejoice! Within days Melanie Phillips will make a public apology. In July 2008, Mad Mel lifted and embellished a mistake from the neocon website, Harry’s Place, regarding Mohammad Sawalha, a Palestinian-born British man whom Al Jazeera had mis-transcribed referring to “evil/ noxious” Jews at a rally.

In fact, as Arabic experts later confirmed to High Court superstar Tugendhat, he referred to the “Jewish lobby”. Al Jazeera corrected it instantly, and Harry’s Place later, yet MM magisterially ignored requests for a simple correction until a trial was imminent, when she caved. This unwonted arrogance has presented a six-figure bill for damages and costs to The Spectator, which at the time of writing continues to host her deliciously deranged blog.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of circle-jerks. By my reckoning, that’s the second time this year someone at the Spectator has cost the magazine money for using HP for research. And long may it continue.

The apology has now been published, but I’m rather disappointed it wasn’t on Mad Mel’s blog. That would have been a glorious sight.

Filed under: Media
23rd November, 2010

Rotem Mor, an Israeli refusenik

by guest at 9:30 am    

A guest post by RickB.

I attended a meeting with Rotem Mor, an Israeli refusenik at the Quaker Friends Meeting House in Bangor on Sunday. 18 months into his IDF service Rotem became a conscientious objector, rejecting his uniform and at one point being sent to jail for a month. That was almost ten years ago, since then he has been a traveller, a peace activist, a student of Middle Eastern music (at one point in the meeting he took time out to sing to us). See this in depth ei interview with him and a 2001 Haaretz piece about the growing numbers of conscientious objectors. This particular last minute leg of Rotem’s tour was due to Bangor Peace & Justice members Steve and Rania who are married, he British she Palestinian, both friends of Rotem, thus a pleasing breadth of experience and diversity of perspectives could be learned about.

We didn’t get into a lot of hard point ideological specifics, I have seen a report of another meeting in England which was pretty fractious with people leaving if answers did not meet their requirements, which is a lost opportunity. The issue of normalisation and space for resistance was discussed and was a case in point of both acknowledging and respecting valid theory while also trying to make things work in reality. Anti semitism was also mentioned with Rotem noting while racism against semitic peoples has in the past in Europe been directed against Jewish people, now Islamic people were the target.

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Filed under: Current affairs
22nd November, 2010

“Sorry, you all look alike to me”

by Rumbold at 9:04 pm    

Oh dear:

Downing Street, however, plainly needs more of a direct line into Race Course Road, the residence of Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister.

Speaking at the Hindustan Leadership summit at the weekend, 78-year old Singh failed to recall Cameron’s name.

When listing the leaders of the permanent five United Nations Security Council members, Singh started with US President Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president, but stumbled when he came to the UK. After a couple of goes at remembering the name of its leader, Singh simply opted for the “UK’s prime minister” and moved on to China and Russia.

Filed under: Humour

Andrew Gilligan confirms why he’s become a laughing stock

by Sunny at 5:23 pm    

Andrew Gilligan writes on his blog that he has left Press TV:

I did present a regular discussion show on the station, in which Islamism, and the policies of the Iranian government, were often debated and challenged. But I stopped last December, in part for precisely the reason Mr Hasan says – taking the Iranian shilling was inconsistent with my opposition to Islamism.

I have not worked for Press TV since. The only exception is two one-off shows I presented for them in the week of the general election in May, more than six months ago

Note that in May 2008 I reported that Press TV was then promoting Holocaust Denial. Even before that, it was obvious where Press TV’s sympathies lied.

So it took over a year for Gilligan to realise that taking Iranian shilling was “inconsistent” with his “opposition to Islamism”? What bollocks. Either Gilligan is the dimmest journalist that ever existed or there’s more to this story than he claims.

Filed under: Media

In Leicester on Wednesday: social media and politics

by Sunny at 4:06 pm    

I’m speaking at this event on Wednesday evening in Leicester, organised by the West Leicester Labour party,: “Social Media: a new way of doing politics?”

