Yesterday saw the London march of the now worldwide campaign known as Slutwalk. The movement began in Canada after a police officer speaking about rape told an audience that they should avoid dressing like ‘sluts’ if they didn’t want to get raped. The was a lot of talk about the march being about reclaiming the word ‘slut’, but the vast majority of people were there to simply reassert something that should be patently obvious: that rape is the fault of the rapist, not the victim, and that a woman (or man) should be able to wear what they want without being sexually assaulted.
Many women on the march were dressed in a revealing way to try and hammer home this point; that it is their choice, not anyone else’s. The protest saw a good number of men turn up too, with some dressed in bras and short skirts in solidarity with the female marchers. It was gratifying to see the media give the protest so much attention, though that was probably more to do with the photo and video opportunities afforded than anything else.
The Socialist Workers’ Party attempted to hijack the march by handing out placards with their name on it, but nobody seemed to be paying much attention to them. Given that they only recently formed part of a woman-hating coalition (with Respect), perhaps this was an attempt to make amends. Most surreal was the builders who stopped to watch the march, perhaps feeling unable to wolf whistle whilst they clutched their Starbucks frappuccinos.
The march finished with speeches in Trafalgar Square, the best one being (in my opinion), by a prostitute who spoke about the brutality of her work and the dangers of criminalising either prostitute or seller, as it would drive the practice underground.
Given the huge levels of domestic violence still prevalent in this country, and repeated incompetence in dealing with it, my thanks go to the organisers for helping ensure that this event took place.
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of her release she signed a pledge that she will not participate in the Women2Drive initiative and has officially withdrawn from the campaign.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.
Peter Tatchell, who went to Moscow to protest against the government’s decision to ban the gay pride march, reports on the violence directed against him and others by both neo-Nazis and the police. A number of observers pointed out the collusion between the neo-Nazis and the police:
I went to City Hall to protest but was separated from our Moscow Gay Pride group. Neo-Nazis identified me for attack. Being alone and with the police refusing to protect us, I had to escape down alleyways to avoid a beating. I was not arrested.
By banning Moscow Gay Pride, Russia has defied a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that it must be allowed to proceed. Some of us now plan to press the Council of Europe to suspend Russia’s right to vote in the Council’s parliamentary assembly. Russia must not be permitted to defy the European Court with impunity.
The two non-white protestors at the march were both arrested and put in solitary confinement, before eventually being released. Russia has long seem homophobic attacks and official harassment of LGBT activists and individuals.
In the midst of the current hysteria surrounding the internet and children, and given the tragic murder of Ashleigh Hall; the Mail obviously thought it would be a good time to tap into the fear of thousands of ‘predators’ posing online. Facebook in particular has come under attack as unfortunately it was the site where Ashleigh Hall first met her killer.
This is a guest post by Shaaz Mahboob of British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD)
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia appears to be at a crossroads today. For decades the alliance between its powerful clergy and the royal family has proved to be one of the most stable and blissful. However, King Abdullahâ€™s recent flirtation with modernity appears to have backfired. Cracks are now visible in this alliance that has up until now successfully acted as a vanguard against attempts to democratise the oil-rich state or to bring any progressive reforms to its society.
The ‘King Abdullah University of Science and Technology’ (KAUST) is indeed a welcome step by the King, who has experimented with putting men and women together in a learning environment, never seen or heard before in a country governed under strict ultra-orthodox Wahabi variant of Islam. Not only has this initiative been well received by the Saudi public, the King has to be credited for his boldness in crushing any dissent by the clergy who are disdainful of this attempt to change the fundamental structure of Saudi society. They are not only taken aback by this blatant liberalism allowing gender-mixing, but also by the scientific elements that are being taught at the university, such as evolution and other aspects of modern technology. It is indeed ironic that such clerics in Saudi Arabia and across the world shun topics like the theory of evolution as â€œblasphemousâ€ yet are equally comfortable using the wonders of science such as mobile telephones, internet and the good old television to spread sectarianism, inequality of men and women as well as hatred for all those who do not adhere to their version of Wahabi Islam.
“In the socially conservative subcontinent, where kissing in films is censored and couples can be fined for public displays of affection, women are rushing to buy romantic tales of dashing heroes, ravishing beauties and happy outcomes. Last week Shiv Sena, a right-wing Hindu nationalist party, called for a government investigation into the legality of romantic fiction.
