25th April, 2009

Event: Screening of ‘Bhagwan Das: In Pursuit of Ambedkar’

by Sid (Faisal) at 4:43 pm    


Bhagwan Das: In Pursuit of Ambedkar
6pm on 28 April 2009
London School of Economics

H103 in Connaught House on the Aldwych (building next to the Old Building).

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Filed under: Events
21st April, 2009

Republicans attack Prince Charles

by Rumbold at 4:35 pm    

The monarchy is an integral part of Britain’s constitutional fabric: laws are not passed until they have received royal assent; ministers hold their offices courtesy of the crown; MPs speak in the chamber by addressing their remarks to the monarch’s representative (the Speaker); and the monarch is the head of the armed forces. Yet while these constitutional niceties have lip service paid to them, in reality it is the government of the day that really controls the country, in conjunction with the European Commission. Thus, debates about whether we should have a monarchical state or republic lack urgency, as Britain would neither dive into destruction nor soar into the clouds were we to abolish the monarchy. Therefore, the debate ultimately boils down to little more than personal preference.

Graham Smith, head of the republican lobby group Republic, is not a fan of the monarchy. Fair enough. Yet he fails to make much of a case for a republic in his latest attack on Prince Charles, in which he accuses the prince of ‘political meddling’, amongst other things.

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20th April, 2009

The liberal-left Islamism argument rumbles on

by Sunny at 9:15 am    

This argument about how the liberal-left engages with Islamists doesn’t seem like it will finish anytime soon. To be honest I don’t want it to finish until I’ve laid out an entire range of arguments (I’m building up to them). Over the last few years the liberal-left has failed to develop a strong theoretical and practical framework for how the liberal-left should engage with Islamism to defeat terrorism – instead letting the shouting contingent on the right and the so-called ‘muscular liberals’ take over the agenda.

For a while I didn’t mind because the Islamists were getting a free ride and not being challenged enough. But frankly the debate has gotten absurd in the last year or so. So I need to highlight why it’s become absurd and where the correct position should be.

Anyway, Shiraz Maher has written a reply to Sunder Katwala on Harry’s Place. Now the point is that Nick Cohen has been firmly smacked down by everyone, including the Observer’s own readers editor. But Shiraz feels he has to defend his own reputation. Unfortunately he seems to want to deliberately antagonise the people he claims he wants to work with.

I say this because he looks like he’s libelling the Fabian Society by accusing them of giving them a platform to Islamists, essentially by saying that Hizb ut-Tahrir are the same as the Muslim Council of Britain. That is a woefully bad reading of Islamist politics and I expected Shiraz to be a bit more nuanced. If he doesn’t believe that the MCB are the same as HuT – then he should make it clear, and then add on what basis one organisation should be boycotted and another hosted at an event. Let’s have an explicit criteria, not just a vague condemnation that they don’t believe in ‘British values’.

Shiraz is of course playing that game of ‘condemnathons’ that I pointed out in my last article. Conspicuously, neither Martin Bright came back to me on why he was happy to have a platform on The Spectator magazine, and nor has Shiraz Maher explained why he’s happy to be hanging around with Policy Exchange.

It’s also worth noting that Shiraz was challenged plenty of times by various bloggers in the comments section of that article, but he avoids responding to them. I’ll come back to all this soon – I’m sure Sunder will reply too.
Ben Six has also piled in.

19th April, 2009

With liberals like these, who needs enemies

by Sid (Faisal) at 11:02 pm    

Shiraz Maher has cleared up his side of the story in his “involvement” in the long-running spat between Nick Cohen, journalist, and Sunder Katwala, director of the Fabian Society. I say Maher’s “involvement” but it really was no more than a mention by Cohen at the very end of his original piece attacking the governmmet’s indulgence of Islamist organisations.

When I asked Shiraz Maher, the co-author of the Policy Exchange report, why he had not offered his work to the leftish Fabians or Institute for Public Policy Research, he guffawed. They would never print what he wrote. For this Muslin liberal, the left was no longer a home but an obstacle.

As those who have followed this feud will know, Katwala then retaliated with a piece on NextLeft and a letter signed by a group of writers and activists to the Observer, as a rebuttal to Cohen.

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Filed under: Current affairs
17th April, 2009

Afghanistan to amend rape law, probably

by Rumbold at 8:43 am    

Recently, a law which legalised rape in marriage in the minority Shia community of Afghanistan was heavily criticised. Now, President Karzai has promised to change some of its provisions. However, it may not be in the way that human rights groups want:

“Karzai told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that he and others were unaware of the provision in the legislation, which he said “has so many articles.” Karzai signed the measure into law last month.

