The first of a series of four events presented by the RSA, City University London and the Samosa was a resounding success with a keynote speech by Conservative Chairman Baroness Warsi followed by a fiery Q and A session with Anwar Akhtar, director of The Samosa.
Anwar Akhtar began the lecture with an insight into his personal connection with Pakistan, drawing attention to the inspiration that British Pakistanis such as Amir Khan and Baroness Warsi herself are to those both here and in Pakistan, as strong British patriots with a love for their ancestral home.
Despite all the violence and destruction that occurred across England during the recent riots, there were also some heartening developments. Most well-known, of course, is the reaction of Tariq Jahan, the inspirational father of one of the young men murdered in Birmingham as they attempted to protect the local population from the rioters. Mr Jahan’s extraordinary dignity and calls for peace on the basis of our common humanity played a huge part in preventing the situation from spiralling into even worse violence.
Tariq Jahan’s actions have effectively resulted in him becoming a national hero in Britain, and some of the most moving articles have come from unexpected sources such as The Telegraph and the Daily Mail. The outpouring of support and praise for Mr Jahan has included commenters who are openly expressing deep regret for their previous prejudice against Muslims.
A prayer event in Birmingham ahead of the funerals of Shazad Ali, Abdul Musavir, and Tariq Jahan’s son Haroon was attended by approximately 20,000 people, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and invited speakers included visitors from one of the local synagogues. An online book of condolence has also been launched by Birmingham city council.
Interfaith unity and friendship
Inspiring examples of interfaith unity and friendship also occurred across the country during the riots. For example, Sikhs were heavily involved in joint efforts to protect the local towns & cities as a whole and the associated places of worship, including the defence of mosques. Correspondingly, Muslims also volunteered to protect Sikh temples. And a joint Sikh-Muslim prayer vigil was held at the site of the murders of the young Asian Muslims in Birmingham, attended by several hundred people and involving both Sikh and Muslim prayers. A photo of the candlelit vigil is displayed at the top of this article. You can also watch an interview of Harpreet Singh, one of the Sikh organisers of the joint vigil, in the video below.
The Indy’s Jerome Taylor had this good report in the paper yesterday:
British campaigners received a boost in May when a cross-party group of MPs recommended that forced marriage be turned into a criminal offence to send a stronger message that it will not be tolerated.
The Home Affairs Select Committee, which took soundings from a variety of different groups working to counter forced marriage, stated that it was “not at all clear” that current legislation was protecting those at risk.
“Criminalising forced marriages would help people like me enormously,” insists Saima. “I would have been able to tell my parents unequivocally that what they were doing was not just wrong but wholly illegal. I would have felt like the law was on my side.”
Currently it is not illegal to force someone to marry though criminal offences – such as kidnap, rape, and assault – may be committed in the course of carrying out one. The problem is that prosecutions are incredibly rare, partly because many of the actual crimes take place abroad and partly because they are so difficult to prove when vulnerable victims are often unwilling to prosecute their own families.
“It’s often looked at as a protection issue not a policing one,” admits one police source. “There’s a lot of reluctance about the idea of introducing a new offence.”
The counter-terrorism think tank Quilliam Foundation, who are broadly supportive of the government’s proposals on the matter, sent out this statement today:
The new strategy is a step in the right direction. It is good that the government has recognised that extremism lies at the root of terrorism and that extremism must be tackled as a result. It is also right that the government has acknowledged the problem of radicalisation at universities and that action is needed against campus hate-preachers.
At the same time, however, the strategy is plagued by muddled thinking that risks undermining its positive achievements. In particular its definition of Islamism is so broad that it fails to distinguish between Islamists and politically active Muslims inspired by Islam, this unnecessarily smears ordinary politically active Muslims and works to the favour of Islamists who benefit from hiding behind such blurred distinctions.
Ouch. That’s fairly harsh, coming even from an ally.
But that gets to the heart of why this review will be ultimately counter-productive.
Prevention is better than a cure. A proverb that was probably the inspiration for government strategy intended to combat the spread of extremist Islamic views, Prevent.
As Theresa May calls for Universities to drop their complacency and be more aware of the ideologies being bred on their campuses, I ask, how do you even prevent terrorism?
Clearly, I’m not equipped to know what exactly motivates somebody towards extremist religious views. But as a theologian (well, a philosophy and theology graduate), and as a 23 year old British Indian, I have my own insight – be it correct or not.
The key for me is identity. A sense of belonging. When economic motivations found Indians and Pakistanis entering the UK en masse, I guess identity wasn’t exactly something the travellers considered. But, as a member of the transitional generation I’ve witnessed the difficulties young people have had in this respect. My parents both predominantly grew up in England so it is a problem that I, personally, have never faced.
