23rd January, 2007

The mayor, Daniel Pipes, Salma Yaqoob and others

by Sunny at 1:12 am    

On Saturday the Mayor held a conference / debate with the American polemicist Daniel Pipes as guest speaker. The event was seriously over-subscribed, with interest and passions running high. I only attended the morning event since the rest of the conference was peppered with boring sounding discussions with people who would end up largely agreeing with each other. My bet is that Livingstone didn’t want to invite too many of his detractors other than Pipes and Murray.

The morning opened with Ken Livingstone going first, then Daniel Pipes, then Salma Yaqoob and finally Douglas Murray. Each said nothing new but their arguments were interesting. I managed to ask Pipes a question at the end, with hilarious results. I’ll come back to that.

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Filed under: Current affairs,Events
22nd January, 2007

‘Might offend other passengers’

by Sunny at 3:41 pm    

I say boycott Qantas airlines.

A passenger barred from a Qantas airlines flight for wearing a T-shirt depicting US President George Bush as a terrorist has threatened legal action. Allen Jasson said he was sticking up for the principle of free speech by challenging the decision by the Australian flag carrier. Mr Jasson was stopped as he was about to board the flight from Melbourne to London last Friday.

Mr Jasson was ordered to remove the T-shirt after being told it was a security threat and an item which might cause offence to other passengers.

Filed under: Civil liberties

Niqab at school controversy

by Sunny at 2:55 am    

It looks as if the first controversy over the right to wear a niqab (full veil) at school is nearly upon us. Tory blogger Iain Dale, who has covered this quite even-handedly, reveals that:

The head teacher of Wycombe High School in Buckinghamshire has told a fourteen year old muslim girl that she will no longer be allowed to attend school if she continues to wear the Niqab as it does not conform to the ethos of the school. The school allows pupils of muslim faith to wear a veil as long as it does not cover the face.

The girl’s father has now applied to for a Judicial Review (funded by legal aid, natch), which is expected to be heard in the High Court in February. The head teacher of the school, Jane Wainwright, believes that the School must fight the case and has asked the County Council for its support and its financial backing. … If the girl’s father wins the case a very important precedent will be set.

Could this be another Shabina Begum? That case was an individual ruling rather than a general one, hence it seems to have set no precedent for the future. My view is the same as before: given that the school uniform allows for most interpretations of the religion, there is no need to allow every child their own rules. The same would apply if any Sikh kid wanted to bring a full-length sword to school – they can make do with a small symbolic kirpan. I wonder how long it will take for the papers to pick this up.

Filed under: Religion
20th January, 2007

It’s the don’t-you-DARE-mention- Big-Brother-on-this-thread open thread!

by Katy at 10:32 am    

I think this is my first open thread of the new year, or possibly my second. I can’t remember. But the important point is that PP is reaching saturation point on Big Brother and some of you may now be clutching your throats and making choking, gargling sorts of noises.

Well, help is at hand. Here is a thread upon which you can discuss things that are not BB-related. Such as:

(a) how your week has been (I have moved jobs! Hurray!).
(b) what you are doing over the weekend (I am going to a Surprise Birthday Party this evening and have a Hot Date tomorrow evening! Hurray!)
(c) what you might be doing next week (er, working. That sort of thing.)
(d) Amusing videos in YouTube
(e) Other funny stuff

No politics, no arguing, no fighting, and no Big Brother please. Away you go…

Filed under: Current affairs
19th January, 2007

When does ignorance become racism?

by Sunny at 1:47 pm    

Since you guys can’t seem to stop talking about it… this is the weekend thread on CBB. Yesterday I wrote a slightly satirical piece for comment is free. Today, BBC magazine has an article asking when – ‘when does ignorance become racism‘, which quotes me along with other people. A bit of a grey area this, so maybe a useful talking point. To be honest I’m bored with CBB already though. This is now simply a bandwagon which is going nowhere.

