Polar Reversal 2006

A polar reversal in British politics, seen only once a generation, has come upon us. Labour now firmly occupies the right wing and the Conservatives are sheepishly wading into the left. And the Daily Mail (yes, the Daily Mail), actually comes up with a superb editorial from Peter Osborne which wraps the whole situation up.

It is now clear that Jack Straw’s comments on women who wear the veil were not, as seemed likely at the time, the result of some random rumination. He surely set out with the intention of putting in motion a national campaign.

In other words, Labour has made the extraordinary decision to place the politics of religious identity at the centre of public discourse, in the same sort of way that Jorg Haider’s Freedom Party does in Austria and Pim Fortuyn’s List Party did in the Netherlands.

Blair and New Labour have categorically lost the Iraq war. They regard the Muslim loyalty vote to Labour as lost for good. And they are using anti-Muslim sentiment to obscure their own massive crimes against humanity in Iraq. Where people should be looking to impeach Blair in this international debacle, they are instead being lead by the equivalent of a newspaper lynch mob to hang the nearest niqabi from a TV boom. And as Osborne observes:

Rather than try to win them back, Labour has cut its losses, and decided instead to stir up racial tension as a means of appealing directly to the white working-class vote. Labour activists tell me Jack Straw’s remarks have proved ‘incredibly resonant’ on the doorstep.

As morally bankrupt as the far Left are when it comes to their opportunism in grooming and soliciting the support of Muslim fundamentalism, equally bad is New Labour’s cynical indifference to the safety of Muslims on the street, as they play to the gallery and incite anti-Muslim hatred with impunity. Even the BNP are bewildered by this sequestering by New Labour of their appeal.

Perhaps it is now time Muslims voters took advantage of being abandoned by Labour and switch their support to the Conservatives. That would be the most powerful force they could use to physically protect themselves from this New Labour tactic and inflict the worst possible damage to the slimiest bunch of political hucksters we have seen in power in decades.

UPDATE: Scrub that. What was I thinking?

141 Responses to “Polar Reversal 2006”

  1. Paulie Says:

    Have you finally gone off your tiny rocker? I must have missed the proposals to “hang the nearest niqabi from a TV boom” - perhaps I ought to join you in your headlong rush to the right and start reading the Daily Hell as well?

    Labour’s belated decision to “place the politics of religious identity at the centre of public discourse” is hardly the same as Pim Fortuyn or Jorg Haider’s position. Haider’s position is one based upon a racial emnity towards all ‘non-aryan’ races. Fortuyn’s position on secularism was an instrument in his opposition to immigration in general. The Labour Government, on the other hand, has had to fight your mates on the Daily Mail every step of the way on racial equality in general and immigration in particular.

    Jack Straw’s comments are an expression of secular liberalism - something that the real left has stood for ever since the French revolution. Something that Labour has been reluctant to do for two decades due to the climate of moral relativism that has infected the left since we started listening to fucking hippies like … well … like you. Oh, and the idea that elected politicians should have nothing to say about the meddling of priests is something that the Daily Mail have always opposed.

    Now they are joined by the soi disant left, it seems.

    And ‘crimes against humanity’ in Iraq? Remind me who is doing the killing? Interesting that the overthrow of one of the most disgusting fascist dictatorships of the last fifty years is now ‘a crime against humanity’.

    Would an intervention in Darfur, perhaps, also be a ‘crime against humanity’? And could you name any secular liberal values that you would still be prepared to uphold?

    Also, would you mind replacing your “Under the golmal, the serious golmal” strapline with the invocation… “it is now time Muslims voters took advantage of being abandoned by Labour and switch their support to the Conservatives”? You know, just so that new visitors will know which part of the spectrum you’re coming from?

  2. Ferdy Says:

    Labour hasn’t abandoned the ethnic minorities. For all that some Muslims are intoxicated by Iraq and Islamic victimhood politics, the largest block of Muslims still voted for Labour.

    As for voting Conservative, somehow I don’t see Asian’s voting for a bunch of White, Middleclass anti-immigration party.

    Once Respect breaks up into Commies and Fundamentalists and the natural decline of the Lib Dems comes into play (they have no policies apart from opportunism on Iraq), people will slowly drift back to us.

    Politics isn’t about helping an alien peoples a thousand miles away, it’s about self, and Muslim communities are on that learning curve at the moment.

  3. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Paulie

    If memory serves, you’re the one who supported the pro-war stance of the Euston Manifestations. Supporting the Iraq war in full view of the US record of torture, incompetence and brazen hubris? Perhaps you should examine you’re motivations and your own headlong rush to the right.

    As to my suggestion that Muslims should vote Conservative: if Labour can be as mealy mouthed and unprincipled as to turn a blind eye to the attacks on Muslims the last 2 weeks have produced, with an eye to political expediency, then perhaps Muslim voters should use their vote to (a) protect themselves and (b) be as equally cynical as their political “representatives”.

  4. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Ferdy

    I’m more pissed off than seriously suggesting voting for the C’s; its as tenable as suggesting Muslims should join the BNP, I know. I’m grinding teeth here.

  5. sonia Says:

    well you know, regardless of what old straw may have meant or not meant, whether he knew that the media was going to be stirred up about this and not let go - all he did was make that statement. everything after that has been a ‘result’ or a ‘consequence’ isn’t it. people responding to other people’s responses and so on and so forth.

    what an interesting world we now live in. politicians don’t have to do anything any more - come out and say something once and the media and everything else sorts it all out for you.

    :-)

  6. Paulie Says:

    If I were an MP, and someone came into my surgery wearing a veil, I’d ask them to remove it. What is wrong with that? I wouldn’t insist on it. I’d ask.

    Like Jack Straw does.