“This kind of literature should be banned. It is against the cultural values of the country and is likely to have an unhealthy impact on the minds of teenagers,” said Vinod Bansal, a party spokesman. Another Hindu party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, also called for a ban, saying: “We donâ€™t think these vulgar things should be allowed.”"
They must not have watched any Bollywood films recently. They certainly have too much time on their hands.
“According to Najlaa Al Maahi, one of Hussein’s legal team, with whom I spoke after the trial, the proceedings were hastily conducted and the defence was not allowed to make its case. The general sentiment was that the guilty verdict and the sentence, a fine of Â£130, had been decided in advance and the trial was merely a formality. The goal apparently was to tar Hussein as indecent but not resort to lashing. This would leave the case against her intact, but not enact a brutal punishment while the world watched. Government supporters were hailing her conviction as a victory while their opponents saw the fine as a climb-down from the initial penalty of flogging, one which Hussein would have endured had she not challenged those who detained her.”
A very brave woman, who could have avoided a trial but decided to face her tormentors in order to put pressure on them.
Update: Cath Elliot points out in the comments that Lubna Hussein has had her fine paid, so will be released. I wonder if she is happy about that.
You may remember Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick from previous farces as the time he walked out of a Muslim wedding in a huff because him and his wife had to be temporarily separated. I thought he was being quite opportunistic and idiotic, though Jobeda Ali wrote a guest post for us saying, ‘Letâ€™s not confuse standing up against sexism with standing up for racism’.
But any doubt of the opportunistic nature of Fitzpatrick’s blatant pandering should be dispelled by this story today in the East London Advertiser:
Government Minister Jim Fitzpatrick has called for segregation to be outlawed in Britain.
Mr Fitzpatrick, the MP for Poplar and Canning Town, told the BBC that he does not oppose segregation in mosques, but believes separating men and women in halls such as the London Muslim Centre and other public buildings was “unacceptable.”
Mr Fitzpatrick told the PM programme: “Forcing people apart, removing the choice to be able to sit together, for me is a very big issue.
Well that would of course mean banning all women-only swimming lessons across the UK. You’d even have to ban girl-guides and boy-scouts then wouldn’t you? Or would you say another authoritarian Labour MP is floating an idea which has zero chance of ever being enacted but appeals to a certain constituency which think these nasty Muslims are destroying British values.
How about the revolutionary idea that people are able to choose whether they want segregation or not? I know that this thought might not occur to some Labour MPs that much, given they love enacting laws for every pet crusade they’re leading, but shouldn’t people have that choice? I’d also love to see the reaction to this stupidity in the Orthodox Jewish community.
Finally – completely bizarre that the East London Advertiser didn’t find anyone to call bullshit on this story and point out how unworkable it actually is. Perhaps some newspapers have their own agenda to grind too.
Rumbold has already written that its difficult to know what to do in situations when confronted with things you don’t like. But I do know what I don’t like – opportunistic MPs such as Jim Fitzpatrick throwing a tantrum and using that to score cheap political points.
Let me put it this way. One of these days I’ll hopefully get married and a ceremony is likely to be held at a Sikh Gurdwara (more because my parents will want to have a ceremony there rather than on account of my own religiousness). In a Gurdwara the guys sit on one side and girls sit on the other side, and the bride-groom in the middle. If some MP came and didn’t like it, buggered off, and then sent a press release to all the media going on how about insulting he found it – I wouldn’t speak to that tosser ever either.
It’s one thing to raise the issues of female foeticide, forced marriages or other activities where people are forced to do things against their will. It’s entirely another to try and squeeze votes out of a situations you may not agree with. Let minorities deal with their own issues as long as it’s within the law. How about that for a revolutionary idea?
I have a suggestion: why don’t Labour MPs ban the practice of British women adopting the surname of their husband once they get married? That’s a pretty unequal situation too and I know plenty of feminists who won’t do it. It’s only right these MPs register their disgust and refuse to stand for it.
Near the end of James Joyceâ€™s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus tells the reader: â€œI will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to useâ€”silence, exile and cunning.â€
For the Indian artist Maqbul Fida Husain, these words now carry a special meaning: opposition to him and his work has now travelled beyond Indiaâ€™s borders. In 2006, a group of Hindu activists attacked two of his paintings at an upscale art gallery, asserting that if Muslims could ban cartoons of Prophet Mohammed made by Danish artists, why couldnâ€™t Hindus do the same with Husainâ€™s art?