Filed under: Race politics

Muslim manifesto for 2007

by Sunny at 3:44 am    

Dr Tahir Abbas, the well known academic from Birmingham university, has published an interesting ‘British Muslim Manifesto for 2007′ on his blog.
He has also just got back from Poland on commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day and writes about his experiences and thoughts on that.

Jews died for what they believed. They died because a fascistic killing machine deemed it so. And yet, we sit aside and avoid an official recognition. An important spiritual, cultural and politically strategic opportunity is being sadly missed, and it does not bode well for British Muslims if the official voice of British Islam continues to refuse to attend this austere occasion.

Filed under: Religion

Big money

by Sunny at 3:33 am    

Kiran Matharu, England’s youngest successful golfer, who happens to be female and Asian, has signed a six-figure deal (I’m assuming sponsorship), Urmee Khan finds in an interview for the Guardian. It’s enough to almost make me regret giving up golf when I was young.

In the world of professional golf, Kiran Matharu is an outsider thrice over: young, female and Asian. Late last year she qualified for the Ladies’ European Tour and will be its youngest player when she plays her first match at the beginning of February. She has won the English Ladies’ Amateur Championship, and the Faldo Junior Series, twice; and represented Great Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup. At 17, she is the same age as the international golfing superstar, Michelle Wie, but is already being touted as a better player.

C’mon Urmee, you could have told us more about this deal?

While we’re on the subject, the Sunday Times last weekend had a long article about the lack of Asian players in football. Worth reading for research and background etc.

Filed under: Sports
18th January, 2007

Should Channel 4 stop CBB?

by Sunny at 12:08 pm    

This will be the last CBB thread I promise. Probably. Unless some silly kid in India decides to burn himself in protest at Shilpa Shetty’s treatment. Either way it’s all getting quite silly now isn’t it? As I’m short on time, CBB is a useful time filler.

Anyway, Channel 4 first said: “Shilpa has not voiced any concerns of racial abuse to Big Brother.” Now that she has, C4 seems to have changed it’s stance to condemningUnambiguous racist behaviour and language”. The Daily Mirror today has a brilliant attempt at trying to get comments out of any Channel 4 executive and failing. Over at the Guardian, Stephen Brook and his readers are quite annoyed at the continuing spectacle too.

But my stance remains the same: No, Channel 4 should not stop or axe this series of CBB. Simply because I believe such examples of bullying (by Jade Goody) and subtle racism (by the other two) should be exposed and aired so people can see that even in 2007 such ignorant attitudes exist and should be condemned. The trio have already hung themselves and become objects of hate… a clear line in the sand has been drawn. Just as long as no one gets hurt in the process I’m happy to see this spectacle continue and people be repulsed by the nasty views on display.
Oh and I’ll be on Sky News at 1:30pm saying the same.

Update: Carphone Warehouse has suspended sponsoring Big Brother (thanks Billy), though it still leaves them the option to come back. Readers can put their effigies of Charles Dunstone on hold for now.

Update 2: The media bandwagon keeps rolling! I’ll be on Channel 4 News at 7pm tonight.

Filed under: Media
17th January, 2007

CBB controversy is now over the top because…

by Sunny at 5:06 pm    

Let me start by saying I’m not a fan of Jade Goody and the trio of chavs on Celebrity Big Brother picking on Shilpa Shetty. At the least they are bullies and at the most a bunch of ignorant and racist dimwits. Big deal.

If anything I have more reason to be aggrieved than most given that when I was young and came to this country most people also mimicked my Indian accent. Except it was mostly other Indians who did this, not white or black people. Have many of you already forgotten the British Asian attitude towards ‘freshies’? I had to work hard to dumb down my English and change my accent to fit in.

Anyway, that hypocrisy aside I believe there are other reasons why this farce is being blown out of proportion.

[Erm, I'll be on BBC 4 (TV) and BBC Worldwide tonight at 8pm and on Asian Network (radio) tomorrow 9am saying the same.]

