Society can only progress if it is allowed to question. This applies to issues concerning both science and faith. Regardless of whether or not Wilders’s intentions are based on assisting the progression of society by encouraging dialogue, I would invite his film â€“ bland and poorly produced as it is â€“ to become a tool for Muslims and non-Muslims in discussion of faith, freedom and difference.
The film offers footage of carnage at the hands of terrorists who claim to act in the name of Islam and God.
I was always a bit worried the home office was going to be able to pass into law its plan to allow the police to potentially hold people without charging for 42 days. But the Guardian reports today that the Cabinet is split on the issue. I still get the feeling the Guardian is being optimistic here and giving the impression Jacqui Smith is in more trouble than she actually is.
More significantly, two things happened on Monday to push the government further into a corner. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (the newer version of the Commission for Racial Equality) said it may launch a legal challenge if the legislation goes through. In my view this may be the best way to over-turn this legislation. If Trevor Phillips’s crew can show this legislation disproportionately discriminates against Muslims, he could end up being their best friend. How funny is that?
Also on Monday the Indy said that a letter drawn up by Amnesty International and signed by “leading cultural figures” (and me) was being sent to Gordon Brown. Actually they were meant to publish it, like the letter I got into the Guardian a few weeks ago, but never mind.
Shame on the Indian government. Its foreign minister has said that the Dalai Lama should not engage in any political activity that would damage its relationship with China. Not long ago the Indian govt willingly supported the Dalai Lama and offered political asylum to him and other Tibetan refugees.Now of course the only thing that matters is trade relations with China.
India has assured China that the Olympic torch will pass safely through the country.
But the country’s football captain has refused to carry the torch.
A House of Lords select committee has questioned whether increased levels of immigration delivers a significant economic benefit for the average denizen of these isles. The government calculates this benefit at Â£6 billion, but fail to point out that with a larger population this was bound to happen. The Lords’ committee argue that the increase in GDP per head has been negligible.
North Indians have again been attacked in Mumbai, as an anti-North Indian campaign by a regional party continues:
“Motorcycle-borne assailants smashed at least five taxis on Friday night. ”My car was attacked at around 2:15 am, I was asked if I was a Maharashtrian or a north Indian. When I did not answer, they attacked me and went away. I have no idea what happened after that.
”There were 4-5 people. There was a motorcycle and I realised that there was another vehicle here. The police haven’t done anything as yet,” said a victimized taxi driver. Though the police have arrested four people, it is not yet clear if the violence was incited by Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which had run an anti-north Indian campaign last month.”
You are a cleaner working long hours, scrubbing toilets while you struggle to support your family. Each month, you look at your pay check, and see that some money has been deducted for income tax and national insurance. “Ah”, you sigh, “I have less but at least I am paying for schools and hospitals.” Wrong. This cleaner, like hundreds of others, is paying tax solely for the benefit of the disgraced former chief executive of Northern Rock, Adam Applegarth, who is to receive a pay-off of Â£760,000 for utter failure. This money would have funded SBS for six years.
The Dutch politician/demagogue Geert Wilders has released an anti-Islam film or something called Fitna. After hyping it for so long as the event to generate a clash of civilisations, I’m rather disappointed that the whole thing is such a damp squib and, to boot, boring as fuck. I mean really – you can fall asleep watching that shit.
Unsurprisingly, the usual idiots are getting into a frenzy. OMG, the website which originally hosted it had to take it down!!!!!!!!!!!! Erm, its all over YouTube or Google Video if you want boys, that ‘censorship’ stuff looks like a PR stunt. Some people really have boring lives.
But here’s two points to consider. First, Wilders himself isn’t really as liberal as he claims to be because he wants Islam the religion itself to be banned from the Netherlands. Yes, only a complete bunch of dimwits would proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder against censorship with an idiot politician who wants… erm.. censorship.
Second, guess who else loves the film? Omar Bakri! Yes! “On the contrary, if we leave out the first images and the sound of the page being torn, it could be a film by the [Islamist] Mujahideen,” he told the FT. Another journalist I spoke to yesterday said he actively praised it because he said it was much better quality than what the mujahadeen were producing it, but with the same message.
It’s not surprising if you think about it. Both Omar Bakri and the Melanie Phillips/Geert Wilders types think the ‘clash of civilisation’ is nearly upon us and went it to arrive asap. All of them are also united in wanting Muslims to become/look like nutcases. In other words, Omar Bakri and Melanie Phillips both appreciate it because it fits in nicely with their agendas. What better illustration that they’re all nutcases? They all deserve each other.