    And when did this come to light? When someone who he’d asked to remove a veil was so affronted that they complained to the press? Did someone run to one of those unelected ‘community leaders’ and complain about it?

    No. It was when Straw himself raised it as an issue.

    Do you think that the way that many Muslim women are excluded from society - from employment, education and the kind of social interaction that is everyone’s birthright in a modern society - do you think that this should just be hushed up? Swept under the carpet and not discussed for fear that it will cause some sort of explosion?

    Do you have that low an opinion of Muslims? Are they somehow a layer of society that is born with eggshell personalities?

    And are you REALLY saying that Labour is somehow responsible for any assaults against Muslims that have taken place recently? If so, I think you should check into a clinic that will teach you the basics of cause-and-effect and where moral responsibility for particular actions rest.

    Repeat after me. “The cause of racist attacks are racist thugs.” If you are saying that Jack Straw is a racist thug …. well, go on. Say it. And wait for the writ.

    Yes, you recall correctly. I did help launch the Euston Manifesto. Here’s what it says:

    “The founding supporters of this statement took different views on the military intervention in Iraq, both for and against. We recognize that it was possible reasonably to disagree about the justification for the intervention, the manner in which it was carried through, the planning (or lack of it) for the aftermath, and the prospects for the successful implementation of democratic change. We are, however, united in our view about the reactionary, semi-fascist and murderous character of the Baathist regime in Iraq, and we recognize its overthrow as a liberation of the Iraqi people. We are also united in the view that, since the day on which this occurred, the proper concern of genuine liberals and members of the Left should have been the battle to put in place in Iraq a democratic political order and to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, to create after decades of the most brutal oppression a life for Iraqis which those living in democratic countries take for granted — rather than picking through the rubble of the arguments over intervention.”

    I’d agree that the US could be guilty of incompetence and hubris. I opposed the war (like many signatories of the Euston Manifesto) largely because I doubted the competence of the US/UK forces in finishing the job. More to the point, I didn’t think that the liberal democracies had the moral gumption of putting any of their money where the US always has to put it’s mouth (and the lives of it’s troops). In fact, my biggest reason for opposing it was that I thought that liberal democratic societies are so riddled with a defeatist lack of confidence when it comes to promoting liberal values that they would inevitably lack the ability to finish the job.

    Exactly the sort of nihilism and defeatism you appear to be promoting here. Vote Tory indeed! You’ve said it. No amount of crossing out will disguise your lack of proportion here.

    Oddly, Saddam Hussein made exactly the same observation before 2003. His remaining supporters - along with the clerical fascists in Iraq - also know all about the lack of conviction with which the liberals and The Left hold their views about internationalism and democracy. That’s what underpins their determination - the knowledge that liberal democracies will back down and accept either a murderous theocracy or some totalitarian client state if they are pushed.

    Like I say, I’ll accept ‘incompetence’ and ‘hubris’. But torture? Have you ever heard of Moynihan’s Law? Go on, have a look at Wikipedia. See what it says.

    If you think that those photos in the Sunday People were the first ever examples of torture in Abu Ghraib, then I despair of your ability to ever discuss anything with an ounce of proportion again.

  7. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Paulie

    This is what I said about the niqab, in which I point out my reactions to it as well as suggesting that Muslims have been discussing the veil long before Jack Straw had a crack at it.

    I’d ask you to stop lecturing us on our responsibility to fight Muslim fundamentalism. We were doing that long before Geras and Cohen were. BTW, before you advocate America’s birthright as the upholder of liberal values and free speech as carved into the Euston Manifesto, I’d advise you spend 10 minutes and watch this.

    This discussion has so moved on from the “will she or won’t she wear the veil” debate. And if you’re so unwilling to distinguish between Labour politicians asking for a polite debate and Labour politicians who are clearly using Muslims as a scratch post for political expediency (see Woolas), then you will certainly find here problems of proportionality in views that are contrary to your own.

  8. Sid H Arthur Says:

    You speak of moral relativism but you’re not troubled by an ounce of conscience when you suggest that TORTURE in Abu Ghraib under Saddam was “worse” than the TORTURE in Abu Ghraib under the US. For shame!

  9. Paulie Says:

    Point to the sentance where I lecturered the plural ‘you’ (in whatever plurality you choose to place yourself), on your responsibility?

    I’ve done nothing of the sort. I’ve not said that the responsibility to discuss the veil should rest either primarily or exclusively on Asians or Muslims or any other sub-group. I was, in fact, saying the opposite.

    It’s kind of traditional, when debating, that you address the actual points that someone makes, rather than imagining that they’ve made a different point and then attacking it instead.

    It was you that quoted (approvingly) a shit like Peter Osborne (btw, I think it was Peter Oborne, but I might be wrong here) directly comparing Jack Straw to Jorg Haider. Another part of this orignal post that you are now wishing to cross out as well perhaps? There won’t be much left soon. You didn’t mention Woolas.

    Personally, I think that Phil Woolas should have left it to the industrial tribunal, but that’s the only way he was irresponsible.

    If he holds that opinion, surely he can express it? Or is this another example of having to discuss this whole issue with so much ’sensitivity’ that you actually don’t discuss it at all?

    I’ve watched the video, by the way. I’m sure that the US is heading in a less liberal direction. Didn’t I argue earlier that liberal societies suffer from a lack of liberal conviction? But would you say that it is going to slip down the world’s ‘liberalism’ rankings very far then? Name the countries that it was ‘more liberal than’ five years ago and is ‘less liberal than’ now. for example?

    You haven’t looked up ‘Moynihan’s Law’ yet, have you? I don’t think you’d have used that clip as an argument if you had?

    And I don’t think you quite understand relativism, do you? The absurdity of relativism is that someone would say…

    “you’re not troubled by an ounce of conscience when you suggest that torture in Abu Ghraib was worse when Saddam was controlling it. For shame!”

