31st March, 2011

Middle East’s only democracy continues to oppose more democracy

by Sunny at 6:00 pm    

Hey look, Israel is still rooting for Middle Eastern dictators:

As popular unrest threatens to topple another Arab neighbor, Israel finds itself again quietly rooting for the survival of an autocratic yet predictable regime, rather than face an untested new government in its place.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s race to tamp down public unrest is stirring anxiety in Israel that is even higher than its hand-wringing over Egypt’s recent regime change. Unlike Israel and Egypt, Israel and Syria have no peace agreement, and Syria, with a large arsenal of sophisticated weapons, is one of Israel’s strongest enemies.

“Officially it’s better to avoid any reaction and watch the situation,” said Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the Defense Ministry’s policy director. He predicted Assad’s regime would survive the unrest.

This of course comes not long after the Israeli government was loudly hoping that Hosni Mubarak would stay in power. Seems like they’re really interested in democracy spreading to the Middle East aren’t they?

30th March, 2011

Daily Mail’s advertising revenue falls

by Rumbold at 8:40 am    

Seems the combination of demonising immigrants and Muslims hasn’t been bringing in the advertising pound:

The Daily Mail’s website has actually soared, attracting thousands of visitors to the site, mainly towards the seedy gossip pages…. First half revenues are down 8%, worse than what they had predicted, mainly due to a 27% fall in recrutiment advertising.

Like the Guardian and other papers, the Daily Mail seems to survive through cross subsidy from its other, more profitable non-newspaper businesses:

“At group level, turnover rose 2 per cent year on year driven by an 11 per cent increase in revenue at DMGT’s business-to-business operations, which includes Risk Management Solutions, a business selling products for managing catastrophe risk.”

“Income from events management rose strongly, helped by growth in events serving the energy and digital marketing sectors.”

I am not sure why advertisers wouldn’t want to be associated with a paper that publishes stories about a house that looks like Hitler.

Filed under: Media
29th March, 2011

Jasvinder Sanghera documentary

by Rumbold at 8:31 am    

Forced marriage campaigner Jasvinder Sanghera has made a documentary (available on the iplayer for a few more days) on her attempts to reconcile with her family:

Shame Travels is the story of one woman’s desperate attempt to contact a sister she was not allowed to meet because she dishonoured her family.

Jasvinder Sanghera fled from her home in Derby to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to escape being sent to India to marry a much older man who she had only ever seen in a photograph.

Her refusal to marry, aged just 16, led her mother to say she was “dead to her”.

Jasvinder is today the Founder/Director of Karma Nirvana – the charity that helps young British women to escape forced marriage. She is also the writer of two bestselling books: Shame and Daughters of Shame which chronicle her life-story and those of other women suffering similar experiences.

The documentary follows Jasvinder’s final attempt at reconciliation with her family.

Ms. Sanghera has long been a staunch opponent of forced marriage. It is a serious problem in the UK (and elsewhere), with 1735 cases of forced marriage (potential or actual) reported to the Forced Marriage Unit in 2010. Around 85% of victims are women, whilst some men are forced into it too.

(Hat-Tip: a PP reader)

28th March, 2011

The amusing contradiction of the ‘agitators’ from Saturdays protests

by Sunny at 7:54 pm    

Saturday’s TUC march excellent and undoubtedly historic. After a bit though of walking I decided to head down to Oxford Circus to see what was going on.

There, I took part in a UKuncut action against Dorothy Perkins (owned by tax avoider Philip Green) – we all sat down peacefully at the entrance on Oxford Circus. A police chief threatened us with arrest for not letting customers out of the store, but we made space for them to leave. He also didn’t seem to have an identification number (when this was pointed out to him he abruptly left and didn’t carry out the threat).

That aside, I also saw ‘Black bloc’ kids walking up and down Oxford Circus with their black/red flags. There were also some people with the ‘global revolution’ flags and some Communist Party flags. It was people from these groups that were earlier seen throwing paint bombs at TopShop, and later burning the big paper Trojan Horse. That’s for a bit of context for those who didn’t attend.

Anyway, one of those ‘revolutionaries’ has written this cliche-ridden piece of hilarity for Guardian CIF, with gems such as: “To try to make distinctions between a “peaceful” and a “violent” protester is inherently flawed” – yeah Mahatma Gandhi, Dalai Lama and MLK jnr, you hear that? You lot were just middle-of-the-road half-assed revolutionaries who didn’t understand the need for violence! You failed with your silly preference for non-violent protest!

