It is now almost a given that Cllr Virendra Sharma will be the Labour party candidate running for the Ealing Southall seat. This is a huge shame because, as one party member told me earlier this morning, they have traded one old and out-of-touch fogey for another.Continue Reading...
Over at the Huffington Post, Ali Eteraz makes a very succint point about the recent popularity of ex-jihadists such as Ed Hussain (The Islamist) and now Hassan Butt:
To a problem that has myriad and contradictory prongs — social alienation, theologies fertile for nihilism, foreign invasions, political repression, even sexual and domestic violence — a former terrorist or radical is hardly a sufficient expert. If anything, the same mentality that led him to first seek out a one-stop utopia in radicalism, upon his conversion, leads him to posit a one-stop solution to it as well. Further, reliance upon these “former” radicals and criminals keeps the discourse about violence stuck in the past. We keep doing historiography; the terrorists keep evolving.
It is indeed true that they have simplistic answers. Ed Hussain wants Hizb ut-Tahrir banned (bad idea) while Hassan Butt bizarrely asks Muslims to renounce terror (thereby falling for the MCB idea that British Muslims think the same and speak with one voice). Second, their analysis is indeed stuck in the past. Ed Hussain’s The Islamist (reviewed by Clairwil here) was about Hizb ut-Tahrir 10-15 years ago, not now.
Ali Eteraz’s full article is worth reading, though I should point out that I’m less impressed by other bloggers / commenters who try and dismiss Hussain / Butt’s experiences by lamely saying they’re only doing it for money and attention.
But all these ex-jihadis have made the point that foreign policy is not the main driver of terrorism, which is increasingly more obvious. In the last month or so we have seen: (1) attacks by Al-Qaeda militants on Shias in Iraq; (2) an attack in Yemen against Spanish tourists (neither of whom are in Iraq); (3) threats of suicide attacks in Pakistan by conservative militants. And of course the attack in Scotland.
Everyone accepts Al-Qaeda recruiters want Muslims to hate ‘the west’. What is to stop them from stoking up more conflicts in the Middle East and conjuring up other grievances around the world to ensure a continual supply of militants?
Asim Siddiqui yesterday quite rightly asked this and that if the radical are concerned about Muslim life, where is their outrage over Darfur? The best Inayat Bunglwala can come up with is his tired cliches that media “warmongers” and “pro-Israel cheerleaders” at HP won’t help us defeat violent extremists. Well, you can join that list too Inayat, even your mate Asghar Bukhari is saying it.
Update: While Sarfraz Manzoor’s article today is worth reading, it’s interesting that Salma Yaqoob, who previously said 7/7 was a “reprisal” against the war in Iraq, has come out admitting that: “Muslims must also not deny there is an intolerant, sectarian strand of Islam that provides fake theological justifications for terrorism,” and that it goes further than simply blaming Iraq. Welcome back to reality Salma.
Note: Alan Johnston has been released. Woohoo!
The local Labour party has bizarrely shortlisted two completely unexpected names for the upcoming by-election: Cllr Virendra Sharma and Jo Sidhu. Labour activist Luke Akehurst confirms this though there’s nothing on the official website. It looks like the NEC bottled it by neither choosing Sonika Nirwal nor Gurcharan Singh. The former may end being given another sweetener, the latter may end up standing as an independent. Either way I think Ealing Southall deserves better.
Is there anyone left with an internet connection who is unawre of the man, nay the legend that is Glasgow Airport baggage handler John Smeaton?
For the unfamiliar and those like me who grin from ear to ear at anything Smeaton related. He was one of the members of the public who tackled the admittedly rubbish terrorists at Glasgow Airport on Saturday. Ah John, what is not to love about a man who witnesses a terrorist attack thinks to himself ‘whits the score here, we need tae get this sorted’.
However unlike the others John was interviewed and rather than adopt a formal manner for being on the telly showed himself to be at ease in front of the cameras by chatting amiably away in his everyday Glasgow dialect. As a result viewers in America were baffled as John told CNN he ‘wis oot fur a fag’ and the world stunned by his comparison of the explosions in the car as being like ‘when ye throw a can of deodorant ontae a bonfire’.