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Filed under: Media,Race politics

Sun forced to apologise

by Sunny at 8:56 am    

I think the toothless Press Complaints Commission has finally managed to force The Sun to do what it really hates – apologise for lying. Remember the ‘Brave heroes hounded out by Muslim yobs‘ story it splashed on the front page, that we pointed out was a lie (thanks to Unity, obsolete and Clive)? Guess what, The Scum finally apologised on Monday – only three months after with four lines of regret. I wonder how many other lies Rebekah Wade has slipped under the radar (via obsolete and d-notice).

No apologies from Tory MP Philip Davies who told the non-existent “Muslim thugs” to “f*** off” or Migrationwatch. We also await retractions from uber-nutcase Melanie Phillips and Jihad Watch who tried to run a mile with the story.

Filed under: Media
16th January, 2007

Unfolding events in Bangladesh

by Sunny at 6:21 pm    

Time to move on to more serious events I think, more specifically about the situation in Bangladesh. First, Mash provides some background.

Bangladesh was scheduled to hold national parliamentary elections on January 22, 2007. However, those elections were postponed and a State of Emergency was declared by the President on January 9th. Now Bangladesh faces an uncertain future.

Could the country become “another Afghanistan”?

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Big Brother complaints hit 4,500 10,000(!)

by Sunny at 2:40 pm    

I’ve had to field so many media calls today that I almost wish I had watched Big Brother while on holiday and over the weekend. Almost. Anyway, just over an hour after the Media Guardian confirmed that complaints had topped 3,500, they changed it to 4,500. What do you think the final tally will be? And will people please stop sending me email forwards calling for more complaints! If you haven’t complained yet and feel left out then you can jump on the bandwagon through the Ofcom website.
Update: Now at a whopping 10,000! Err…

Filed under: Humour,Media
15th January, 2007

Channel 4 Dispatches – open thread

by Sunny at 9:15 pm    

Anyone who watched tonight’s C4′s Dispatches documentary has to admit it was pretty raw and hair-raising, even for a seasoned veteran of religious nuts like myself. Unsurprisingly the usual dimwits are busy protecting these people. Maybe something was lost in the translation eh Sullivan?
Anyway, what did you think?

Filed under: Media,Religion

Is it okay to say ‘Paki Bitch’ on TV if it’s bleeped out?

by Kismet hardy at 3:30 pm    

shilpa shettyI hate to do this to you. It’s downright dirty of me to urge you to lose precious minutes of your life peering into the intellectual chasm dug out by the pneumatic phrenic drill that is Celebrity Big Brother. Loathed as I am to insult your intelligence, I fear it would be foolish not to consider what is being deemed acceptable in the minds of those less fortunate in the intelligence stakes than those that subscribe to the PP ethics.

For those who haven’t had the displeasure of watching that plankton-for-brains Jack referring to Shilpa Shetty as a ‘Paki bitch’, YouTube has the ghastly snippet. While it’s a fact that most of us have grudgingly accepted that we live in a time where ‘outrageous’ behaviour by non-entities is championed over the deeds of the genuinely talented, have we really become so complacent that we’ll allow a television show to get away with showing something that you wouldn’t stand for if you overheard it on the streets?

We may all be feeling warm in the wool of our liberalism, but the fact that this didn’t raise so much as an eyebrow – nor the blatant racism masked beneath working class honesty displayed by Jade Goody’s pig-ignorant mother – means our fellow countrymen and women clearly don’t share the idea of equality PP is trying to promote.

We can’t pretend it doesn’t happen behind closed doors, but does Channel 4 have the right to be so blasé about showing it? As if this is just another insult like ‘cow’ or ‘wanker’? Should they be allowed to get away with it? We’re always debating whether fascist organisations should be given the platform to spout their prejudices. Isn’t it far worse when a perceived celebrity such as this Jack Nobody, destined for exposure in mindless mags read by the impressionable during his miserable 15 minutes, can get away with expressing views that they perhaps didn’t think was acceptable to share?

Sunny adds: Although the Daily Mirror hinted at it, Times of India is furious. ITV news also on the case.

Update: This is hilarious. Complaints have now hit 3,500 and seem to be constantly rising. I’ve had 3 calls already this morning for comment and received 2 email forwards urging people to complain about this.

