6th February, 2011

International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation

by Rumbold at 8:29 pm    

Today is the International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a cultural practice which sees (usually) young girls being sexually mutilated in order to comply with tradition. FGM is a worldwide practice, albeit one largely concentrated in the Middle East and Africa. It spans religions, with both Christians and Muslim girls suffering as a result of it, and has been widely condemned by leading religious scholars, though other influential ones (including a cleric feted by the then mayor of London Ken Livingstone), continue to endorse it.

FGM even occurs in Britain: investigations by the Daily Mail and Observer (amongst others) revealed that tens of thousands of girls living in this country have either undergone the procedure or at risk from it, mostly those from African/Middle Eastern backgrounds. There is legislation to deal with it in this country, but, given the difficulties of securing a conviction, it has so far proved ineffective, wih no prosecutions taking place. In other areas of the world the signs are more encouraging though:

There is a programme now running in 12 out of 17 priority African countries and it has seen real results. We have seen prevalence rates fall from 80% to 74% in Ethiopia, in Kenya from 32% to 27% and in Egypt from 97% to 91%. But there is still a long way to go.

The success behind the recent figures lies in the collective abandonment of FGM/C. There is now a culturally sensitive approach, based on dialogue and social networking, which leads to abandonment within one generation. Because the programme is anchored in human rights, it allows participants to understand better the choices they are making.

Man With Low IQ Banned From Having Sex

by guest at 1:05 pm    

This is a guest post by Sarah. She blogs here.

This is one of the strangest cases I’ve heard of since I started blogging. It seems to be not so much surprise that a disabled person knows what sex is, but a feeling that he doesn’t understand what sex means.

A 41 year old man, known only as Alan, has been banned from having sex because he has an IQ of 48 and a ‘moderate’ learning disability. Alan started a romantic relationship with another man, Kieron, who he met while living in a home provided by his local council. However, in June 2009, Alan’s local town hall decided that he lacked the mental capacity to have contact with Kieron, and began court proceedings to restrict their contact with each other. Since then, Alan has been closely supervised to prevent him from carrying out any further sexual activity, except when he is alone in his bedroom.

This is the latest case to be brought before the Court of Protection, which has the power, under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, to make life or death decisions for people who lack the intelligence to make them for themselves. Usually, this court can force people to have abortions or life saving surgery, use contraception or switch off life support machines.

Continue Reading...
4th February, 2011

Now Christians protect Muslims in Egypt

by Rumbold at 2:11 pm    

After the uplifting scenes in Egypt during Coptic Christmas, when Muslims formed human shields to protect their Christian brethren at mass after terror attacks on Copts, Christians have returned the favour during prayers, protecting Muslim protestors who were worried about attacks from pro-Mubarak thugs.

(Via: Maylor)

Corrupt EU police forces could be handed Britons’ personal data

by Rumbold at 12:18 pm    

Air travellers will be more likely to be hit by fraud after the British government lent their support to a proposal that would allow any police officer, even in mafia-infiltrated states like Bulgaria, to access a passenger’s credit card details and their address:

Telephone numbers, addresses, credit card numbers, email and other details of British air travellers will be available on demand for all of the EU’s police forces, including countries such as Bulgaria and Romania where corruption among law enforcement officials is widespread. The system, billed on Wednesday as an anti-terrorism measure, will track all travellers and will also allow any EU police officer access to the data on suspicion of a serious crime, including offences that are not a crime in Britain. Civil liberties campaigners fear the new EU surveillance system will make Britons more vulnerable to miscarriages of justice amid growing concern over EU policing measures and the lack of safeguards or judicial standards in some European countries.

Even Europhiles should be worried about significantly more individuals having access to personal data, especially relating to credit cards and identity. The transfer of powers to the EU has continued in much the same way as under Labour, which is not overly surprising.