I find this bit of guff amusing too:

Something out of the ordinary is happening – parts of Britain aren’t bothering to be so polite anymore. Sometimes, to make your voice heard, you have to speak softly and carry a big stick.

That’s right – there was never any violence at protests before in the UK. Suddenly people getting angry now. This is all new if you’re 15, with a sense of history that stretches as many years, perhaps.

But here is the main point:

The point is to maintain a momentum, a united show of resistance, against a spectre that shadows us all.

That is perhaps the best illustration of how muddled how many people are. The black bloc crew and other anarchist grouups intent on ‘smashing the state’ have nothing in common with the public sector workers there who wanted the government to maintain spending. In that sense, the marchers have more in common with centre-right Tories than they do with this gaggle of libertarian-communists, anarchist and other assorted groups.

Its not just that, as Medhi Hasan points out, they don’t understand ‘solidarity’, it’s actually very unclear what solidarity means in this context. Do they really believe the fire-fighters, nurses, teachers etc marching that day share their goals? I highly doubt it.

Filed under: Party politics
27th March, 2011

The funniest EDL interview remix ever

by Sunny at 11:29 pm    

This is simply awesome (via Political Scrapbook).

Rumbold posted this video last week (which you can watch below again)

And now watch the dance remix!

Filed under: Humour,Race politics

‘Life at a tabloid’ exposure continues

by Rumbold at 4:57 pm    

Richard Peppiatt, who resigned from the Daily Star several weeks ago, has continued his revealing of the life of a tabloid reporter. In his widely-reported resignation letter three weeks ago, Mr. Peppiatt condemned the Daily Star for a number of failings, especially its approach to Islam and the EDL:

It almost never came to this. I nearly walked out last summer when the Daily Star got all flushed about taxpayer-funded Muslim-only loos. A newsworthy tale were said toilets Muslim-only. Or taxpayer-funded. Undeterred by the nuisance of truth, we omitted a few facts, plucked a couple of quotes, and suddenly anyone would think a Rochdale shopping centre had hired Osama Bin Laden to stand by the taps, handing out paper towels.

I was personally tasked with writing a gloating follow-up declaring our postmodern victory in “blocking” the non-existent Islamic cisterns of evil. Not that my involvement in stirring up a bit of light-hearted Islamaphobia stopped there. Many a morning I’ve hit my speed dial button to Muslim rent-a-rant Anjem Choudary to see if he fancied pulling together a few lines about whipping drunks or stoning homosexuals.

Now he has discussed more incidences of what can only be described as quality tabloid journalism:

Continue Reading...
Filed under: EDL,Media
25th March, 2011

‘Honour’ killings in India

by Rumbold at 9:50 am    

Ratna Raman, an academic in India, writes powerfully on ‘honour’-based violence in India. The piece is excellent, and there isn’t much more to add to it. Just read it:

Something is rotten in the fabric of our country. Something continues to dog and intimidate and brutalise young women. It injures men too in the attempt to settle scores relentlessly and lethally, notching points on behalf of insularity and barbarism and gratuitous gender cruelty. In 2000 the newspapers carried reports that Bibi Jagir Kaur, a Shiromani Akhali Dal councillor in Punjab, had allegedly abducted her daughter Harpreet, subjected her to an abortion, given her an overdose of pills and consigned her to the flames. This was because the young woman in question had married in secret while studying at a medical college. To date no one has been punished and witnesses in the face of muscle and money power have now turned hostile. What exactly was the crime these two young women had committed? What was the basis of their family’s behaviour? How could one even hope to understand this vicious and vitiating practice?

On paper we won our independence in 1947. Our constitution extends the fundamental right to self-expression even to women. Yet, everywhere around us despite the cries of a liberal plural space what we see is the buttressing and endorsement of hegemonic feudal stereotypes.

(Hat-tip: KJB)

24th March, 2011

The case for nuclear energy is falling apart

by Sunny at 10:00 am    

Nuclear power loses support in new poll, reports the NY Times, rather predictably. No doubt many people will say that this should not detract from the fact that nuclear energy is vital. Bollocks.

