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12th November, 2005

Idiot sets himself on fire

by Sunny at 4:12 pm    

The New York Daily News reports of 48 year old Karnail Singh being seriously burnt in an incident in late October. And how?

Singh sparked the Ozone Park fire by dumping a flammable liquid on the basement stairs and igniting it because he was furious Kaur wasn’t sending money to his son in India, fire officials said.

Singh also accused her of seeing other men, court papers show. … [He] mistakenly set himself on fire and tore off some of his singed clothes as he fled, said Acting Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Robert Byrnes.

Too bad he got away. [Via Sepia Mutiny]. This comes not long after another idiot, Chomir Ali, bullied his sons into stabbing his daughter’s lover Arash Ghorbani-Zarin 46 times to vindicate “the family honour” because he made her pregnant by mistake.

The jury at Oxford Crown Court was told how Muji Rahman was a swaggering bully who, while condemning his sister’s behaviour for flouting the family’s strict Muslim code, had had sex before marriage, drank alcohol and rarely bothered to go to the mosque. After the killing in November last year he went out clubbing with friends in Oxford city centre.

Chomir Ali, who was out delivering takeaway meals while his sons carried out the murder, was arrested after his botched attempt to get rid of the knife and the killers’ bloodstained clothes.

All three were jailed for life, and rightly so.

Before anyone says these are one-off problems, consider this: The UN estimates that annuallly around 5,000 women are killed in honor killings. Indian police say that every year they receive more than 2,500 reports of bride burning. It would be no exaggeration to say that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh dominate the UN figures.

We have a lot to be proud of, eh?

Filed under: South Asia, Culture, Religion
11th November, 2005

Where are Sikhs and Muslims hiding?

by Sunny at 5:02 am    

On one of the several mailing lists I subscribe to, I received this the other day. I just had to post it. Slightly edited for clarity.

Near where I work is Leeds Magistrates Court and Leeds Town hall. There was a buzz around the building a few days ago.

It was the trial of Nick Griffin, the UK leader of the fascist British National Party. So at lunch time, I took the opportunity of walking over to the Court building where I could see the press, the police, and the BNP activists protesting outside court. I even recognised some of them, from the physical confrontations we had 3 years ago in Halton Moor area of Leeds.

They recognised me. Being an Amritdhari Singh with a dumalla, does make you stand out from a crowd. I read their banners, and listened to them chant their slogans, of ‘England for the English’, etc, etc. There must have been about 60 of them.

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Filed under: Religion, Race politics
10th November, 2005

How Islam got political

by Sunny at 6:43 pm    

Aminul Hoque, a 28-year old journalist and PhD student, says that although support for violence is low, alienation has grown steadily in his Muslim neighbourhood in London’s East End. “This resentment, this level of anger aimed towards anybody who is a non-Muslim has been there for a long time.”

A bit of a ‘things-to-watch’ roundup today - plenty of food for thought.

1) Frank Gardner presents Koran and Country: How Islam got Political on BBC Radio Four, tonight at 8pm. Journalist Ehsan Masood, campaigner Asghar Bukhari, Cosh Omar, a former member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Omar Faruk, a member of the Islamic Society of Britain. They describe how events like the war in Bosnia, The Satanic Verses affair and the Israel/Palestine situation have politicised British born Muslims.

The article illustrates how religious leaders use controversies to gain power. I’m sure we’ve seen recent examples from the Sikh and Hindu communities.

2) If you’re horrified by Radio 4 giving a platform to Hizb-ut-Tahrir, don’t worry. Ziauddin Sardar, who we love here on Pickled Politics, has written an article for New Statesman on the violence behind the facade. Via Mr T.

3) On a lighter note Morgan Spurlock, of Supersize Me fame, is presenting an edition of 30 Days tonight at 8pm on More 4.

Dave Stacey, a 33-year-old insurance salesman who loves pork will go and live with a Muslim family for 30 days. When asked what he pictures when he hears the word ‘Muslim’ he says: “I picture men with an AK47, and women with a sheet over their heads”.

Call it Religion-Swap if you will. I’m sure there’s a whole series in there just on that topic.

9th November, 2005

Sikhs plan shrine in Pakistan

by Sunny at 4:14 pm    

More evidence that as Kashmir starts gearing up for winter, relations between India and Pakistan are thawing faster than anyone expected. The latter is becoming more open to championing its non-Islamic cultural heritage and allowing more open displays by other religions. The BBC reports:

An Indian Sikh religious committee plans to build a seminary and a pilgrim centre in the Pakistani township of Nankana Sahib. The town is the birthplace of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev. A Sikh shrine already exists there.