My talk will go as thus: “yes.”
(though I might add more later). If you want to come down, I it’s free, though reg is required.

Filed under: Events

Why Ed Miliband is right to play the long game

by Sunny at 10:00 am    

Lots of lefties are rather annoyed and frustrated that Labour ministers aren’t doing more to attack the Coalition cuts and undermine the Coalition.

They’ll be more frustrated after Ed Miliband’s announcement, in the Guardian today, that he is playing the long game, and will look at overhauling party policy and thinking. But we have to take on the Coalition now to protect families, lots of lefties will say. They’re not wrong.

But there are a few points to make.

First, Labour needs a deep re-think of policy, ideas and structure. This is the right time to do it, rather than two – four years down the line closer to the election.

Second, the media isn’t paying much attention to Labour anyway. So even though Ed Balls, Ken Livingstone et al are doing their best to attack their government (believe me, I get the press releases) – the media isn’t that interested. Labour isn’t going to grab headlines now, except for things that it disowns from the past (like 42 days detention).

Third, even if the media pays a bit of attention, voters won’t do. They still have negative connotations from the last election, and that will take time to eradicate. The same old soundbites by familiar ministers aren’t going to make voters look at the Labour party again.

Fourth, the Coalition has the votes to push its agenda through and it’s going to be very difficult to oppose them in the short term. Especially since the Tories are masters at lying and framing their arguments in a way that wins public support.

My reading of the polls is that while people generally support the Coalition on many changes they’re making (on housing, benefits, workfare, cutting civil service etc) – they still feel a deep sense of unease about it all. Especially since they feel they’re having to pay for mistakes made by bankers. In the short term it’s difficult for Labour to win the media debate because the Coalition get to frame how things are presented in the media.

Fifth – and this is the most important bit – I don’t think the fightback should be led by Labour anyway. If the education protests were led by and fronted by Labour ministers, I bet it would look like one big political rally, rather than something authentic that students are angry over.

Civil society (Big Society?) should lead the fightback and constantly seek to undermine and argue with the Coalition. The protests against Vodafone and tax avoidance are a prime example of this. But even activists have to be prepared to play the long game – organising, building support and leading local campaigns against Coalition cuts is not something that can be done tomorrow.

It might take at least a year before we get into full swing. We can’t afford to turn around in a year or two and say that all that activism went to waste. Forcing the left into mindless short-term opposition is the trap we have to avoid.

So, Ed Miliband is right to play the long game, and we have to do the same.

Filed under: Party politics
21st November, 2010

Labour change policy on detention without trial

by Rumbold at 8:42 pm    

In a welcome shift, Ed Balls, the shadow home secretary, has abandoned support for Labour’s policy of detaining terror suspects for up to forty two days without trial:

A major policy shift on the length of time terror suspects can be held without charge was signalled by Labour today, after the shadow home secretary said he could support cutting the limit to 14 days.

Ed Balls said that the party was ready to abandon backing for the current 28-day limit, which was introduced by the Labour government in 2006, and added that previous plans to raise this to 42 days had been “a step too far”.

Some credit for this shift should also go the Coalition. During Labour’s time in power, there was a drive to appear ‘tougher’ than the opposition: harsh measures were in part enacted for populist reasons so as to play to the tabloid gallery, with the other parties at risk of looking elitist and soft if they ‘sacrificed the safety of the British people’ for the legal rights of terrorists by opposing new laws. Since the Coalition government came to power (thanks mainly the the Liberal Democrats), this posturing has ceased, and civil liberties have come to the fore again. This meant Labour have had to shift their policies to avoid looking too extreme.

Gender Jihad

by guest at 11:30 am    

A guest post by Wood Turtle

This October the Fourth International Congress on Islamic Feminism was held in Madrid, Spain.