However the ‘accent barrier’ aside most of us have been charmed by his simple message to the terrorists ‘This is Glasgow, we’ll set about ye’. Indeed we shall, as the author of the fine tribute website points out, ‘nobody gets between 10,000 Weegies and a Â£99 week in Ibiza booked on Thursday night through Barrhead Travel.’ Not on the great Smeato’s watch.
However events have taken a darker turn it would appear that Smeaton’s bosses at Airways are displeased with our hero and he’s rumoured to be facing disciplinary action for talking to the press! Though he is also rumoured to be addressing an awestruck and grateful nation on ‘Reporting Scotland’ tomorrow night. There is, it has to be said an air of mystery about all things Smeaton related. That’s part of his allure.
Like the man himself ‘Smeatomania’ is unstoppable. You can buy badges, t-Shirts and posters. Flower Of Scotland has been rewritten to include Smeaton’s heroics, attempts are being made to have him added to the bill at T In The Park, have June 30th declared ‘Smeaton day’, Glasgow Airport renamed in his honour, suggestions made that he be knighted, given the freedom of every city in Scotland, made defence minister, prime minister, given parts in Still Game and River City, an appearance on Big Brother, women are offering themselves to the Smeat. In short we haven’t seen the like since the Beatles and it took four of them to get everyone going.
I’m pleased to say despite the best attempts of a minority of racists, Islamophobes, conspiraloons and humourless bigots to derail the Smeato tribute site. It’s remained a place of merriment and has surpassed it’s aim of raising enough to buy the man 1000 pints. Do drop in and leave your message of adoration for our John.
A Human Rights Watch report finds that: “both Palestinian armed groups and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have shown insufficient regard for civilian life.”
Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatahâ€™s al-Aqsa Brigades, and the Popular Resistance Committees, say the deliberate attacks on civilians with locally made and highly inaccurate rockets, known as Qassams, are reprisals for Israeli actions â€“ but reprisals against civilians are always illegal. A reported reduction by the IDF in the “safety zone” between artillery targets and civilian areas in Gaza, as well as a sharp escalation of shelling in April 2006 following the Hamas political takeover of the Palestinian Authority, led to a jump in civilian casualties.
From September 2005 to May 2007, Palestinian armed groups fired almost 2,700 locally-made rockets toward Israel. They killed four and injured 75 Israeli civilians. In May 2007, many residents of Sderot, the hardest hit city, left for other parts of the country. Palestinian rockets also caused at least 23 Palestinian casualties when they fell short of the border. (via Pixelisation)
Also, Bananabrain points me to this Ha’aretz report that Hamas has ‘martyred’ their suicide-bomber encouraging Mickey Mouse! Heh!
The furore over Salman Rushdie’s knighthood presented a chance for Muslim organisations in the UK to use it to repair their tarnished reputation, says Arif Ahmed. Instead they played the populist card and missed a golden opportunity.Continue Reading...
In David Cameron’s reshuffle today, Sayeeda Warsi has become the first Asian / Muslim (man or woman) to reach the cabinet, albeit not in government. She is now the Conservative party’s shadow minister for community cohesion. She is very intelligent and articulate and Cameron has made a good choice. The party may ensure she gets a safe Tory seat before the General Election or be awarded a peerage (see comments).
Update: Although I somewhat agree with Dizzy on her earlier stances.
TMP blog has more on other ethnic minority candidates promoted by Gordon Brown this week in his re-shuffle.
The by-election in Southall on 19th July is going to be a huge deal for Labour, which wants to defend its seat, and the other parties who think they have a serious opportunity to extract that seat and claim that the era of Asian allegiance to Labour is over. Will it happen? This a developing story for us because Labour is yet to declare its candidate and the factional in-fighting there is reaching massive proportions.
Updated: The hustings is tomorrow, with a vote on Wednesday.Continue Reading...
This week’s New Statesman magazine has a comprehensive and very well-informed article on whether and why we need a constitution, written by David Marquand. Worth reading in full and discussing (via the OK blog). Rather than have a quasi-constitution distributed over several statutes and laws, I would rather Gordon Brown put in place a process to generate a new British constitution that make this a vibrant democracy. Because right now, it isn’t. It would also lay the basis for a political idea of feeling British, in my view.
