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20th February, 2006

The princess spy awarded the George Cross

by Sunny at 7:04 pm    

The story of Noor Inayat Khan came to light a few years ago when secret documents from WW2 shed light on the daughter of an Indian Sufi prince who gave up her life for Britain during the war. She was post-humously awarded the George Cross.

For more than half a century, myths, misconceptions and outright fantasies have crowded around the memory of Noor Inayat Khan. She was the first female radio operator sent into Nazi-occupied France by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Through the frantic, terrifying summer of 1943, the untried 29-year-old spy found herself virtually in charge of Resistance communications in the Paris area as the Gestapo arrested cell after cell around her. [The Independent]

The renewed interest comes on the back of a book being published on here life.

Author of ‘Spy Princess: the life of Noor Inayat Khan’ Shrabani Basu will be talking with Ian Jack (Granta) and MRD Foot at the Nehru Centre on 1 March.

Filed under: South Asia, Culture, India
18th February, 2006

Amartya Sen on British multi-culturalism

by Jay Singh at 7:19 pm    

In July, Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen is publishing a book titled Identity and Violence that brings more perspective to the debate on British multi-culturalism. Sen’s voice is badly needed. He is heavyweight intellectual with an impeccable record in advocacy for tolerance, pluralism and harmony; critical of the situation we are in but ready to defend multicultural precepts where they need to be defended.

In the Guardian today:

What begins by giving people room to express themselves, he argues, may force people into an identity chosen by the authorities. “That is what is happening now, here,” he says, a little indignantly. “I think there is a real tyranny there. It doesn’t look like tyranny - it looks like giving freedom and tolerance - but it ends up being a denial of individual freedom. The individual belongs to many different groups and it is up to him or her to decide which of those groups he or she would like to give priority.”

And next, he makes a point that Pickled Politics has been expounding consistently:

“Suddenly the Jewish, Hindu and Muslim organisations are in charge of all Jews, Hindus and Muslims. Whether you are an extremist mullah or a moderate mullah, whether you’re Blair’s friend or Blair’s enemy, you might relish the idea of being able to speak for all people with a Muslim background - no matter how religious they are - but this may be in direct competition with the role of Muslims in British civil society

In particular it means that government accords power and consults with the most conservative and self-interested representatives of a community, it silences dissent, and it also formulates a crude counter-response by society as a whole.

Unable to appreciate the diversity of individual life within minority groups, mainstream British society slots individuals into reckless and inadequate stereotypes, viewing minorities through the telescope of the issue-and-identity politics that sectarian bodies push, pumped up as they are with hot air and hubris because they get to sup with politicians and appear in the media.

He further speculates that this attitude may have roots in a disastrous policy followed by the British in the end years of British rule in India:

“This is the way,” he says, “that the British tried to interpret community divisions in India between Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. To Indian nationalists, it looked a further example of divide and rule, emphasising the divisions. The way that the British are handling it today makes one wonder whether the cultural confusion that the British had then has now been brought back home.”

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Guest post by Jay Singh

17th February, 2006

The clash of cultures?

by Sunny at 3:01 pm    

An interesting article in the Guardian today by Martin Jacques:

Europe has never had to worry too much about context or effect because for around 200 years it dominated and colonised most of the world. Such was Europe’s omnipotence that it never needed to take into account the sensibilities, beliefs and attitudes of those that it colonised, however sacred and sensitive they might have been.

There is a profound hypocrisy - and deep historical ignorance - when Europeans complain about the problems posed by the ethnic and religious minorities in their midst, for that is exactly what European colonial rule meant for peoples around the world.

[hat tip: Sahail]
Some will call him a bleeding heart liberal etc, and I know many on here will agree with the sentiment that “Europe’s contempt for other cultures can’t be sustained”. But I have some issues with it.

I had a related chat with Minette Marin a few weeks back, who found it annoying that the government treated as if all cultures are equal, hence a policy of ignoring local culture over “their way of life”.

On one level it sounds a bit arrogant, but I tend to partly agree. Everyone thinks their culture is superior (especially Indians), despite their positive and negative sides. So a small clash of cultures is not only inevitable, but healthy as long as it leads to competition and debate, not wars. European society might not be ideal but on certain issues, such as civil liberty, freedom of press etc, it is way ahead of others.