The pilgrim centre planned at Nankana Sahib is aimed at facilitating the journey of thousands of Indian Sikhs who visit the shrine of Guru Nanak Dev every year.

The SGPC’s initiatives, announced days ahead of the 15 November anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev’s birth, are significant. If approved, this will be the first SGPC venture aimed at spreading its religious activities into Pakistan.

There are actually a lot of Sikh Gurudwaras in Pakistan, they’re just not that well looked after. Wikipedia has more history on Nankana Sahib, but it’s apparently disputed.

This not long after the news that Pakistan is also nominating the famous Katasraj temple in Pakistan Punjab for a World Heritage status.

Filed under: South Asia, Religion
7th November, 2005

Muslims march against Al-Qaeda

by Al-Hack at 8:03 pm    

Yeah, you read that right baby. Today’s Lebanese Star reports that it was in response to Al-Qaeda’s actions in Iraq.

Thousands marched through Morocco’s biggest city on Sunday to protest Al-Qaeda’s decision to kill two Moroccan hostages in Iraq. Holding banners and chanting “Muslims are brothers. A Muslim does not kill his brother” and “‘Yes’ to freedom, ‘No’ to terrorism and barbarity,” the protesters marched through Casablanca, a city of six million and Morocco’s financial capital.

Will Fox News report that I wonder? Any Americans killed? No. So probably not then.

Morocco’s influential organization of Islamic scholars, known as the High Council of the Ulema and the Councils of Ulema in the Moroccan Kingdom, said Al-Qaeda members in Iraq will suffer the “horrors of hell” if they kill the Moroccan hostages and the victims will die as martyrs. It dismissed Al-Qaeda’s argument that its verdict to kill the two embassy employees was “God’s judgment.”
Organizers and local government officials said more than 150,000 people took part in the peaceful march while reporters said the anti-Al-Qaeda protesters numbered more than 10,000.

Moroccan media, trade unions, human rights activists and state officials have issued appeals to save the two men’s lives and a mass demonstration is planned in Casablanca on Sunday.

They dismissed Al-Qaeda’s piss-poor excuse! I bet that riled up Ol’ Bin Laden.

Al-Jazeera also covered the rally. The Gateway Pundit has more. Via The English Guy.

Filed under: Religion, The World
5th November, 2005

Omar Bakri in action?

by Al-Hack at 12:22 am    

Politically correct? No. Funny? I thought it was amusing. The Police Federation seems to be in a bit of bother over it though, BBC says. If they labelled the escaping imam as Omar Bakri I would even believe it!

Filed under: Religion, Humour
4th November, 2005

Divide and Conquer

by Nush at 5:59 pm    

We believe that a far-right group is behind the desecration of graves in Birmingham, with an attempt to divide the Black and Asian communities in Birmingham. An urgent news alert on Ligali has the same view:

As an African British organisation who has been operating for a number of years in the UK, we have never encountered any information about an organisation called the ‘Black Nation’. We have contacted several organisations and trusted sources in Birmingham to ascertain whether they have heard of this alleged group.

BBC article here. We are of the view that someone is getting a kick out of exploiting existing tensions. We urge you not to let unsubstantiated claims effect your thinking without knowing all the facts.

Sunny adds: There has been tensions between the African and Asian communities in Birmingham (nowhere else), and this is an issue we have to resolve. The latest developments however look like the work of the far-right and we urge people not to let us be divided further.

Blick says the same. It may be the RVF.

Al-Hack adds: Adding to this couldron of hatred, two men: Waseem Mughal and Younis Tsouli, from west London, both 22, were charged with conspiracy to murder and to cause an explosion. Idiots!

3rd November, 2005

To see or not to see…

by Fe'reeha at 5:50 am    

…..the eid moon - this is the question facing Muslim community right now. Within the spectrum of British Muslims, the issue of moon-sighting is fast becoming moon-fighting.

When Regent’s mosque (Central mosque for Muslims) announced day before yesterday that it would not celebrate Eid yesterday, most thought it was probably a new beginning of having ‘one collective eid’ instead of two confused Eid-ul-fitr days every year.

But then Birmingham mosque declared earlier yesterday morning, there was no way they could produce the moon tonight so there could not be a chance of a collective eid. And so it carries on…

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Filed under: Culture, Religion
2nd November, 2005

Festival of light

by Sunny at 6:13 pm    

diya dance, originally uploaded by amrita b.

A day late, but Happy Diwali! And Eid Mubarak for tomorrow!