Joey Abdullah was a young, sensitive lad from the East End of London. His parents named him Yusuf (Arabic for Joseph) but he found this a difficult name to bear outside of his home, so he changed it to Joey. In his first year at university Joey fell into the orbit of a small organised group of young people known as the Istanja Tahrir (Ritual Purification of the Purified Private Parts Party – RPoPPPP). They dressed up as clowns and held regular meetings which bristled with other angry young clowns. They exchanged stories of their personal alienation and political theories mired in postmodern-postcolonial angst. They called people who chose not to dress up as clowns ‘Kuffar’ and hatched intricate plans to overthrow the goverment and establish a Clown State. Joey felt comfortable being a Yusuf again. For the next ten years, Joey Abdullah’s clown demeanour grew in malice and he rose to the position of SMC “Seriously Mental Clown”, a respected position of seniority in the party. Joey could speak in complete sentences so he was chosen to be the party spokesman. On more than one occassion, he was invited by Newsnight to speak on behalf of radical clowns. He was asked to contextualise terrorist atrocities committed in other parts of the world by other angry clowns. Joey Abdullah would do his best to come across as an articulate clown in response to Jeremy Paxman’s jabbing questions. But one day Joey Abdullah stopped seeing the world in terms of clown and unclown and he left the Istanja Tahrir and wrote a book about his experience as a member of the radical group. His book became a success and Joey became a minor celebrity, lauded by the great and the good. Melanie Phillips and Rod Liddle formed a blog with Joey called ‘Putting it Ultra Right’ with a strapline of a George Orwell quote. Martin Amis even wrote a novel containing a character based on Joey, which was discussed breathlessly by critics on Newsnight Review. Joey Abdullah was now asked to speak on TV panel shows, Radio 4 programmes on current affairs, even Jonathan Ross asked Joey to his show to discuss his conversion from ‘murderous clown’ to ‘normal person’. Some say the Foreign Office is receiving a lot of calls from Stockholm which means Joey might possibly be on the list for the Nobel Peace Prize. Nowadays Joey Abdullah makes the effort not to come across as a radical terrorist clown because now of course he has a lot more to lose. His lucrative publishing contract and an endorsement from XBox (they have created a game with a computer animated character based on Joey, who confronts terrorists in war scenarious and kills them in their thouands; the game is called Istanja Death Hole). His radical days are finally behind him and now he is an international spokesman for non-clowns. He now writes long polemical speeches, with accompanying Powerpoint presentations, calling for the banning of the Istanja Tahrir and it’s splinter group (al Dubur) which he will deliver to various think tanks and health spas dotted around the United Arab Emirates. Yusuf is happy being a Joey again.
The Labour party is considering them and Libdems have expressed their support, but I think they’re a bad idea. The idea is this. In an effort to boost the number of black or Asian MPs, in certain constituencies the parties will only put forward candidates for selection of a black/Asian background.
It sounds good on paper and Operation Black Vote, who have been pushing this, say it would only be applicable for about 20 years before being gotten rid of. Those who complain this form of positive discrimination won’t let people through on merit are either not acquianted well enough with our current crop of politicians, or understand how nepotistic and unfair the system is anyway. No, my objection is that it racialises our politics. As I said in my CIF article yesterday:
One of the many reasons to support Barack Obama is his attempts to overcome divisive race politics of the past and that of “community leaders” speaking for groups who never elected them. He ignored “black leaders” who endorsed Clinton but were later forced to accept that African Americans supported his united vision more than their communal one.
We have seen examples of that play out here, too. During the Southall by-election last year, when the Tories attracted five (factional and divisive) Labour councillors to join them, I said it was a boon for Labour, since it wouldn’t impact on voting. Blogger Iain Dale chided me for spinning it, but the Tory modernisers got sucked into the worst of communal politics by securing the block defection of five Sikh councillors but not the voters the councillors claimed to speak for.
By inevitably creating a situation where black, Asian or Muslim candidates would only speak for those of similar backgrounds, we only perpetuate this divisive communal agenda. Militant Sikh groups, for example, would start demanding that only turbaned Sikhs represent them, as they did in Southall, and so on.
Short-lists let them off the hook. There is a deeper problem with these political parties, which is why only middle-class white males mostly get selected and promoted. Why else is there so much gender and class disparity in our politics too?