3rd February, 2011

British Sikh and Hindu groups release joint statement condemning EDL

by Jai at 9:00 am    

A number of the largest Sikh and Hindu organisations in Britain have formally released a joint statement forcefully condemning the EDL and any Sikhs who join them. The latter is of course particularly applicable to the EDL’s “Sikh” spokesman Guramit (sometimes known as “Amit”) Singh; he was also one of the EDL members interviewed by BBC’s Newsnight as part of a documentary about the group which the programme showed earlier this week. As previously discussed on Pickled Politics, Guramit himself is currently being prosecuted by the police for “intentionally causing religiously aggravated harassment alarm or distress, under Section Four of the Public Order Act 1986”, following a public speech by Guramit which included the following remarks:

“I’m going to tell you precisely right now what threat of Islam is. Muhammad and Islam is not a religion… Muhammad was a paedophilic pirate… Islam, in not just this country but around the world, has been using their disgusting threat, their threat has been going on for 1400 years, “if you do not bow before Muhammad and his so-called Allah, you are to be beheaded”… Hitler had fuck all on Muhammad.

The Koran and the Hadiths is written in Arabic. Muslims are not allowed to be taught Arabic in the mosque. Muslims are told, “do not question what your Imam says, although they don’t even know what the Imam’s saying, because the Imam’s just a “Allah, fuck it”. Stick your Allah up your arse, you cunt. Fuck em, fuck em, fuck em. I’m not being funny, fuck em. I may get arrested for this shit, but fuck em, fuck em, I’m not having it, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em.”

The speech is available on Youtube. Guramit has also previously boasted on his Facebook page about his murderous hatred of Muslims:

“the muzzies wanna keep away from me im just looking for an excuse im fucked off at the mo fuck the pakis … i just think we shud burn the cunts now!!”

Continue Reading...
2nd February, 2011

Coalition to invest more in mental health provision

by Rumbold at 11:16 am    

The coalition is to invest more money in provision for tackling mental health issues, particularly amongst children and teenagers:

It is widely acknowledged that there have been significant improvements in adult services over the past decade, particularly in relation to the support available in the community. In contrast, the network of child and adolescent mental health services – funded jointly by the NHS and local government – have been criticised for having long waiting lists and patchy provision of services.

The problems have led to children being treated by adult services in places. The transition from child to adult care during the teenage years is also considered inadequate. The government’s strategy, which is being backed by an extra £400m of funding by 2014, will aim to boost psychological therapies, such as counselling.

This is good news, as those with mental health issues don’t often have the access to the right treatment. One only has to look at the prison population, which contains many individuals with mental health issues who should be in a secure hospital receiving treatment rather than being locked up behind bars.

1st February, 2011

Out of sight, out of mind?

by Rumbold at 1:45 pm    

Bangladesh, which is co-hosting the 2011 cricket world cup, is planning to pay around 300 disabled beggars in the city of Chittagong to stay off the streets for the next three months:

Some 300 disabled beggars would be paid about $2 (£1.20) a day for three months to compensate them for their loss of earning, Mayor Mansur Alam said. He added that the beggars would also be given a chance to move into rehabilitation centres…
The decision comes days after the government proposed to move all the beggars in the capital Dhaka to welfare centres until the World Cup was over.

The only positives in this is that the beggars may receive a steady if small income (though some of that is likely to be stolen in the distribution), as well as the possibility of accommodation. Other than that, there is nothing to recommend this scheme. It amounts to a form of cleansing, where undesirables are herded into centres and held so as not to disturb the eyes of visitors. Many of these individuals are presumably unable to work due to injuries and thus unable to pay for accommodation and food, and it would be better if they could be provided with long term care and support. Whilst that is not always possible in a poor if developing country, any sort of support must be better than this.

(Hat-tip: Sarah at Same Difference)

Filed under: Bangladesh,Disability

The unfortunate CS gas incident ended up helping @UKuncut

by Sunny at 10:48 am    

Owen at Third Estate complains that focusing on the CS spray incident at the last UKuncut protest detracts from the real issue of tax avoidance.

That is unfortunately the way it goes. The protest needed a different angle and the CS gas incident provided it.

The problem for UKuncut now is that media coverage and interest will offer diminishing returns. They were interested initially and talk about the ‘social media protests’ and then they move on once the story becomes old or repetitive. I’m not blaming them – as an editor I would do exactly the same.