Filed under: Media,Race politics

Multi-culturalism and Daniel Pipes

by Sunny at 3:11 pm    

As many of you may already know, London Mayor Ken Livingstone is hosting a conference / debate next week with the infamous “expert” on Middle Eastern affairs Daniel Pipes. The “Clash of Civilisations” and what it means to multicultural London – is what Livingstone has labelled it. More details here, and the list of speakers is here. Might be interesting to check out, I shall be there anyway.

Update: I accept the point by some that by giving Daniel Pipes a platform, Livingstone is merely legitimising the annoying idiot but it may be good political car-crash debate.

Filed under: Current affairs,Events
14th January, 2007

Simone Clarke and the BNP (pt 2)

by Sunny at 3:40 pm    

protestHello Picklers I’m back – happy new year. Anyway, enough niceties let’s get down to business. A mis-guided group of people held a protest on Friday against the ballerina Simone Clarke and her continued employment by the English National Ballet. Rohin covered this controversy previously here. The Guardian newspaper, clearly overjoyed that its story sparked the protest, covered it, but I feel their unashamed glee is misplaced.

For a start, as the journalism teacher Andrew Grant-Adamson points out, there is no evidence* that Clarke was “using her position as a platform for the far-right party”.

Secondly, as I’ve said before, I’m opposed to people getting persecuted for being members of organisations that are universally disliked but not illegal, and if it cannot be proven they have discriminated against people on the basis of sex/race etc (and supported by public funding). Apart from the fact that such a policy would be stupid, it is also more likely to affect minority groups. Unfortunately the current crop of “race campaigners” don’t seem to understand this simple point, so busy are they generating outraged statements.

The same people, including Lee Jasper, wanted to let in Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan. They would probably also protest if Hizb ut-Tahrir members got randomly fired just for being members. So no, I’m not supporting this deluded and short-sighted protest and Jasper should stop being such a hypocrite.

I did earlier support the Guardian firing HuT’s Dilpazier Aslam because he was clearly trying to influence others with his views without declaring his membership and because they were incompatible with the Guardian’s own liberal leanings.

Update: No surprise to find the dimwits at IW trying to fling mud at me so I should point out that (*) refers to Simone Clarke’s stance on the BNP before the Guardian outed her, and that I do support free speech even for HuT members. Maybe Martin Sullivan could pay more attention to people’s writings as a new years resolution.

Filed under: Race politics,The BNP
12th January, 2007

What is religion? A choice, a calling, or something else?

by Leon at 1:22 pm    

Over at the sjhoward blog he’s asked the big question: What is religion?

Is religion is a choice, in the same way that other beliefs are choices? For example, if I chose to subscribe to the moral belief that removing one’s clothes was wrong, I wouldn’t expect the Chippendales to make any special dispensation for me should I choose to work for them. Similarly, if religion is a choice, I wouldn’t expect any special dispensation for wearing religious icons which do not conform to a company’s uniform policy. I either have to give up my religion of choice, or work somewhere else.

Or is religion is more of a psychological and visceral calling? If, for example, I was blind, I would expect employers to do everything in their power to adapt to me. I could not stop being blind. Is religion more similar to this – You can’t ‘physically’ stop believing?

Or is it the latter, but still fine to discriminate, just I would be discriminated against if I had an unshakable belief that all women were evil?

Or is it something else altogether?

[Via Yahoo Answers]

Good set of questions and an excellent excuse for an end of the week muse/reflection/discussion…

Filed under: Religion
11th January, 2007

Let’s talk about sex, baby (part 1)

by Sunny at 9:03 am    

I read a brilliant article today in the journal Atlantic Monthly. It’s one of those you have to savour and re-read to understand its implications fully. Rohin is the resident expert and writer extraordinaire on the subject of sex, but given that sex is never far away from politics it’s surprising we don’t talk of it here more often. Here’s to changing that.

Anyway the subject here is that of ‘girly mags’, more specifically a look at Playboy magazine, it’s impact and what it stood for.