Kumi Naidoo explains why:

Nuclear power is inherently unsafe and the list of possible illnesses stemming from exposure to the accompanying radiation is horrifying: genetic mutations, birth defects, cancer, leukemia and disorders of the reproductive, immune, cardiovascular and endocrine systems.

While we have all heard of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the nuclear industry would have us believe these are but isolated events in an otherwise unblemished history. Not so. Over 800 other significant events have been officially reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency — Mayak, Tokaimura, Bohunice, Forsmark to name just a few.

He points out that nuclear technology will always be vulnerable to human error, natural disaster, design failure or terrorist attack – and in each case the consequences could be vastly more dire than alternatives.

But is it necessary if we are to wean ourselves off Middle Eastern oil?

Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council have put together a study called “Energy [R]evolution,” which clearly shows that a clean energy pathway is cheaper, healthier and delivers faster results for the climate than any other option. This plan calls for the phase-out of existing reactors around the world and a moratorium on construction of new commercial nuclear reactors.

Furthermore, an energy scenario recently produced by the conservative International Energy Agency highlights the fact that nuclear power is not necessary for lowering greenhouse gas emissions. It shows that even if existing nuclear power capacity could be quadrupled by 2050, the proportion of energy that it provided would still be below 10 percent globally. This would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by less than 4 percent. The same amount of money, invested in clean, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar could have a much greater impact on lowering global warming.

And yet the government keeps subsidising the nuclear industry.

Filed under: Environmentalism
23rd March, 2011

EDL member explains key issues

by Rumbold at 9:28 pm    

Note that this individual’s views were captured by Press TV, a channel that is run by a brutal regime. They seem kindred spirits.

(Via Lancaster UAF and a PP reader)

Filed under: EDL,Humour,Race politics
22nd March, 2011

Richard Bartholomew smeared and targeted by cyber bullies

by Rumbold at 9:06 pm    

Richard Bartholomew, an excellent blogger who chronicles religious extremism, has been smeared by his enemies after his extensive exposing of vicious attacks on child ‘witches’ in Nigeria by Christian extremists:

A couple of weeks ago, several hit-and-run one-post smear blogs were created to – once again – spread the idea that I’m a far-leftist who collaborates with Islamic extremists while hating religion.

The author of these blogs wants to give the impression that he is associated with a neo-Pentecostal church in Nigeria; I have criticised this church for spreading the idea that children can be witches, and as a result the church has created a website attacking me (along with some other people) in crude and abusive terms – this includes the claim that I am a rapist . The new author has also created a Twitter feed linking both to the church’s website and to the new attack blogs, and he has generated a fake Facebook profile with a Nigerian name, which he has used to advertise the Twitter feed on the church’s Facebook page.

The insults and smears were lifted from his domestic enemies, who have long been after him and another blogger, Tim Ireland, for the crime of exposing their thuggery and bigotry:

However, it is no great surprise that the new blogs in fact consist exclusively of accusations which have been made by the cyber-bully Charlie Flowers on his “NiceOnesUK” Facebook group (see here), including the bizarre claim (which Flowers made back in February) that I am in correspondence with Dominic Wightman. There are also side-swipes at some of Flowers’ other pet hates: these are a Facebook page called “Exposing Racism” (where I occasionally leave comments) and the blogger Tim Ireland.

Richard has been a long time ally of this blog, and a good friend of Sunny and me. These attacks are disgraceful.

Update: Richard clarifies in the comments who he thinks he really behind the attacks. Post title updated.

Filed under: Net Campaigns
21st March, 2011

Talking to al-Qaeda

by Rumbold at 9:01 pm    

Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former head of the Security Service (also known as MI5), has suggested that the British government should be talking to al-Qaeda:

The baroness said she hoped people were trying to talk to “people on the edges of al-Qaeda”. “There won’t be a Waterloo or an El-Alamein,” she added.

Critics of the “war on terror” have argued that the torture of terror suspects and the continuing use of Guantanamo Bay for detainees has led to a propaganda victory for al-Qaeda. Baroness Manningham-Buller says hearts and minds are critical in combating terrorism.

“I think making sure we hold to our values, our ethical standards, our laws, and are not tempted to go down a route which others, in my view have made the profound mistake of going down, means in the longer run we’ll have a chance from that moral authority of addressing some of the underlying causes of these problems,” she said.