Without the CS spray incident, I bet coverage of the UKuncut protests would have been minimal. Hoping that the media will stick to “discussing the issue” is wishful thinking I’m afraid. They are not going to report every month that some protesters shut down Topshop, Boots or Vodafone.

Going forward, UKuncut need to think not just about new targets, but also new tactics and new imaginative stunts. Without that the media coverage will eventually drop off to zero. Unfortunately that is how the news media works.

PS – Ellie Mae has written a long but excellent account of what happened around the incident. Sympathies go out to people who got sprayed because I’ve had it done to me and its ugly.

Filed under: Media
31st January, 2011

Poorer countries will lose the most out of global warming

by Sunny at 11:00 am    

This piece of news in the New York Times pretty much confirms what developing countries have been saying for years:

In almost every instance, the people most at risk from climate change live in countries that have contributed the least to the atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases linked to the recent warming of the planet.

Those most vulnerable countries also tend to be the poorest. And the countries that face the least harm — and that are best equipped to deal with the harm they do face — tend to be the richest.

And despite that, it is constantly claimed by many right-wingers that action against global warming is only designed to hurt developing countries from getting richer. Rubbish.

Not only does that assume development can only come via burning vast amounts of fossil fuels rather than sustainable growth, but that they won’t be badly affected by global warming.

For example:

The United States, where agriculture represents just 4 percent of the economy, can endure a climatic setback far more easily than a country like Malawi, where 90 percent of the population lives in rural areas and about 40 percent of the economy is driven by rain-fed agriculture.

Those massive changes in temperatures and the growing instability of weather will hurt poorer people in developing countries more than it will here. The UK can afford to spend billions ‘climate proofing‘ – countries like India and Malawi can’t. That is why they need action to tackle global warming.

Filed under: Environmentalism
30th January, 2011

More evidence Israel was never really interested in the peace roadmap

by Sunny at 1:13 am    

Interesting piece in Foreign Policy magazine:

For the last eight years the roadmap has been the mother’s milk of U.S. efforts to resolve the conflict. It was at the heart of Barack Obama’s Cairo address of June 2009. After reminding the Palestinians of their obligations to end violence, Obama focused on Israel. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” he said.

The Palestinians took their obligations seriously: Beginning in 2004, the Palestinian leadership began reorganizing its security services. In 2005, the U.S. appointed a security coordinator to oversee this reform, and a U.S. general (Keith Dayton) recruited and trained 10 battalions of a National Security Force in Jordan to restore order in the West Bank. The NSF arrested Palestinian “extremists,” jailed Hamas activists, and even (as the Palestine Papers show) killed Palestinians at the request of the Israeli security services — creating a virtual Roadmap police state. While initially skeptical of Palestinian efforts, Israel began to cooperate with the Palestinian security services, urging them to assassinate “terrorists” who refused to abandon armed resistance to the Israeli occupation. But while the Palestinians attempted to meet their Roadmap obligations, the Israelis kept building — expanding settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

And this is the worst part – despite assurances that he would do everything to bring peace to the Middle East, George Bush and Condoleezza Rice were actually tougher on Israel than either Barack Obama or his negotiator George Mitchell.

That’s a really damning indictment of the Obama administration – they didn’t even bother pushing Israel on their own roadmap. Israel kept ignoring its side of the bargain while publicly claiming that Obama was much worse than Bush in his attitude towards Israel.

Related: Also worth noting is Israel’s response to the uprising in Egypt: “I’m not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process.” — apparently, this is the country in promoting democracy across the Middle East.

29th January, 2011

True Honour Awards

by Rumbold at 12:13 pm    

IKWRO, a group which aids Iranian, Kurdish and other women on the run from ‘honour’-based violence, is hosting an awards ceremony in June. Details below:

Do you know someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the fight against ‘honour’ based violence?

In 2011, IKWRO will grant two awards in recognition of the hard work and dedication of individuals and organisations who are working to end ‘honour’ based violence in the UK. By showcasing some of the most exceptional work, we believe that we can inspire others to take action to prevent ‘honour’ based crimes.