Probably due to reporting restrictions that apply here and not internationally, the New York Times reports that houses across three locations in Britain have been raided in response to the wealth of evidence that turned up from the attempted attacks over the weekend. Like other readers, I’m glad the political response has been fairly muted so far rather than the typical “terror in the skies” rubbish that former home secretary John Reid and Tony Blair were prone to using.
The Register published a rather sarcastic article on how badly throught-through the attacks were and the very limited damage they were likely to cause (via Chickyog). That indicates this wasn’t some worldwide coordinated attack planned meticulously for months and years but the work for a few idiot Chav-lims who had little idea of what they were doing. Al-Qaeda can’t even get the staff these days.
As Will points out (via Mr Eugenides)
But the fact remains that the attackers displayed this peculiar form of allowing things to go arse about face that is unique to the British Isles. So home grown bombers are, from our perspective, infinitely preferable to the imported variety.
There’s more movement on the forced marriage and family murder front. It was recently revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service was planning to deploy special prosecutors so conviction rates on forced marriages and “honour” killings / family murder were boosted.
Now the Forced Marriage Unit is urging doctors to “look out for signs of depression and self-harm among Asian girls and women, alerting police if they believe there is a risk of a crime such as rape or kidnap being committed.”
Again, a good idea in my view (thanks Galloise Blonde). Some people will inevitably complain about excessive meddling and “stigmatising” etc but then those people have never really cared for women’s rights. In such cases I would rather be safe than sorry so that the practice is eradicated. We need a comprehensive approach to tackling this social issue.
Incidentally, GB also highlights a campaign to get Justice for Jassi, a Panjabi girl murdered by her family in Canada for the above reasons. If you can, please raise awareness of this campaign.
Updated: Yahoo News has better coverage of what is actually being proposed.
Not much has been revealed about who planted the car bomb in central London early this morning.
BBC News online has some pictures from the area. A bit obvious to point this out but I think it’s worth saying that whoever did this planned an indiscriminate act of mass-murder rather than making some elaborate political point.
Updated: Have changed the title of this topic to reflect the attack today in Glasow. What saddens me is also that regular commenters here cannot help descending into making smart-arse remarks at each other for little particular reason. If a bunch of progressive readers of a progressive blog cannot help attacking each other, what hope is there for the rest of this country?
Update 2: It’s too early to speculate how the two attacks are related but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more copycat killers.
Update 4: I have some sympathy for Josh Freedman Berthoud‘s warning on using the phrase ‘Asian looking men’. They did the same with Charles De Menzes and look how that turned out.
There is a smell of panic in the air. Southall MP Piara Khabra’s recent death means the constituency is now up for a by-election. That will take place in three weeks time – 19th July. The Southall-Ealing area has symbolic importance for two reasons: firstly, Labour had a huge lead of 11,000 over rivals (48.76% of votes) and if any of the other parties win it will be a huge blow for them. Secondly, it is an overwhelmingly Asian area and a loss means the winner will claim quite loudly that Labour can no longer take the vote of ethnic minorities for granted.
At the last election the other candidates looked like this: Nigel Bakhai (LD) 11,497 votes; Mark Nicholson (Cons) 10,147 votes. There was some initial worry in the Labour camp that the Libdems might make a big push with an Asian/Sikh candidate. Except that David Cameron has dropped a mini-bombshell by parachuting in Tony Lit, son of Avtar Lit (chairman of popular Southall-based radio station Sunrise and who himself ran as an independent in 2001), as their candidate. At this point the local Labour party must have panicked and decided to ditch their idea of imposing an all-women-shortlist (at least not until the next general election) and invited everyone to put their names forward in the hope the seat isn’t lost by someone inexperienced.