There are some reasonable arguments against this. Some see talking to an enemy as akin to surrendering (thanks to events like Neville Chamberlain’s disastrous attempt to negotiate with Nazi Germany). Other might feel that treating with al-Qaeda legitimises a gang of criminals and murders. There is also the question of whether a group of people willing to blow themselves up can be reasoned with, or that what they want can or should be granted. Even if negotiations were successful, would the cells around the world listen to a leadership who many believe have limited control over them?

Yet it is still worth a try. Al-Qaeda is not a monolithic block; clearly the commanders (including Bin Laden) aren’t too keen to join their suicidal followers in the afterlife. Nor has Al-Qaeda been crushed by military force, and, as the Baroness says, it is very unlikely that there will a decisive battle. Negotiation should just be one more weapon in the arsenal in the fight against al-Qaeda and affiliates. Detaching some of them with acceptable promises (whatever they may be) weakens the organisation.

19th March, 2011

Happy Holi

by Rumbold at 9:58 am    

Happy Holi to all Pickled Politics readers.

(The song takes a minute or so to get going properly, so skip to 1:00 if you find it annoying)

Filed under: Events,South Asia
18th March, 2011

UN no-fly zone finally agreed

by Rumbold at 10:51 am    

It is good they were finally able to get round to it:

UK forces are preparing to help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya after the UN backed “all necessary measures”, short of an invasion, to protect civilians. Downing Street has cautioned against earlier suggestions that British planes could be in action “within hours” and declined to put a timetable on it. The UN resolution rules out a foreign occupation force in any part of Libya.

David Cameron has also indulged in some clever politicking:

The Cabinet will decide if there is to be a vote in the House of Commons prior to any UK military action. When he was in opposition, Mr Cameron pledged to give MPs the final say over sending UK forces into action.

Labour are pledging to back the no-fly zone, which means if things go wrong, the coalition government can point out that the opposition supported it too.

17th March, 2011

Labour shadow minister accuses government of planning mass deportations

by Rumbold at 9:29 am    

Karen Buck, the shadow minister for work and pensions, has accused the government of wanting to deport non-whites and women from central London by with their housing benefit reforms:

She said: “[The Government] do not want lower-income women, families, children and, above all, let us be very clear – because we also know where the impact is hitting – they don’t want black women, they don’t want ethnic minority women and they don’t want Muslim women living in central London. They just don’t. They want people to be moving out of anywhere that is a more prosperous area into the fringes of London and into places like Barking and Newham. I have nothing against Barking and Newham. The problem is they are already full of people who are quite poor.”

No evidence was provided for this statement. There have been some valid criticisms of the proposed housing benefit reform, especially surrounding the change in percentile reaction (though its ultimate impact is unclear at this point), and the impact on very expensive areas needs to be rexamined (and a broader debate on paying housing benefit should be had). Ms. Buck’s hyperbole does not to help the debate though.

She also made this accusation:

When you listen to the Tories speaking in Parliament, there is an arrogance and an ignorance that I have never known in my 13 years in Parliament: basically, thinking that anyone whose income is below the top rate of tax shouldn’t have children.”

That is presumably why the Conservatives abolished child benefit for people earning enough to place them in the top rate of tax, whilst leaving it in place for everyone else.

15th March, 2011

The British monarch who could write Hindi and Urdu

by Rumbold at 2:03 pm    

I have been enjoying the latest research by Shrabani Basu into Queen Victoria and her relationship (almost certainly non-sexual) with her Indian tutor, a young Muslim named Abdul Karim who arrived in the UK aged 24:

That Mr Karim inspired the empress of India could be seen not just by her newfound love of curry. Her eagerness to learn Urdu and Hindi because of his teaching was so strong that she even learned to write in both languages – and gave him a signed photo written in Urdu.

She also used his briefings on political developments in India at the turn of the 19th Century to berate successive viceroys, her representatives in India – much to their displeasure – on measures they could have taken to reduce communal tensions. “At a time when the British empire was at its height, a young Muslim occupied a central position of influence over its sovereign,” Ms Basu said.

He was sacked by her son Edward VII a few hours after her death, and efforts were made by the royal court to destroy all records of him.