In a 1963 account of his visit to the Chicago Playboy mansion, Nelson Algren wrote, “However paradoxical it may appear, the young male who assumes early that physical relationships with women are part of life is more likely to develop respect toward women than is the young male who abstains from such relationships.” He meant it as no compliment to his host, adding that Playboy “does not sell sex. It sells a way out of sex.”

These first few paragraphs struck me and I may buy this issue for the article as it seems the rest is only available to subscribers. It goes on to talk about the current crop of lads mags and how they differ from Playboy.

But the above paragraph is interesting because of the way it relates to Asian parents. Mine raised me up not to fear or avoid women but to at least try and focus on studies instead until I was old enough to marry. It was a losing battle of course. But I do see that many other Asian parents instill such a fear of being in contact with or dating the opposite sex before marriage that their children become completely socially inept around them in later life. Or develop a condescending attitude towards them (or both).

A (female) friend wrote to me recently saying that some of her friends who had been raised not to have close contact with men had become almost neurotic about the issue. It had become the big elephant in the room no one was supposed to talk about but had attained almost mythical status.

And it isn’t any different for Asian guys. I only see the younger and more sexually liberated pondering questions about how to please a woman in bed. The older generation seemed to think that marriage was simply a transition from one woman looking after them to another. Too many still seem to think that. I call them mummy’s boys. Good pre-marital sex changes all that shit, and for the better too in so many ways.

With Asian parents it’s easier to suggest the idea of voluntarily injecting yourself with the Ebola virus than float the idea that its important to develop healthy platonic and non-platonic relations with the opposite sex just to understand them better.

And lastly although many feminists hate pornography for valid reasons, the article points out later that Playboy was much more deeper than that. Too bad though it gave rise to the current crop of absolute trashy lads mags. And although I still haven’t read a single issue (I promise!), god bless Playboy magazine for playing its part in the sexual liberation revolution.

Filed under: Culture,Sex equality
10th January, 2007

We must defeat Thatcher!

by Leon at 8:21 pm    

The call has gone out, our enemies are rallying their troops and the battle is almost over. Rachel North has made one final plea to the democrats, the progressives, the lefties everywhere to unite and defeat the old hag Thatcher!

To do this we must vote for Tony Benn (no bad things really) the old man of the left. Vote now and tell your friends and family to vote Benn!

C’mon people, we have less than 24 hours to finish her off once and for all (well until the next time the dark forces invoke her spirit)!

Vote now, vote Benn!

Filed under: Current affairs
9th January, 2007

Equality for everyone

by Sunny at 11:35 pm    

Hello Picklers, I’m a few days away from touching down in London but have some spare time so I thought I’d wade straight in and start the year with my favourite theme.

Equality is a term that I plan to cite constantly in the coming year. It is a theme central to progressive politics and we should not shy away from it. We want equality between the sexes and people of different races; we want to ensure people don’t get discriminated against because of their faith; and we also want to ensure there is no discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation. So it is with regret that I read this:

Christian and Muslim groups are to stage a torchlit protest outside the House of Lords tonight against a proposed new gay rights law that they say would force them to “actively condone and promote” homosexuality.

The legislation, known as the Sexual Orientation Regulations, would ban discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexuality in a similar way to the rules on gender and race discrimination.[The Times, via bananabrain]

Surprise, surprise that religious groups who want rights for themselves want to deny it to others. These are the people who give faith a bad name – making it about hating others rather than good ethical values.

In this regards Polly Toynbee makes a good point in today’s Guardian:

None of this might matter much if it were just about the strange practices in private of religious bigots. But faith groups already run and are bidding to take over many more social services. If they win this debate, free to discriminate as they please, they will prove themselves utterly unfit to provide state services or receive state funding.

This is key. The government is indeed trying to outsource social services to religious groups. What if those groups then discriminate against homosexuals, women or people of other faith? Where are the checks and balances? Who will stand up and complain about discrimination from within their own faith? Until religious groups comprehend the idea of equality properly they should not be allowed anywhere near the provision of social and public services.