There are a few points to make here: Southall desperately needs new blood, one of the reasons why I welcomed the all-women-shortlist. Khabra’s stronghold was the unions and er…let’s just say rumours were abound of fake names on votes and other tactics (I don’t know if they were true or who was responsible). Either way the field is clear for a new candidate and there’s no doubt all three parties will push hard. Yesterday David Cameron made a trip to Southall to show he meant business. It’s not clear whether Ming will deploy his zimmerframe. There is also a significant and growing Muslim population in the area, one that candidates have traditionally broadly ignored in the past. So the success of any candidate may also depend on wooing them. The point is that this seat is more serious for Labour than Sedgefield, which will have a by-election on the same day. The Labour hustings will take place on Tuesday and the vote on Wednesday. Expect Gordon Brown to keep a keen eye. At this stage my view is that if Labour pick some old-skool councillor or crony of Piara Khabra then they deserve to lose this seat.
Update: Just to be clear, I’m not running for the seat or any political office anytime soon. That wasn’t my impending announcement. But I am intrigued by Sonika Nirwal and want to see how she does in the hustings. An Asian woman in the area would definitely be a good idea.
You’d think, going by the news over the last 24 hours, that we’ve just experienced the second coming (some people appear to think we have). Brown is basking in the limelight as the Prime Minister Unelect, Blair has been given an incredulity inducing new position to bring
war ‘peace’ to the Middle East and amazingly the rest of the world has other things on it’s mind.
Growing numbers of people worldwide view environmental problems, pollution, infectious diseases, nuclear proliferation and the widening gap between rich and poor as the most menacing threats facing the planet, according to a 47-nation survey published yesterday by the US-based Pew Global Attitudes Project.
The survey, which conducted more than 45,000 interviews, finds that global opinion is increasingly wary of the world’s dominant countries but also unimpressed by aspiring leaders in Iran and Venezuela who challenge the international status quo. In contrast, the UN receives strong support. [Via The Guardian]
That last bit is important in my view, we wont get anywhere near a stable world without some kind of global co-ordination. Too many domestic issues are now defined abroad and without any real influence we are caught in the maelstrom of Geo-Political manoeuvring.
George Monbiot, despite his faults, wrote an interesting book a few years back about the need for a global democratic government (more on that here). It detailed broadly how it might work, I’m beginning to think the proposal might need serious consideration…
But anyway, back to the spectacle and substance of who Brown has chosen for his first cabinet…
Tony Blair recently wrote an open letter to various Asian women groups to offer his support on legislation around forced marriages. He has finally started paying some attention to this problem and I’m glad of that.
Here’s the letter.
I am writing to you because I know how effectively you have campaigned for action against forced marriages and your close involvement with Lord Lester in shaping his Private Member’s Bill on this important issue. So I wanted to tell you personally about the Government’s intention to support the Bill and to help strengthen the protections it gives to prevent people being married against their will.
Forced marriages are an inhuman and highly damaging practice and we are determined to take seriously our responsibility to prevent them and support the victims. As you will know, the Government has already made progress in this area.
We have already raised from 16 to 18 the age for gaining access to the UK for the purpose of marriage and are now consulting on increasing it again to 21. We have also set up the joint Foreign Office / Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), the only one of its type in the world. The FMU works closely with our consular offices and now helps around 300 victims of forced marriages a year. Some of those it helps are as young as ten.
But the Government has also accepted that more needs to be done. Forced marriages are already against the law but a national consultation exercise last year strongly suggested that specifically criminalising them might not be effective so we have looked to see how better use of existing legislation, civil remedies and the family courts could increase protection.
Lord Lester’s Bill, which you have helped draft, is very much along these lines. By extending the reach of the Family Law Act, it will give the courts powers to prevent forced marriages or, where one has already taken place, to remove the victim to safety. Breaches of injunctions would be contempt of court and could lead to arrest. The Bill would also enable relatives and friends to appeal to the court for protection of the victim in a forced marriage.
The Government has also worked with Lord Lester to strengthen and widen protections against forced marriages from the original proposals in the Bill. This, in particular, includes tougher action against third parties who can help coerce people into marriage. The overall impact of the Bill will be to make it easier to protect victims and for the courts to intervene to stop this illegal activity.
Government support for the Bill, of course, means that these added and much needed protections now have a much greater chance of becoming law. I am very pleased that we have been able to work with you on these proposals and believe they will have a big impact in stamping out this cruel practice.