The award is also about turning the concept of ‘honour’ on its head. For us, true honour means respect for human rights. We hope that by hosting this award we can help to restore the sense of pride among survivors of ‘honour’ based violence, and can honour the memory of those who have been murdered.

We will launch a call for nominations later this month, and if you know a person or an organisation who has done inspirational work to prevent ‘honour’ killings, protect victims or bring offenders to justice, then we are very keen to hear from you.

The winners will be announced at a high profile gala awards ceremony in London in June, attended by survivors of honour based violence, women activists, politicians, journalists, civil servants, staff from public sector bodies and other charities and IKWRO supporters.

Can you help to fund the awards? IKWRO urgently needs funds for the True Honour Awards to help ensure that they are as big a success as possible. If you can help us by making a donation please email campaigns.ikwro[at]gmail.com

28th January, 2011

Egyptian protests gather pace

by Rumbold at 5:04 pm    

A few weeks ago, Egypt was seen as an unlikely successor to the unrest in Tunisia. Despite its unemployment and corruption, Egypt was reckoned to have a better security service and a better ability to resist. Now, as protests spread throughout the country, a Tunisian-style ending doesn’t seem so far fetched (nor guaranteed):

Cairo, Alexandria and Suez have been placed under curfew as the Egyptian government battles to restore control after the biggest protests so far. Across the country tens of thousands of protesters turned out after Friday prayers and clashed with police. President Hosni Mubarak, facing the biggest challenge to his authority of his 31 years in power, has ordered the army onto the streets of Cairo.

Mr Mubarak is expected to make a statement shortly. The curfew is now in effect, but live television pictures from Cairo continue to show large crowds on the streets. Flames have been seen from the area around the headquarters of the governing National Democratic Party (NDP) in Cairo.

Filed under: Middle East

Bulleh Shah, “blasphemy”, and Pakistan

by Jai at 9:00 am    

Shehrbano Taseer, the daughter of Salman Taseer (the assassinated Pakistani Governor of Punjab), recently wrote a poignant Guardian CiF article about her father’s murder which also mentioned Bulleh Shah:

“My father was buried in Lahore on 5 January under high security. Cleric after cleric refused to lead his funeral prayers – as they had those of the sufi saint Bulleh Shah – and militants warned mourners to attend at their own peril. But thousands came to Governor House on that bitterly cold morning to pay their respects. Thousands more led candle-lit vigils across the country. But the battle is not going to be over any time soon.”

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) is one of the most famous and revered Sufi Muslims in South Asian history; he was also one of the historical role models of the late Pakistani Sufi Muslim singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his family, who have themselves been Sufis since the medieval period. The saint’s shrine is in the Punjabi city of Kasur, now in Pakistan, and can be seen in the photo at the top of this article.

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27th January, 2011

Control orders watered down but remain

by Rumbold at 9:27 am    

The Home Secretary has announced some reforms of the control order system and detention without trial:

“Control orders mark II” will end the powers of the home secretary to order the virtual house arrest of terror suspects and to force their relocation. Each individual order will be limited to a maximum of two years.

The current regime will remain in force until December when it will be replaced by escalating measures including an undefined overnight residence requirement backed by electronic tagging and restrictions on travel, but also allowing greater access to the internet, phones and personal meetings. The government will have to specify in legislation, in greater detail than at present, the measures that can be used.

Some of this is good news. Control orders and lengthy detention without trial are unpleasant features of our justice system. They go against the principle of innocent until proven guilty, and are not easily defensible. Any scaling back of them is therefore welcome form a civil liberties point of view. If people have to be held in this way for security reasons, then they should have as many rights as possible, since there isn’t enough evidence to bring them to trial, or the evidence cannot be heard in court. From a security angle too, it makes sense, as they will be able to monitor suspects’ communications. I would like to see more use made of deportation if possible.

Plans to roll back other powers which have been misused are welcome too:

• Section 44 stop and search powers: existing powers to be replaced with a much more tightly drawn power to stop and search without suspicion.

• Photographers: changes to be made to guidance on section 58a so it no longer prevents photographing police officers or security guards.