Though many peers in my generation have found it difficult to marry a traditional Indian / Pakistani upbringing, usually founded in religion, with life growing up in a Western culture that has endured the 60s 70s and 80s.
I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. The brown babies have multiplied manifold and soon their numbers will be so big that the entire Daily Express readership will be devoured. Mwahahaha!
The non-white British population of England and Wales has grown from 6.6 million in 2001 to 9.1 million in 2009 – nearly one in six of the population.
The figures, which give a detailed ethnic breakdown for every one of the 423 local authorities, were published on Wednesday in an “experimental” data release from the Office for National Statistics. They also show there are now almost a million mixed-race people in the two countries.
Just 2.5m extra minorities in a decade? That’s a pretty pathetic rate of growth when compared to brown people in India and Pakistan. What’s going on?
Brent in north London is the most ethnically diverse borough, while parts of Wales the least diverse. Haringey has the most amount of mixed-race people apparently.
Yesterday BBC Newsnight needed ‘Muslim reaction’ to the death of Osama Bin Laden’. They couldn’t find any Muslim who would support OBL, so they thought that would not balanced. They wanted some sparks and needed Muslims to argue with each other, so they invited Anjem Choudhary.
ANJEM CHOUDHARY! The guy who leads about 50 nutjobs and has been banned from almost every Mosque in the country. The guy who is constantly ridiculed and pilloried by other British Muslims for his attention-seeking stunts and promoting his extremist minority sect. This is the guy BBC Newsnight decide should be part of a two-man panel representing British Muslim voices!
It boggles the mind how patronising some people at the BBC still are. They aren’t interested in representing a broad range of mainstream Muslim opinion: they just want to see the ethnics argue.
At one point Jeremy Paxman turns to Taj Hargey and says, “What do you think of that response [referring to Choudhary] when you hear it, purporting to represent your community“. – oh FFS! Paxman, we’re not in the fucking British Raj any more.
No one owns or leads entire ethnic or religious communities. It boggles the mind that this is 2011 and this is how BBC Newsnight still conduct their debates.
There’s an old maxim in journalism: ‘Dog Bites Man’ is not a story; it’s when a man bites the dog it becomes a story. I.e. you write about the unexpected not the stuff that will make people yawn.
I say this because the story: ‘Cameron thinks immigration should be limited’ is a Dog Bites Man story. It would be more surprising if the Pope declared that Christianity was the best religion ever.
So, I have three related points to make on this:
One: it once again demonstrates that the Prime Minister is able to drive the media agenda and national discussion in a way opposition parties simply cannot. This is why I keep telling people (who are used to hearing Labour everywhere) that Labourites are speaking out against the cuts, it’s just that the media isn’t listening.
Two: I initially thought that Vince Cable speaking out was a sign that discipline was breaking down in the Coalition. But Sarah Hayward is completely right – it’s all a set-up. A cynical ploy but one that is effective, keeps the story going, keeps members in both parties happy and completely tactical.
Hell, if you’re going to play the immigration card to deflect attention from the NHS, why not go the whole hog and pick a deliberate fight with your allies? Labour is far too clever to be provoked into a trap that Cameron is trying to set for them. So Cable was the natural choice.
Three: The predictable response is to point out the intellectual inconsistencies in what Cameron is saying. Mehdi Hasan was doing it last night on Twitter; the Guardian mention cuts to ESOL classes; Nishma has blogged about it.
These responses are a big waste of time because the Tories aren’t having a debate – they’re just saying things they’ve always said. I’m more interested in why the media is reporting on a ‘dog bites man’ story. There are no surprising policy announcements here.
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.
The campaigning organisation Searchlight has released a new report examining English attitudes towards faith, identity and race. I am always very sceptical about polling. Samples can only ever be so representative, and different polls on the same issues will produce different results, as the questions are structured differently and asked to different people. Yes Prime Minister sums up my views of polling:
Anyway, the key points of the report are summarised below, which is more useful for examining broad trends rather than precise numbers:
Much of this passed me by, but this video is excellent. Highlighted by Kevin Blowe, who says:
From a BBC Open Space programme from 1992, the much missed Newham anti-fascist activist and dockworker Mickey Fenn talks about the 1970s, when the most militant elements of the Socialist Workers Party and the Anti-Nazi League formed fighting ’squads’ to physically confront the fascists. The squads, which were later disowned by the leadership of the SWP, were the forerunners of Anti Fascist Action.