    This kind of relativism is so morally bankrupt precisely because, from that viewpoint, the allegation of a crime on a small scale can be used to deny a particular party the right to condemn the same crime on a collosal scale.

    What was the totality of alleged torture in Abu Ghraib after the US arrived?

    Did it run into tens thousands of people suffering a catalogue of abuses that it would be just too pornographic to recount?

    Oh, and by the way, are you saying that I approve of the actions of those Americans in Abu Ghraib? That any torture doesn’t trouble my concience? Or that anyone else that you can name really approves of what happened there? Didn’t the soldiers concerned get prosecuted for their actions?

    Keep digging though….

  10. Sid H Arthur Says:

    I don’t need to stop digging Paulie, the hole is plain to see and your edifice is shakey, to say the least. You pro-war types are so OWNED, as they say.

  11. Sid H Arthur Says:


    “No, the two main countries of the Coalition should not be held to a higher standard than anyone else over torture, because they should be held to the highest, and the only, standard in this matter - and so should every other government. The use of torture is impermissible everywhere and always. It is a gross and unconscionable crime. The Abu Ghraib abuses have irretrievably disfigured the project to free and democratize Iraq. The best that can now be done is to try to make amends as far as is possible: to bring to justice all those directly responsible for the brutalities, and anyone in a position of immediate authority over them who may have knowingly encouraged or allowed their acts; to hold accountable anyone, up to the very highest level, who may have turned a blind eye to what was going on; to compensate the victims; and to find a way of making solemn and substantial public apology and reparation to the people of Iraq.”

    Who’s words do you think, Paulie?

  12. Paulie Says:

    Pro-war types? I opposed the war.

    Remember I mentioned those traditions of addressing people on their arguments, not your imagined versions of their arguments? I’ve refuted all of yours so far. You just come back with assertions that I’m somehow ’shakey’ or ‘owned’ - owned by WHO for fuxake? Have you seen the receipts? Are you suggesting that someone has bribed me to hold the views I hold or that I gain some sort of material benefit from holding them?

    Please stick to the argument.

    On your unattributed quote, as pieties go, I suppose there’s nothing much of substance in there to disagree with. It’s very shrill and .. how can I put it …. DISPROPORTIONATE again. The word ‘irretrievably’ is a bit wierd, isn’t it? On the same logic, the bombing of Dresden ‘irretrievably’ disfigured the project to defeat Nazism?

    And I didn’t realise that you approved of “the project to free and democratise Iraq” in the first place? What exactly are you arguing FOR here? I’d love to know.

    Oh, and it’s plain that you still haven’t looked up Moynihan’s Law have you? There’s no point in arguing with you when you just respond to any counterargument by saying “yeahbut” and then repeating your original point.

    I’ll pop a shovel in the post when I get a moment. You won’t banjax your manicure as much once it arrives.

  13. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Paulie

    The unattributed quote is by Prof Geras.
    http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2004/05/the_shame_of_ab.html

    “shrill” and “DISPRORTIONATE”? You should know.
    ;-)

  14. Paulie Says:

    And that proves…..?

  15. andrew morris Says:

    Sid, I agree entirely with your analysis of Labour’s cynical pandering to the right-wing vote, and find the Osborne piece an excellent example of exposing Labour hypocrisy. But why consider the Tories as an alternative? They are equally cynical in trying to win over this key voting block. I can’t see a huge amount of sympathy for Islam out in the shires.

    Where is the Respect party in all this? From my Dhaka vantage point it’s difficult to tell. Gorgeous George may have blown it with his feline antics, but what of Salma Yaqoob? Last time I heard her she was a powerful and cogent voice.

  16. Sid H Arthur Says:

    andrew

    The last thing anyone needs is sectarian, divisive politics as represented by RESPECT. Its the worst possible thing for everyone especially Muslims, for Muslims to get associated with this group of amoral hucksters.

    Religious/ethnic discourse should be integrated into the public discourse. This means Muslims should be prepared to take their issues and fight them tooth and nail in one of the mainstream parties like all the other religious/ethnic minorities. I hate this balkanistaion of identity politics that RESPECT represents. England is England not a satrap of Jammu-Kashmir or Moulvibazar-Sylhet.

    My opinion has nothing to do with my loathing of that pussy-klart Galloway. I really like Salma Yaqoob. She should be a mainstream politician where she could be so much more effective rather festering in a party of idiots and Gallovians.

  17. andrew morris Says:

    I yake your point about RESPECT. My fear about someone as good as Salma is that when they enter the mainstream parties, their voices get drowned out. How often do we get to hear Jeremy Corbyn on Iraq?

    The press sets out immediately to discredit anyone who challenges the status quo, whether MPs like Tommy Sheridan or other public voices such as Pilger and even Chomsky. MPs like Clare Short and Robin Cook spend their lives up to the war toadying and only make a stand when it’s too late. For which they also get branded loonies. Tony Benn, now grand old man and everyone’s favourite uncle, was absoljtley pilloried in the press when I was a student in the 80s - pretty much on a par with Saddam and Genghis Khan.

    Mainstream politics makes me despair.

  18. Zub Says:

    So what DID happen to the wankers of the Euston Manifesto? They’ve been rather quiet of late, no? Their little friggin democracy project not going so well, perhaps? The bloody shits.

    I got one number for you, Paulie and the rest of you bloodthirsty vampires - 655,000 dead souls. Feast on that.

  19. Paulie Says:

    Zub

    You know what the Euston Manifesto stands for then.

    What do YOU stand for?

    Why don’t you look up Moynihan’s Law as well?

