The death of any prominent individual – let alone one who held controversial views – always results in a certain amount of aggravation as the skeins of supporters flock to various forms of media to have one final fight about the irreplaceable stature or utter irrelevance of the recently deceased.Continue Reading...
This is a guest post by Parvinder Singh.
The music legend Jagjit Singh sadly passed away on Monday in the Indian city of Mumbai. He was 70 years of age and had died of a brain hemorrhage. Like myself, millions had grown up with his music and songs. Many of them he had earlier sung with his beautiful and talented wife, Chitra Singh. Over the years though, the couple have had to endure horrific tragedies, particularly in relation to the deaths of their son and daughter. That pain and loss would cast a shadow on much of Singh’s compositions.
Years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Jagjit Singh perform live in London and was immediately captivated by his soft and warm voice and his take on the Ghazal, the musically form of Urdu ‘shayari’ or poetry. Without realising it, he had brought alive the words of the 19th Century poet Mirza Ghalib like no one before him. Such was his impression on me then, that I began to learn to read the Urdu script so to understand fully what was being said.
Yet Jagjit Singh was no ordinary singer from the subcontinent. He crossed borders and faiths in his quest to bring poetry to ordinary folk. From the Urdu verse and the Punjabi poetry of Shiv Kumar Batalvi, to the Punjabi Tappe, Hindu Bhajans and Sikh Shabads. Before his untimely death, he was in the middle of a tour with renowned Pakistani ghazal legend, Ghulam Ali.Continue Reading...
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is to kick off a series of four events with a speech exploring the complex and intimate relationships between Pakistan, Britain and the Pakistani diaspora in the UK.
The four debates will discuss:
· Given the historic ties between Britain and Pakistan (with 1.2 Million British citizens having Pakistani heritage and over 10,000 people flying from Manchester Airport to Pakistan every week) – what next for Britain and Pakistan?
· Do Westminster’s political and media networks engage sufficiently with the national British Pakistani community? Has the Prevent strategy resulted in the alienation of British Pakistani young people, and if so, how can more positive opportunities be created?
· Have the negative news reports and media narratives surrounding the conflicts in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan effected community relations in Britain?
· With the Pakistani diaspora continuing to support families, businesses, charities and welfare organisations back in Pakistan, what more can they do to engage with the recently announced £650 million DFID Pakistan aid programme?
· The series will feature prominent figures from the worlds of politics, business, arts, charity, culture, religion, philanthropy, development and the media. The programme will explore the historic, family, contemporary, economic, military and cultural ties between Britain and Pakistan and discuss the future for these relations both as part of the Commonwealth and in the context of a globalised 21st Century.
The events kick off 10th October. See this page for more details and if you want to attend.
This is a guest post by Rita Banerji. She blogs here.
Calcutta currently is in the midst of the Durga Puja – the 10 day carnival celebrating the goddess Durga. It is the annual climax of Calcutta’s cultural ethos. Not having grown up in Calcutta, I had never actually attended this celebration as a child. So at 30 when I moved to the city, I was fascinated and curious. I photographed the celebrations from every angle and asked a million questions.
Hundreds of pandals— elaborate temple like structures of bamboo, cardboard and jute—are are set up all over the city, which house the idols of the goddess and her family. There are different ceremonies marking each of the 10 days with enthralling symbolisms. Yet, within a couple of years my puja fever had died down, and that was largely because I didn’t appreciate a lot of what I was discovering about the pujas. So much so, that over the last 5 years, I have consistently boycotted the Pujas and urged others to do the same. Here are my reasons why:
> At the end of the celebrations all the idols are immersed in the Hoogly – the city’s river, a tributary of the Ganges. There are more than 40,000 idols dumped into the Hoogly every year. These idols are larger than life, some of them 10-20 feet tall, and most are made of non-biodegradable materials like concrete, fiberglass and metal. These don’t wash downstream. They sink to the bottom and make the river bed one big junkyard.Continue Reading...