The conference hosted over 1,500 globally represented attendees and lecturers who discussed topics on Islamic Feminism, including: problematics in defining Islamic Feminism, Qur’anic hermeneutics and feminist readings of the Qur’an, gender equality in the Middle East and Feminist Activism, and gender rights justice in the construction of male superiority over women in Islam.

One of the goals of these continued conferences is to validate Islamic Feminism as a growing phenomenon by providing a forum for intellectual discourse.  Aiming to celebrate and support women’s rights groups and organizations around the world as they work toward reinterpreting scripture, giving women an educated voice and challenging patriarchal systems that use religion to subjugate women.

Two weeks after the conference closed, Saudi Arabia was voted onto the executive board of UN Women.

Saudi Arabia. Where women cannot drive, vote or leave the house without a niqaab. Saudi Arabia. Where women cannot visit a doctor, travel, go to university, work or leave their homes without the expressed consent of their male guardian. Saudi Arabia.  Ranking 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity.  Saudi Arabia. Where Saudi UN officials defend polygamy by saying it’s required to help satisfy the sexual urges of men. Saudi Arabia. Where there are no laws protecting against child marriage and where rape victims are routinely punished for being alone with a man and charged as adulterers. Saudi Arabia. Home to Islam’s most holiest sites, the birthplace of the Prophet, and the main source of petrol-funded, political Islam.

The Goals of the UN Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women includes advancing global gender equality by helping inter-governmental bodies formulate global policies and standards and helping Member States implement these standards.  The controversy over Saudi Arabia joining this executive board is clear: how on Earth does the UN expect to enforce these global standards on a Member State who clearly has a horrendous record of violating women’s rights, and who falls back on a politicized religious interpretation to bypass any Western global standard of equality? As activist and liberal Muslim Mona Eltahawy so aptly points out in her special to the Toronto Star:

In 2000, Saudi Arabia ratified an international bill of rights for women but stipulated that the country’s interpretation of Islamic law (Sharia) would prevail if there were conflicts with the bill’s provisions. So why sign in the first place? Especially as that interpretation is where so much discrimination against women originates — polygamy, half inheritance allotted to a man, little access to divorce and child marriage among them.

Talk about completely undermining the Islamic Feminist movement.

What many Islamic (and some Muslim) Feminists will argue is that the Qur’an and teachings of the Prophet are filled with proofs supporting women’s rights and social justice.  The society that the Qur’an was revealed to regarded women as little less than chattel, and it was changes to this patriarchal system that the Prophet attempted to bring about.

The Qur’an prohibits violence toward women and expressively condemns female infanticide; it provides women with inheritance rights, the right to testify, to divorce, to own property and assets; and requires both women and men to equally fulfill religious duties.  Historically, women were teachers of some of Islam’s most treasured male and female scholars, passed down prophetic traditions required in the formation of Islamic law, were key translators, led armies on the battlefield and ruled kingdoms. Women are afforded the right to be active participants in all aspects of religious and social spheres.

Part of the problem that we face today is in the interpretation of these sacred sources, and a complete revisionist history of women’s roles and rights in society.  Islamist parties have interpreted the Qur’an and prophetic traditions according to their cultural worldview of women existing as second class citizens (or worse). This culture of female subjugation and constructed male authority has become so ingrained in people’s daily life and traditional expressions, that divine religious authority becomes conflated with the human constructed state. So speaking out against misogynist state policies is like speaking out against Islam.

According to Mona Eltahawy, the fact that Saudi Arabia has been voted onto the UN Women is less about truly effecting change in the country and more about the power of “generous contributions” and the benefits that “membership on a powerful agency” could one day bring the Kingdom.  Like Eltahawy, I really can’t see how Saudi Arabia will do anything but rubber stamp and possibly gain a few extra points on the gender parity scale.

Some believe that their membership will put Saudi Arabia on the spot and that increased international attention will actually help women’s rights organizations gain more ground. I’m not holding my breath. While they won’t exactly have the power to shape global standards on women’s rights according to a politicized Islamic worldview, they will donate. And the money going to help promote women’s rights will come from one of the world’s worst offenders of these rights.