• Surveillance: the use of surveillance operations by local authorities under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to be restricted to cases where the offence carries a prison sentence of at least six months. Investigations into underage alcohol and tobacco sales to be exempted.

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26th January, 2011

Plus ça change at Sky

by Rumbold at 9:38 am    

Sky pundit Andy Gray, already under pressure following his sexist comments about a female assistant referee and women in general, has been sacked by Sky after new footage emerged of a previous incident where he made sexually suggestive comments to another presenter. Given that his views and behaviour are fairly typical, he was unlucky in that he got caught, with others who have no doubt said similar things now distancing themselves from him. The search for his replacement is underway, and who is in the running (though not the favourite) to fill his shoes, but Glenn Hoddle, who had this to say about disabled people when England manager:

“You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and half-decent brains,” he was quoted as saying. “Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime.” I have nothing to hide about that. It is not only people with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap.”

25th January, 2011

US government’s case against WikiLeaks falls apart

by Sunny at 9:01 am    

MSNBC reported last night:

U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

This is big news, because it fundamentally undermines the US government’s case that this was a case of espionage, the charge they planned to make against Julian Assange.

Meanwhile, the US govt is still illegally detaining Bradley Manning without allowing him visitors properly. Amnesty International have now written a letter to the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates about his treatment.

Given this is a post on WikiLeaks, its also worthwhile reading this post at the New Yorker on how Al-Jazeera may have joined the ‘arms race’ by media organisations to become more like WikiLeaks and start soliciting confidential documents via untraceable electronic networks.

Naturally, I’m all for it. Unlike my fellow blogger Rumbold, I think the Guardian and Al-Jaz were completely right to publish the Palestinian Papers. Not only did they explode the Israeli narrative that the country had ‘no partner in peace’ to negotiate with, they also showed how one-sided the negotiations were. I’m afraid that’s not justice and the Palestinians deserve much more. If the fragile peace in Israel falls apart now, it will be their fault and no one else’s.

Coming back to WikiLeaks and Al-Jazeera, the New Yorker blog says:

If the WikiLeaks model were to grow beyond WikiLeaks—much in the way social networking outgrew its earliest online incarnations—and develop more fully within the ambit of conventional media, it is likely that it would change in a way that reflects the different sources of authority that a stateless publisher and a conventional news organization each draw upon. Some aspects of Assange’s initial vision might get lost. Others, such as the site’s ability to publish things that no one confined to single jurisdiction can publish, might become more valuable.

Sounds like a good thing to me.

Filed under: Civil liberties,Media
23rd January, 2011

Israel, negotiations and the benefits of secrecy

by Rumbold at 9:28 pm    

Al Jazeera in conjunction with Wikileaks, has revealed some of the secret offers being made in recent rounds of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. While there is a lot of interesting material in there, my focus is on the accusation that the releases will derail the peace process (such as it is), strengthen Hamas and weakened the Palestinian Authority.

It would be wrong to heap all the blame on the media for any subsequent problems. Israeli-Palestinian talks have been going on for decades with no lasting results, without any help from Wikileaks or Al Jazeera. There is also the argument that the leaks expose the intransigence of the Israeli negotiators, which should in theory allow pressure to be brought to bear on those deemed to be holding back a peace deal. The problem with the leaks lies in the reaction of extremists on all sides.

Many conflicts of this nature in recent history have been solved by negotiation (the others still continue or have been brutally crushed). Extremists in any group do not tend to like negotiation, because they know concessions will have to be made, so some times negotiations are begun by moderate leaders without the knowledge of their followers (such as with the IRA). This isn’t the case with Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, as they are public knowledge, but the general point still holds: that in any negotiation concessions need to be offered, usually ones which would infuriate extremists, so for the sake of a lasting settlement it is better if those concessions are offered behind closed doors, then any deal is presented to extremists as a fait accompli.

This is not a foolproof method by any means. But it does provide a basis for negotiation. In the future, will either side be willing to offer controversial concessions as a starting point if they believe that it is likely they will be leaked?
(Via Naadir Jeewa)

Sunny’s update: The leak has nothing to do with WikiLeaks. I’ve updated Rumbold’s post to reflect that.