14th March, 2011

Poppy-burning extremist’s dad served 14 years in the Navy

by Sunny at 9:40 am    

Kudos to the Daily Mail for actually showing the other side of the extremist caricature it frequently perpetuates:

The father of a Muslim extremist who burned poppies on Remembrance Day served in the Royal Navy as a police officer for 14 years, relatives have claimed. Mohammed Gouse Miah, 85, is said to be devastated by the actions of his estranged son Emdadur Choudhury, who was fined a paltry £50 by a judge for setting light to poppies and yelling ‘British soldiers burn in hell’ during the two-minute silence on November 11 last year.

When he came to England, he worked for London Underground and later for British Rail as a ticket collector. Mr Miah, who is now retired, lives with his wife Hamida in a council flat in Bethnal Green,East London.

13th March, 2011

Film ‘Sunrise’ raising money to highlight child trafficking in India

by Sunny at 4:00 pm    

A new independent film titled ‘Sunrise’ is trying to raise money through web to highlight child trafficking in India.

They say:

Sunrise is a thought provoking and hard-hitting film that addresses the taboo of child abuse in India. In 2007, the Ministry of Woman and Child Development published the ‘Study on Child Abuse: India 2007‘. It reveals that an alarming 53.22% of children in India reported having faced sexual abuse. Nevertheless, the Indian Penal Code does not recognise child abuse as an offence and most offenders (local and foreign) escape with light sentences.

Trailer

Sunrise (Arunoday) is being made by writer-director Partho Sen Gupta, with Adil Hussain (who has just finished shooting for Ang Lee in The Life of Pi) and Tannishtha Chatterjee (who starred in Brick Lane as well as Sen Gupta’s first film, Hava Aney Dey).

You can read more about the film and contribute via this site.
Thanks to @alanalentin for telling me about this.

11th March, 2011

EDL’s Guramit Singh will not be charged

by Rumbold at 9:35 pm    

Varinder Singh of the ‘Sikhs against the EDL’ campaign has alerted me to the fact that Guramit Singh (sometimes called Amit Singh) will not be charged over anti-Muslim comments made in a December speech. Guramit Singh is the EDL’s most high profile minority figure. A reminder of what he said in that speech:

I’m going to tell you precisely right now what threat of Islam is. Muhammad and Islam is not a religion… Muhammad was a paedophilic pirate… Islam, in not just this country but around the world, has been using their disgusting threat, their threat has been going on for 1400 years, “if you do not bow before Muhammad and his so-called Allah, you are to be beheaded”… Hitler had fuck all on Muhammad.

The Koran and the Hadiths is written in Arabic. Muslims are not allowed to be taught Arabic in the mosque. Muslims are told, “do not question what your Imam says, although they don’t even know what the Imam’s saying, because the Imam’s just a “Allah, fuck it”. Stick your Allah up your arse, you cunt. Fuck em, fuck em, fuck em. I’m not being funny, fuck em. I may get arrested for this shit, but fuck em, fuck em, I’m not having it, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em.

The ‘Sikhs against the EDL’ campaign was disappointed that Guramit Singh was not charged. As Varinder Singh put it:

It’s a real shame that an individual like Guramit Singh can get away with saying just about anything and bringing our community into disrepute. At the Luton demonstration against the EDL there was a very strong message sent from the Sikh community that he (Guramit Singh) is an embarrassment and should be locked up.

Whilst I support this campaign, as it is good to see Sikhs and Hindus standing up to the EDL, I am glad that Guramit Singh was not charged. Like Sunny, I take a robust view on free speech and protest, and I don’t see saying nasty things about a book or a group as worthy of prosecution. More than this, it would only turn Guramit Singh into a martyr, giving him a sanctity that his hate-filled bigotry does not deserve.

Filed under: EDL,Sikh
10th March, 2011

Why did the MCB and MINAB take so long to support Usama Hasan?

by Sunny at 5:21 pm    

As I pointed out yesterday, both the Muslim Council of Britain and MINAB have now sent out statements condemning the threats against Usama Hasan.

This is to be welcomed. There’s a letter in the Guardian today too, titled ‘We need freedom to speak about Islam‘.

But the question for the MCB and Mosques And Imams National Advisory Board (Minab) should be why they took so long to speak out. This issue kicked off after I blogged about it. Then the national media jumped on the story and then, belatedly, Muslim organisations released statements in support.