The clip talks of how the anti-fascists first confronted, and then later physically beat fascists off the streets to reclaim them back. Then only, they say, did people have the courage to come out and hold widespread marches against fascism.
At 3m 38s there’s guy in a red cap who says these immortal lines:
There’s probably quite a few liberals out there – trendy lefties – who are feeling quite uneasy at this talk of violence, and saying ‘there are other ways’. Well we’re not either – or – we’re both. We’ll try all methods. We have marches, carnivals, music events, we even have a travelling exhibition. Showng you all the truth of fascims. History’s proven that fascists based their philosophy on physical force.
If you’re not prepared to meet that force, with physical force, then you must retire from the political arena. Because the fascists feed on fear, and to ignore them is to encourage them.
I think the time for fighting back with physical violence is over, though I’m pretty sure if I was around during those more racist times I would have been involved in more than one scuffle.
1) A guy talks about how housing is behind all these problems, and that rage makes the white youths easy pickings. Seems history constantly repeats itself.
2) Right-wingers (and this includes people like Boris Johnson’s advisor Munira Mirza) are fond of ignoring history and claiming that the rise of the BNP came as a result of ‘too much political correctness’ or ‘diversity policies gone mad’ – this shoots that down too.
The fascists weren’t carrying around banners saying ‘diversity officers out’ – it was more ‘pakis out’. That should give you an indication as to whether ‘identity politics’ fuelled the rise of the BNP or not.
3) Well done to all the activists who stood up to the fascists.
The website of the Madani Girls School in Tower Hamlets is replete with slogans about “educating for an Islamic life.” Amidst all the glittering reports of a 100% pass rate at GCSE, and a recent OFSTED inspection where inspectors praised the school for the “motivated staff and the enthusiastic and polite nature of the pupils,” one section lies conspicuously blank: school uniform policy.
This school – as well as the Jameah Al Kauthar in Lancaster and Jameah Girls’ Academy in Leicester – came under fire this weekend for insisting that all girls must wear a niqab (face-veil) when travelling to and from school.
The Sunday Telegraph, having captured the Madani Girls School uniform policy before it was removed from their website, confirmed: “The present uniform conforms to the Islamic Code of dressing. Outside the school, this comprises of the black Burka and Niqab.”
Nobody is calling the school’s outstanding results into question; they go some way towards justifying the £1,900-a-year fees that parents have to pay (in cold, hard cash as opposed to cheques, which the school refuses to accept).
It goes without saying that tolerance is a two-way street, which is why an absolute ban on niqab in public spaces was always going to be a bad idea.
However, it is disingenuous for niqab advocates to use the language of choice and empowerment when advocating their religious freedoms, then to deny these same concepts to young girls in the same breath. It is one thing for a mature adult to make a decision about covering her face in public, but quite another to impose a face-covering onto girls as young as eleven.
This kind of bullshitery also annoys me. Yesterday the Guardian reported on a poll on British Muslims:
The study for the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) also found that 63% of people surveyed did not disagree with the statement “Muslims are terrorists” and 94% agreed that “Islam oppresses women”. It included qualitative as well as quantitative data. One respondent said: “If I had my way I’d kick them all [Muslims] out of here.”
Sounds scary right? Has Daily Mail / BNP propaganda taken over? Not exactly.
George Readings from the Quilliam Foundation points out that the iERA itself is fronted by some dodgy people.
Neither Sky nor the Guardian noticed, for example, that the home secretary has banned two of the eight advisors listed on iEra’s website (Zakir Naik and Bilal Philips) from the UK; Naik has been quoted as calling Americans “pigs” and saying that “every Muslim should be a terrorist” whilst Philips has advocated stoning people to death and public lashings, but “only [...] on Fridays”.
The Guardian quotes someone called Hamza Tzortzis who has previously said: “We as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even of freedom.”
Frankly, if this guy was trying to improve the perception of Muslims then they really are in trouble.
But actually it’s worse than that, because the Guardian also misrepresents the poll results.
contribution by Tehmina Kazi of British Muslims for Secular Democracy
In a recent episode of Top Gear, with appearances from Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, Jeremy Clarkson responded to a question by his co-presenter about whether there actually is a case for the burka given that driving around drunk in the summer time will lead most men to stare at half-naked women on the streets, a potential driving hazard.
Clarkson then replied: “No, no, no. Honestly, the burka doesn’t work. I was in a cab in Piccadilly the other day when a woman in a full burka crossing the road in front of me tripped over the pavement, went head over heels and up it came, red g-string and stockings. I promise that happened. The taxi driver will back me up on that.”