  20. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Sorry if comments are getting lost. I’ve managed to recover all of them from the spam catcher. I don’t why Paulie’s posts are considered as spam by the SpamKarma engine. Paulie hasn’t sold penis extenders in years. ;-)

  21. Sid H Arthur Says:

    The Euston Manifesto is largely a well written document which expouses good old vanilla secular liberal values that are as incontestable as “Mom and apple pie”. The second part is, however, a big caveat which builds its reasoning on a Pro-war (Iraq) ticket and unquestioning support of Bush and Israeli foreign policies in the Middle East. The second part, then, is a pile of partisan crap and in any case, the Iraq War argument has been admitted as a failure by the Euston Manifesto authors.

    As for the first part, it could and should be embraced by liberals everywhere. In fact, I’d say that if people were wanting to write a liberal Muslim manifesto, let’s say, they should cut and paste the first part of the Euston document and extend it from there. The Euston manifesto author’s can’t complain since the document contains a clause that supports ‘Open Source’ philosophy.

  22. Sid H Arthur Says:

    To spare us from further droning from Paulie on Moynihan’s Law, here it is:

    “The amount of violations of human rights in a country is always an inverse function of the amount of complaints about human rights violations heard from there. The greater the number of complaints being aired, the better protected are human rights in that country.”
    In other words, countries in which human rights are most severely violated are those where no freedom of speech or press is permitted. Also, complaints tend to be a direct function of the possibility of redress.

    But why should a country with total free press be less accountable for human rights violations?

    Just because the USA has freedom of speech (although this is arguable) and a free press (again, arguable), why does this make Guantanamo, CIA sanctioned instances of torture and abductions, Abu Ghraib, Iraqi offensives etc a better class of human rights violation than those perpetrated by the Myanmar junta (where free press is zero)?

  23. Paulie Says:

    “Why should a country with total free press be less accountable for human rights violations?”

    It shouldn’t be less accountable. I couldn’t agree more. It shouldn’t be MORE accountable though either, surely? Or certainly not MUCH more accountable.

    The Myanmar junta? I haven’t read much about it in The Guardian. I haven’t been urged by the Pilgers and Benns of this world to go on marches condemning repression in Burma. In fact, if you move in leftish circles, the only repression that you ever hear much about - the only things that there are campaigns on - are the issues where there is a copper-bottomed Pilge-simpleton explanation of how it’s all America’s fault.

    Apart from in Euston Manifesto circles, that is. They were the only left-leaning group that showed up in any number at the Darfur demonstrations last month. None of the usual SWP placards with the top ripped off there!

    The point in Moynihan’s Law is that there is a dynamic in liberalism that leads to a lack of confidence among liberals. Something you would reasonably expect liberal journalists to recognise and compensate for. But they don’t appear to be prepared to do so.

    So you get the more simple-minded ‘activists’ within liberal democracies being prepared to go to any lengths to oppose those who are responsible for the human rights violations that can be seen in plain sight. Like Guantanamo. Like Abu Ghraib. But those same activists aren’t capable of understanding that some regimes routinely butcher thousands of people without anyone hearing about it. And that those regimes need to be stopped from doing so - if practically possible.

    And, in order to do so, you sometimes have to use… *pause* …force. And when you use force, sometimes you fuck up. Sometimes, you commission people who are not suited to the task to do it, because the people who ARE suited to it are safely tucked up in nice liberal sinecures in the ivory towers of those democracies that they enjoy mocking.

    Like when Salman Rushdie spent the 1980s lampooning Mrs Thatcher as ‘Mrs Torture’ before events forced him to get a little proportion into his thinking.

    All of the critiques of the war in Iraq, for example (which for the Nth time, I didn’t support) or Israeli actions in Palestine and Lebanon rarely include any footnotes saying what the critics WOULD like to see happening. Or an assessment of why other power brokers took opposite positions to the US and the UK.

    So, we have the (highly contestable) figure of 655,000 deaths in Iraq. The number has been memorised and trips off the tongue of every pseudo-leftist on the block. But does the numbers of those killed by the Ba’athists before 2003 trip of those same tongues? Do they have any idea of the scale of the carnage - and the pornographic nature of the violence that Iraqis had to live with before 2003? I don’t recall ever reading even a short article on this subject in either The Guardian or The Independent for example.

    As a lot of socialists are saying these days, that’s the problem with liberalism. It’s wasted on liberals.

    And, on another cause celebre, if you are opposed to Israeli actions, then what are you in favour of in it’s place? No-one with any sense will ever take you seriously when you criticise a postion without offering a workable alternative.

    And don’t call me a wanker, a ‘bloody shit’ or a vampire again Zub, you little cunt. If you want to, argue with me like a grown up - on the arguments - then do so. I expect I’ll wipe the floor with you when you do. You know that. That’s why you resort to abuse.

  24. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Like when Salman Rushdie spent the 1980s lampooning Mrs Thatcher as ‘Mrs Torture’ before events forced him to get a little proportion into his thinking.

    How have Rushdie’s ideas changed (”a little proportion”) as a result of the protection he received for the Iranian fatwa, Paulie? Are you suggesting he became a Conservative supporter because he received police protection at time when the Conservatives where in power and underwent some kind of Stockholm Syndrome experience? Are you privy to the private thoughts of Salman Rushdie too?

  25. Ferdy Says:

    I have to agree with Paulie in that there is too much Muslim victiomhood going on. If some people insist on living seperate lives in their communities ie. own schools, shops and ‘representative community groups’ then you can’t expect the majority populatioon in this country from thinking that Muslims are seperatists. This is where a lot of the violence comes from.

  26. andrew morris Says:

    Nasser, brilliantly put. Still waiting for your own blog.

  27. Les Ismore Says:

    For a man who keeps insisting he was never a pro-war supporter, Paulie certainly has a lot to say in support of the war. His hysterical inconsistent ranting personifies the flailing of the failed pro-war left project as it goes through a very public humiliation. Expect more credulous banalities from them as we witness their long drawn out death scene.