I really don’t know how to feel about that.

Unless of course, in some brilliant irony, the money coming from Saudi will go toward empowering Muslim women in their objective to reinterpret scripture, and God willing, help them challenge patriarchal systems that use religion to subjugate women.


20th November, 2010

China’s Nobel bullying has failed

by Rumbold at 9:46 pm    

After the Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel peace prize, China reacted harshly. Mr Liu was jailed for eleven years, and his wife and other activists found themselves persecuted (and in some cases jailed too). China also tried to discourage other countries from sending their ambassadors the Nobel prize ceremony. Previously countries have been wary of upsetting China by discussing human rights, not wanting to disrupt what they see as important trade deals. Surprising though, this time the threats were ignored. Only a handful of countries have decided not to attend the event, and the list, which reads like a George Galloway world tour, contains no countries with a healthy respect for democracy and the rule of law anyway.

19th November, 2010

Tabloids lie about Muslims (again) PCC does nothing

by Sunny at 3:09 pm    

In late October the Daily Mail ran with this story:

Cafe owner ordered to remove extractor fan because neighbour claimed ‘smell of frying bacon offends Muslims’
A hard-working cafe owner has been ordered to tear down an extractor fan – because the smell of her frying bacon ‘offends’ Muslims. Planning bosses acted against Beverley Akciecek, 49, after being told her next-door neighbour’s Muslim friends had felt ‘physically sick’ due to the ‘foul odour’.

Councillors at Stockport Council in Greater Manchester say the smell from the fan is ‘unacceptable on the grounds of residential amenity’.

You can predict the I’m outraged! These Muslims are taking over! comments. Given that the Telegraph has also become a tabloid rag, it followed up with a re-write of the same story. As did the Metro.

The article was dissected by Tabloid Watch, which pointed out:

But then it becomes clear that the complaints about the smell coming from the cafe’s extractor fan were not from random passing Muslims. Indeed, the planning application details appear to show that there was just one official complaint – and that was from the person who lives next door to the cafe:

Notice he says the smell makes him ‘physically sick’, not his Muslim friends, as the Mail claimed in the second paragraph. And yes, he does mention his ‘Muslim friends’ couldn’t ‘stand the smell’. But using the term ‘Muslim friends’ strongly implies he’s not actually Muslim himself – if he was, it’s likely the Mail would have mentioned it somewhere.

But of course that’s not how the Daily Mail and Telegraph wanted the narrative to be. They wanted it to be about Nasty Muslims Banning Our Way of Life.

Anyway, after the Tabloid Watch blog went up, three people decided to complain to the Press Complaints Commission.

The PCC has now cleared the Mail, on the grounds that, “readers would not be misled as to the circumstances surrounding the refusal for planning permission.”

As Roy Greenslade points out – that is not the impression one gets from reading the comments in the article, which are aimed squarely at Muslims. Not only does the PCC downplay the importance of the misleading headline, but assumes people will actually read between the lines and get what the real story is. They don’t.
But there is one comment on the original DM article worth highlighting:

I am the neighbour who complained! Well done DM for asking for my comments on the matter, but if you had there would be No Story To Print! This vent is affecting my children’s health and that is why the council denied planning!

Yes, I have some Muslim friends who it offended, but nothing was said about my English friends who avoid my house within opening hours of the shop!

Shame on you Daily Mail. You have stirred up lots of racial tension in my area now, so for you its ‘mission accomplished.’

Mission accomplished indeed. It’s worth noting these incidents of mainstream bigotry go largely unremarked in our media culture except one or two small places.

Filed under: Media,Religion
17th November, 2010

British Somalis also helped to release the Chandlers

by guest at 9:52 am    

guest post by Talal Rajab from the Quilliam Foundation

Amidst all the welcome euphoria that has followed the release of Paul and Rachel Chandler, an important fact should be highlighted and thrust in the faces of those people, such as Rod Liddle, who had previously stigmatised Somalis.