“Now I have instructed, in consultation with clergy of the country, that the law be revised and any article that is not in keeping with the Afghan constitution and Islamic Sharia must be removed from this law,” Karzai said.”

A statement which gives him massive leeway to not change the most appalling aspects of the law.

13th April, 2009

Happy Vaisakhi

by Rumbold at 3:07 pm    

Vadhaia to all our Sikh readers (a festive few days it seems).


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Filed under: Religion
12th April, 2009

Easter Greetings

by Rumbold at 3:07 pm    

Happy Easter to all our Christian readers.


Filed under: Blog
9th April, 2009

Starkey and female historians (part 2)

by Rumbold at 8:52 pm    

Yesterday I looked at David Starkey’s condescending attitudes towards female historians and historical females. I attempted to disprove his assertions, and now I want to examine why he made them. Most people at this point would attempt to dissect Starkey’s personal life in order to show why he behaved the way he did. Such approaches always make me feel uncomfortable, and besides I believe that the answer lies not in who he is, but what he does.

Starkey is a TV historian. Thanks to the media, he has become arguably the most prominent historian in contemporary Britain. Some might argue that he believes that prominent=best (as a comparison, imagine if the contestants on the ‘Apprentice’, an allegedly popular reality television show, believed themselves to be the best simply because they were on TV). Thus, he feels free to pontificate on many matters. This is not a bad thing per se. The problem is the way he does it.

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Filed under: History,Media

Confusion over the liberal-left and Islamism

by Sunny at 1:52 pm    

Let’s start from the beginning of this saga. A few years ago the columnist Nick Cohen wrote a book titled ‘What’s Left’ that poured scorn on elements of the left who ended up siding with Islamist groups because they wrongly believed this was the more progressive option over the ‘imperialists’. Cohen, it must be remembered, was for the invasion of Iraq and wanted to find excuses to justify his ideological position. And there were examples of far-lefties from the SWP etc taking stupid positions (what else do we expect from Trots?), but the key criticism of the book was: why are you paying so much attention to the politically irrelevant?

With the SWP and Respect party in shambles, Nick Cohen ran out of enemies and has since focused his energies on the mainstream liberal-left. Except he’s on even thinner ground here. So a few weeks ago he wrote a column for the Observer saying the mainstream liberal-left wasn’t supporting “liberal Muslims” enough and took potshots at the Fabian Society and IPPR among others. Sunder Katwala and I hit back separately, to which Cohen came back with the response that “noted lefties such as the Queen” were examples supporting his case. Seriously, he wasn’t joking around. Anyway, we sent in a letter to the Observer protesting, and even the Observer’s Readers’ editor queried Nick Cohen’s attention to facts and his previous record of fawning over people like Hassan Butt, who later turned out to be a fraud.

Then Martin Bright, former political editor at New Statesman, joined the fray.
[updated with image]

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8th April, 2009

Happy Passover

by Rumbold at 6:46 pm    

A happy Passover to all our Jewish readers (the WordPress clock is an hour out).


Filed under: Religion
6th April, 2009

Trying to silence Nick Cohen? What rubbish

by Sunny at 3:05 pm    

I see that in today’s Independent Stephen Glover has written that our letter in the Observer against Nick Cohen was attempt to get him chucked off the newspaper.

The letter did not challenge Mr Cohen’s characterisation of Jamaat-e-Islami as extremist, but it did take issue with his assertion that “the liberal-left has failed to engage or support liberal Muslims” or that it had refused “to challenge Islamist extremism”. Mr Cohen may well have been too sweeping in his condemnation of the Left; he is a pretty sweeping sort of fellow. There is, nonetheless, a disturbing tone in the letter’s first line, “Nick Cohen needs to find a new column to write”. This could suggest either that he would be better advised to write about other subjects in The Observer, or even that he should be columnising elsewhere.

So in the absence of finding anything to actually disagree with what we said – Glover is trying to echo the narrative pushed by Martin Bright last week that this was an attempt to silence Nick Cohen. This is pretty pathetic, given Sunder Katwala already clarified our position below Martin Bright’s original query, but not surprising from someone who thought there was nothing offensive about using the word Golliwog.

Frankly, I’d question why anyone who spends most of his time criticising the liberal-left, without actually trying to find out what the organisations he criticises are actually doing, to be writing for a liberal newspaper. Nick Cohen thinks there’s a grand conspiracy among the Guardian and the BBC to shut down any debate. He comes to debates drunk, then rants and raves about even more conspiracies. Even the Observer’s own Readers’ Editor had to put him straight.