  28. Paulie Says:

    Les,

    What a lot of adjectives. Any prospect of arguments to follow?

    I don’t know if this will get through - Sid’s spam-filter ate my last response on the Rushdie business. But here goes:

    Nasser, on your points:

    1. You put “always” in quote marks when I didn’t use the word. Not a good start really. I doubt if you’d find a detached observer anywhere who would argue that Labour would not be more relaxed on immigration if the tabloids would make it possible to be so. Labour’s current preference for low tariffs (i.e. it’s generally pro-EU position in general and it’s leadership on the enlargement debate in particular) is premised on a belief that free-movement of labour stimulates economic growth. It’s a fact of political life that – in a democracy – newspapers have something close to a veto on many areas of public policy. Disgusting, I know. But that’s life. I’ve no idea what your point is on faith schools unless you are hinting that Labour should have faced down protests from religious minorities. If that’s what you’re saying, then I agree with you. As for ‘unquestioningly following the Republican Party’ - if you think that Labour discovered its support for ‘liberal intervention’ when Bush came to office, I’d respectfully suggest that you sit a GCSE in Modern European history. Start on Kosovo. Supported by the Democrats, and opposed by isolationist Republicans. 9/11 turned the isolationist republicans into a party that was a good deal closer to Clinton’s interventionism than before. Then contrast it with the shameful way that the Tories forced the EU into a isolationist and negative stance a few years earlier, resulting the butchery of thousands of Bosnians.

    2. On your second point, are you sure? I’m sure that Straw said in his article that he asks veil-wearers to remove their veils. I wasn’t aware that he first did so in a newspaper. I don’t have time to dig up the report now, but its my recollection that he said he was already doing it in surgeries. Either way, this is beside the point. What is it that you object to in one human being asking another to remove a veil during a conversation?

    3. Calling Straw’s statement “one of the most controversial pronouncements made by any MP in the last decade” is absolutely hysterical. Report yourself to Sid for a course in victimhood retraining.

    http://golmal.pickledpolitics.com/2006/07/10/21st-century-victims/

    Sid has dealt with this here, and so did I in the posts above. That’s why I was so disappointed by his comment about stringing up Niqabis. Similarly, if you are saying that politicians must avoid discussing race or religion at all times because to do so will inevitably incite violence, then - well - I don’t want to live in such a country. You rightly attack Labour for backing down over faith schools (if I understand you correctly). Let me tell you, abolishing Catholic schools would materially offend a lot more people (not least the hordes of non-RCs who try and sneak their kids into RC schools because they think they’re better) than asking women to remove a veil during a conversation. The odd thing is, there are plenty of Muslims that agree on the subject of the veil anyway - so why the fuss? I notice that MAB tried to instruct Muslims to keep their views to themselves on this matter. Is that your position as well Nasser? A frank discussion of religious and cultural difference makes for a better society. And you don’t seem to be able to distinguish between fact and opinion. Mohammed Akbar Ali’s opinion is hardly evidence of anything. And if you think that Muslims voting against Straw in Blackburn will prove anything on this point, your logic baffles me. Opinion on its own – or even bulwarked by votes - proves nothing. Does the BNP’s support in certain constituencies prove that they have a legitimate point?

    4. It was illegal for Woolas to express the opinion he did at that time? Funny. If it was, surely he’d be prosecuted? Your definition of legality is as ropey as your grasp on the difference between fact and opinion.

    5. The logic of your point on ‘Moynihan’s Law’ is so opaque that it’s impossible to answer.

    6. “Sometimes” like in Sierra Leone. No oil there. Sometimes like with the Serbs in Kosovo (and ultimately the nationalist government in Belgrade). No oil there. My opposition to the Iraq war was largely based on a view (one on which I don’t know enough to sustain one way or another convincingly) that it probably wouldn’t work - not least because liberal democracies don’t believe in liberalism enough to promote it and stay the course in doing so. A point, oddly, that was allegedly made by Saddam himself prior to 2003. Do you think that the totality of power relations that put Saddam in power then are entirely the responsibility of the current US administration? Pilger does, but he regularly sides with unelected forces against elected ones. You seem very keen to absolve murderers of murder if it gives you the opportunity to blame only the Americans. This is all of a piece with your view that, when politician discuss religious and cultural practices, that it leads to violence. I’ll try and dig out a few basic philosophical treatises on moral responsibility for you if I get the time.

    7. Irony. Look it up.

    As for your workable alternatives, you should have put “workable” in bunny quotes because you dismiss them immediately. It’s a shame that you think that they are laughable and improbable. I’d like to see billions of dollars spent on the education of Arabs in general and Iraqis in particular.

    If the Saudis were to spend a fraction of what they do on palaces and armaments then that would easily do the trick. Any money spent in Iraq at the moment would probably be wasted though. Fund a teacher and the ‘insurgency’ that Pilger and Galloway have offered support to would butcher them at the first opportunity.

  29. Sid H Arthur Says:

    oh contrario, paulie.

    Muslims taking their traditional political Labour-bound affiliations and rebounding them back is about the most un-victim-like action they can take IMHO. If a political party has the right to resposition itself and turn on a section of its ex-supporters, why is it a sign of weakness if swathes of these erstwhile voters do exactly the same but in an opposing ‘direction’? I don’t think thats victimhood at all. Its called democracy.

    Following this media shit-storm, I’ve noticed many more young Muslim women have taken to wearing the veil. I see this as not so much a reaching for the symbol of victimhood but reaching for a gesture that tells Labour to go swivel. This is an unfortunate reaction, but its certainly not victimhood.

  30. Nasser Says:

    Paulie,

    1. Labour disenfranchised almost all it’s Muslim voters. (Probably not a big a deal as tabloids would make out as Muslims are only 2.5 % of the UK population, and practising muslims a fraction of that).