British-Somalis played a part in not only highlighting the plight of the hostages to people within their communities home and abroad, but also in securing their actual release through the work of intermediaries such as the London cab driver, Dahir Abdullahi Kadiye.

When news first broke of the Chandlers ordeal, campaign groups were set up in Somali communities in order to highlight their plight and call for their release. Earlier this year, a giant banner in support of the couple was unfurled outside a Somali-led Mosque in Bristol, whilst in Camden, North London, hundreds of British-Somalis attended a rally in support of the couple.

Although these initiatives received scant media attention, they did have an effect on Somalis themselves, both at home and abroad, with some in the UK even attempting to raise the funds for their release themselves. According to one of the organisers of these campaigns it was important for Somali communities in the UK to call for the release of Chandlers since:

…Britain welcomes Somalis. Many of us came as refugees, as asylum seekers, and now we live freely… Because we are British now, we see our fellow citizens have been taken hostage.

For many ill-informed individuals, Somali communities in the UK are backward, khat-chewing, uneducated, unpatriotic individuals who are sympathetic to extremism. The reality, however, is much more complex.

There is little doubt that Somali communities today are experiencing issues that affected Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities in the 60s and 70s. Such problems, however, should not prevent people from seeing Somalis as an important part of the fabric of this country.

It would be wise for the likes of Liddle to refer to this example whenever the value of Somali communities in the UK is called into question. It should also serve as a reminder that stigmatizing minority communities doesn’t benefit anyone, especially since this example proves once again the once maxim that ‘diversity enriches our society’.

16th November, 2010

On the right to resist ‘foreign occupation’

by Sunny at 9:47 am    

Last week the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg said this:

If you are asking me what are my feelings towards people fighting occupation, the answer is I completely support them. I believe in the inalienable right to defend yourself against foreign occupation.

Predictably, the bloggers at Harry’s Place went postal. ‘habibi’ said: “It is a ridiculous statement.”.. and “It is no surprise that people such as the managers of the East London Mosque have no problem with Begg and Cageprisoners spreading their extremist messages.”

ZOMG! Terrorist!

Last year I asked David T (of Harry’s Place) about the right to defend one’s homeland. After much obfuscation and dodging the question, he finally admitted that proportional action would be…

A variety of things, including military action aimed at Israeli soldiers, that is proportionate and likely to achieve the aims of an independent Palestine.

So, in other words, David T of Harry’s Place supports the right of people to resist foreign occupation. It’s also worth noting, the blog hasn’t ever (that I’ve seen) criticised British Jews from going to Israel and joining the Israeli Defence Force, to fight Palestinians. And so continues the blog’s long-running series of scenarios where it’s one rule for Muslims and another for everyone else.

Now let’s be clear: I’m against anyone going to foreign countries and getting involved in conflicts that kill innocent people. I was for Nato staying in Afghanistan and getting rid of the Taliban but that looks like an increasingly impossible goal. Let’s also not pretend that Nato soldiers aren’t killing innocent people in Afghanistan – there is too much fucking evidence for supposedly-informed bloggers to ignore.

But there are hypocritical fuckwits with a clear view of the world: Westerners = good; bearded Muzzlims = bad, and they will ignore deaths of innocent civilians in the Middle East by Nato forces and pretend there is no moral dilemma. These are the people who have one rule for Muslims and another for the ‘good guys’. Above is one perfect example.

15th November, 2010

Yasmin A-B won’t be pressing charges over Tweet

by Sunny at 6:12 pm    

Writing in her Independent column today, the columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says:

Some crazed demons on Twitter believe anything goes. Written words matter and hold meanings beyond that narcissistic urge to send off instant thoughts. The Tory councillor who sent out a vile and scary message about me says it was a joke.