What was unusual about this act of vandalism was that the gallery was in central London, at Asia House near Oxford Circus.
Ironically, even as various police officers in India were issuing arrest warrants against Husain, the then Indian High Commissioner in London, Kamalesh Sharma, was inaugurating the show, where he called Husain Indiaâ€™s â€˜greatest modern artistâ€™ and added, â€˜Husainâ€™s career and success mirrors closely the meteoric rise of contemporary Indian art on the international stageâ€™.
Activists from the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir are covertly trying to influence the government’s consultation on sex education. Furthermore – they are being aided by Islam Channel, which has given them plenty of free airtime without revealing their affiliations.
Is the BBC Asian Network doing enough to feature mixed (i.e. on the basis of ethnicity and/or religion) couples and persons? MixTogether asks the question after Vijay Sharma, head of the BBC Asian Network, rejected the idea for a show (summary here):
“The central plank of their argument- that they do not wish to place Asians into boxes based on ethnicity, religion or language- is nonsense. There is an established precedent for the station to broadcast to specific Asian sub-groups.
Their weekly schedule includes separate shows for Mirpuri, Bengali, Gujurati and Punjabi listeners, along with a two separate Hindi/Urdu shows. There are separate devotional sounds programmes for Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism, plus another mixed devotional sounds programme that includes Christian music. There could easily be a show for mixed families.”
Now, the rejection of the proposal doesn’t prove that there is a problem. After all, plenty of proposals are rejected. But there is a real problem with the lack of similar programming it seems (I don’t listen to the wireless much). Given that the Asian Network is supposed to focus on ‘Asian’ culture, the head of the network can hardly claim that she wants to avoid a “niche programming approach”. It is a niche channel by definition, and given that 10% of all married Asians had a spouse from a different ethnic group, they are hardly a irrelevance.
BT has banned a religious website critical of extremist Jews that it has hosted for four years following a campaign from a group of MPs claimed it was anti-Semitic. It is understood to be the first time that a website in Britain has been shut down under such circumstances. The website, www.catholicvoice.co.uk, takes an inflammatory stance over extreme sections of Judaism that reject non-Jewish races.
How is that anti-semitic? And who gave MPs to use this power? I can only imagine the outrage if a group of MPs shut down a website critical of Islamic extremism.
And it looks like the BBC is now actively engaging in self-censorship: BBC rejects play on Israel’s history for impartiality reasons. Translated to: BBC afraid of accusations of stoking anti-semitism by broadcasting a play Melanie Phillips doesn’t like. In which case it should ban all documentaries critical of the Middle East, South Asia, Christianity or anything else because of “impartiality” reasons too.
And I doubt there will be an outcry by people who usually claim to be defending free speech. The claim that free speech in the UK is only being threatened by Muslims just makes it easy now for authoritarians generally to ban whatever they want without the media hysteria they know would come if it related to Muslims. It gives them cover. There still are no equal standards on free speech. I want to see equal standards: you either ban everything provocative, or nothing.
It is good that Jacqui Smith has decided to act humanely:
“A lesbian who fled Iran after her girlfriend was arrested and sentenced to death in Tehran has won her battle to be granted asylum in Britain.
Supporters of Pegah Emambakhsh, 41, who claimed she would be executed if she was deported back to her homeland, welcomed the Government’s change of heart last night after their hard-fought, four-year campaign.
Ms Emambakhsh came to the UK in 2005 fearing for her life, but last year she lost a court battle to stay in this country. Following a high-profile campaign involving gay rights groups, MPs and The Independent, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, agreed to reconsider her case.”
However, it does rather contradict her previous statement, made in June last year, that homosexuals could safely be deported back to Iran provided that they didn’t flaunt their sexuality once returned.
In the aftermath of the Mangalore attacks, and the campaign to send pink underwear to Sri Ram Sena, the group Save the Earth Foundation has promised to deploy martial-arts trained volunteers to protect courting couples from thugs:
“In groups of five or six people, at least ten teams of young men and women, trained in tactics of self defence will patrol major areas in Delhi and will be particularly vigilant against attacks on gift galleries that house special paraphernalia for Valentines Day.”