Very interesting (and worrying!) story in the Daily Mail (via Shariq):
An Indian couple who met at a legal firm have become the first in Britain to claim ‘caste’ discrimination, saying they were forced from their jobs following their marriage.
An employment tribunal was told that solicitor Amardeep Begraj, 33, was from a higher caste than her husband Vijay, 32, the practice manager.
He belonged to the Dalits, formerly known as the Untouchables because of the nature of their work in roles such as cleaning, pest control or scavenging, and the lowest class of people according to the ancient Indian caste system.
Mrs Begraj has told the tribunal that a senior colleague warned her against marrying Mr Begraj because people of his caste were ‘different creatures’, while he was told his position at the firm was ‘compromised’.
What’s worse is that both are of Sikh background, which theoretically eschews the caste system as false. I hope she wins the case. Urgh.
Obviously I love the Golden Temple. And I’m sure many of our readers do too. But if you don’t want to shell out £600 and a whole load of pain to visit it, you could do the next best thing and check out this tasty looking exhibition at the Brunei Gallery at SOAS, London.
The exhibition starts next week from 14th July
The United States has recently seen a whole raft of bills aimed at ‘stopping shariah law’, introduced by lawmakers in individual states that have hardly any Muslims. Most of the inititiatives are led by tinfoil-hat-wearing kooks who shouldn’t even be allowed near a microphone let alone introducing bills.
The Guardian today reports on an initiative here too:
Islamic courts would be forced to acknowledge the primacy of English law under a bill being introduced in the House of Lords.
The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill will introduce an offence carrying a five-year jail sentence for anyone falsely claiming or implying that sharia courts or councils have legal jurisdiction over family or criminal law. The bill, which will apply to all arbitration tribunals if passed, aims to tackle discrimination, which its supporters say is inherent in the courts, by banning the sharia practice of giving woman’s testimony only half the weight of men’s.
This makes sense to me. I would go as far as saying these Shariah law and Beth Din (Jewish) courts should not even be allowed in this country (a reversal from an earlier position, I accept) because there is a grave chance that some people’s rights are abused.
For example, we recently reported the case of a top Sharia judge saying that husbands raping wives isn’t really rape. I don’t think those sorts of orthodox and misogynist views are rare.
The Muslim Council of Britain’s Khurshid Drabu objects:
Yet again, it appears to be a total misunderstanding of the concept that underpins these arbitration councils. Sharia councils operate under consent. If there is a woman who suffers as a result of a decision by one of these councils a woman is free to go to the British courts.
She is indeed, but that doesn’t mean she will always be free to do so. She might face a lot of pressure from locals not to do so.
In fact the above bill makes Sharia courts more likely to become entrenched because it removes the key objection that the courts are seen as above English law. I would rather they did not become entrenched. Nevertheless, if they are to stay then this should be a minimum requirement.
Nesrine Malik has a good piece on the Women2Drive campaign in Saudi Arabia and the difficulties faced by campaigners who are protesting against customs rather than just laws:
Manal al-Sharif, the woman who attracted global attention to the Saudi Women2Drive campaign when she posted videos of herself driving on YouTube, was released earlier this week from Dammam prison. As a condition of her release she signed a pledge that she will not participate in the Women2Drive initiative and has officially withdrawn from the campaign. In her statement, she expressed “profound gratitude” to the king, who apparently had ordered her release…
Campaigns of this kind need to be personalised – to have a galvanising figure who can provide a role model and inspire others. But becoming that person in a traditional society can be nothing short of social suicide. Although Sharif is feted in the media and celebrated online, she still has to survive and raise her children among fellow Saudis who might be more disdainful. In an attempt to deflect attention, she said in her statement that she hoped the “Manal al-Sharif file is now closed”.
Ms. Malik points out that there are no written laws relating to female driving, yet it is banned because a ban in enforced in practice.
‘There may be some evidence that cousins marrying one another can be harmful,’ he told an audience at the Hay Festival.