But trying to equate “Nick Cohen needs a new column to write” with “Nick Cohen should be chucked off the Observer” belongs to the same realm of conspiracy theory that Cohen himself was pushing when he said Gordon Brown fired Martin Bright. In the absence of any real riposte to what we said, it’s perhaps best not to say anything at all.

Filed under: Media
4th April, 2009

MCB vs Secretary of State

by Sid (Faisal) at 1:06 pm    

Daud Abdullah is suing Hazel Blears’ office of the Secretary of State. The response from the Secretary of State, which confirms this incredible news, is on the Speccie blog :

“We have received correspondence from Dr Daud Abdullah’s solicitors.

“We have been in dialogue with the MCB since the 6 March seeking clarification of the actions taken by Dr Abdullah in relation to the serious issues raised by the articles in the Istanbul Declaration. We are concerned with those articles which appear to call for violence and Dr Abdullah’s repeated unwillingness to distance himself from those articles specifically.

“The legal route that Dr Abdullah has chosen to take despite our offer of further private dialogue with the MCB to resolve the matter means this will now be taken forward by solicitors.”

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Filed under: Muslim,Organisations
1st April, 2009

Live at the G20 protests in London

by Sunny at 1:32 am    

From 10:30am in the morning I’ll be in central London at the G20 demos – most likely hanging out with the green contingent. I briefly thought about bringing down capitalism but my environmentalism won out in the end.

I’ll be live-twittering, viewable on the Guardian site, and of course on our joint twitter account. If anything kicks off, hopefully I’ll be right in the middle of it… ;)

30th March, 2009

The answer is yes

by Rumbold at 11:53 am    

Mosquewatch (remember them?) asks:

“Are we bonkers when concluding that Hitler has returned in the guise of a “Christian” belonging to the United Church of Christ when all the while he is a Marxist Muslim?”

Filed under: EDL
29th March, 2009

Snakes Alive!

by Sid (Faisal) at 3:30 pm    

Bangladeshi authorities are continuing investigations of the personnel running the Green Crescent Madrassa, after a raid last week uncovered a small arms and explosives factory fronting as an orphanage. Four militant Islamists have been held for interrogation. The police have released reports that these charity workers were, in addition to providing food and shelter to these orphans under their care, actively indoctrinating the children with religious instruction and “lessons of jihad”.

Maulana Mohammad Russell of Green Crescent Madrasa used to motivate his students to take part in jihad, which investigators believe he did to raise them as militants in the future.

“Our huzur [teacher] Russell often told us that Allah has created us to establish the Almighty’s rule through jihad,” one of three madrasa students told investigators who visited their homes yesterday.

“The sermon was given after Asr prayers,” an investigator of the discovery of a mini arms factory at the madrasa told reporters.

Wishing anonymity, the investigator said the students aged between seven and eight were given such preaching to turn them religiously blind and involve them in militant activities.

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Lord Nazir-Ali booted off

by Sunny at 2:33 pm    

Excellent news! Last year I asked: Is it over for Bishop Nazir-Ali? Well, yes, it is now. Glad to hear this bigot has been booted from the Church of England.

It’s also typical of the right-wing press that they have faithfully repeated the meme that Lord Nazir-Ali received death-threats for saying that Britain had created ‘Muslim no-go areas’. He didn’t receive any death threats. Furthermore, when asked where the no-go areas where, Nazir-Ali could not actually name a single one. Good riddance to a fool.

Filed under: Race politics,Religion
27th March, 2009

Impact of the Hazel Blears / MCB saga

by Sunny at 9:38 am    

I was going to come to the point Geoffrey Alderman made on CIF yesterday: that the Blears / MCB saga can set a dangerous precedent. Let’s be clear about the situation here first.

The government hasn’t given any money to the Muslim Council of Britain for several years, focusing instead on the Sufi Muslim Council and British Muslim Forum more recently to develop them. (To what extent, I’m unclear). So Hazel Blears’ attempts to strong-arm the MCB into dropping Daud Abdullah is down to the fact she doesn’t like their position on a certain issue.

Let’s take that further. The new Israeli government includes one foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who is certifiably racist and a fascist. So a British-Jewish group hosting him or the government that appointed this minister would look like its endorsing a fascist, right? Presumably then, we can call upon this government to distance itself and stop engaging or supporting that group too? This is what Mr Alderman is worried about:

For instance, is Defra to say to animal welfare groups that it will not deal with any whose elected leaders have expressed any support for animal rights activists? Campaigning is presently under way for the presidency and other offices of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Are we to take it that Blears will not engage with anyone who has expressed support for Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, which the UK government regards as illegal?