Filed under: South Asia, Culture, Religion
1st November, 2005

Hindu painting on Royal Mail stamp shocker!

by Al-Hack at 8:55 pm    

Another day, another religious body offended over something. This time, the Hindu Forum of Britain is not happy that a Royal Mail stamp has a Hindu family fawning over baby Jesus. [via Mediawatchwatch]

The stamp, featuring a man and woman with Hindu markings, is one of six depicting images of Madonna and child from around the world.

The Hindu Forum of Britain has asked for it to be re-designed without the Hindu markings or withdrawn. Royal Mail, while apologetic, said it was not possible to amend or withdraw.

BBC story. And pray, why exactly is the HFB offended this time?

Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the HFB: “…it would be insensitive to use it at a time when the issue of conversions in India has been a subject of heated debate.”

Commented Ishwer Tailor, President of the HFB, “Would the worldwide Christian community feel comfortable if the Government of India issued a Diwali stamp with a Christian priest offering worship to Baby Krishna?”

That’s some funny shit. I can just imagine them writing an angry letter to the Congress party to do exactly that just to spite Royal Mail. Kallidai adds:

Even if we accept that an artist in 1620AD took the artistic license to portray practising Hindus worshipping the baby Christ, we should be asking if this is politically and sensitively correct in the 21st century…. blah blah…bitch bitch…moan moan

To be fair, they had a reason to be annoyed over the picture of Hindu gods being put on shoes, but this takes the piss. Update: More at the Telegraph.

Filed under: Religion, Humour

Israel exists and will exist. Get. Over. It.

by Al-Hack at 12:16 am    

Hitler couldn’t have put it better, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says in the Indy today, and she is - to put it mildly - right on.

On Saturday I speculated why the Iranian President said he wanted to “wipe Israel off the map”. Now I know why: he’s bonkers and completely inept. But let’s allow YAB to put it more succintly:

Hitler couldn’t have put it better. The Führer would have played the audience similarly - a conference of emotive students marking Jerusalem Day, who would readily rise to imagine the glorious obliteration of the Jewish state.

You know the type, furious people like millions of others across the Middle East, disenfranchised and stamped on by their own leaders, who displace their anger by turning their eyes on Israel, lusting for its annihilation in a kind of political pornography which provides temporary relief but can only lead to a greater sense of hopeless impotence and homeless rage.

Of course, you gotta stump up the cash to read the whole shebang but her point is: Israel exists. And it is vital for progressive Muslims to stand up and say so.

To many, including the Palestinians, that would be pointing out the obvious. The Palestinian Authority’s own chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said his comments were “unacceptable” and that the PA itself “recognised the state of Israel”. So why can’t the rest of the Muslim world do the same instead of trying to make things worse for the Palestinians? It’s not like the Arabs have been lining up to help the Palestinians financially, is it?

29th October, 2005

The Iranian mad cow disease

by Al-Hack at 12:12 am    

Since those comments were made, understandably there has been a diplomatic orgy of condemnation and I will not even bother to defend the President of Iran.

But he is not stupid and there has to be a calculated reason why he said he wanted Israel off the map. Here at Pickled Politics we want to go behind the scenes, rather than simply throw out tired insults like some xenophobic blogs.

It also helps to examine Israel’s role in all this.

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26th October, 2005

Pushing for change as British-Pakistani Muslims

by Sunny at 3:03 am    

Navid Akhtar, behind Monday’s C4 documentary - Young, Angry and Muslim - wrote an interesting article for the Observer the day before (via FaithinSociety) about some Muslims being torn between cultures and turning to extremism. He starts by saying:

But for many in our community the London bombings were a watershed and left us feeling the time had come to face up to some harsh realities. The community has failed to address a growing crisis of identity.

True, though some like Dr Mohammed Naseem and the MCB still seem to be living in a fantasy world. Navid elaborates on the problems.

Our community is fracturing - we live in the most deprived areas of Britain, family ties are breaking down, personal conflicts and ‘honour’ killings are on the increase.We have low educational achievement, high unemployment and one of the largest prison populations for any ethnic group. A once law-abiding community is now plagued by drugs, crime and violence.

True, and these are issues that the community leaders need to deal with, rather than working on their TV interview techniques. He talks of the Biraderi clan system and how that gives rise to frustration over politics.

Young Pakistanis are losing faith in mainstream politics. Tribal people are reluctant to break old relationships, so despite anger over foreign policy clan elders continue their relationship with Labour. The effect is rising support for radical parties, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir which campaigns for restoration of the caliphate and sharia law, basically a return to Islamic rule in the Muslim world.