In a few decades time, this continent’s power may be dwarfed by others - due to evolution (and demographics) - in which case it will have to adjust its stance as it already is towards China/India. But why not stand up for what you believe in? It is part of the global dynamic and natural evolution of human society that best practice survives and bad habits die out when a better system provides competition.

Europe is forcing the east to open up because of the internet and because there is money to be made. Soon, this continent will have to open up to eastern influences while there is money involved or they find better ways of doing things. So far it has happened primarily in manufacturing (Japanese cars/electronics) but sooner or later it will extend to other areas of life. I say bring it on.

Filed under: Culture, The World
14th February, 2006

Cappucinos and Coconuts

by Shariq at 5:27 pm    

We’ve all heard the term coconut before and to be honest I’ve always thought it to be rather crude. So when I found the word ‘cappucino’ in the New Statesman special report on India, I was quite intrigued. Apparently in India, a cappucino is someone who is ‘white and frothy’ on the outside but with deeply conservative and traditional sub-continental ‘values’ on the inside.

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13th February, 2006

Re-discovering London at night time

by Sunny at 6:28 pm    

Writer Sukhdev Sandhu, author of London Calling, is undertaking an interesting project for his new book. He wants to re-discover the London night.

The point of this “midnight traipse across the metropolis” is partly to protest against the morphing of “the London night” into something called “London nightlife” ruled by real-estate moguls, foreign investors, film directors, etc. But it also partly to restore to the city and to night-time a sense of the street, crime, poetry and grime.

[via Amitava Kumar]
Night Haunts is a project with Artangel, a company “dedicated to making odd, imaginative, impossible projects happen,” Sandhu tells me in an email. He adds:

It’s pretty common these days to hear hipsters and tastemakers bemoaning the death of London. Lusaka is hot, Sao Paolo is rad, but London is meant to be a sterile, gentrified shadow of its old self. Not to the people I meet and talk too though. Sure the city can be pricey, feral and heart-breaking. But it’s also liquid, alive, exhilarating.

The website is basically a year-long journal which will be serialised in the Saturday magazine section of the Daily Telegraph and published in book form at the end of 2006. You can also drop him suggestions for places to see through the site.

Filed under: Media, Culture
1st February, 2006

Cartoon Solidarity

by Rohin at 6:53 pm    
gods copy

Europe’s press have shown support for the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, by republishing the controversial cartoons that caused a furore last year. Our commenters have already been discussing the issue but weeks after a Norwegian paper republished the cartoons, now France Soir, Germany’s Die Welt and Berliner Zeitung, Spain’s El Periodico and La Stampa from Eetalee have all published at least some of the drawings, which featured caricatures of Mohammed (why does everyone spell his name differently?)

Updated by Sunny

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30th January, 2006

Lakshmi Mittal the diplomat

by Sunny at 2:48 am    

You may be familiar with how much the richest man in Britain spent on his house, or his daughter’s wedding, or cosying up to Tony Blair. But will he be able to buy his biggest rival?

Mittal does not “share our values”, say Arcelor’s directors. “Racist shits or what?” says Tim Worstall. That’s only going to make him a bit more determined unfortunately. Lakshmi Mittal is launching a “diplomatic offensive” this week, touring France, Luxembourg and maybe even Spain to meet government ministers who want to know what’s going down. Will Mittal be able to sweet talk them with some extra cash? Who knows. I just want that house dammit.

Filed under: Culture, Economics
26th January, 2006

An Insider’s View of Behzti

by Rohin at 3:02 pm    

First off, Happy Republic Day to the Indians among us.

The Behzti controversy was a hot topic within and outside the British Asian community in late 2004. Now one of the actors has penned his thoughts in Catalyst Magazine about what being in the play was like and how the protests affected him (thanks, Raz).

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Culture, Religion
22nd January, 2006

How the Whale Became a Londoner and Other Stories

by Rohin at 12:26 am    

Rohin 25:17 -

“And lo the gentle visitor came from far above us and he tried to unite us. But how he suffered, and died for our sins”

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Filed under: Culture
20th January, 2006

The sad state of Hindus in Pakistan

by Sunny at 1:38 am    

The idea that religious minorities in Pakistan (anyone non-Sunni) get a fair treatment by the government and other institutions has always been a highly suspect claim. But whereas massacres of Shia and Ahmadiyya groups are regularly in the news, much less is known about the roughly 2.6 million Hindus that still live there.