‘We should be concerned about that as there can be a lot of hidden genetic damage. Children are much more likely to get two copies of a damaged gene. ‘Bradford is very inbred. There is a huge amount of cousins marrying each other there.’
The problem occurs not as a result of a one off marriage between cousins, but rather through persistent inbreeding.
He was criticised by Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation:
‘I know many Muslims who have married their cousins and none of them have had a problem with their children. ‘Obviously, we don’t want any children to be born disabled who don’t need to be born disabled, so I would advise genetic screening before first cousins marry.
‘But I find Steve Jones’s comments unworthy of a professor. Using language like “inbreeding” to describe cousins marrying is completely inappropriate and further demonises Muslims.’
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.
The Daily Express is naturally alarmed by all this. That makes me happy.
A report today by MPs from the Home Affairs Select Committee says forced marriages must be criminalised.
A bit of background is important here. Its not like forced marriages are legal right now: its just that law-enforcers focuse on stopping forced marriages by using existing legislation against coercion, kidnapping etc to stop a forced marriage.
Some Asian women groups have been against a law specifically criminalising forced marriages in the past because of fears that it might drive the practice even more undergound. I’ve never really understood that argument.
A few years ago the Forced Marriage Bill was quietly passed but it seems to have made little impact, partly because the bill had no teeth. I wrote about it then for CIF.
Now MPs including Keith Vaz say its time to go further. I’m not a fan of Vaz but I’m inclined to agree. The law is a blunt instrument but the UK needs to take a big symbolic (and legal) step forward and take action on forced marriages. It might even force countries like India and Pakistan to take it more seriously.
Last week BBC Newsnight decided, in their infinite wisdom, to invite Anjem Choudhary (who heads up various now-banned Islamist groups) as representing Muslim opinion on the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Now it turns out some philosophy festival in Hay has invited him to debate on two separate panel discussions.
Anyone who has watched Choudhary debate as long as I have can tell you he’s not a particularly bright chap. He’s a master at pulling stunts to attract publicity, but his thought-process is boiler-plate extremist rubbish that Hizb-ut-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun types have been spouting for years. I could probably predict his response to most political questions.
So why invite him? Will he add to the discussion in an intelligent way? Or will he simply represent the ‘Muslim radical’ that some luvvies can’t get enough of?
Yahya Birt, who probably has more brain-cells in his pinky finger than Choudhary has in entirety, asked them why he had been invited.
Yahya – thanks for your interesting post. Anjem Choudary hasn’t been invited to speak because he has a ‘mandate’ from the British Muslim community. He’ll be expressing views that are his and his alone. As mentioned below, the fact that he’s… speaking in debates and not delivering a solo talk means that he’ll be forced to defend his views and held to account by his fellow panelists – and, indeed, the audience.
Ultimately it’s for individual members of the audience to decide for themselves who to disagree with and who to support.
Do these idiots actually think that Choudhary is there because he relishes the intellectual battle of ideas?
I already know who most of the audience will support, and it wont be Choudhary, because this isn’t meant to be a serious debate but more a spectacle. He’s being fetishised in a way that Nick Griffin wouldn’t be by the same crowd. Double-standards? I shall leave that for you to decide…
This is a crosspost by Richard Bartholomew
On Monday evening BBC 3 broadcast The World’s Worst Place to Be Gay?, a documentary about Uganda presented by gay DJ Scott Mills. There are few surprises: gay people are forced to live in slums, rejected by their families and at risk of violence, while a sampling of random interviewees from the street shows a visceral hatred for homosexuals and a wish for their execution (“everything bad should be done to those people”, says one young woman).
Mills also spoke to some of the individuals who are actively promoting anti-gay feeling: Giles Muhame, managing editor of Rolling Stone newspaper; Pastor Solomon Male; and David Bahati MP, author of the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill (a bill not unfairly dubbed by critics as the “Kill the Gays Bill”). Muhume is notorious for “outing” homosexuals in his newspaper (although a court injunction recently put a stop to this), and he explained that his paper had got information through having “infiltrated their circles” and by talking to “ex-homosexuals”. Muhame also claimed that stories of attacks on gay people were lies, and (rather unconvincingly) that if his own picture had appeared in the paper he wouldn’t be scared. He added:
We are not policing but we are assisting the police to do their work.
