24th August, 2007

A media riddle

by Sunny at 11:15 am    

BSSC has a riddle for his readers:

I believe that Rupert Murdoch, an Australian with US citizenship, has far too much influence over politics in this country and that he uses his media outlets to push his political agenda at every opportunity.

Whenever I try to draw attention to this, there will always be someone who broadly shares Murdoch’s political views ready to tell me I’m a patronising git. “That’s so typical of a condescending bruschetta munching Guardianista. You assume that the great unwashed are stupid mindless drones being helplessly brainwashed by this bias…”

Here’s the riddle.

Murdoch’s newspapers, and others who would benefit from the removal of a reasonably neutral news service, constantly harp on about the damaging affects of the alleged bias of the BBC. So, can the media shape public opinion or not? And can I have my cake and eat it a the same time?

An interesting question, surely. Now who’s going to attempt to answer this one?

Filed under: Media

Behind the scenes

by Sunny at 9:18 am    

I recently received an invitation to an event (that I can’t go to) but thought it was interesting to use it as a way of highlighting a point.

Without revealing details of where and when it is (it’s invite only), here is an edited extract from the conference plan.

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23rd August, 2007

Tories take money from arms manufacturer

by Sunny at 3:59 pm    

Dave Osler has uncovered an interesting nugget about donations to the Conservative Party:

How interesting to learn from the Electoral Commission website that an individual by the name Andreas Heeschen has donated £58,000 to the Conservative Party over the last year.

That’ll be the bloke who nows owns Heckler & Koch, manufacturer of the fine submachine guns and assault rifles that aficionados believe to be the finest in the world. Same old Tories, eh?

The image is by Chris Paul, who has more and points out that Andreas Heeschen’s company plans to produce “almost a million XM8s [assault rifle] per annum” by 2012. Charming. Just the sort of people the Tories traditionally liked anyway, right?

Filed under: Party politics

Ken Livingstone, not fit for Mayor

by Rumbold at 12:49 pm    

In a follow up to the previous post on Boris Johnson, Rumbold explains why Ken Livingstone should not be supported by liberals either.

As Boris Johnson has been criticised for his comments in the past, let us look back at some of Red Ken’s anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, racist and misogynistic moments.

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Filed under: Party politics

A question of faith

by Sunny at 8:40 am    

Padraig Reidy from indexcomment.org sent me an email pointing to a story at the Irish Times:

The Irish Sikh Council has called for Sikhs to be allowed to wear turbans instead of caps when they join the Garda.

The call follows a case where a Sikh who volunteered to join the Garda Reserve was refused permission to wear his turban as part of his uniform. The Garda Síochána today rejected the call for any variation in the standard uniform.

According to Harpreet Singh, President of Irish Sikh Council, asking a Sikh community member to get rid of his turban “is like asking him to remove his head”.

“We strongly believe and accept that as an immigrant community we should respect and adopt cultural values of Irish community,” he said. “But we would like to stress that integration is a two-way process. Integration can never be brought about by asking the migrant communities to give up their basic beliefs.”

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Filed under: Current affairs
22nd August, 2007

Support Amnesty International over Catholic Church

by Sunny at 2:27 am    

Cath Elliot wrote an important article for CIF yesterday, highlighting the Catholic Church’s condemnation of Amnesty International. She explains:

After over two years of discussion and debate, Amnesty International finally announced last week that it will be campaigning for women to have access to abortion in cases of rape, incest or violence, or where the pregnancy jeopardises a mother’s life or health. This is a huge step forward for women’s rights worldwide, especially in areas of conflict where rape is employed as a weapon of war or as a tool for ethnic cleansing.

Unsurprisingly, this decision has led to an outpouring of condemnation from religious bodies, most notably from the Roman Catholic church.

The decision by the Catholic Church to condemn AI is a serious one, and almost a call for a boycott.
The organisation’s position is that, “it would work to “support the decriminalisation of abortion, to ensure that women have access to heathcare when complications arise from abortion and to defend women’s access to abortion . . . when their health or human rights are in danger.”

That, is a principled position and one of letting women regulate their own lives.
Cath points out:

What the bishop and his church fail to understand is that forcing a woman to continue with a pregnancy against her will is a continuation of the violence against her.