    2. Yes I’m sure. Do you yourself a favour and dig the report up

    3. A controversial pronouncement is one that causes controversy and debate. If you don’t think Straw’s recent pronounement has done that, where have you been? Try not to get so hysteriacl.

    4. Yes it was illegal. Ask a lawyer. Why wasn’t he prosecuted? Good question.

    5. Try harder. That’s not a dood enough excuse answering (or thinking about it). Work those brain cells. Reach, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight…

    6. Kosovo: when intervention forces finally went in, is lead by the UN and not by the US. These were labelled “Peacekeeping” forces, not “Regime change” forces. There was no toppling of the despotic leader (Miloevic) who remained entrenched in Belgrade for some years to come. And as far a the US contigency of the UN forces were concerned the Bush admininstration, throught the voice of then spokesperson Condoleeza Rice, proposed that all US forces be removed because American forces were “overdeployed”, that they should be concentrating on preparing for major wars around the globe, and that peacekeeping is not a proper role for U.S. soldiers. In Condie’s words: “We don’t need the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten”. Don’t you remember any this? Where the hell were you in 1998?

    Sierra Leone: I can do no better than quote former State Department employee William Blum:

    “In 1998, President Clinton sent Jesse Jackson as his special envoy to Liberia and Sierra Leone, which is next door and which was in the midst of one of the great horrors of the 20th century — You may remember the army of mostly young boys, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), who went around raping and chopping off people’s arms and legs. African and world opinion was enraged against the RUF, which was committed to protecting the diamond mines they controlled. Taylor was an indispensable ally and supporter of the RUF and Jackson was a friend of his. Jesse was not sent there to hound Taylor about his widespread human rights violations. Instead, in June 1999, Jackson and other American officials drafted entire sections of an accord that made RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, Sierra Leone’s vice president and gave him control over the diamond mines, the country’s major source of wealth. (See New Republic of July 24, 2000)
    And what was the Clinton administration’s interest in all this? It’s been suggested that the US had to deal with the RUF since they more or less militarily controlled the Koidu Diamond Mine area whose exploitation contracts were held by two Clinton cronies, Jean Raymond Boulle and Robert Friedland. Moreover, there was Maurice Tempelsman, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s paramour at the time, whose Antwerp, Amsterdam and Tel Aviv diamond marts arranged for Sierra Leone diamond sales to Tiffany and Cartier.”

    Also keeping in mind the intense UN opposition which the US ignored before invading Iraq, you may (I hope) start to get an inkling of what I meant when i asked “Who decides which regimes are toppled”. But you have to think it through youself - don’t just take my word for it.

    7. How would you feel if I said “I understand irony, you fucking shithead”.

    Oh, the alternatives are very workable. Americans invest billions in Isreali industry and business initiaves all the time - why not Arab? Why not ban cluster bombs (I see how you niftily sidestepped that). The question is there for you to answer.

    I laugh because it will never happen. Well, you have to laugh, don’t oyu.

    Oh, and you’re right about the Saudi’s.

  31. Nasser Says:

    O, sorry, I didn’t answer your question:

    “What is it that you object to in one human being asking another to remove a veil during a conversation?”

    There is nothing objectionable about that. In fact, if you tried asking a muslim woman to remove her veil you might be quite surprised by the intelligence of the response your requuest would illicit.

    But the point is that that is not what Jack Straw did. Do you know the facts? Have you spoken to any veil-wearing muslims from his constituency about what happened? I have, and they were very surprised when Mr Straw wrote an article to the Lancashire Evening Telegraph about his feelings about the veil without first expressing them to Muslims first. This, you see, is the root of the problem. Not what he said, but the cynical and uncooperative way in which he did it.

    Obviously, it has caused a great stir (else we wouldn’t be discussing it). Muslims make up only 2.5% of the populace. It seems that the majority of the remaining 97.5% (you for instance), think that Mr Straw did a great thing. Even though (like you) they appear to not know the details of what happened.

    That, my friend, is the gist of Sid’s original post.

  32. Sid H Arthur Says:

    I still think we have to wrest the issue of the veil back from the media shit-stirrers and New Labour bandwagon jumpers.

    The argument of the veil should not be perceived as being against Islam but reclaimed to be within Islam. It is a debate between moderate Muslims and fundamentalist Muslims. There is any number of strong Muslim women who can lead this debate right here in Britain.

  33. Paulie Says:

    Sid,

    Your site seems to be losing comments somehow. One of Nasser’s previous comments has been deleted and one of my responses only appeared briefly before disappearing. Perhaps you deleted it because it was such a humiliating rebuttal of everything you stand for?

    ;-)

    So, Sid, reading your last comment, are Labour still part of a lynch-mob that aims to hang Niqabis from TV booms? And while I neither agree nor disagree with your last post about who should lead the debate about veils (you seem to be contradicting yourself here - earlier in this thread, you objected to me of ’saying’ - in parenthesis - that ‘Muslims needed to put their own house in order’ - something that I didn’t say). If you are saying that it’s primarily an ‘internal matter’ for British Muslims, it looks like the MAB are determined to make sure that this doesn’t really happen.

    http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2006/10/25/circle_the_wagons_boys.php

    Personally, I would have thought that a frank debate involving all sections of society and stripped of its hysteria would be a lot more useful. But what do I know? I’m just a limp-wristed liberal on matters such as this.

    I’m hardly alone in this view though.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6055340.stm

    People can vote how they like - that’s not what I’m describing as victimhood at all. I expect that the usual issues - the economy, law and order etc will be the key issues at election time as usual. Funny how Jack Straw didn’t even go much ahead of the negative national swing at the last election - despite being Foreign Secretary during the 2003 invasion and there being a large Muslim population in Blackburn.