Southall Black Sisters
Rights of Women
Hounslow Domestic Violence Network
Asian Family Counselling Service
Newham Asian Women’s Project
This Government, instead of making small noises about deploring violence against women and not tolerating so-called honour killings, needs to take firm steps in fully supporting such women if they face domestic abuse. At present most victims face not only difficulty getting access to social support but also have to go to extraordinary lengths to prove they are genuine victims.
Labour has also failed to take meaningful action against forced marriages, which is part of the broader problem.
The Information Centre for Asylum and Refugees’ (ICAR) rights and responsibilities project is addressing how the particular experiences and legal status of refugees affects their own understanding and perception of their rights and responsibilities in the UK.
As the final part of a four-stage consultation, an interactive online forum has been launched with a commentary by Gareth Morrell, the project researcher. This forum addresses the policy implications arising from the discussions in the previous consultations and asks where the rights and responsibilities of refugees fit into the wider policy context of integration and cohesion.
Please read the commentary here and add your own thoughts and comments on the issues raised by the project.
Forty Years on: Israel, the Occupied Territories and International Law
This is the first in a series of meetings by Independent Jewish Voices whose purpose is to explore and elaborate the principles and themes of their Declaration. The focus of this evening will be principle 3: “Peace and stability require the willingness of all parties to the conflict to comply with international law.”
40 years after the June war of 1967 and the start of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, three eminent professors of international law will discuss the status of international law in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and ask what requirements this imposes on both the occupying power and on the people under occupation.Continue Reading...
Well, she was my second choice for deputy leadership. I went to a New Statesman event recently and when Jon Worth announced he managed Harman’s website, people snickered. As Martin Kettle admitted, most commentators and outsiders have underestimated Harman and Cruddas’ popularity at the grassroots. Hehe.
Harman, now appointed Chair of the Labour party, wants to be a “champion for women” and is firmly on the left (and will be supported by the now emboldened Jobn Cruddas). It is probably the best outcome for the party. Polly Toynbee is triumphant and says Harman also wants the party to apologise for the “errors of Iraq”. Apologising is always good as I said earlier. I think Labour finally has something to cheer about.
The last time I was in Paris, riots broke out. Let’s hope there are better omens this time. I’m off until Thursday evening for a conference. A few posts have been scheduled for the next day or two and I’m sure the other Picklers will chip in. I have some exciting stuff happening in July and can’t wait to tell you folks about it soon.
News has reached me via the fine folk at PAIH that another asylum seeker family are at risk of detention and ultimately deportation.
Saima Asim arrived in the UK six years ago with her two sons, now seven and eleven years of age, after fleeing her violent husband and in laws back in Pakistan.
Since arriving both she and her sons have integrated well. Her sons both speak English exclusively (in the event of their deportation I do hope the Home Office supplies a couple of phrase books as a leaving gift) and Saima has been active in various church and community voluntary projects.
Unfortunately Ali, her eldest son was recently hospitalised after being assaulted by a gang and is still receiving treatment for the injuries he sustained.
The whole family have been asked to report to the Home Office in Brand Street whereas normally only Saima is asked to report.
PAIH have organised a protest outside Brand St, in Glasgow tomorrow at 9:30am. If you can attend and wish to help it would be much appreciated.
Finally here are statements from Saima and her eldest son.
“I’m a mother and i don’t know what to do. The Home Office said that we must report on monday. we are terrified about this because normally its just me who reports and lots of families have been taken away recently. But ali was attacked by a gang of boys on friday outside our for defending his little brother from being hit – this is the third time. I took him to the hospital. the emergency doctor said we must attend both the doctor and the glasgow dental Hospital on Monday because the cuts in his head are so deep after they beat his head and face with a metal knuckleduster. His teeth are also broken and moving very badly and could be permanently damaged. I reported it all to the police but those kids are still playing outside our home and my kids stay in all the time except for school or with me. I don’t know whether i should take my sick kids to hospital tomorrow or do what the home office and report there. If they detain us it will be the worst thing, i tried to save myself and my children, there is nothing and noone who will stand up for us in Pakistan. We came here for refuge not benefits. My kids are settled here, and i would like to be able to give back to this community and find work so we can stand on our own two feet. Ali would like to become a doctor one day, he could do something good for this country, we all could given the chance.”