Haggis to save the USA?

by Rumbold at 6:40 pm    

After the recent shootings in Arizona, many theories have been posited about the worsening political discourse in the US. Both left and right have been blamed, whilst others question how much impact the atmosphere had on the shooter. However, maybe the root cause is the fact that no one over there has access to haggis:

The iconic Scottish dish is been barred in the US for more than 20 years because its food safety department prohibits the use of sheep lungs in food products.

Haggis, much maligned, is at its best a very tasty dish, which I would heartily recommend.

Filed under: Humour,United States
22nd January, 2011

Fast Food Culture in Dhaka, Bangladesh

by guest at 9:45 am    

This is a guest post by Tithe Farhana. She has previously written for publications including The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

Bangladesh’s economy has been transforming slowly from agriculture to manufacturing & service industries; another consequential effect sees a shift from extended families to nuclear families, where both husband and wife are working and engaging in economic activities outside the home. This social transformation includes eating out and dining out, including fast food.

Akku Chowdhury, Executive Director of Transcom Foods Limited, defined “fast food as the term for fastest life style of modern society, we have general idea that fast food means MacDonald or Italian Dishes, but it can be local dishes and menus even Birani/ Chicken Curry can be regarded as fast food, if it is served quickly and saved time for taking.”

Dual forces of globalization are causing rapid world wide change in food supplies, food consumption behaviour and population health. One of the major changes over the last 10 years has been enlarged the development and marketing of western fast food habit in Bangladesh. Information technology, rapid growth of corporate houses, private universities and hectic life-style are totally craft a path to the new thinking, new culture and new life style, the popularity of the fast food is consequence of the changes of culture and traditions of life.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Bangladesh,Culture
21st January, 2011

Be The Voice of the anti-gendercide Campaign! Here’s How…

by guest at 5:42 pm    

This is an edited crosspost by THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN

We are seeking volunteers who can make 20-30 minute presentations on The 50 Million Missing Campaign and the fight against female genocide (femicide) in India.

We want these presentations made everywhere — in schools, colleges, universities, for women’s groups and other organizations, or even for a party of small friends at home.

We have the presentation all set for you here. All you have to do is download it onto PowerPoint and walk your audience through it by reading out the information on each slide.


1. There are 14 slides. Click on each (slide) thumbnail below. It will open to its full size . Then download it in JPEG onto your computer.

2. Copy the slides sequentially (the file names are numbered) into a new MS PowerPoint file or any other slide-presentation program that you use.

3. Save your slide presentation on your pen-drive, and read through this short paper by the campaign founder, Rita Banerji, in the Journal of Gender and Sexuality. It provides the background and references for your presentation. “Female Genocide and The 50 Million Missing Campaign,” Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, Issue 22, October 2009.

Also read the link for Roopa’s story (slide 11). Roopa is a dowry-survivor. When her parents refused to give her in-laws dowry, her husband and in-laws pinned her down and forced acid down her throat. The 50 Million Missing campaign is a zero fund campaign. We don’t raise or collect funds and run on volunteer effort. However none of the ngos or international organizations in India that we approached for Roopa would help her, and she required urgent internal surgery, otherwise she would have died. Her own family is very poor, so the 50MM rallied for people to donate to her family and it saved her life.

4. Whenever you make a presentation please come back to this page and put a comment down here, indicating when and where you made your presentation and how your audience responded.

5. If you think your audience will be interested, we recommend that after your presentation you could show them this film “Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women.” This is a brilliantly made film that won many international awards. The story, which is a projection into the future, is about an Indian village where every girl child has been killed off, except for one. This child is raised by her father in total secrecy. In a village where men are desperate to find women to marry, no one knows about her existence, till one day someone discovers her in the forest, where she’s playing dressed like a boy. [It's important to note that there is much in this film that represents reality. For instance the massive trafficking of women across India, their "sale" as brides, and the fact that families of 4-5 brothers often times "buy" a bride to share].

5. Finally, we often get requests for campaign speakers from organizations and international symposiums. If you would like to be an official speaker for us, then please contact us at 50millionmissing[at]gmail.com before you start making your presentations. And we will tell what you need to do.