Over the last few months, the issue of Hindu women being abducted and forcibly converted to Islam within Pakistan has been getting increasing coverage, a move that is likely to raise the political temperature until something is done. Last month in London, a demonstration was also organised on the issue.

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19th January, 2006

Are the women to blame?

by Sunny at 1:32 am    

Ten days ago Rohin wrote about India’s 10 million missing girls, a result of India’s problem with female infanticide and foeticide. Talk of educating them is not enough, as the stats pointed out, because the problem was most prevalent amongst India’s relatively wealthy states and a problem with the global Indian diaspora. Who were the women in the pictures protesting against? Themselves maybe?

Shravan from Lucknow had an interesting take on the issue, saying:

I do not even believe that female foeticide is a problem. I believe that it is just a symptom. A symptom of a deeper mindset. A symptom of Dowry. A symptom of under-development to an extent that a child means two hands, and not one good brain. A symptom of the fact that the women always leaves home after marriage and goes to her husbands.

So what could be a way forward? As Rohin also pointed out, the problem is that the women themselves have persuaded themselves that they are less important and should follow the whims of the men. Shravan himself suggests:

Therefore, dear lady-with-the-banner, if you want to make a difference, do not try to fight female foeticide, because its only a symptom. Fight the issues that cause female foeticide. It will take time, but begin at home.

Stop celebrating lavish weddings where the bride’s family pays for all of it. Why, stop attending them. Stop having a silly “bidhai” ceremony where the bride is tearfully sent off to her husbands. Lobby hard for nuclear families. The older generation holds these mindsets, they should be effectively cut off from decisions of which gender of a child to be had.

Do Indian women need to be saved from themselves? And if yes, by who? Feminist men? Or maybe a million versions of Nisha Sharma?

Filed under: South Asia, Culture, India
13th January, 2006

Faces of Asia

by SajiniW at 7:26 pm    

The piercing eyes and torn clothes of the girl with the green eyes, convey significantly more than the thousand words colloquially-attributed to a picture. Her face, symbolising the anguish and suffering experienced by those caught in conflict around the world, drew emotions and hope in a manner few textual articles in the very same (1982 National Geographic) managed to accomplish.

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9th January, 2006

Me fail English? That’s unpossible!

by Rohin at 4:48 pm    

The BBC reports:

Stonehenge, the FA Cup and the red Routemaster bus are among England’s most popular icons, according to a new poll. But what do the choices say about the English? And what about the rest of the UK?

To John Major it’s warm beer and cricket. To the Sun newspaper it’s Jordan’s chest and chicken tikka masala.

Apparently ol’ Blighty isn’t such a United Kingdom. /shock. Scotland, Wales and Ireland have their national identities clearly defined.

Scotland: Headbutts, haggis Loch Lomond, Edinburgh Castle
Wales: Leeks, Charlotte Church, Sheep Severn Bridge, Millennium Stadium
Northern Ireland: IRA, leprechauns, liver cirrhosis The Giant’s Causeway

But Inglande is all confused. A Portrait of England is a two year, one million pound white elephant which seeks to find the things the English cherish most. The first round of shortlisting, drawn up by professors and academics (i.e. normal folk) includes Alice in Wonderland and the SS Windrush. People were not eligible and as such, Diana, Churchill, Newton and Zippy were not on the list. Most shocking of all - no PUB!

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Filed under: Culture, Humour

10 million missing girls (updated)

by Rohin at 12:23 pm    

Asian women have a long, long way to go in the fight for equality. What’s more upsetting is that the perpetrators of crimes against females are often female themselves. Society has managed to convince men and women that females are inferior.

Just yesterday, a PP thread drifted onto the topic of female abortion in Asia. Today The Lancet published an Indian-Canadian study into the horrific practice in India. The Lancet requires a paid subscription for full access to articles, so I thought I’d add to the BBC summary. The study and an accompanying article by Dr Shirish Sheth will go to print next week.

The study, led by Dr Prabhat Jha and Dr Rajesh Kumar (Toronto and Chandigarh respectively), sought to ascertain the reasons for the unequal balance of females to males with specific reference to pre-natal sex determination and abortion. Across India the ratio stands at 933:1000, but is markedly more pronounced in certain areas such as Punjab, Haryana and Tamil Nadu. The study estimates that 500,000 female babies are aborted every year, for no other reason than their gender. However the study discovered that gender screening was most likely to be utilised when the family already had a daughter.