This is a guest post by Tithe Farhana. She has previously written for publications including The Daily Star (Bangladesh)
Bangladesh’s economy has been transforming slowly from agriculture to manufacturing & service industries; another consequential effect sees a shift from extended families to nuclear families, where both husband and wife are working and engaging in economic activities outside the home. This social transformation includes eating out and dining out, including fast food.
Akku Chowdhury, Executive Director of Transcom Foods Limited, defined “fast food as the term for fastest life style of modern society, we have general idea that fast food means MacDonald or Italian Dishes, but it can be local dishes and menus even Birani/ Chicken Curry can be regarded as fast food, if it is served quickly and saved time for taking.”
Dual forces of globalization are causing rapid world wide change in food supplies, food consumption behaviour and population health. One of the major changes over the last 10 years has been enlarged the development and marketing of western fast food habit in Bangladesh. Information technology, rapid growth of corporate houses, private universities and hectic life-style are totally craft a path to the new thinking, new culture and new life style, the popularity of the fast food is consequence of the changes of culture and traditions of life.Continue Reading...
This is a guest post by Eshaan Akbar
Oft-repeated family stories tend to have a mythical characteristic to them – particularly when they relate to many generations past. But one story has an altogether different type of tale in our family that continues to amaze those who hear it.
My great grandmother had the good fortune of being born into a wealthy family of landowners who branched out into businesses ranging from tea gardens to garments. The day she was to eventually get married, the groom-in-waiting turned up with his family who offered his hand in marriage. Everything was fine until they saw the complexion of my great grandmother – slightly darker than wheatish. Sensing the reluctance of the groom’s family, her father summoned some weighing scales, sat her on one of the scales and piled gold jewellery on the other until the value of the gold equalled the value of his daughter. The rest, as they say, is history.
Sexist? Yes. Archaic? A little. Consigned to the past? No. As part of every Bangladeshi wedding, the most important ceremony is the ‘Gaye Holud’ (turmeric on the body), not least because this is where all the singing and dancing happens. But, most importantly, it is where turmeric paste is applied to the body of the bride a few days before the wedding to ensure her complexion is the fairest it can be on the big day.Continue Reading...
Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is at the centre of a controversial photoshoot for Elle magazine, in which she appears to have had her skin whitened for the photos. Mrs. Rai Bachchan, who like many Bollywood actresses and actors is very wheatish anyway, appears to be several shades lighter in the photos taken.
Andrew Lansley: Due to the financial mess inherited from the previous Labour government, we have had to reduce spending on the NHS. However, don’t despair, as this has enabled us to outsource many essential tasks to private providers. Gone are the boring standard maternity wards, replaced by stables with mangers in them.
George Osborne: The three wise men did bring expensive items into this country it’s true. But since they were only visiting for forty days, they are classed as non-domiciled; given that they earnt the money for these items elsewhere they won’t be taxed on them. The fact that these three businessmen recently donated gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Conservative party is neither here nor there.
Nick Clegg: We had to form an agreement with the Roman Empire. Judea wasn’t a viable state in this world. Now thanks to our agreement, we can get wine from Gaul and slaves from the Rhine. Isn’t that what all our people want?
Iain Duncan Smith: Baby Jesus has a very rich, absent father. The idea that he should receive taxpayer-funded child benefit is wrong. Mary needs to take responsibility for her actions too.
Vince Cable: I am going to teach those Pharisees a lesson if they want to expand their temple. It’s war. Hang on, you are not random members of the public are you? I see that parchment in your hands! You are scribes!
Ed Davey: I hate working with Augustus and the Roman empire. It was much better when it was just King Herod and the other Jews. I don’t mind taking his sesterii though.Continue Reading...