Click here for the slides

The hysterical reaction to Sayeeda Warsi’s speech

by Sunny at 10:47 am    

Sayeeda Warsi was of course right to say that Islamophobia has become the last piece of accepted bigotry in the UK. You only have to read the right-wing press and their continuing obsession with ‘Muslim demographics’ to see the obvious. The Daily Mail, Telegraph, Express and even the Spectator don’t even bother hiding it.

Also predictable was the hysterical reaction from the same quarters: ‘ZOMG how dare she insult us all!!!‘. As usual, Peter Oborne, about the only intelligent and worth-reading Tory left in the British press, has it spot on:

What she said yesterday has desperately needed saying by a mainstream politician for a very long time. I know this because, over the past few years, I have visited many Muslim communities and spoken to scores of Muslim leaders. With very few exceptions (such as Anjem Choudary, the fanatic who tried to organise a protest march by British Muslims through Wootton Bassett) they are decent people. Many have come from countries which persecute their citizens and trash human rights. So they are even more keenly aware of what it means to be a British citizen.

But – and this is why what Baroness Warsi has to say is so important – British Muslims get spat at, abused, insulted and physically attacked. Vandalism and mosque burnings are common, and often unrecorded. The far?Right in Britain has changed its nature. In the 1980s, organisations such as the National Front and the BNP concentrated their hatred and odium on blacks and Jews. Today, racist organisations such as the English Defence League focus on Muslim immigrants.

Over at the Spectator, they’ve gone with the ‘OMG, she didn’t clear that speech with No. 10!‘. I wonder why the Spectator had that reaction huh?

Over at Harry’s Place, Edmund Standing patronisingly claims that Warsi’s comments are a ‘gift to Islamists‘ and cites several Muslims who he thinks would disagree. Except that, er, Mona Eltahawy has tweeted it approvingly and the Quilliam Foundation have come out in support of her comments. Nice try.

Now the narrative has become that Warsi is accumulating enemies within the Conservative party and will soon be turfed out. I highly doubt it. Tories hysterically jump from applauding her like the next coming of Christ when she says something they agree with, and take out the knives when she doesn’t. I suspect the more liberal Cameron team are less jumpy about this than the ideological Tory frothing-at-the-mouth activists who inhabit the online discourse.

Filed under: Religion
20th January, 2011

Dara Shukoh and the fate of Pakistan: Part 2

by Jai at 9:00 am    

This article follows on directly from Part 1, which detailed the Mughal crown prince Dara Shukoh, his philosophy and his interpretation of Islam. Readers are therefore strongly advised to read that part first before continuing below.

Shah Jahan temporarily fell ill during the late 1650s. False rumours spread, claiming that he had died and that Dara Shukoh was now the Mughal emperor. Aurangzeb exploited this as an opportunity to grab power by mobilising his own military forces, ignoring his sister’s urgent correspondence confirming that their father was indeed still alive and that Aurangzeb was therefore committing an action of treason, and eventually imprisoned Shah Jahan opposite the Taj Mahal. During the resulting war of succession, Dara Shukoh was given some military assistance by the 7th Sikh Guru during one of the battles, but the prince was ultimately defeated later in the conflict, as Aurangzeb had greater experience as a military commander and was a far more ruthless individual. Dara’s weakened wife had already died while the family had been attempting to reach the safe haven of Persia, and Dara sent her body with an armed escort to Mian Mir’s shrine in Lahore for burial nearby.

The 44-year-old Dara Shukoh and his 15-year-old son Sipihr Shukoh were captured after being betrayed by an Afghan “ally” they’d sought refuge with (ironically, Dara had previously saved the Afghan from being executed by Shah Jahan). A few days later, Dara was humiliatingly paraded through the Mughal capital of Delhi, resulting in a huge outcry from the city’s inhabitants due to his immense popularity. He wouldn’t even survive for a single day afterwards, because Aurangzeb could see that Dara’s popularity amongst the mass population posed a severe risk of a huge uprising against the fanatical regime attempting to engineer a political coup, and Dara was also a clear final barrier to his own desire for the imperial throne.