For how much longer is the Catholic church going to regard the “human life in a woman’s womb” as being of more importance than the human life that possesses a womb?

Well said. But such attacks on abortion rights by the Catholic Church are increasing. Janine at Stroppyblog points out that the RMT union is submitting two resolutions to the Scottish TUC Women’s Conference deploring the views of Cardinal Keith O’Brien who spoke out against abortions.

Filed under: Sex equality
21st August, 2007

Boris Johnson, not fit for Mayor

by Sunny at 5:12 pm    

Compass, the left-wing pressure group has published a report today saying that London Mayor candidate Boris Johnson is not just a buffoon, but a hard-right ideologue with a long history of controversy. From the Guardian today:

The dossier’s charges range from his “enthusiastic” support for the Iraq war (where he once claimed there had been only 150 casualties) and George Bush, to his opposition to the Kyoto treaty on climate change, the minimum wage and the public smoking ban. Mr Johnson also supports fox and stag hunting, grammar schools and section 28 – Tory legislation outlawing the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools.

His risque jokes as a magazine and newspaper columnist are also in Compass’s sights. It cites instances when he referred to black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”; accused New Guinea of “orgies of cannibalism” and insulted both Portsmouth and Liverpool – the latter offence prompting Michael Howard to force an apology, even though, as editor of the Spectator, Mr Johnson had not personally penned the offending editorial.

And that doesn’t even include the paranoia-inciting piece of crap that was the ‘Eurabia‘ front cover for the Spectator. Why should such conspiracy theorising against Muslims “taking over” be acceptable when it isn’t for other minorities?

Stereotyped women

by Sunny at 11:14 am    

I’m not a regular reader of Personnel Today magazine, it must be admitted, but I was sent this myth-busting article which is worth highlighting.

MYTH: “I know that many Muslim women are not allowed to work in certain professions, or are not allowed to work at all, for cultural or religious reasons. That’s why we don’t get many working here.”
FACT: Almost 90% of 16-year-old Bangladeshi and Pakistani girls in the UK said their parents supported their choice to find paid work.

MYTH: “We are an equal opportunities employer. We treat everyone the same.”
FACT: One in three black Caribbean working women under 35 and one in five Bangladeshi and Pakistani women have experienced racist comments at work.

The whole article is worth reading on how some companies have taken action in making sure they are becoming more inclusive and getting to grips with employees of a different religious / racial background. But that is not to say I’m a fan of ‘diversity training’. Things are surely improving with time.

The BNP and free speech

by Sunny at 5:13 am    

I should have said this earlier while the issue was hot but I think it’s worth re-visting anyway. When I first heard that companies had withdrawn advertising from Facebook because of the BNP’s presence, I mis-read that Facebook was allowing the BNP to advertise on it [insert old man jokes here]. But after Katy Newton pointed that out the obvious, I dropped my hurriedly put-together petition and deleted the thread on PP.

And I didn’t start a petition against allowing the BNP on Facebook. I think there is a crucial difference here. Organisations should not give the racist/fascist party any prominence, but that does not mean it should not be allowed to exist on any platform (such as the web or Facebook). I support freedom of speech and expression, except when it is used to propagate hateful lies or incite hatred. So, yes to getting rid of the BNP imagery and general hate-mongering against Muslims. But if the idiots want to sit around discussing the death of “white culture”, then they should be allowed.

On Shiraz Socialist, Voltaire’s Priest explains why he won’t be signing the UAF petition and I agree. He does the explanation bit more elaborately than me.

Ethnic minorities have this habit of seeing red when the BNP is mentioned. This is understandable, but when we set precedents on not allowing freedom of speech, the government usually uses them to silence dissenting opinion of powerless and marginalised groups. We need more freedom of speech and expression, not less! Unite Against Fascism should drop the silly petition and the Guardian should stop giving them publicity.

20th August, 2007

All hail U.S. ‘Homeland Security’!

by Sunny at 4:38 pm    

“For seven-year-old Javaid Iqbal, the holiday to Florida was a dream trip to reward him for doing well at school. But he was left in tears after he was stopped repeatedly at airports on suspicion of being a terrorist.” – From the Daily Mail today.
And think it’s just a one-off?

