9th November, 2010

Questions about the judge in the Roshonara Choudhry case

by Sunny at 10:00 am    

There’s an interesting blog here by Tom Leonard:

The airwaves and the newspaper columns are presently awash with reports on the case of 21 year old Roshonara Choudhry, who stabbed Labour MP Stephen Timms in the stomach as an act of revenge because he had voted for the bombing and invasion of Iraq.

Mr Justice Cooke sentenced her to a minimum of 15 years. The tabloids are full with the to-be-expected wordstock about her being “warped”, “brainwashed” “evil” and so forth. And the judge wasn’t slow with the “evil” word himself. He told her “I hope that you will come to understand the distorted nature of your thinking, the evil that you have done and planned to do, and repent of it. You do not suffer from any mental disease. You have simply committed evil acts coolly and deliberately.”

It wasn’t that word “evil” that struck me as a little odd, rather the word “repent”. Even more somewhat pointed it struck me, that in the trial of a Muslim, the judge should also say ‘I understand that he (Mr Timms) brings to bear his own faith, which upholds very different values from those which appear to have driven this defendant. Those values are those upon which the common law of this country was founded and include respect and love for one’s neighbour, for the foreigner in the land, and for those who consider themselves enemies, all as part of one’s love of God. These values were the basis of our system of law and justice and I trust that they will remain so as well as motivating those, like Mr Timms, who hold public office.’

Could this judge possibly be telling this young woman to remember that this country of ours is a Christian country, and she ought perhaps to repent of her infidel ways? Surely not! But my curiosity had been aroused enough to start doing a bit of Googling on Mr Justice Cooke, who turns out to be Jeremy Cooke, who was a rugby blue at Oxford before becoming a solicitor in 1973, eventually being appointed a High Court judge in 2001.

But that wasn’t the only lofty position he was to attain. Just two years later in 2003 Jeremy was appointed vice-president of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, whose website exhorts lawyers “ to think about joining LCF as an act of commitment that as a Christian lawyer you share in our mission to influence lawyers and the law for Christ… We believe that every Christian involved in the practice, administration, teaching or study of law in Britain, should become a member of LCF so that we can work with you and for you in your calling as a Christian lawyer…. we will work with you and support you in the exciting challenge of being a lawyer for Christ.”

Of course – this doesn’t take away the heinous of the crime and there’s no doubt that Choudhry should have been sent to prison. But I was a bit taken aback by this. It’s a bit worrying if religion is brought into meting out judgements.

Read the whole post here.

Filed under: Religion
8th November, 2010

Islam Channel allows crackpots to make claims about rape; gets rapped

by Sunny at 4:28 pm    

The Guardian reports:

In a programme first broadcast in April last year, Ofcom ruled that the Islam Channel host Nazreen Nawaz condoned marital rape when she said: “And really the idea that a woman cannot refuse her husband’s relations this is not strange to a Muslim because it is part of maintaining that strong marriage. But it shouldn’t be such a big problem where the man feels he has to force himself upon the woman.”

The channel also broke the broadcasting code by encouraging violence against women, in a Q&A session on marital violence, and for labelling women who wore perfume “prostitutes”.

If I remember correctly though, the presenter Nazreen Nawaz is a Hizb ut-Tahrir activist. I’m not surprised she makes the claim… it’s more worrying that the Islam Channel thinks its ok to make a Hizb ut-Tahrir activist a presenter.

Well done to the Quilliam Foundation for making the complaint.
Update: I incorrectly said they had been fined; have amended the headline now.

Filed under: Media
7th November, 2010

Should You Get Killed For Celebrating Diwali?

by guest at 3:24 pm    

This is a cross post by Rita Banerji

Two years ago, two events of immense significance took place in the village of Kaluvas in Haryana.

A young man from this village, Vijender Singh won a bronze medal for India, at the Olympic Games in Beijing, putting this village in the global limelight.

Two months after that in November, during the Diwali festival, two teenage girls became victims of a brutal gang attack by the villagers. They were stoned, and hacked with machetes and axes. As they lay unconscious and bleeding, they were doused with gasoline and burnt alive. The entire community then participated in a conspiracy of silence to hide their crime.