Aurangzeb had access to some ultraconservative mullahs sympathetic to him, and rapidly had his brother impeached, declared an “apostate”, and sentenced to death on trumped-up charges of “heresy”. On the night of 30th August 1659, Dara Shukoh was unceremoniously beheaded in his prison cell, in front of his young son Sipihr, although Dara had put up a fight to try to physically defend himself. Dara’s older son Suleiman Shukoh was also eventually captured; as per Aurangzeb’s instructions, over an extended period of time the incarcerated Suleiman was gradually poisoned by being fed large quantities of opium extracts which, after effectively lobotomising him, ultimately killed him.

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19th January, 2011

Book launch on the ‘ricin trial’ stitch-up

by Sunny at 10:35 am    

On Thursday 27 January at 6.30 for 7.00 pm, Amnesty International will host the launch of “Ricin: The Inside Story of the Terror Plot That Never Was”, a new book from the foreman of the jury in the renowned ‘Ricin trial’.

The 2004 trial set out to prove that Al Qaeda had been planning an attack on the UK. Following a landmark case lasting seven months, the jury cleared four of the five Algerian men who had been accused of a plot to manufacture poisons and explosives.

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Filed under: Events

Dara Shukoh and the fate of Pakistan: Part 1

by Jai at 9:00 am    

The recent murder of the Governor of Punjab in Pakistan, Salman Taseer, and the increasing escalation of visible religious extremism in that country brings to mind a notable historical precedent, involving a major figure in South Asian history who was also the governor of Punjab for a time. There are some serious implications for both Pakistan and the rest of the world if history is allowed to repeat itself.

The painting at the top of this article, commissioned circa 1650, depicts the builder of the Taj Mahal, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, meeting the crown prince Muhammad Dara Shukoh (sometimes also spelt “Shikoh” or “Shikuh”). Dara Shukoh is the figure standing on the right.

Dara Shukoh, born in 1615, was Shah Jahan’s favourite son and nominated heir. Like most of the major Mughals during their reign in India, Dara was a liberal patron of music, dancing and arts (an example of an album of pictures he personally painted as a gift for his wife Nadira Banu can be viewed via the British Library); Dara was also closely affiliated with the Qadiri Sufi order, especially the Muslim saint Mian Mir, who had been invited by one of the Sikh Gurus to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The land for the temple complex and the city of Amritsar itself had been granted to the Sikhs by Dara’s great-grandfather, the Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, justifiably known as Akbar the Great.

Dara Shukoh himself was similarly heavily involved in promoting religious moderation, friendship and understanding between people of different faiths; with the assistance of some Hindu Brahmin priests, his activities included translating more than 50 of the most important ancient Hindu scriptures (especially the Upanishads) from Sanskrit into Persian so that Muslims could understand them better, with the intention that this would prevent unwarranted prejudice based on ignorance. Dara’s translations later proved invaluable in helping colonial-era Europeans understand the Hindu texts concerned, as they were originally more familiar with Persian than Sanskrit.

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18th January, 2011

Muhammad Yunus in court and the attack on microcredit

by Rumbold at 9:26 am    

Muhammad Yunus, the founder of microcredit bank Grameen (an act for which he won the Nobel prize), has appeared in a Bangladeshi court charged with defaming a local politician. The charges relate to a 2007 interview when Mr. Yunus said:

Politicians in Bangladesh only work for money. There is no ideology here.

Attacking microcredit/microfinance institutions is an increasingly populist pastime in South Asia. The success of microcredit has made it a target for politicians around election time, as there are large numbers of people owing money to such lenders, so politicians bash them and encourage lenders to default. Even amongst economists, microcredit has remained controversial, with high loans rates compared to those in developed countries. Yet the alternative is far worse. Microcredit gives many poor individuals access to credit at far lower rates then they traditionally could afford:

On average, borrowers also owe over four times as much to informal lenders, which charge far higher rates, than they do to MFIs.

Default rates on MFIs (Micro Finance Institutions), remain very low, suggesting the debt is manageable.

Filed under: Bangladesh,Economics
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