But lots of people knew about the campaign against Dr Hasan before I blogged about it. They knew a prominent imam was being threatened by fanatics, and yet they remained silent about it.

This isn’t just me saying it: a lot of Muslims are also privately saying this. So why didn’t the MCB and Minab act earlier? Their response has been far too late in this matter and seems to indicate they only act if the national media spotlight shines on particular incidents.

Filed under: Muslim,Organisations
9th March, 2011

A growing campaign to defend Usama Hasan and free speech

by Sunny at 2:55 pm    

A group of people, including Yahya Birt, have set up a group on Facebook to rally people in support of Usama Hasan (background here):

In the case of Dr Usama Hasan, an imam at Masjid Tawhid in Leyton, London, who has been persecuted and victimised, we call upon religious scholars, imams, mosque committees, Muslim community organisations and Muslim communities as a whole to reaffirm the following principles so that we may strengthen the basic conditions for civilised and principled Muslim community life:

1. No imam or member of the Muslim community should be subjected to hate speech, intimidation or threats of violence on any matter regarding beliefs or religious rulings as this is contrary to the law of the land which British Muslims are bound to uphold, and most essentially that, under Islamic teachings and etiquette, mob rule has no legitimate place within our community life.

2. No religious scholar or any ordinary Muslim has the legal jurisdiction to declare any fellow Muslim outside of the faith of Islam (takfir) in the United Kingdom, and furthermore that they are duty bound to affirm freedom of religious conscience which is upheld in the United Kingdom.

3. Those who have made takfir of Dr Usama Hasan or who have acted in an intimidating or abusive fashion towards him must publicly retract their statements of takfir immediately and offer an unconditional public apology.

4. That there is a positive duty to uphold the etiquette of differences of opinion, and to condemn those who actively promote hatred and division within our communities. We should all affirm the necessity of developing a mature and wise ethos within Muslim communities so that we may handle matters of controversy with tact and wisdom in recognition of our great diversity.

5. All matters of mosque governance should conform to the Charity Commission’s guidance or any other relevant legislation, and no ad hoc measures should be undertaken in contravention of these rules or legislation in either letter or spirit.

Those are good points that should apply generally too. I hope more people will stand up against this disgusting attempt at physical intimidation.

Update: The MCB have also released a statement condemning the threats.

Filed under: Islamists,Religion
8th March, 2011

Poppy burning is a free speech issue too

by Sunny at 4:45 pm    

The Sun and other tabloids are screaming about how a publicity-stunt artist from Al-Muhajiroun only got fined £50 for burning a poppy on Remembrance Day.

The Sun rails:

What kind of deterrent is £50 to other Islamic fascists bent on sowing hate throughout Britain? How much longer must we tolerate their free speech over-ruling the sanctity of the Remembrance Day silence?

As this Economist blog post points out, a lot longer we should hope. The right to political protest and free speech should not be banned by the law however abhorrent the majority finds it.

But there is another point to make. Critics of multiculturalism like Douglas Murray take a similarly muddled approach.

The tabloids and Murray are either always attacking Muslims for not fitting in (sentiments diametrically opposed to creating a democratic, liberal society that allows people to live how they want to), or attacking Muslims for not embracing free speech and democracy. They want to have their pie and eat it too. The Sun, like Douglas Murray, is flip-flopping depending on what issue they can use to attack Muslims.

Lastly, the fanatic from al-Muhajiroun will undoubtedly be ecstatic for the coverage today – their entire aim with these stunts of 10-20 people is to grab media attention. They feed off the Sun, and vice versa.

Related: Alex Massie agrees, and is right to wish we also had more of a first amendment rights culture here, like in the US.

Filed under: Islamists,Media

The bad bits of welfare reform

by Rumbold at 4:01 pm    

Much of the debate on welfare reform has centred around the introduction of the Universal Credit, which will hopefully reduce some of the byzantine complexity of the currently system (if it works) by merging a number of benefits into one. While this plan has been understandably praised, there are a number of bad measures currently under consideration as the Welfare Reform Bill reaches its second reading. Benefits activist Sue Marsh summarises the three key proposals which should be stopped or reformed:

1) Removing Disability Living Allowance mobility payments from adults in residential care.