Indeed, what about Jewish groups that express support for illegal settlements? And what of groups that host Israeli ministers in the UK? In the interests of balance – I think we should call for Hazel Blears to withdraw support from them too.

26th March, 2009

MCB should ‘adopt Britney Spears as their mascot’

by Sunny at 12:55 pm    

I was discussing the Contest 2 report with someone somewhat close to the MCB and he said of the MCB / Daud Abdullah business: “…these guys should adopt Britney Spears as their mascot…’Oops, we did it again…‘ ” — I think that’s exactly right. The MCB looks to be more obsessed with worldwide Muslim politics, and ensuring its standing amongst the Muslim Brotherhood network of organisations than actually producing strategies and ideas and engagement for Muslims in the UK. It staggers from one gaffe to another.

Anyway, here’s five thoughts on recent events.

1) I think the Hazel Blears / MCB spat is a silly sideshow that gets the right crowd excited because they think the government is taking a hardline against fanatics. But the government isn’t funding the MCB now is it? So that point of the grandstanding is moot. If Blears says she won’t even talk to the MCB because of this — well that’s a pretty stupid position because a government should talk to a wide range of opinion whether it likes that opinion or not.
From the MCB’s point of view, I suspect the controversy works in their favour because they’ve long been accused of being New Labour stooges. Everyone’s happy.

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24th March, 2009

Varun Gandhi stoking communal hatred in India

by Shariq at 4:00 pm    

Varun Gandhi has been front-page news in India for stoking communal hatred against Muslims during his election rallies. Varun, who is running on the BJP ticket, is the son of Sanjay Gandhi and the grandson of Indira Gandhi. In a way this isn’t surprising as his father is widely considered to have been a villain, in particular for forced vasectomies and slum clearances during Indira Gandhi’s reign. Even his uncle Rajiv Gandhi, was in part responsible for instigating the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 for his comments following his mother’s death.

This reiterates a point that I’ve made before, that although we should admire India’s successes since Independence its continued growth as a secular, functioning democracy isn’t guaranteed. For instance, Gujarat which is one of the states which has most benefited from globalisation, it has also continously elected the ‘Butcher of Gujarat’, Narendra Modi.

At the end of the day it’s sad to see the lineage of Jawaharlal Nehru, who is undoubtedly one of history’s greatest leaders, acting in such a way. Hopefully this type of antics isn’t successful in the elections.

Filed under: India

Daud Abdullah and the Istanbul Declaration

by Sid (Faisal) at 1:04 pm    

On the eve of the unveiling of Contest 2, the updated counter-terrorism strategy, the government has suspended ties with the MCB.

The government had previously downgraded its relationship with the MCB, formally everyone’s favourite Muslim quango, in the autumn of 2006. Back then the full extent of the knowdledge of the close ties it’s head honchos enjoy with the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islam were only partially apparent. This time round, the break looks permanent, with Hazel Blears demanding the MCB sack Daud Abdullah after he was found to have signed what is being referred to as the Istanbul Declaration.

The council’s deputy secretary-general, Daud Abdullah, signed a declaration last month that the government and critics of the MCB have interpreted as calling for violence against Israel and condoning attacks on British troops.

The declaration followed a meeting in Istanbul of clerics and other Muslim leaders from around the world to discuss strategy after Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

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Filed under: Muslim

Nick Cohen: blah blah blah… please buy my book!

by Sunny at 2:39 am    

Sunder may have called truce on our little spat with Nick Cohen but I’ve certainly not, yet. Cohen’s response to our letter in the Observer, following his downright hilarious claim that because “noted lefties such as The Queen” had been appeasing Islamists we were all very bad people, is: “please please read my older articles which have been turned into a book!” — You may want to read this review in Democratiya of Nick Cohen’s new book. Amusing, that the very bible of the “decent left” has abandoned him too.

And yes, the political editor of the Daily Mail did sign the letter – I actually admire Peter Oborne and find him one of the few very principled and engaging writers on the right. Nick says in response: “….nominal lefties are behaving as the Daily Mail behaved in the Thirties” — oooh, a double jibe!

Wait. Doesn’t Nick Cohen have a column in the Evening Standard? Which was, until recently, owned by Associated Newspapers… publishers of, ermm, The Daily Mail. You have to admire the fact that Nick Cohen is a principled man who stands by what he believes eh? Just like he kept changing his stance over the “brave” Anthony Browne? Or the fact that liberal-lefties were stupid for opposing Sarah Palin? I bet that column didn’t make it into his book. Never mind, apparently it’s us “nominal lefties” who are at fault for praising and offering power to Hitler wannabees. Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, BenSix has more examples of Nick Cohen talking rubbish.