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What is Obama’s strategy going forward?

by Sunny at 10:01 am    


President Obama was quite downbeat in his conference the day after the mid-term election. A bit more downbeat than was required actually, which really struck me. Sure he’s tired, but does he have to sound that downcast? After all, other major Presidents had setbacks like this and they came back.

On reflection, it might be a strategy. To a lot of angry independents, Obama has to show that he has learnt the lesson they wanted to send to Washington. If he sounds like he doesn’t care, then they’ll continue staying angry. So he deliberately looks like he’s been “shellacked” and says he will listen to and work with the Republicans going forward.

It’s worth noting he didn’t make any concession on policy. Of course, trying to pass any more major legislation is out of the window until 2012 – the Republican dominated House of Representatives will reject him and they’ll stall him in the Senate (and he no longer has the magic number of 60 to bypass them).

One of my frustrations with the left in the UK and USA is that they completely ignore how much legislation Obama has already pushed, and keep chiding him for not delivering more without looking at the electoral math. Is he meant to conjure environmental legislation out of thin air when almost all Republicans are now climate-change deniers?

Sure he made mistakes, but he’s also delivered a lot. See: whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com.

The trick now is this. He has to force Republicans to take the bait and make policy decisions. That would not only expose they have no plan, other than to scream ‘no’ at whatever Obama says, but also lead to infighting.

He has to get the Republicans to share some of the blame for the 2012 election too, and get independent voters to think: ‘well, we gave Republicans a chance in 2010 and they were just as bad as Bush!’. Which is why, if Obama doesn’t sound like he’s taking on board the Republican win, he won’t win back those voters.

I’m not the biggest fan of this line of thinking. Obama has tried to look bipartisan all the way through (meanwhile pushing some highly partisan legislation) and he lost control of the message. On the other hand, his personal approval rating has remained higher than Reagan or Clinton were at this stage. So maybe it works.

No doubt this will enrage many liberals. But the proof will be in the pudding. I’m betting that while Obama talks compromise and bipartisanship on a national level – behind the scenes he will make lots of small decisions that will push his agenda forward anyway. I’ll be happy with that.

Why I wear a White Poppy

by guest at 10:00 am    

A guest post by Cerith Rhys Jones.

I for one am proud to have received a pack of 5 white poppies in the post today.  ‘Be prepared for the negative comments,’ I was warned.  Maybe so, but why should there be negative comments?

The purpose of the White Poppy that I wear at this time of year is not to insult serving officers, veterans or anyone connected to or affected by the Armed Forces or war.  Its purpose is to grieve and remember the dead and anyone affected by armed conflict, but remembering that war is in fact, an unnecessary evil.

If I want to express gratitude or honour for the fallen, or survivors, why should I have to do it through a Royal British Legion?  What if I want to pay tribute to everyone – anywhere in the world at any point in history – who has done what they believe to be right by their country, and people who’ve been affected by their actions?

The White Poppy Movement, (The Peace Pledge Union), was started by wives, daughters, sisters, fiancées etc. of fallen servicemen in WWI, who’d said, ‘Enough is enough,’ so let’s not fool ourselves that wearing a White Poppy is a move specifically aimed at offending service families.  It isn’t.

To fight for one’s country is a brave thing to do.  Of that, let there be no doubt.  Is fighting, killing and suffering, honourable?  No.  But holding that belief is not synonymous with believing that service men and women, their families, and civilians affected by armed conflict the world over, shouldn’t be respected and paid tribute to.

Wearing a White Poppy simply shows that yes, one respects servicepeople and pays tribute to them, and yes, one honours the dead, but that above that, above the tragic human nature to result to killing to resolve conflicts which, in reality, the individuals on the ground have nothing to do with, there still exists the belief that war cannot ever be just.

Just – to the innocent civilian blown to pieces by an IED.  Just – to our grandfathers and great-grandfathers whose battalions came under constant fire in Burma and elsewhere.  Just – to the young men and women who fought an illegal political war in Iraq and are still on the front line in Afghanistan.

Perhaps the recognition of that fact above else is the greatest honour of all.

Filed under: Current affairs
6th November, 2010

Labour MP loses court case and seat

by Rumbold at 11:47 am    

Phil Woolas, the former immigration minister, has lost a court case brought by his defeated Lib Dem rival which alleged that Mr. Woolas produced leaflets suggesting he supported extremists:

Shadow immigration minister Phil Woolas has vowed to fight on after his 2010 election win was declared void and he was suspended by the Labour party.