The decision to chop funding to Southall Black Sisters, which I’ve documented here a lot, is a betrayal on two fronts.
Firstly, it is a betrayal by the Conservative party. David Cameron has relentlessly been talking about taking more action on forced marriages and ‘honour’ crimes. And yet when organisations on the front-line of challenging these problems are having their funding withdrawn, by Tory Councils, then he’s strangely silent. Was it all just positioning and marketing? The Tory council says all they’re doing is ensuring that the money goes to groups that can cater for all women. But Cameron very well knows you need specialist organisations – after all he’s been promoting and touring with Karma Nirvana’s Jasvinder Sanghera. But on this issue there’s not been a peep from him. I wonder why? Say one thing and do another?
The second act of betrayal is from the group Refuge itself. Refuge is a multi-million pound organisation that does good work but it wants the money that usually went to SBS. This is despite they fact they know that SBS do more specialist work they don’t have the skills to deliver themselves.
SBS have written to Refuge asking them to back out from applying for that funding, to force Ealing Council to reconsider. But they’ve refused to do so because they want to build up their own empire and despite the fact that its a drop in the ocean for the nearly Â£10m a year they get in funding. Its disgraceful. The SBS problem has been covered across many blogs and pushed by a lot of white feminist bloggers. They have completely shattered the myth, perpetuated by many, that white feminists don’t care for brown feminists. So Refuge’s unwillingness to stand in solidarity with SBS is also a betrayal. They should be ashamed.
SBS are holding another protest in front of Ealing Council on 1st April. That is also the day the decision on whether funding gets cut will be made. I’ll be there again.
With the saga of Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascheranoâ€™s sending off for repeated verbal abuse showing no signs of abating, it seems to me that we need to devise a dictionary for those unfamiliar with the language of this frankly baffling league, as people struggle to understand why hurling abuse at the referee on a number of occasions could warrant a yellow card. Submissions are welcome. The guide so far:
1He is just a passionate player.
Phrase used when a manager is explaining why a player has been sent off for a bad tackle or for verbally abusing the referee.
2Heâ€™s gone down too easily there. Shameful.
What commentators say when a foreign player dives.
3Heâ€™s done well to win a penalty for his team.
What commentators say when an English player dives.
In the same vein as Sid’s recent piece on Iraq, Donpaskini has a post showing how supporters and opposers of the war are cherry picking the polls to support their own narrative.
So, for example, Iraqis have a relatively high opinion of their government (48% approval, higher than Britain or the USA), by 38%-28% think that British withdrawal from Basra made the situation worse, and report the top two problems in their lives are unemployment and lack of electricity.
This blog-post is more a matter of record and trying to explain my views on a subject, in case I need to refer people back to it, than simply a topic for discussion. I have a straightforward view on abortion. That is – a woman should be allowed control over her body to exercise an abortion if she wants. It is her choice.
Yes, this government does actually do sensible things too, occasionally.
First up, the Justice ministry has decided that it will repeal parts of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 that made it difficult to protest freely around parliament. Justin has more on this. And a deserved mention to Tim Ireland who’s been campaigning tirelessly on it.
The campaign by various bloggers, including myself, to push the govt to offer asylum to Iraqi translators of British armed forces has also met with real success. So, well done David Miliband.
This post examines the attitudes different countries have taken towards the protests in Tibet.
David Miliband today announced that Free Tibet protesters will be allowed to demonstrate when the Olympic torch arrives in London on April the 6th. Any other answer would have been unconscionable. 2,000 Metropolitan Police will be deployed along the route, which will pass through many central London tourist spots and end in Greenwich.
The world has metaphorically raised an eyebrow at the recent violently put-down protests in Tibet itself. International news agencies have run stories (though all foreign journalists remain banned) and liberal Westerners have expressed concern, but little has been done. For me, one of the most dramatic developments in the last few weeks has been the Dalai Lama’s promise to step down if there are more violent protests in Tibet. Shades of Gandhi. The Dalai Lama conceded years ago that there is almost no chance of an independent Tibet.