Filed under: Civil liberties

In support of Climate Camp

by Sunny at 3:46 pm    

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Filed under: Environmentalism

Help save their lives

by Sunny at 4:30 am    

You will have noticed the right-hand banner on the blog-based campaign to put pressure on the government to grant asylum to Iraqi employees of the armed forces. It is a slightly changed version of several that Unity has made – please support the campaign and put them on your blog. I’ve supported this campaign from day one for various reasons and I think they are worth re-stating.

I have always been against going into war in Iraq. In addition to the reasons US vice-president Dick Cheney himself outlined in 1994, I never believed the United States military went in for altruistic reasons. Anyway, I’ll come back to my anti-war stance in another post later. The point is, I didn’t want Iraqis to die at the hands of the US military’s “shock and awe” instead of Saddam Hussain’s military. It happened anyway and 4 years later we are still there.

The Iraqi Employees campaign makes sense because it places a moral obligation on the government to at least provide asylum and help those who helped the British forces negotiate their way through the country. It does not negate the need to find the most humane path of action in the country, neither does it absolve the American or British governments of their lies and incompetence in this whole episode.

But it saves lives and gives some Iraqis the opportunity of a better life here while we try and re-build that country after the American military destroyed it. In itself, I think that is a good thing and this a worthwhile goal. So, I request that people:
1) Blog about the issue and carry the banners;
2) Look up your MP.
3) Write to them. (draft letter)
4) Tell us about your MP’s response.
There will be more updates to this campaign as we plan to make it bigger. This is not over yet.

Filed under: Middle East
19th August, 2007

A Veil Of Secrecy?

by Clairwil at 4:27 pm    

Todays Herald carries an story about the founding of a new charity aiming to tackle what it regards as a culture of shame and secrecy surrounding abuse in the Asian and wider BME communities.

It’s founder businessman Ali Khan was inspired to act after attending a meeting at a Glasgow mosque regarding a paedophile assault that was alleged to have taken place on the premises. He was angered and horrified that it was suggested that the alleged abuser be allowed to remain in the mosque. The police were not involved and the matter was hushed up.

Khan and his charity ‘Roshni’ state than many within minority ethnic communities regard the police, social services and children’s charities as ‘white’ organisations and so rarely seek advice or report abuse to them. Equally worrying is the possibility raised by the charity that many religious and ethnic groups are not making those who work on their behalf with children subject to Disclosure checks.

The article details two further incidents of abuse at the Central Mosque in Glasgow. Thankfully on this occasion the mother of one of the boys called the police and the abuser was convicted. For those with even a passing knowledge of the abuse scandals surrounding the Catholic Church the similarities are startling. In each case the ‘good name’ of the organisation as a whole is treated with more care the the welfare of the individual.

Roshni believe that this is linked to notions of shame and honour prevalent within the Asian and other minority communities. Khan argues that ‘…denouncing one family member is like denouncing the whole family’. Indeed research carried out by the charity indicates that whilst 85% of Muslims surveyed think abuse is a problem within their community around 75% would not report it to the police. The figures for the other groups surveyed namely Black, Sikh, Hindu and Refugee make similarly depressing reading.

Perhaps unsurprisingly forced marriage raises it’s ugly head. Roshni’s director Ferzanna Riley was herself subject to physical abuse throughout her childhood which reached it’s peak as her parents lured her and her younger sister to Pakistan under false pretences with a view to forcing them into marriage. The verbal and physical abuse suffered by the two girls was horrendous and it is down to the intervention of a male cousin that this did not become an honour killing. The girls ‘crime’ was to attend university which in their parents eyes made them little better than prostitutes. The last thing Ferzanna recalls before losing consciousness is her mother exhorting her father to finish her off. Despite her current work and having written a book on her experiences Ferzanna states ‘even as an adult, I wouldn’t have dreamed of reporting him because of the element of shame.’

I should stress that Roshni are not solely concerned with the Muslim community or religious groups. Whilst their initial campaign will focus on what they call ‘the big three’ Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs they intend to expand their operations to cover all BME groups.