On January 24th the little-known group Sri Ram Sena (The army of Lord Ram) attacked a number of women who were drinking alcohol in a bar in Mangalore:
“The BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says the attack – which was filmed and then broadcast on national television – has shocked many Indians. Television pictures showed the men chasing and beating up the panicking women – some wearing skirts. Some of the women, who tripped and fell, were kicked by the men.”
Now the group, based in Karnataka, is promising to ‘protest’ against couples celebrating Valentine’s Day in public. Given their previous ‘protest’, one can only assume that violence will ensue.
Shops in England and Wales will no longer be allowed to display tobacco openly. This is the latest in a series of attacks on an apparently still legal product. There are two problems with this new legislation. One is the obvious one; namely the attack on the right of shopkeepers to display legal products that they are allowed to sell.
The other is the money spent on this legislation. The ‘survey’ used to justify it cost money. Someone had to write it, cross-reference it and money will have to be spent on enforcing it. Yes, this money is likely to be a drop in the ocean in terms of government spending. And yes, calling for the money to be returned to its rightful owners (i.e. us) never seems to attract much support. But what about the areas that this money could have been spent on, but wasn’t? What about the lack of spending on domestic violence shelters, or the lack of help given to people released from prison? Unless we stand up to the small abuses of taxpayers’ money, the state will continue to spend money on what ideological whim of the day it is enthused by, rather than on services that really matter.
Its finally happening. Britain is being gently shuffled into pooterish mediocrity. Whilst the generation of artists that had to face up to Mary Whitehouse and her hateful brigade were confrontational and interesting the generation of British artists that has emerged post cool-britannia produce generic crap.
They don’t have the ability to fathom what the interesting topics are let alone contribute in any meaningful way to breaking taboos or saying something interesting.
As Starbucks announces that it will only sell Fairtrade products, it does sometimes seem as if people are being pushed into purchasing goods labelled fair trade. We are told that free trade hurts the poorest countries, and only ‘Fairtrade’ can guarantee a fair price. Fortunately for the world’s poor, the majority of whom don’t, nor will ever, benefit from fair trade, the ethical superiority of Fairtrade was challenged in February, at least on an academic level (after a research paper from the Adam Smith Institute was published):
â€¢ Fair trade is unfair. It offers only a very small number of farmers a
higher, fixed price for their goods. These higher prices come at the
expense of the great majority of farmers, who â€“ unable to qualify for
Fairtrade certification â€“ are left even worse off.
â€¢ Fair trade does not aid economic development. It operates to keep the
poor in their place, sustaining uncompetitive farmers on their land and
holding back diversification, mechanization, and moves up the value
chain. This denies future generations the chance of a better life.
Did you know that the 1929 Lateran Treaty, between Italy and and the Vatican, states that an insult to the Pope carries the same penalty as an insult to the Italian President and can be prosecuted under the Ministry of Justice? I didn’t either. And neither, it seems, did the Italian comedienne Sabrina Guzzanti. She’s in trouble with the Pope:
Addressing a Rome rally in July, Sabrina Guzzanti warmed up with a few gags about Silvio Berlusconi â€” her favourite target for her biting impressions â€” before moving on to some unrepeatable jokes about Mara Carfagna, the Equal Opportunities Minister and one-time topless model.
But then she got religion, and after warning everyone that within 20 years Italian teachers would be vetted and chosen by the Vatican, she got to the punchline: “But then, within 20 years the Pope will be where he ought to be â€” in Hell, tormented by great big poofter devils, and very active ones, not passive ones.”
The joke may have gone done well with her crowd on the Piazza Navona in Rome, but not with Italian prosecutors. She is facing prosecution for “offending the honour of the sacred and inviolable person” of Benedict XVI.
The Christian world may have been dismayed, even outraged, at the Muslim reaction in 2005 to Danish cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammed, but Italian law enforcement appears to have had its own sense of humour failure. Giovanni Ferrara, the Rome prosecutor, is invoking the 1929 Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Vatican, which stipulates that an insult to the Pope carries the same penalty as an insult to the Italian President. Prosecution requires authorisation from the Ministry of Justice, for which Mr Ferrara has applied.