Surely a statement like this humanises niqab-wearing women, and underlines what many of them have always said about these garments? That while they cover everything but their eyes and hands in public to please their Lord, underneath the burka they can wear whatever they jolly well like.
There is a worryingly high number of people who think that Muslim women continue wearing niqabs – and hijabs – in front of their families at home. Some headscarf-wearing friends of mine have actually been asked, “Do you wear it while you sleep?”
While serious discussions should take place within Muslim communities regarding the theological basis of face-veiling, there is no reason why these issues should not be broached using gentle humour too. Comedy has always been the best way to diffuse tension and awkwardness, and amidst all the serious opinion pieces on the burka (plus awkward silences from well-meaning bureaucrats or over-the-top reactions from various politicians), there should be a space for light-hearted remarks like Clarkson’s.
What is genuinely alarming is the fact that public servants like Philip Hollobone MP are refusing to see niqab-wearing women in their surgeries, when we all know that writing a letter to one’s MP – in real terms – is not as effective as paying them a visit. The Clarkson incident has merely highlighted the need for feminists – including Muslim ones – to choose our battles wisely instead of getting caught up in trivialities.
The English left needs to reclaim English identity – otherwise there is a dangerous vacuum in which all sorts of resentments over devolution, and immigration get channelled through the prism of a reactionary and belligerent Englishness. We all know the signs of this – and ippr research has found that concerns about immigration are often articulated through a sense of aggrieved English nationalism.
This is not to argue for an English parliament, but rather for the left to re-discover its radical English heritage and defend our interpretation of our national history against that of the right. It is also a call for Labour in office to give some institutional or cultural recognition to England, so we can promote the same kind of shared civic identity that has been so successfully fostered in Scotland and Wales.
If we want to remain British – as I do – then we have to sustain majorities for British identity in each of the British nations. The idea that this is best done by suppressing other national identities is wrong-headed, and denies the history of Britain and Britishness too. As a civic identity for a multi-national state, Britishness was inherently plural from the start. Just as, after Thatcherism, devolution to Scotland and Wales was necessary to save the Union so is demonstrating that British identity has plenty of room for Englishness too.
The British left should have more confidence in its engagement in our national conversations. If some on the left have had an apparent allergy to expressions of national identity, that has never been universally true.
Yes to both.
I wrote about Englishness a few weeks back, and have nearly finished a follow-up article.
It’s a welcome contribution, and would like to see the other candidates also talk a bit more about re-imagining national identity too. Am writing another article for the Guardian as a follow-up to explain why I think the left should also embrace Englishness.
There’s one point I wanted to clear up about the initial article: I’m not saying that you can only be English and not British. I emphatically believe in multiple identities… and have no problems with people calling themselves British and English.
I want to follow on from the earlier thread on ‘anti-English racism’ and start with an anecdote I’ve related here a few times. Back in 2005 when I was passionately arguing against the Sikh play Behzti being shut down, because some Sikh extremists were angry, I was invited to a radio discussion. Sitting next to me were some Sikh ‘human rights group’ who said, with a straight face, that they wanted to see the playwright Gurpreet Bhatti (herself a Sikh) put on trial for ‘inciting racial ahtred against Sikhs‘. I kid you not. I laughed at them.
Of course, they didn’t get anywhere, thankfully. I’ve earlier pointed out why Sikhs and Jews in the UK, absurdly, are legally defined as a race. Briefly, it’s a legal instrument to ensure they were covered by race relations legislation while having some particular exemptions. The point is that the law is a bit of an arse and it’s terribly outdated and messy. New Labour did say they were going to streamline and simplify all this equalities legislation but I’m not sure it got anywhere.
The broader point is that the Campaign for an English Parliament are behaving exactly like how Ms Bhatti’s detractors were at the time.
Entertainment retailer HMV will no longer stock anti-English World Cup merchandise in its Scottish stores amid fears it could incite racial hatred.
The chain reportedly made the decision following complaints to police from the Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP) and members of the public. A banner featuring the slogan ABE – Anyone But England – was removed from HMV in Kirkcaldy after a police visit.
What the hell? I used to be in the ‘Anyone But England’ camp years ago (firmly supporting England this time) but the idea that these t-shirts incite racial hatred is bollocks.
You know why? Because it assumes that Englishness is a racial identity. It’s certainly not. And I have half a mind to complain to the ‘Campaign for an English Parliament’ that they are inciting racial hatred by implying I cannot be English simply because I’m not white.
Update A CEP person responds by calling me a ‘British Nationalist’. Erm, what does that mean? I’m in the BNP now? The blog post says:
There was even the obligatory attempt to portray either the CEP or myself (or both) as ethnic nationalists who believe that English means white – that’s not the CEP’s opinion and nor is it mine.