How effective Roshni’s work will be remains to be seen, their research indicates that they have something of an uphill struggle facing them. However that groups are being set up to challenge the culture of secrecy and shame is in itself encouraging. The charity’s founder Ali Khan seems to have done well in life which should mean the charity is well resourced and according to the article he is regarded as a ‘senior Muslim figure’ which may give the group a bit of the clout it needs to succeed.

Roshni’s initial campaign will focus on ensuring that everyone working with children is subject to Disclosure checks, however this, whilst a good common sense measure, will not solve the problem, particularly where under-reporting of abuse has been a problem in the past.

So over to you Picklers, what would you like to see done? Do you think Roshni have over or underestimated the extent of the problem? Is a BME children’s charity necessary? What can be done to encourage victims to come forward and their communities to support them in doing so?
To what extent is lack of integration, if any contributing to this state of affairs?

18th August, 2007

It’s The Weekend Open Thread

by Clairwil at 1:00 pm    

As Katy has hung up her golden open thread robes I’ll be filling in. Be warned I’m fierce and spoling for a fight! So to keep this thread pleasant and jolly let’s have no politics, religion or any squabble fodder at all.

But enough of what you can’t do. Here’s what you can comment about. Romantic mishaps, hilarious anedotes, your weekend plans, your summer hols, the weather, puppetry, hobbies, insects and anything else you think might tickle the picklers collective fancy. Just keep the mood light please.

This has been amusing me very much this week. I don’t care what anyone says but you can’t beat a bit of ‘Trapped In The Closet’.

I shall leave you now with a plug for one of my little projects. You don’t have to be Scottish or even remotley connected to the place to join just a bit of a skiver looking for a message board to while away the hours on when you should be working.


Filed under: Blog,Uncategorized
17th August, 2007

The sexual politics of partition

by Sunny at 2:28 pm    

This was published today on comment is free.

In 2004, just before local elections, the British National Party aired a party political broadcast featuring a Sikh man talking of the hardships his family faced during partition. He recounted how his family were killed by Muslims and said they were not to be trusted. Mr Singh made another appearance later on BNPtv, where he talked of his experience at length.

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Will someone teach Guido Fawkes economics?

by Sunny at 10:09 am    

The huge losses at the FTSE 100 stockmarket index this week have prompted big daddy of the right-wing British blogosphere, Guido Fawkes, to blame Gordon Brown. “Well didn’t he tell us he had abolished boom to bust?“, he crows happily.

Firstly, how is Brown to blame for the collapse of the US sub-prime mortage lending market, and the resulting liquidity crunch in markets around the world? Secondly, the markets have been in panic for only just over a week. For a recession to occur British output would have to contract for two quarters in a row. So we’re not in a recession either (yet), even if all this was Brown’s fault. You have to laugh at Guido’s terrible attempt at pointing fingers.
As usual, Chris Dillow explains better why this issue matters.

Filed under: Economics
16th August, 2007

Climate Camp pictures and views

by Sunny at 11:59 pm    

Tim Ireland (from Bloggerheads) and I met up today to head down to Climate Camp. We expected the place to be teeming with police and media but thankfully by the afternoon most had gotten bored and went off, leaving people at the camp to get on with things.

People were still arriving as we left late in the afternoon, after attending a workshop on student activism. Was surprised at how many of them did not say much about using the internet to organise themselves and make links with other people. And these are bloody students for god’s sakes.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Environmentalism
15th August, 2007

“A new star rises” – Part Two

by Rohin at 6:47 pm    

Sixty years of a free India have passed. Where is it now?

“We have hard work ahead”

Amartya Sen, a man who has watched India change over this time, divided an assessment of India‘s progress since Independence into three categories. First, the practice of democracy, second the removal of social inequality and backwardness and lastly the achievement of economic progress and equity.

He wrote this on the 50th anniversary of Indian independence and essentially concluded whilst democracy was intact in India, it was failing on the second count. India’s economy, of which we hear so much today, was beginning to gather pace in 1997, but it is surprising that the monumental leaps and bounds the GDP and purchasing power have made occurred in only the last decade.