China has officially blamed the Dalai Lama for the fortnight of protesting, in which an estimated 130 have died. It has also alleged the Dalai Lama is working with Islamic militants to disrupt the Olympic. [Link]
TOTAL POLITICS MAGAZINE
That this House notes the impending launch of a purportedly politically neutral magazine called Total Politics; notes that it is fronted by Iain Dale, a failed Conservative parliamentary candidate; further notes that it is being run from Lord Ashcroft’s address in Cowley Street and that it is fronted by Lord Ashcroft; and calls upon hon. and right hon. Members to reject the free copies which will be sent to them in the near future.
The government is planning to ban the display of cigarettes in cornershops and other privately-owned premises. Since tobacco is as yet not illegal, it is unclear on what basis this proposed law rests. Cornershops will still be allowed to sell packets of cigarettes, but presumably they will have to be sealed in a titanium vault in case somebody notices them. As the government also disapproves of alcohol, pornography and calorie-causing foods, the average cornershop is soon going to be looking pretty empty.
“Outlining the proposals, Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said it was “vital” to teach children that “smoking is bad”. “If that means stripping out vending machines or removing cigarettes from behind the counter, I’m willing to do that,” she said.”
Keen to support any measure which increases the power of the state, David Cameron gave it his backing.
Two articles I read this weekend made me laugh, and rue at my own state. First, this piece in the Washington Post (via Gene) has one guy consume media such as TV, blogs, radio and all the rest for 24 hours. Information overload, and I can feel that pain. I’m addicted to news and information. I once stayed in an ashram in India for over a week, in the middle of nowhere. No read, no talking – just meditation. 10 hours a day. Half the time all I could think about was that another 9/11 could have happened and I’d have no clue.
And then there’s communication overload. I have 5 ‘work related’ email accounts plus other gmail accounts, and a blackberry. On top of that is Facebook, where people I don’t know keep trying to add me. Though my problems are not as bad as for Michael Arrington of Techcrunch. But for a fact there’s a ton of email I have to reply to and the list keeps getting longer every day. How I’d also like to declare ‘email bankruptcy’ and delete the entire inbox and start again. Sigh.
A poll on Gallup shows that Obama’s ratings across the US have moved up again following his recent address on race. Maybe Richardson’s powerful endorsement helped. I’m praying John Edwards endorses him too. Fact: Since Super-Tuesday, Obama has picked up 62 super-delegates while Clinton has picked up 2. No doubt the media will continue to repeat the narrative that he’s lost the support of white voters etc. In fact even the Guardian is playing this line, which is a disappointment.
Senator Obama noted that, while polite society has declared racial epithets taboo, in private, black and white communities (mostly socially segregated) harbour deep resentments. On one side is the feeling that society is endemically racist. The white establishment cannot be relied upon to do anything to help the black underclass if it means compromising its own hold on power.
On the other side is the feeling that a narrative of victimhood is used by the black community to extract special privileges. The white working class, goes this view, faces the same barriers to advancement as non-whites, but is expected to surmount them by self-reliance alone.
This applies to Britain too, as it goes on to say, and I’d agree with that. Though, the difference is that we’ve never had an official civil rights movement (primarily because segregation and racism wasn’t as institutionalised as there), and that class differences here between the achievement of different races, makes the analysis much more difficult. Middle-class Indian girls do way better than working-class black boys in the UK, and that sometimes makes class a bigger factor than race.
Today was an unusual day at CommentIsFree. We had two posts on Iraq from the mouthpieces of the two polar opposites of the Left’s opinion mill on matters regarding Iraq, neither of whom are offering anything more than snake oil.
Bangladeshi veterans from the 1971 war of independence have called for collaborators to be put on trial:
“Hundreds of the veterans who took part in the victorious war against Pakistan travelled to Dhaka to issue the call at the request of their former commanders. They say Bangladeshis who collaborated with Pakistani forces caused the deaths of thousands of civilians. Many of those they want tried are politically influential figures.
They include the leaders of Bangladesh’s largest party largest religious-based party, Jamaat-e-Islami – which at the time opposed the break-up of Pakistan. To this day, the leaders of the party deny a war of liberation took place, rather calling it a civil war between Pakistanis. They also deny involvement in a youth militia which carried out many of the killings.”
Thus the question is not whether they are guilty, but whether this will benefit Bangladesh. We in Britain have allowed terrorists to walk free in Northern Ireland for the sake of peace, while many constantly urge Israel and Palestine to do the same. Should justice be sacrificed to stability?
Update: Sid points out that the BBC report is inaccurate, as Jamaat-e-Islami is not even close to being Bangladesh’s largest party. The BBC has now changed it to “largest religious-based party”.