This is a point I disagree with. Whatever your leanings and the failure of the Labour govt, I believe Muslims have to realise that to influence real change they have to do it from within the Labour party. Opportunistic people like Galloway and the Respect party are as useful as a lighter in a barn, and only provide false hope by fooling a few people. It is always within the centre that real power lies and where any lobby group should aim to influence.

Navid Akhtar illustrates why Hizb ut-Tahrir are to be despised (condescending towards others, no real plans, supporting terrorists etc) though does not examine this enough. He may have done in the programme though, which I unfortunately missed. He ends succintly:

I believe the future of my community lies in finding the right blend of all that is British, Pakistani and Muslim. Change can only come from within, but we have to accept out faults first. It is from the young people, in particular women, that grassroots solutions will begin to emerge.

This applies to pretty much everyone mate… if only we had more women leaders.

Filed under: Media, Culture, Religion
25th October, 2005

Tyranny of the minorities

by Kismet hardy at 2:15 am    

After the 7/7 atrocity, if you sat on a train and saw a bearded Muslim man with a bag and thought, even for a split second, “people like you”, then the minority that caused the tragedy achieved in making you the very thing you hoped never to be: judgemental of people you do not know.

If anyone still believes the actions of minority aren’t the main focus of the populous, pick up the two best selling newspapers The Sun and The Daily Mail.

The more I think about it, the more it seems obvious. It’s the minority that always rule…

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21st October, 2005

Hear the one about the Archbishop, the Muslim and the religious hatred bill?

by Rohin at 10:06 pm    

Like most old men in their early 20s, I’m spending an increasing amount of time listening to Radio 4. Now I don’t really want to go over old ground about the religious hatred bill, as it has been covered in length elsewhere – Sunny has done an especially good job. To briefly state my position, I believe it to be a fig-leafed token gesture to appease the MCB after Blair pissed off a lot of Muslims. I simply want to bring a few fascinating comments from this evening’s Any Questions to your attention.

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17th October, 2005

Hizb ut-Tahrir caught with pants down

by Sunny at 4:52 am    

The brainwashed followers of Hizb ut-Tahrir have been recruiting under the name Stop Islamophobia, Sunday Times’ Ali Hussain revealed yesterday. He found their stalls in freshers fairs at Luton University, SOAS, Queen Mary and London Metropolitan University.

He met Shazad Ali from UCL who, in his infinite wisdom, said: “You definitely can’t have (Jews) as close friends.” Foolio. Then he meets Razaq who recently asked a HuT ’sheikh’ about suicide bombings. The reply was:

I can strap a bomb to myself and kill as many people as I can. I’m going to die shahid (martyr) and go to jannah (heaven).

Ban them already, please! Then Razaq says:

Stop Islamophobia is set up by us. But we don’t actually push it like that. The moment they link Hizb ut-Tahrir with Stop Islamophobia, they’ll bring the whole campaign down.

… and mess it up for Muslims who are genuinely (and without a sinister agenda) working to stop Islamophobia. HuT’s rebranding isn’t surprising, but their audacity to piggy-back on other issues is well, typical I guess. What next, using a stall supposedly raising money for Kashmir?

Filed under: Religion
14th October, 2005

Dutch remain paranoid about Islam

by Al-Hack at 7:30 pm    

The Dutch government is instigating a bit of a war against the Burqa, which Muslim women wear to cover themselves fully.

Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk has proposed a ban on the wearing of Muslim burkas - full-length veils covering the face - in certain public places, to prevent people avoiding identification.

Practical or over the top? I get the feeling that the Dutch are doing everything possible to restrict freedom of religion for Muslims.

The authorities in the Dutch city of Utrecht have reduced unemployment benefit for women who say their refusal to remove their burkas is preventing them getting jobs. The measure was prompted by the case of two burka-clad women who said they did not attend job interviews.

It’s difficult to figure out where to stand on this. If they don’t want to work due to the burqa, then it’s their own choice, they shouldn’t be claiming benefits. Last year several Belgian towns, including Antwerp and Ghent, banned the wearing of the burka in public. Why punish everyone in the name of one mad nutter?

Filed under: Religion, The World
12th October, 2005

‘Muslims and neo-Nazis’

by Sunny at 4:40 am    

Like an increasing number of commentators these days on current affairs, Melanie Phillips has lost all sense of proportion. Actually, she lost any sense of balance years ago but a recent rant shows how, like many others, all Muslims automatically get equated with being Nazis or anti-semitic.

Phillips was angry about a BBC Radio 4 documentary broadcast on Sunday titled A war Against Prejudice.

It looked at the work of the British Jewish defence organisation called the Community Security Trust (CST), and implied that statistics on attacks on Jews were inflated to give the organisation more relevance. No, it wasn’t going to go down too well.