After some thought I decided I will not press charges. My objections have been made and there is no need for more.

I’m pleased by this, and said earlier that it was a bad idea. Whether the CPS decides to take this further is up to them. But at least Yasmin has washed her hands off the affair.

As I said earlier – she didn’t report it to the police either, though they had to take it seriously. Yasmin gets a lot of death threats, and while I sympathise with the desire to punish people who make idle threats, it wasn’t a good idea in this case because of the huge free speech implications.

Filed under: Civil liberties
13th November, 2010

After Remembrance Day: the contribution of the British Indian army

by guest at 6:53 pm    

contribution by Jahan Mahmood, cross-posted from The Samosa

In Britain’s hour of need, when she faced the might of the German Army, it was not America that came to her aid but the fighting men of the Indian subcontinent. They came from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan and most of all the province of Punjab.

These men were in effect allied to the British Raj, a state that had subjected their land to more than 50 years of colonial repression. Yet they participated in both major wars and performed outstanding acts of gallantry.

The Great War 1914-18

By Armistice Day, 11th November 1918, 1.3 million Indian troops had volunteered to join the British Indian Army. They fought the Central Powers in every major battle arena from the Western Front to Gallipoli. Most Indian soldiers served in Mesopotamia and Africa. This allowed British and dominion forces to concentrate on the Western Front.

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Filed under: History
12th November, 2010

Banaz Mahmod’s murderers finally jailed

by Rumbold at 4:52 pm    

More murderers of Banaz Mahmood have finally been brought to justice after two of her cousins were jailed yesterday:

Mohammed Saleh Ali and Omar Hussain, both 28, received minimum jail terms of 22 and 21 years respectively. The victim’s father Mahmod Mahmod and uncle Ari Mahmod were jailed for life her murder in 2007. Ali and Hussain – who were also found guilty of burying Miss Mahmod’s body, conspiring to kidnap her boyfriend Rahmat Sulemani and threatening to kill him – fled to Iraq after the murder.

Banaz was murdered in an ‘honour’ killing in 2006 by her family for leaving her abusive husband and beginning a new relationship. The case soon became a symbol of not just the brutality of ‘honour’-based violence, but also the incompetence of the authorities in events leading up to her death and investigations afterwards. One of the officers involved, despite dismissing the desperate claiming of Banaz, was promoted and an IPCC hearing failed to discpline her properly.

There was also a failure to extradite key suspects from Iraqi Kurdistan, and process made doubly difficult by the uncertain legal and diplomatic status of the Kurdistan area in Iraq. So the extradition, prosecution and conviction of these men was only accomplished after a long and hard fight. So well done to all the campaigners who pressed for their trial. And well done to the state officials who made it happen. It sends a powerful message to all those who flee to other countries in the hope of escaping prosecution.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and the stoning tweet

by Sunny at 9:54 am    

You may have heard about the Birmingham city Conservative councillor who allegedly tweeted:

Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.

It was in response to some discussion Y A-B was on. Doesn’t really matter what the content of the discussion was – it was a despicable thing to say. But now he’s been arrested.

Yasmin told the Guardian:

If I as a Muslim woman had tweeted that it would be a blessing if Gareth Compton was stoned to death I’d be arrested immediately,

Given what happened to Paul Chambers, that is entirely possible. But I still disagree with Yasmin on this. His comment was despicable but not meant as incitement to violence in my view. It’s absurd to prosecute him over it.

To clarify one thing: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown did not complain to the police herself. Someone else did. And the police were already aware of other people making death-threats against her, so they had to take it seriously and investigate. Not doing so would have been irresponsible. Anyway – I hope she does not press charges.

Filed under: Race politics
11th November, 2010

The Indian Girl in ‘Eat Pray Love’

by guest at 12:32 pm    

This is a guest post by Rita Banerji

‘Eat Pray Love’ was showing in theaters in India about two weeks ago, and I have to admit, that like most here, I too went to see it just to see how the country looks on the big screen. But the one question that’s been nagging at me since is, “Why did they have to get Tulsi married?”