I expect this is getting tiring, repetitive and rather confusing for some. Perhaps. But there’s a bigger issue here: that the liberal-left is constantly attacked by people such as Nick Cohen who keep conjuring up strawmen arguments so that the entire debate gets poisoned with ad hominems and accusations of ‘If you don’t condemn this person and that practice and that organisation everytime you say something I’m just going to assume you’re a fascist!‘. It’s time to talk back in the language that Nick Cohen is comfortable with I guess. Just waiting on what his stance on Anthony Browne and Associated Newspapers is.

Filed under: Islamists,Media
17th March, 2009

The first duty of the state

by Rumbold at 2:14 pm    

Peter ‘you can’t call gays homos anymore’ Hitchens is in trouble once again after suggesting that any woman who had a drink or two and went home with a man is foolish:

“It does mean that a rape victim who was drunk deserves less sympathy. You can hate rape and want it punished, while still recognising that a woman who, say, goes back to a man’s home after several Bacardi Breezers was being a bit dim.”

Not really. Women have a right to expect that they can spend an evening with someone of their choosing without being raped. If Mr. Hitchens’ point was simply that drunken women are more vulnerable to sexual assault because of reduced awareness, that would be one thing. But that is not what he said (he even managed to take a swipe at Muslims later on, for no apparent reason).

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14th March, 2009

IPCC defends decision on Banaz Mahmood

by Rumbold at 9:54 pm    

In December 2008 the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) decided to cease investigating the conduct of two police officers involved in the infamous Banaz Mahmood case, which involved the ‘honour’ killing of Banaz Mahmood, despite repeated appeals to the police in the days leading up to her death. PC Angela Cornes was the key officer accused of potential neglect, as she claimed that Banaz’s boyfriend, Rahmat Suleimani, told PC Cornes that Banaz was a fantasist who had made the threats to her life up up the story about her father forcing her to drink alcohol. This alleged conversation only involved PC Cornes, Banaz and Mr. Suleimani, and PC Cornes claimed that this conversation was the main reason she did not treat the case with the importance it deserved. The IPCC decided that:

“The MPS’s [The Met] disciplinary hearing was scheduled for 17 November 2008, but the key witness against the officers decided that he was no longer willing to participate. The MPS advised the IPCC on Thursday 13 November that they believed this decision left the hearing with insufficient evidence to prove the case against the officers. As a result they wished to exercise their prerogative under the Police Reform Act to withdraw the case.

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Mousawi barred

by Sid (Faisal) at 1:33 pm    

The good news is Ibrahim Mousawi, the spokesman for Hezbollah, has been barred from entering the UK. Unconditional awards to the Hezbollah is something I argued against here.

The story is covered in the Daily Mail. And before anyone starts baying for my blood for linking to the devil’s toilet paper, I would be more than happy to link to any other news site that is covering the story.

Jacqui Smith has ruled the spokesman for the terrorist organisation Hezbollah should not be allowed to travel here – despite him making at least two previous visits to the UK on her watch.

The Mail understands the Home Secretary ruled his presence here – where he was due to lecture Government officials – would not be ‘conducive to the public good’.

Moussawi, who had been invited to speak on ‘political Islam’ at the School of Oriental and African Studies later this month, is a newspaper editor for the Lebanon-based terrorist organisation Hezbollah’s newspaper.

The Home Secretary has made the right decision here in spite of the FCO establishing contacts with the Lebanese terrorist organisation.

It means Mousawi and Dr Kemal Helbawy, the former spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, will not be giving comfy lectures about their cuddly organisations at the one week course on Political Islam at SOAS.

And that’s a good thing.

Sunny adds: I look forward to all those people screaming hysterically in support of Wilders now saying something about this too.

Filed under: Islamists
13th March, 2009

The Talented Mr Azad Ali

by Sid (Faisal) at 12:00 am    

Andrew Gilligan picks up the story of Azad Ali, the suspended Treasury civil servant, in today’s Evening Standard.

Azad Ali is closely associated with the Islamic Forum Europe (IFE) and the East London Mosque (ELM) both of which are dominated by the Jamaat-e-Islam. Ali is also the founding chairman and current treasurer(!) of the Muslim Safety Forum (MSF) which is based in the ELM building. Gilligan reports that the MSF received at least £30,000 from City Hall under Boris Johnson’s watch.

And there’s more:

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Filed under: Islamists
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