Ok, so being English does not mean being white according to them. But then Stuart goes on to say:
First of all, let’s just deal with the misconception that English is not a race
WTF? English is a nationality, not a race. White Caucasian is a race. Anglo-Saxon is an ethnicity. If an identity such as being English can be multi-racial, how in the world can it be a race? These people really are confused.
Exclusive: Police have warned four east London MPs their names were on a terrorist hit list, Channel 4 News’s political correspondent Cathy Newman has learnt.
The disclosure comes two weeks after the former minister Stephen Timms was stabbed while speaking to constituents. The attack in east London by a young Asian woman is now being treated as a terrorist investigation. His assailant is believed to have been radicalised by Islamist extremists.
Wow. I didn’t realise that the attack on Timms was by an Asian woman and now treated as a terrorist investigation. Was her name ever released? And why Stephen Timms? As far as I’m aware he’s not even spoken up about Muslims or terrorism in general (not that it would be right if he had…) – very odd.
Counter-terrorism still remains very relevant i seems.
This is turning into a bit of an epidemic. First there was the case of England shirts not being banned in pubs. Now…
“We have carried out a full investigation and can’t find any evidence to substantiate this claim. No driver fitting the description given was working on any routes in this area at that time. Our buses were busy around the time yet no one else has been in touch with us about this alleged incident.
“Far from banning England shirts on our buses First is fully supportive of England’s World Cup campaign and we are, in fact, currently fitting good luck banners featuring England flags on all our buses in England.”
The last few days have seen plenty of debates over political coalitions and the real or imagined splits between the parties, whether it be on taxes, spending, law and so on. Yet perhaps the most important debate is emerging across party lines, without people even realising. This debate concerns Britain’s future. Not in the empty way that ‘Britain’s future’ is usually discussed, but rather the need to make sacrifices now in order to make the future better for ourselves, and the divide between this and policies which preserve the luxury of the present at the cost of the future. The split isn’t a simple one. Most people advocate some measures that will help Britain in the future, while at the same time advocating measures that will harm it. These are not painless choices which everyone can agree upon, and some people will lose out in the short run. But the alternative is long-term ruin.
There are numerous policies that fall into the above categories. The need to tackle climate change is held back by people unwilling to pay higher prices for energy, change their habits, and fund research into renewable sources. Many people are happy to talk about fighting climate change in theoretical terms, but once they need to reform their own behaviour, their ardour cools. Climate change needs to be managed, but it wonâ€™t be so long as it requires people to make sacrifices.
I’ve always believed that Islamists living in liberal democracies eventually realise that their tub-thumping ways are no use, and end up joining the system. Of course, fringer nutters remain, but that general theory holds. A prime example is Inayat Bunglwala – from the Muslim Council of Britain – who eventually started writing articles and expressing views that most Guardian CIF readers found hard to diasgree with.
Yesterday Anas Altkriti, another tub-thumper of yesteryear, wrote this sensible article for CIF pointing out that Muslims have (shock horror!) quite ordinary concerns when it comes to making political decisions. It’s for this reason I’ve never bought the neo-con ‘Islamists-under-your-bed!‘ view that Islamists should be marginalised as much as possible. It assumes they can’t learn from us.
But I suspect many political Muslims get annoyed when such articles imply Muslims are just like anyone else, because in their minds that’s still not true.
The BNPâ€™s ongoing assertions about â€œEnglish indigenousnessâ€ have some interesting ramifications, particularly in the context of claims of primacy, dominance and territorial â€œownershipâ€ based on the notion of â€œwe were here firstâ€. The first inhabitants of the British Isles were the group now termed â€œCeltsâ€ as per the accepted definition in mainstream British discourse, and as a result, Celts and people exclusively descended from them are actually the only genuinely â€œindigenousâ€ inhabitants of the British Isles.
Someone has done a study to back up what I’ve always been saying. And guess what, I bet none of the papers who claim to hate the BNP will report on this ippr study:
The British National Party (BNP) frequently suggests that it attracts support because it is the only party to take into account communitiesâ€™ â€˜realâ€™ experiences of immigration.
ippr has explored whether or not this is the case by looking at the roots of BNP support across 149 local authorities. We conducted regression-based analysis to see whether or not high levels of immigration do raise communitiesâ€™ support for the BNP, or if other variables â€“ such as political disengagement â€“ are important.
Our findings suggest that areas that have higher levels of recent immigration than others are not more likely to vote for the BNP.