The seventeen-year-old Indian girl, Tulsi, who Liz Gilbert befriends at the ashram, has a colorful wedding in the film, which she does not in the book. True, films often distort their source to suit the audience’s whims. And a Bollywood style wedding would certainly spice up the visual appeal. Yet I found Tulsi’s wedding to be a symbolic slaughter of the spirit of this book; a mockery of one of its core issues.

Since Liz already travels, explores and writes, doing all she truly loves, what was her big soul-searching journey all about? In her own words: “I don’t want to have a baby,” an issue she wrestles with incessantly. “That deadline of THIRTY loomed over me..and I discovered I did not want to be pregnant.” And again, “I well know what desire feels like. But it [the desire for a child] wasn’t there.” Her real concern about motherhood, it seems is how she would be perceived if she openly admitted she didn’t desire children. She agonizes over how people would “judge” her. “What kind of a person does that make me?”

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10th November, 2010

A conversation between a student and a careworker

by Rumbold at 8:39 pm    

Careworker: What’s happening here?

Student: We are protesting the Con-Dem’s proposal to charge students £9,000 a year.

C: That’s high. What’s the system at the moment?

S: Well, we pay some fees, and the government pays the rest (around £20-25,000 over the three years).

C: The government? You mean the taxpayer?

S: I suppose so.

C: I earn £14,000 a year, and pay income tax, which means that I am paying for you at present then?

S: Yes, but society as a whole benefits. I am in my final year studying philosophy, and have a job lined up on £25,000 working for an advertising agency.

C: How does that benefit me?

S: The degree taught me how to think, and society needs people like me around.

C: Same question. I can’t afford to take a holiday this year to visit my family, so why should I be paying for you to get a better job?

S:For example, if you need a lawyer, then you will benefit from someone who has studied law.

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Filed under: Economics
9th November, 2010

Ann Widdecombe is not a National Treasure, she’s a very nasty person

by guest at 1:12 pm    
A guest post by Martyn Norris.

Once a year I have to out myself as a fan of Strictly Come Dancing and now is that time. I like dance, that is all.  OK, maybe I should write a little bit more than that.

There is the distinct possibility that one of the most horrid people ever to enter British politics is starting to be thought of favourably.  Ann Widdecombe is not, and never will be, a national treasure. It’s not just because she is a Tory, it is because she is a particularly unpleasant person all round.

I could just leave it at that but some younger people may just think that she is a humourless joyspoiler but wait my little naive friends, she is so much less.

  • She is anti-abortion and seems to have problems with embryonic stem cell research whilst not fully understanding the science behind it.  Scientists didn’t want to create a human/animal hybrid Ann.
  • She is anti-Sex Education.
  • She supports Homophobia as long it’s by religious people (It’s free speech you know.)
  • She supports tougher drug laws.
  • She seems to think that the Church of England apologising for the Crusades and slavery “makes them look silly”.
  • She believes in censorship.
  • She is one of the idiot MP’s who wanted Terrorism suspects detained for 42 days despite no evidence that it would help investigations in any way.
  • She is against political parties trying to help get more women into Parliament.
  • She seems to agree with PETA on some things (they even gave her an award).
  • She insisted that Tories “throughout the Thatcher period” had always cared about the poor.
  • She writes for the Daily Express.
  • She was opposed to the repeal of Section 28.
  • She is a climate change denier.
  • She left the Church of England because they started ordinating woman.
  • In 1996 she defended the Governments policy of shackling pregnant women with handcuffs and chains when in hospital, even when giving birth. *
  • And on top of all of this, SHE REALLY REALLY CAN’T DANCE!   Although on the plus side she is against fox hunting.

    *edited by earwicga (Hansard shows Widdecombe defending shackles for pregnant women but not for women at the point of expulsion.)

    Filed under: Current affairs
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