She dismissed the two Jews on the programme who concurred with this view as “utterly unrepresentative of the mainstream Jewish community”, one simply because he was involved in Jewish-Muslim dialogue. Yeah, because that shouldn’t be allowed.

The third accuser was Inayat Bunglwala of the MCB and clearly makes an easy target because he’s not exactly an unbiased commentator. Cue some questions Bunglawala should be asked himself. Then this:

Anyone who talks to the police will know that the Jewish community in Britain has to be guarded against the very real threat of attack from both Muslims and neo-Nazis.

Every single synagogue or communal event has to be guarded. It is a threat we Jews all live with, daily. We also have to live daily with the pathological hatred of Jewish nationhood that now courses through this country’s media, along with routine claims of a global Jewish conspiracy.

The words ‘mad’ and ‘freak’ come to mind. Melanie Phillips obviously loves competing with the MCB in the paranoid stakes.

If I understand her rightly, either most Britons are anti-semitic or every single Muslim is going around with a murderous anti-semitic agenda. No mention of the recent rise in attacks on Muslims but we’ll let it slide. She has a point to prove. Without statistics or anything, mind you.

There are two points to make here. Her assertion that Jews have to fear Muslims and neo-Nazis (together) is beyond despicable and, I guess, reflects the sorry state of her mind.

It is also interesting how her behaviour compares to the MCB’s. When the latter replied to the Observer’s accusations just before the Panorama documentary, it also tried to malign the dissenting voice of Abdul-Rehman Malik from Q-News by dismissing the magazine.

The Muslim Council of Britain was itself accused of the same charge as the CST earlier this year by Kenan Malik, saying it was hyping up Islamophobia.

Competition between religious groups to be labelled as ‘most sensitive’ and hype up paranoia has been going on for a while (and linked by HP). So the accusation is not beyond the realms of reality.

For Melanie Phillips though, this equates to anti-semitism and she uses the incident to once again slur all Muslims when all she needed to do was ask the MCB some legitimate but uncomfortable questions. So typical, and she has the audacity to accuse the BBC of ‘racist libel’.

10th October, 2005

15 new terrorist organisations to be banned

by Sunny at 7:36 pm    

The government it seems has finally had enough of tolerating extremist organisations that coordinate their worldwide operations from London. About time too.

Fifteen international groups believed to be terrorist organisations are set to be banned, the Home Office has said. These are on top of 25 international organisations already proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000, and a further 14 already banned in Northern Ireland.

They include groups with links to Iraq, Uzbekistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Morocco. The government is also planning to change the law so that it can ban groups which glorify terrorism.

Should they also ban Hizb ut-Tahrir? I’m still undecided on that one, even though they’re a bunch of pompous chimpanzees who think they know it all.

7th October, 2005

It was God wot made me do it

by Sunny at 5:10 pm    

The Guardian and Indy lead today with the news that President Bush claimed God told him to invade Iraq. Well, tell us something new guys, really.

He made the statement to a group of Palestinian politicians four months after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: “President Bush said to all of us: ‘I am driven with a mission from God’. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.”

No one can accuse the Palestinians of making it up because the Israeli newspaper Haaretz broke the story then. Bush also told the Palestinians that he had a “moral and religious obligation” to get them a state. No timeline was specified though, so expect this part of the promise to drag onto 2050.

Bush’s office quite predictably denies the claims. “He’s never made such comments,” according to his spokesman Scott McClellan. Hang-on, not the same guy who kept denying Karl Rove had anything to do with the CIA agent outing?

Simon Barrow from Faith in Society isn’t too happy with the usage of God’s name in vain either.

I might add, by way of a footnote, that while GW is convinced that God told him to oust Saddam Hussein, God apparently made no mention to him or his president-father that there was anything wrong with arming the dictator to the teeth in the first place. Presumably this is because the Almighty, ever-concurrent with GOP policy swings, was at that stage more worried about Iran.

Funny that eh, God and the Bush family think alike? For the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, he continues to look at how Christian leaders have tried to stop Bush using God’s name in vain.

At the heart of Christianity is Jesus’ call on his followers to be peacemakers. Outside the counsel of fanatics, there are few who believe this readily translates into divine enthusiasm for policies based on bombing and killing. Even the pragmatic ‘just war’ tradition is about limiting not sanctioning conflict.

As an ending sidenote, blogger Scott Burgess isn’t too happy that his most hated publications have run with the story, and is happy to swallow the White House’s dismissal. It might have something to do with this upcoming BBC series that made it a newsworthy story. But who cares about such niggly details when there is an axe to grind?

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