Maqbool Fida Husain, India’s pre-eminent contemporary artist, was cleared by three supreme court judges of the charge of offending Hindus, for his painting Bharat Mata (Mother India). The petition seeking prosecution claimed that the painting, which depicts a nude woman, was sacrilegious.
“Does the sentiment of the petitioner get scandalized by the large number of photographs of erotic sculptures which are in circulation?” the judges asked. “It is an art like the sculptures. None get scandalized looking at the sculptures.”
The artist, known in India as MF Husain, told the Associated Press: “At last, the dignity of Indian contemporary art has been upheld by the supreme court as expected.” He could not be contacted today.
That’s what he thinks. MF Husain will not be returning to India, from where he has been in self-imposed exile since 2006, until the hundreds of cases claiming damages for hurting “Hindu sentiment” are withdrawn. The supreme court ruling has done nothing for MF Husain.
A few weeks ago I had lunch with Colin Byrne, the highly perceptive head of Weber Shandwick, along with my friend Rakhee Vithlani. Both love blogging too. Anyway, we talked again about political blogging in light of this article in the Economist which mentioned Liberal Conspiracy. Colin’s also a leftie and asked why British lefty bloggers seemed so ineffectual on the blogosphere.
Are bloggers on the political left of the spectrum really that crap compared to those on the right? I don’t believe so, but I’ll come back to this question another time. I do want to point out how and what can be achieved if we put our minds to it.
I have some advice for British Muslim groups who might want to get involved in the controversy over the HFE bill and abortion: don’t.
Foolish people from a rent-a-quote Muslim group sent out a press release yesterday saying it hoped MPs would vote to end abortion. Apart from the obvious fact that the fools didn’t understand the legislation anyway, the point is that this debate is a poisoned chalice for Muslim groups.
There is no doubt that Nadine Dorries and her crew will try and enlist them in a broad coalition in her own culture wars. But the first thing we know about these nutjobs is that they’re outright bigots. The second thing we know is that they will try and use British Muslims for their own agenda when necessary (to get media attention for example) and demonise them when necessary.
To their credit, the MCB seems to have so far stayed away from passing any judgement on the bill. I hope they remain that way.
On other other hand, any attempt by British Muslim groups to loudly claim abortion is against their religion and that they’ll be encouraging all Muslims to write to their MPs opposing the HFE Bill, would be the best shot in the arm to the pro-choice movement. Then the media would finally start saying what a horror it is that men (Muslim men!!!) are trying to restrict white women from choice over their own bodies. The Daily Mail wouldn’t know what to do.
As the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Bill continues its way through Parliament, David Modell follows some of the leading members of Christian pressure groups as they attempt to win converts and convince MPs to base laws on Biblical beliefs.
Hard-line Christian activists are now mobilising believers in an attempt to make an impact on society nationally. Followers believe abortion and homosexuality should be illegal, there should be no sex before marriage and that the law of blasphemy should be strictly enforced.
Well, we exposed this on Liberal Conspiracy last week, by pointing out that Nadine Dorries MP was being funded by Christian groups in her campaign to curtail abortion rights. The main Christian groups mentioned in that documentary: LCF, CARE etc are not only bigoted, but behind Nadine Dorries MP’s campaign.
If you missed it, like me (anyone have it on YouTube?), you can read this article about it. Modern Tories – same as the old Tories.
I expect further moral outrage over actions like this by the Chinese government. Of course it’s easy to be outraged by the actions of arming a brutal regime when it’s not us not profiting from the weapons sales…
A Chinese cargo ship believed to be carrying 77 tonnes of small arms, including more than 3m rounds of ammunition, AK47 assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, has docked in the South African port of Durban for transportation of the weapons to Zimbabwe, the South African government confirmed yesterday. It claimed it was powerless to intervene as long as the ship’s papers were in order.
Copies of the documentation for the Chinese ship, the An Yue Jiang, show that the weapons were sent from Beijing to the ministry of defence in Harare. Headed “Dangerous goods description and container packing certificate”, the document was issued on April 1, three days after Zimbabwe’s election. It lists the consignment as including 3.5m rounds of ammunition for AK47 assault rifles and for small arms, 1,500 40mm rockets, 2,500 mortar shells of 60mm and 81mm calibre, as well as 93 cases of mortar tubes.
The carrier is listed as the Cosco shipping company in China.
Slowly but surely China is becoming the new official enemy.