Mr Woolas faces a three-year parliamentary ban after being found guilty of deliberately making false statements about a Lib Dem rival in campaign literature…

He was accused of stirring up racial tensions in his campaign leaflets by suggesting Mr Watkins had pandered to Muslim militants, and had refused to condemn death threats Mr Woolas said he had received from such groups.

He was a very unpleasant individual whilst a minister, so it is no loss to parliament. Given his slanderous statements, which probably swung the election for him, I don’t think that there is a free speech issue here either, as Mr Woolas made baseless accusations against his opponent. It will be interesting to see what sort of precedent this sets though; it would be unfortunate to go down the route of defeated candidates taking their opponents to court to challenge them over exaggerations.

5th November, 2010

Happy Diwali

by Jai at 8:30 am    

Today is Diwali, popularly known as the “Festival of Lights”.

It is celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus (often jointly), although the historical origins of the festivals in their respective religions are different. In Sikhism, the festival commemorates the return of the 6th Sikh Guru Hargobind to the city of Amritsar after his imprisonment in Gwalior Fort by the Mughal emperor Jahangir, as the Golden Temple along with the whole city had been decorated with lamps to celebrate the Guru’s return. Sikhs also refer to Diwali as Bandi Chhor Diwas, meaning “Day of the Release of Prisoners”, as the Guru had arranged for 52 royal political prisoners to be simultaneously freed from the fort. A photograph of Diwali celebrations at the Golden Temple complex a couple of years ago is displayed at the top of this article.

North Indian Hindus in general celebrate Diwali primarily to mark the return of the Hindu deity Rama to the city of Ayodhya after his victory over Ravan, as described in the Ramayana. Many Hindus also celebrate the festival for a range of other reasons, including offering prayers to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi so that she blesses their families with prosperity during the following year. Public decorations of lights to mark the occasion are common worldwide wherever there are sizeable Hindu populations. Incidentally, last year Barack Obama was the first US president to personally celebrate Diwali in the White House.

Some suitable music:

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Filed under: Hindu,Religion,Sikh
4th November, 2010

So the banks didn’t do anything to cause the financial crisis?

by Sunny at 10:02 am    

Here’s an excerpt from the New Yorker:

You’d think the Street would have learned its lesson. Instead, it’s now threatened by an even bigger back-office crisis: Foreclosuregate. Banks, faced with a flood of delinquent mortgages resulting from the bad loans they made during the housing bubble, have done exactly what the brokerages did forty years ago: they’ve cut corners. They’ve foreclosed on homes without having the proper documentation, and relied on unqualified people to sign affidavits attesting to things they didn’t know—so-called “robosigners.” In a few cases, they seem to have actually tossed people who didn’t have mortgages out of their homes.

As a result, federal regulators and attorneys general in all fifty states are now investigating. And, in the weeks since the scandal first erupted, other issues have appeared, calling into question the legitimacy of the way mortgages were packaged and sold, and raising the possibility that the banks might have to buy back piles of bad mortgages. Forecasts of “catastrophe,” “Armageddon,” and “apocalypse” have now become routine.

Doesn’t look like this crisis will explode, but it shows the extent to which banks deliberately and callously oversold mortgages. There’s still major bad debt on those books. This crisis isn’t going away anytime soon…

Filed under: Economy
3rd November, 2010

A visit to the breasturant Hooters in Bristol

by guest at 1:47 pm    

A guest post by MitziRosie who visited Hooters in Bristol so we don’t have to!

So many debates about this place say words to the effect of “how can you comment when you’ve never been there?”  Simple answer: easily.  However, to speak with some authority I went there with another like-minded soul. Setting aside any predisposition to find the place repellent, the keys issues here are how does the place apparently score on:

1. The sexism quotient.
2. The standard of the food.
3. Other facilities.

The sexism quotient is everything and more you would believe it to be.   Too little space to do justice here. Obvious matters: “girls” dressed as we all know and apparently many goose-pimples through lack of warmth;  signs everywhere reflecting upon the female form of course (caution bumps; caution blondes thinking – hung upside down; dangerous curves etc);  material on sale as can be found by searching the product pages on their website, but let’s just pick out for these purposes a pair of male boxer shorts (a snip at £14.95) bearing the words “more than a mouthful”  And finally the menus themselves bedecked in girly calendar adverts etc.  Oh, and I should add, the system of the mainly male cooks shouting across the whole restaurant for service and the clapping of hands to get the “girls” to come running.   Charmless.