“On Friday 22/6/07, I was coming home from my mum’s friend’s home when i saw 2 big boys,they were asking me why i batterd a boy called Stephan, i tried to tell them i didnt but the first boy started to batter my brother Bilal i tried to save him then the second boy hit me with a big piece of metal which gave me a burst head which i have stiches and then started to kick me on the face and gave me a bruised eye, and broken teeth and gave my brother a bruised face and neck.I am really afraid now this has happend to me 3 times and my brother 2 times the police have done nothing about the 3 incidents.
“My friend Leonard is at St Brendans Primary too, and he went to the home office him and his family to the detention centre and thats how he talks about it being so horrible, they wont let you out, you cant go out, they keep you locked up and maybe they will send you back to your country. But Pakistanâ€™s not my country cos it doesnt feel like it and i dont want to go back. My best friend Osama one day he was in the class and the next day he wasn’t. We thought he was just off. But he never came back. Our teacher Mrs Taylor said maybe he’ll come back but he didn’t. She used to talk about it but then she never mentioned it again. I think she was sad like us because we all missed him in the class and he was a really a good student. Some kids at school told me after that the police came to his house and just took him and his family back to their country. I tell my wee brother maybe they will take us away one day so he has some idea what’s going to happen, Bilal cries about it cos he was really small when he came here. Both of us remember scotland but we don’t remember anything about Pakistan. My mum cries a lot at night and is quite ill”.
Please leave your birthday greetings for my fabulous mother, the Chairwoman, and anything else that you fancy in the comments below. No politics please.
Ken Livingstone’s attempts to make the ‘living wage’ a vital plank of his policies in London should be wholly supported in my view. On Thursday he managed to help defeat an attempt to block a living wage provision for cleaners. All those opposed to the living wage were Conservative party members and his attack on them yesterday is also to be applauded.
It is of course a great example of “progressive” policies to describe the proposal to pay cleaners, one of the lowest paid groups of workers in London, a living wage as ridiculous. But at least Londoners now know what a vote for this “progressive” agenda means – a vote to cut cleaners pay.
His pandering towards dodgy Sikh, Hindu and Sikh groups may be a problem but on poverty and green issues he is right more often than not.
His point can be summarised as thus: an increasing number of Americans, contrary to popular opinion at home and abroad, are increasingly ‘progressive’ in their views on various issues from unions to abortion. A steadily decreasing number see themselves as Republican (only 25%), and an increasing number should be voting for the Democrats. The problem is that people are not voting Democrat in increasing numbers because for some reason they don’t think the party is aligned with their views (even if it is). The broader point is about the viability of polling but there’s some interesting data about the increasing number of socially liberal Americans, who happen to be drowned out by ‘the God squad’, so to speak.
Two points spring to mind.Continue Reading...
The head of a Birmingham Sikh temple and his family had to flee their home after it was targeted by arsonists in what is believed to have been been a reprisal attack for allowing a mixed marriage.
Three cars were set ablaze outside the Handsworth Wood home of Jarnail Singh Bhogal, president of the Ramgharia Sikh Gurdwara in Graham Street, Hockley. The attack in the early hours of yesterday comes in the wake of protests against the marriage, the details of which were posted on an online Sikh forum naming the temple leaders. [Birmingham Post]
This follows that recent march in B’ham of Sikhs ‘against extremism’. Looks to me as if there are some people in the Midlands intent on creating trouble. Someone has also pointed me to this shadowy group being behind some of the trouble. Anyone know more about them?
The current edition of Prospect Magazine has an extensive article by Shiv Malik titled My Brother the Bomber.
It’s an illuminating insight into the life of Mohammed Sidique Khan (MSK), the ringleader of the 7/7 terrorists. A humane picture almost. The full article is well worth reading.
I have two issues with this article: the first on the nature of terrorism and the second on the solution.Continue Reading...