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7th January, 2006

Kennedy Resigns

by Nush at 3:56 pm    

Charles Kennedy has resigned as Liberal Democrat leader.

Kennedy at resignation

In a statement at Lib Dem HQ, Mr Kennedy said he had been “inundated” with support from party members since admitting having a drink problem.

But it had become clear he did not have strong enough support among MPs and had decided to quit with immediate effect.

It comes after 25 MPs delivered an ultimatum saying they would refuse to serve on the Lib Dem front bench unless he resigned by Monday.

You can watch the video of his resignation here

I guess we all knew that this day was coming, sooner rather than later.

In someways I say that this has all come full circle. The Tories are now riding a wave with Cameron shaking things up and wellLabour as usual they are spinning a dream (no pun intended heh!) it seems inevitable to me that the Lib Dems should now have their spot of bother.

I commend Kennedy for admiting he had issues but as ever it slapped him in the face. I hope he gets everything sorted that kind of scrutiny is typical of the politcial back stabbing arena!

So what is the future for the Lib Dems now?

By the way, what does everyone make of Blair’s comments yesterday that Brown will be leading Labour next?

6th January, 2006

Well whaddya know?

by Rohin at 12:14 pm    

Surprise! In an update to Sunny’s thread, the MCB are back in the news. They’ve decided that homosexuality is okay and that we should all just get along. They’ve said that holocaust memorial day is an important day to remember an horrific genocide.

Sort of.

Continue Reading...
5th January, 2006

Gorgeous George

by Rohin at 10:14 pm    

George Galloway is in Celebrity Big Brother, the ultimate in shit TV! So is Faria Alam, so that’s another reason I’m entirely justified in postin this here!

DISCLAIMER: I’m not watching it, I’m on the phone to my girlfriend, who is keeping me posted. Honest.

Filed under: Culture, Humour
4th January, 2006

Is political correctness out of control?

by Sunny at 10:59 am    

Or has the hype of there being “too much political correctness” out of control? The think-tank (I use the term loosely here) Civitas published a pamphlet today by journalist (even more loosely) Anthony Browne who claims that PC thinking is “harming society”.

Now I hate political correctness more than the next person, specially when it involves Asians, but when someone like Browne tries to display some intelligence over the issue, he fails miserably, and annoys me in the process. Let me explain why

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3rd January, 2006

On dealing with homosexuality

by Sunny at 10:42 am    

I was in West Hollywood recently with my cousins trying to find a bar before we went into a club, and it dawned upon us that all of the bars on that strip were gay bars. I shrugged and was about to go in before being vetoed by my brother-in-law and his mate. I eventually persuaded them into entering a posher (but still gay) bar though the resistance was still there.

Co-incidentally the same issues have surfaced last week in America over a new film and in the UK over comments made in a Gay and Lesbian magazine.

Given that principles of tolerance should be wholeheartedly embraced by British Asians, why then are they so homophobic (specially Muslims). And is it right then for gays and lesbians to be angry at us?

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Culture, Religion, The World
2nd January, 2006

The Return of Anti-Semitism

by Rohin at 1:01 am    

Rabbi Sir Jonathan SacksI say return, but had it ever left? Asians blogs or similar discussion fora often debate the undeniable rise in Islamophobia which has occurred over recent years. But, due to the obvious fact that there are less Jewish Asians, the issue of anti-semitism is not frequently addressed. Pickled Politics has objected to overt anti-semitism from the Iranian president and also criticised bodies like the MCB, who manage to overlook Ahmadinejad’s idiocy. We’ve come to expect anti-Jewish rhetoric from similarly-minded leaders, but is Europe following suit?

Today the UK’s Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, told the BBC Radio 4 Sunday Programme that he thinks anti-semitism is washing over the world like a tsunami [Listen here]. He considered the media, the Internet and best-selling books as vehicles which have created an image around the world that Israel is the root cause of all problems. As a result of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, violent campaigns waged by Islamic militants have won support. He feels that Jews outside Israel are being targetted as a result of events in the Middle East. He conceded that achieving peace in the Holy Land would make it harder for anti-semitism to flourish.

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