    I do think that going overboard about a non-Muslim MP saying what lots of Muslims also say is a bit weird though. And when someone describes it as “one of the most controversial pronouncements made by any MP in the last decade”, I think that my case is made for me. It was ‘controversial’ only because an unrepresentative minority with an agenda chose to jump on it.

    Now, Nasser, I think it would be worth you looking in a dictionary for the word ‘disenfranchised’. It doesn’t mean what you think it does, does it?

    I’ve looked at a few news sources, including one or two of the most agenda-led ones (the Guardian and the SWP sites included) and all I can find is Jack Straw saying (without being contradicted) that he asks women to remove veils when they visit him at his surgery. His own statement infers that it is a ‘reappraisal’ of his position that he made about a year ago. There are plenty of people who object to him saying what he said, but again, pure opinion is neither here nor there. I’ve not found any supported claim that he has done it as a piece of gunboat diplomacy, but if there are any such claims, I’d be disappointed. I’ve always objected to populist grandstanding. I’ve met Jack Straw a few times, and I know that some of his colleagues in the Labour Party have been frustrated by his refusal to play to the gallery in the past. It’s always a temptation for politicians, and the more successful ones generally do it a fair bit. It’s another unfortunate fact of life, but it’s something that Straw actually has a reputation for avoiding most of the time. On your ‘gunboat diplomacy’ version, this report….

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5411954.stm

    … doesn’t support it. And this report …

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5414008.stm

    …says “Little did he know that a short article in his local paper, the Lancashire Telegraph, would be leading the national news bulletins for two days.”

    If this were materially contradicted, then I’d expect those reports to be changed accordingly. I know that the BBC website is one of the few that do make such corrections, but they don’t seem to have done so in this case. I have to say that Straw is one of the politicians who has the most to fear - electorally - from a Muslim backlash. I don’t see why he would have set out to offend in the first place. Indeed, other Labour politicians with large Muslim populations have raised exactly the same issues more vigorously that Jack Straw has.

    On Woolas’s alleged illegality, the opinion of a lawyer is neither here nor there. There are plenty of well-funded groupings that could and would bring a private prosecution if they weren’t sure that they’d lose and make tits out of themselves in the process.

    On your point on Kosovo, the US was the only NATO (not UN) player that was prepared or able to commit any serious resources to the conflict. It was the peacekeeping forces that later went under a UN banner. They were playing two different roles, led by two different coalitions under two different mandates. Of course they weren’t overtly aiming at regime change - it was out of scope. As it happened, the Serbian people had the resources that they needed to achieve that in due course and another fascist died in prison as a consequence. Result!

    I agree with both you and Condoleeza Rice it seems about US troops’ suitability for peacekeeping roles. They’ve no track record in doing it very well. While I don’t really know enough on the subject, this consideration was among the many factors that made me oppose the invasion of Iraq in 2003. I opposed it with such a lack of conviction though, given that the alliance that opposed it was led (globally) by Iraq’s armourers (Russia and France) and domestically, by an alliance of the totalitarian left, isolationist Conservatives and the communalist right in the incarnation of the MAB.

    And what are you saying about Sierra Leone? Do you agree with humanitarian intervention or not? Or are you opposed to it in principle? I’d go further. Are you opposed to all foreign policy initiatives by any state that don’t spring from the purest of intentions? Could you name one foreign policy initiative that any country has ever undertaken that didn’t have some sort of ulterior motive? The intervention in Kosovo was, I’ll admit, close, but I’m sure that - if you dig for long enough - you’ll even find some kickback somewhere there as well.

    In fact, reading comments from yourself and Sid, I’ve no idea of what you are FOR. It’s pretty clear what you are against. You (Nasser) are opposed to the US’s support for Israel, and to Israeli military responses to attacks and the kidnapping of their troops. I don’t know enough about the subject, but the Israeli actions seemed to be disproportionate as responses to me. But whenever I hear opponents of Israeli action of this kind, I never hear them articulate a coherent possible solution to the problem. How should Israel respond to attacks from groupings that appear to have declared a wish to destroy their state and kill all of their people? How do they negotiate with regional powers that have leaders declaring a wish to wipe their state off the map?

    As for US investment in Israel and not other Arab states, the US is a democracy. It invests where it chooses. One thing they know for certain is that Israel wouldn’t receive any support of any kind from it’s Arab neighbours - and if the US were to desert Israel, the consequences for Israeli citizens, as far as I can see, could be absolutely disastrous. Those Arab neighbours, however, are incredibly rich. I wonder why they aren’t prepared to take any steps to reduce immense inequality, the totalitarianism, the oppressive cultural conservatism and the rampant vicious racism that permeate some of those societies?

  34. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Paulie

    In regard to the MCB/MAB “joint-response” to the Great Veil Debate, (in that Harry’s Place article you linked to) David T closes with these words:
    “I both expect that British Muslims will regard this position paper as a transparent scaremongering attempt, by fringe organisations of which only a tiny proportion of British Muslims have ever heard, to grab power and influence.”

    And of course he is absolutely right. If you’re looking for a argument with someone who defends the MCB/MAB/HuT line of Muslim rhetoric, you won’t find it here.

    The media, and Labour politicians, went overboard with the veil issue earlier this month, and there are any number of objective (read Non-Muslim) commenters (Jonathan Freedland) who have confirmed that. Of that there is no doubt.

    No debate will go on within the Muslim community with that kind of overwrought, shrill, disproportionate and frankly expediant nonsense going on outside it. That I can assure you of.

  35. Nasser Says:

    Paulie,

    Unfortuntaely for you, the word ‘disenfranchised’ means precisely what I think it means.