The sexism quotient:   100%.

It would be really easy to slag off the food just to spoil the place and, after all, the food could be perfectly all right.  But it was not.  It was awful and utterly overpriced.  (more…)

Filed under: Culture,Sex equality
2nd November, 2010

Inter-racial adoption sounds like a good thing to promote

by Sunny at 9:45 am    

I’m fully in favour of this government announcement:

Social workers should make it easier for white couples to adopt children from different ethnic backgrounds, a government minister said last night.

There is currently no bar on inter-racial adoption, but the children’s minister, Tim Loughton, said too many children languish in care because social workers hold out for “the perfect match” rather than deciding whether the would-be adoptive parents would provide a good home.

Damn straight. Enough said. Etc etc.

Filed under: Race politics
1st November, 2010

We need the right response to terrorism from Yemen

by guest at 12:45 pm    

by Naadir Jeewa

David Randall and Andrew Johnson in the Independent open their feature article “the axis of terror got bigger yesterday.” Well, not quite. Yemen has been a potential source of terrorist attacks on the West for a large portion of the last decade. The rest of the article is quite good in explaining the dire conditions within Yemen fuelling conflict, but there’s a problem with this:

…there comes to prominence one Yemeni who – in the eyes of America and some leading security specialists – is on a par with Osama bin Laden: Anwar al-Awlaki. Linked to three of the 9/11 bombers, the Fort Hood shootings, last Christmas’s failed "underpants" bomber and the Times Square bombing, he has been described by a US representative as "No 1 terrorist", and yesterday by Sajjan M Gohel, director for international security for the London-based Asia-Pacific Foundation, as "the most dangerous ideologue in the world".

Umm…no. Anwar al-Awlaki is not a senior figure in AQAP. By focusing strategy on charismatic jihadi PR figures like al-Awlaki, we miss the strategic leaders who perform the nuts & bolts job of actually perpetrating terror, who we really should be focusing on, such as Nasir al-Wihayshi & Qasim al-Raymi, former disciples of Osama Bin Laden.

After the Soviet-Afghan War, Yemeni mujahedeen made a tacit deal with the extremely weak regime of President Saleh’s, allowing them freedom of movement as long as they didn’t challenge the regime. However, in February 2006, 23 Al Qaeda suspects, largely rounded up by Saudi Arabia, plus al-Wihayshi and Qasim al-Raymi escaped from prison. Several months later, Yemen experienced car bombings and attacks on oil installations. Ever since, terrorist attacks have been on the rise.

The official response is to single out Al-Awlaki for targeted killing by drone strikes. Legal issues notwithstanding, drone strikes have been a major driver of recruitment by causing civilian casualties, and this is easily woven into a narrative that conflates internal Yemeni conflict with the United States.

I’m not entirely sure what the best way forward is. Perhaps it’s some sort of counterinsurgency campaign – but this will take resources the Yemeni forces don’t have. Some attempt to resolve President Saleh’s on-off civil war with the Houthis would help, which is currently a distraction from defeating Al Qaeda. And some economic growth to offset a rapidly growing population, declining receipts from the sale of oil, and a drug problem with large segments of the population addicted to Qat, the cultivation of which is fuelling water-based conflict.

By and large, the story of counterterrorism operations in Yemen will be a local one, dealing with local actors, most of whom, the press will never bother reporting on.

Note: For some decent coverage on Yemen, may I recommend Greg Johnsen, here in a guest post at Foreign Policy.

Reflections and top quotes from the South Asian Lit Festival

by guest at 10:27 am    

by Iman Qureshi

The inaugural DSC South Asian Literature Festival took place in London from the 15th – 25th October, and featured prominent writers, journalists, and artists who spoke on a range of different issues related to both South Asia and the South Asian diaspora in Britain.

The festival, conceived less a year ago as the whimsical daydream of two young literary aficionados, could not have been more impressive. Held in a number of venues across the city, the events addressed themes of culture, politics, reconciliation, education, and the importance of writing.

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Filed under: Culture,Media
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