Sunny Hundal, another famous thinker, said in response to Part One that “religious minorities in India snort in derision when India is declared as a democracy.” Well, they may scoff all they like, but the democracy central to Gandhi and Nehru’s aspirations for India is standing tall.

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Climate Camp tomorrow

by Sunny at 4:30 pm    

I’m heading down to Climate Camp tomorrow to check out what’s going on, take some pictures and meet people. If anyone wants to coordinate going there, email me.

Filed under: Environmentalism

Can Britain learn from India?

by Anthony at 2:41 pm    

A short while ago Sunny suggested on the OK blog that Britain needed a written constitution to resolve its many different identity problems. Very kindly he suggested that OurKingdom could host the debate about this, which we would be very happy to do in partnership with sites like Pickled Politics.

But today, to celebrate independence, I’d just like to drop in a note about a brilliant must-read article published a couple of years ago on India’s pioneering constitution. It’s by Rajeev Bhargava who write it for OurKingdom’s mothership openDemocracy.net. It’s here.

Rajeev argues that the Indian constitution is a model. It created a framework for multiculturalism – long before Canada – and, indeed, before the word was coined which is perhaps why it is not recognised for its achievement. He also sets out a case for the way the Indian example redefines ‘secularism’. It has no Jeffersonian ‘wall’ between the state and religion. The latter is recognised as a public and not just a private force and is both protected and limited by the constitution. In this way the Indian constitution shows how modern democracy can adapt to the emergence of multiple religions which are themselves making public and not just private claims

The point for Britain is that a constitution and, more important still, the process of arriving at one, is not just technical or legal. Anyway, for today, let’s celebrate the way India, at least, managed to create a new constitutional settlement in 1950 which, despite some speed-bumps, has lasted and remains well ahead of Britain’s.

Anthony Barnett writes for openDemocracy.net.
This is a guest post.

Filed under: South Asia

“A new star rises” – Part One

by Rohin at 12:00 am    

The other father of the nation, Jawaharlal Nehru, ushered in a momentous change in Asia with one of the greatest speeches ever recorded. As part of his legacy he left behind decades of economic folly, but I will always have a tremendous admiration for the man, if only for that amazing oratory which, even now, encapsulates the myriad complexities of a vast nation.

In a split article, a brief look back at the last 60 years sets the scene for gazing ahead.

“The soul of a nation, long supressed, finds utterance”

Despite the spilled blood now mixed with the dusts of Bengal and Punjab, despite the largest movement of people in history, despite shameful conduct on the parts of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and the British, Partition remains a footnote to many.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Culture,Economics,India
14th August, 2007

Pakistan and India joint 60th birthday thread

by Sunny at 8:37 pm    

Today is Pakistan’s 60th birthday, tomorrow it will be India’s. So here’s a joint thread in the name of closer partnership between the two countries. Comment is Free is running articles on ’60 years after the raj’. I’ll be contributing too.

Filed under: South Asia

Iraqi employees campaign on radio

by Sunny at 7:07 pm    

Dan Hardie, who started the Iraqi employees campaign on blogs, was recently interviewed on Five Live regarding the issue. You can hear it below (thanks to Unity for hosting).

Filed under: Current affairs

David Miliband wants your foreign policy ideas

by Sunny at 9:23 am    

This is somewhat amusing:

In his first major speech as Foreign Secretary, David Miliband argued that, under Gordon Brown’s leadership, UK foreign policy has the strength to make a difference in the world, and thereby make a difference to Britain. But how do we ensure that the FCO makes the most effective contribution possible to that drive?

He is inviting thoughts and ideas on three key questions:

  • What should our priorities be?
  • What is the best way to co-ordinate across UK government?
  • How can the FCO engage beyond Whitehall?

Well, what would you tell our new Foreign Secretary? And would something like this work, given the propensity of bloggers like Guido Fawkes to send idiots to such initiatives and ruin them (if he hasn’t already tried with this one)?

Filed under: Current affairs
13th August, 2007

Your say on Tory proposals on forced marriages

by Sunny at 10:33 am    

The Conservatives unveiled new proposals today to crack down on forced marriages. This is what they sent me.

Update: A Home Office committee is also looking into forced marriages and “honour” killings, it has announced today.

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Filed under: Culture,Sex equality
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