    You make it painfully obvious that you have just looked this word up for the first time - in an online dictionary. I advise you to stop that nasty habit and get yourself a good paper dictionary instead. I can recommend the Oxford Etymological. Most words have depths and character which rarely come across well in one-liners from dictionary.com or merriam-websters.

    But I don’t want to quibble over words. To put it another way: Muslims in the UK increasingly feel like the labour party no longer represents them, that they are not listened to on any major area of foreign or domestic policy. But they’re not the only ones - Labour is losing support at an alarming rate as they are seen to encroach more and more on Tory and right-wing policies. On the other hand, they are gaining more support from traditonally right-wing voters. Indeed, a “polar shift”. And to give this increased support from the right an occasional bump, Labour (Jack Straw) doesn’t shy from the occasional towel-head bashing fracas.

    Simple enough?

    BUT, it seems you just don’t get it and don’t want to get it.

    If you can’t see truth for what it is, no amount of bashing you over the head with an etymological dictionary will change your opinion.

    So, to change the subject a little: this conversation reminds me of a very wise saying:

    “Hell is the truth seen too late”

    this has been variously attributed to Hegel, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and even John Adams.

    However, I have seen it in a little book of the metaphysical poetry of Michaelangelo - apparently he was plagiarised by a host of materialist philosophers. Interesting.

  36. Paulie Says:

    I just thought that your original line about Niqabis and TV booms fitted that line of rhetoric - and was at odds with your earlier posting about victimhood, that’s all.

    In the same way that I thought an endorsement of a Tory rag claiming that Labour were like Haider / Fortuyn was OTT, and from the same persecution-complex thought-stable.

    And, also in your original post, I think that the claim that Labour is deliberately stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment is not fair. There is - like it or not - a growing sentiment within the centre-left that one definition of multi-culturism has been too closer to ‘relativism’ for comfort. One that says “we may not have drawn those Danish cartoons ourselves, but liberalism can’t survive if those kinds of sentiments are surpressed.”

    It is possible that people will want to publicly hold views that other people don’t like. Sometimes thugs will use that debate as an opportunity - but society can’t continue to develop if we effectively give those morons a veto over what we can - and can’t - talk about. Attacking someone for who they are is unforgivable. As far as I’m concerned, someone’s BELIEFS are fair game.

    My own position is that debate is a good thing, and it should be robust to a point near to - but not as far as - physical violence. I’m bored with this herd of independent minds that insist that the removal of a fascist dictator was an unthinkeable crime and that foreign policy should be dictated by a perceived need to placate unrepresentative sections of a minority community (all views that have appeared in this thread). And I’m sick of the massively oversimplified ’stopper’ narrative of that other commenter here. The selective daisy-chain of cause-and-effect.

    It’s just so eye-wateringly wrong and tedious that it needs to be rebutted point-by-boring-point. I don’t do this normally, y’know…

  37. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Paulie, stifling a bored-shitless yawn at your digressions in post 36 here. My points on the veil issue have been made quite clearly in my comments #7, #29, #32, so there is little point in further ruminations on my position.

    Labour have lost the Muslim vote. Voting patterns based on insipid loyalties are bound to get abused - and Labour will have to live with a massive reduction in Muslim support. Who’s fault is this?

    The problem with equating Iraq as a mission to remove a single fascist dictator is ahistorical and inconsistent. Saddam was hated by the Islamists long before the US/UK decided he was a public enemy, and way before he was the “West’s” military proxy against the Iranians all throughout the 80s. There are plenty of other totalitarian regimes in the world today, but the US/UK partnership is either ignoring them, in bed with them or selling them arms.

  38. Paulie Says:

    OK Sid.

    Labour may have lost the ‘Muslim vote’ (this remains to be seen). I wouldn’t underestimate Muslims to the point of treating them as a thoughtless bloc though. Their self-appointed spokesmen do that quite well enough.

    I suspect that some Muslims who voted Labour in the past will switch away (er.. where to?). No doubt, some Muslims who have never voted Labour before will do so in future.

    And is the point of politics to tailor your policies to retain the support of a particular bloc in the first place? Particularly a religious one? Should abortion be abolished to avoid alienating various religious blocs?

    Surely the logic of your comments on Iraq would suggest that you’re against humanitarian intervention in all circumstances? Or are you just part of the amorphous negativism that seems to characterise liberalism these days?

    What DO you stand for then?

  39. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Where to is a good question. Hopefully not apathy.

    No doubt, some Muslims who have never voted Labour before will do so in future.

    And your evidence for this?

    What DO you stand for then?

    On crowded carriages, for pregnant/old ladies. I’m chivalrous like that.

  40. Paulie Says:

    Evidence? Are you saying that no Muslims will ever switch to Labour again?

    One of the annoying things about the way that politics is discussed is that people take the media’s simplifications to their logical conclusions.

    There were many thousands of people who voted Labour in 1992 who switched to the Conservatives in 1997. National swings mask a much more complex pattern of behaviour. The Poll Tax was widely seen as having encouraged Labour voters to not register to vote, and thereby disenfranchise themselves. The reverse was the case. It actually encouraged Tory voters to avoid registration.

    If I remember correctly (and I may be mistaken here) I think it was John Curtice who published a very good paper about class and partisan alignment in voting. While ‘the working class vote’ has undoubtedly become less aligned with Labour, these voters have become more (politically) promiscuous, thereby masking the de-alignment. A lot switched BACK from the Tories to Labour.

    In summary, whenever you predict what a bloc of people are likely to do, the are usually wronger than you will ever realise. The evidence is always deceptive.

    Not all Muslims share your views on the stuff we’ve been talking about here. Anyway, ARE you a Muslim these days? I thought you’d lapsed? Like my catholicism. I’m a catholic aetheist these days. Or maybe an agnostic. I’m not sure.

    ;-)

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