The story of young actress Afshan Azad, assaulted by her brother because her boyfriend was not Muslim, has hit the headlines because she starred in Harry Potter.
But there are thousands of girls like her every year who aren’t able to tell anyone their story. They don’t just face domestic violence, but are sometimes forced into marriages to avoid any further such embarrassments. In extreme cases she could also be the victim of “shame” based violence.
Afshan Azad’s ordeal is common, and not just prevalent among Muslims.
When my mother found out I was dating a Muslim girl while at university, I faced a stern, disapproving talk about how she wouldn’t tolerate me marrying a Muslim girl (yes,most Asian parents are obsessed with marriage). But I got off lightly.
One night a group of Sikh guys came to our university and stabbed (in the leg) a Muslim guy who had been going out with a Sikh girl. In stark terms they told him to ‘leave our women alone.’Continue Reading...
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?”Continue Reading...
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…)
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.Continue Reading...
by Iman Qureshi
Equating the Quran with Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf, calling Islam a “retarded” religion, and demanding a “head rag tax” are just a few examples of how Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, has succeeded in catching the attention of many media headlines, as well as a Dutch court.
Wilders, whose trial is set to resume this week, is facing five counts of giving religious offence and inciting hatred against Muslims—particularly those immigrant to the Netherlands which are of Moroccan origin—through his comments to the public and media, as well as his short film, Fitna, which can be viewed on YouTube:
Wilders’ arguments make the scaremongering right wing press in America look moderate. His appearance on Fox News is almost amusing in its juxtaposition of an interviewer who clearly agrees with Wilder on many issues, but doesn’t quite have the balls or endorsement to say so out loud.
Indeed, Wilders’ is acutely aware of his unconventional and outspoken discourse. He dismisses theories of multiculturalism, cultural relativism and political correctness. They have no place in a Western liberal-democratic society, he argues. And nor does Islam and its proponents.Continue Reading...
In January 2003, the British media splashed the news that anti-terror police had disrupted an Al-Qaeda cell, poised to unleash the deadly poison ricin on the capital. Police had reportedly found traces of ricin, as well as a panoply of bomb and poison-making equipment in the cell’s ‘factory of death’ – a shabby flat in north London.
‘This danger is present and real, and with us now’ announced prime minister Tony Blair.
But, when the ‘ricin plot’ came to trial at the Old Bailey, a very different story emerged: there was no ricin and no sophisticated plot. Rarely has a legal case been so shamelessly distorted by government, media and security forces to push their own ‘tough on terror’ agendas.
In this meticulously researched and compellingly written book, Lawrence Archer, the jury foreman at the trial, and journalist Fiona Bawdon, give the definitive story of the ricin plot, the trial and its aftermath.
Lawrence Archer is the telecoms engineer who was foreman of the jury at the 2005 ricin trial. He has followed the lives of the acquitted defendants ever since, including attending their High Court and immigration appeal hearings.
Fiona Bawdon is a freelance journalist. She writes on criminal and civil justice issues for the national and specialist legal press.
The book is released October 11th 2010. More info here
SBS – the iconic west London based women’s group – has launched a fund raising appeal to support two women from India who were the victim of a horrific acid attack. I can’t publish the pictures here because they are that horrific.
Below is a letter they sent out to supporters, and wanted us to publish here:
* * * * * * * * * *
I am writing to you in the hope that you will be able to donate generously to finance the medical costs and rehabilitation of Samar (31) and Juwariya (25) Atique whose young lives and hopes were brutally crushed in October 2009 by two men who threw a jug of acid on their faces as the women were returning home from a day’s work in a rickshaw.
Their crime – Juwariya had turned down a marriage proposal from one of the men!
They sustained severe burns and injuries to their faces, their eyes and their upper bodies. In acid attack cases, the victims should be hosed down gently with a continuous stream of water immediately to stop the acid continuing to burn into their flesh. But they did not get treatment for five hours after the incident because the woman doctor was threatened with a similar attack by these men and their families.Continue Reading...