An adult who needs to live in residential care will have extensive needs and are often amongst the most severely disabled. The mobility component of DLA afforded them their only freedom, allowing them to choose to fund a power wheelchair otherwise unavailable on the NHS, or to pay for taxis or transport to get out now and then. Taking this away would leave the most vulnerable disabled people effectively housebound. There is no support for this change anywhere – charities, independent benefit reports and even the government’s own advisers have called for this to be removed from the bill

2) Scrapping DLA entirely and replacing it with Personal Independent Payments (PIPs).

DLA is a very effective benefit with fraud rates of less than 1% (DWP own figures) It is already incredibly hard to claim and the qualification criteria are very narrow. The government have announced that DLA claimants will also soon face assessment and that the overall number of claimants will be reduced by at least 20%. The government’s own advisory committee concluded that they could find no justification for this reform and have asked for clarification from the government. If a benefit is already very efficient, yet a government announce a 20% cull before a single assessment has even taken place, we conclude it can only be a cost cutting measure that will ignore genuine need.

Continue Reading...
7th March, 2011

Dr Usama Hasan and the campaign against him

by Sunny at 12:05 am    

Last week I blogged about a campaign against the London-based imam Dr Usama Hasan, by a group of Muslim fanatics. The fanatics wanted to oust him from his mosque in Leytonstone for talking about evolution, and saying women should be free not to cover their hair.

Some clarifications for those already following the story. It turns out that the letter I posted saying he had been ousted was a fake, circulated by the fanatics to make it look like it came from the Mosque. It didn’t. Dr Hasan still remains the imam there, though the fanatics are still after him.

The story has been picked up the Indy and the Guardian too.
From the Guardian:

Hasan, who has taken out extra security on his house where he lives with his wife and four children, said he was adamant he would not be leaving the mosque, although he would not be returning to give prayers for the time being.

“I’m not leaving,” he said. “I’ve been here for 25 years and I fear that the mosque could fall into the hands of extremists. There are plenty of other mosques in the country that have gone that way. My supporters [at the mosque] don’t want that and are encouraging me to stay to fight our corner.

“I’ve stopped giving prayers because they were interrupted by outsiders who were making some women members feel intimidated. Most people come to the mosque once a week for a quiet space to pray and find peace and inspiration and I want to respect that.”

Inayat Bunglawala, chair of Muslims4UK, a group promoting Muslim engagement in British society, said there was “widespread ignorance” about evolution among the Muslim community. “Many traditional imams are grounded in ancient books in Arabic but have very little grounding in science. I find it staggering how they can be so strongly opposed to evolution without reading about it. That seems to be opposite of the very first commandment of the Qur’an, which is to read,” Bunglawala said.

I’m going to keep an eye on this story to see how it develops.

6th March, 2011

More EU largesse and waste

by Rumbold at 8:57 pm    

At a time when important services are being cut in this country, eGov monitor highlights yet more waste and largesse from the EU, where MEPs have voted themselves thousands more to run their offices for spurious reasons:

While Europeans are struggling with a sluggish economy and fears of inflation at a time when wages are stagnant, MEPs voted to increase their office allowances by another 1,500 Euros today to run their offices. Nice touch from our elected representatives. MEPs, now have 18,820 Euros to run their offices while most Europeans are finding it tough to make ends meet. This latest move would add 13.2 Million Euros to the European Parliament’s operating budget.

The European law makers or most of them argued that they need the additional money to handle the extra work Lisbon Treaty has entrusted in our elected representatives. But didn’t they use the Lisbon Treaty has a justification for last year’s increase of 1,500 Euros as well? Yes, they did. But the Parliament’s bureau, which is comprised of the parliamentary leadership of the President and his 14 Vice Presidents, thought their colleagues deserved some more of tax payers’ money. According to research by eGov monitor, no other group of legislators are as pampered as our representatives in the European Parliament [read more]

What I have never understood is the reluctance from many on the left (though not all) in this country to criticise the EU’s wasteful spending. Perhaps because most Conservatives now dislike the EU the idea that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” is seen to apply. This is a clear and repeated case of money being wasted that could be spent on things which are actually useful and are being cut. Criticising the EU doesn’t make an individual anti-European any more than criticising the Coalition government makes one anti-British. Yet how often do we see high profile left wing politicians or commentators condemning EU waste and calling for the billions to be better spent in this country?

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