On HP Brett says it is about all or nothing, which also sums up my stance on equality.

Filed under: Religion
8th January, 2007

That Ruth Kelly, eh?

by Katy at 7:29 pm    

So people are a bit annoyed with Ruth Kelly.

It is something to do with the fact that she has decided to send her child, who has special educational needs, to a private school, rather than relying upon the state system, which she was very positive about back when she was Education Minister.

I gather that the reason people are a bit put out about this is that Kelly, as a senior minister and ex-Education Minister for the Labour Government (a party which has traditionally been highly negative about private education and those who pay for it), might have been expected to put her money where her mouth was, and arguably still is, and send her child to the same sort of school that the government expects its voters to put up with.

This is all rather reminiscent of Tony Blair’s support for the state system some years ago. If you remember, he chose the London Oratory School for his children. That is a state-funded Catholic school approximately an hour’s travel from Islington, where they lived at the time.
(more…)

Filed under: Current affairs
6th January, 2007

It’s The Year Ahead Open Thread

by Clairwil at 4:27 pm    

Hello,
Happy new year to you all. I hope the back to work blues have passed and you’re all now ready to plunge feet first into good old 2007. This year I intend to write more, travel more, laugh more, sell my house, start my own business and be happy as Larry. I’d love to hear your resolutions unless they concern weight loss which is in my opinion the most boring subject on God’s earth.

I’d also be delighted if you’d have a gaze into your crystal balls and share your predictions for 2007 with us all.

As usual I’m also after your links to anything funny, interesting or downright odd. Just keep it light hearted and lay off the squabbling.

Filed under: Humour,Uncategorized
4th January, 2007

Barack Obama: from white lines to White House?

by Leon at 4:26 pm    

In a sign of things to come the US media is already ramping up it’s Obama reporting. With Barack Obama a likely candidate for President in the 2008 elections (assuming he can beat Hilary Clinton in the primaries) the heat is now on.

Never letting facts get in the way of a good story (or journalistic integrity for that matter) one blog has picked apart the latest offering. Looks like the ever likeable Obama has his work cut out for him…

The mainstream media finally got around to reading Barack Obama’s 11-year-old autobiography which includes an admission of drug use as a teen-ager, so Fox News Wednesday (January 3, 2007) took the opportunity to go overboard and suggest Obama was a drug addict. Updated with video.

While portraying Obama in the most negative light possible, Fox News downplayed comparisons between Obama’s candor over his youthful mistakes and allegations of cocaine use by George Bush.

The smearing of Obama started on “Fox and Friends First” with co-hosts Kiran Chetry, Steve Doocy, and Andrew Napolitano discussing the Washington Post article about the impact of the drug use admissions in Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Just to make sure no one missed the point, Fox News displayed a banner that read, “Obama Cocaine Confession.”

Chetry got off message, however, by noting that Obama admitted to cocaine use “as did our current president, who admited to cocaine use, correct?” After Doocy and Napolitano interrupted, Chetry backpedaled, saying, “Who was it that said they witnessed him doing cocaine?” Still not getting any support from her co-hosts, Chetry gave up and the trio went on to paint Obama in as negative a light as possible. [Via News Hound]

2nd January, 2007

She won’t play the black swan

by Rohin at 12:47 am    

In Swan Lake, the evil Sorceror Von Rothbart tricks the hero Prince Siegfried into falling for his daughter Odile. She is the black swan – opposite number to Odette, the ballet’s heroine.

In ballet it’s pretty straightforward. White – good; black – bad. Perhaps Simone Clarke got confused.

To the uninitiated, Clarke – the Sugar Plum Fairy in the English National Ballet’s Nutcracker - has been ‘exposed’ as a card-carrying BNP member by the Grauniad. The story has received widespread press coverage so I shan’t re-tread the basic facts (may I suggest the Times piece as a good summary).

However what has been interesting is the reaction from various publications and blogs. Tim Worstall dissects the Guardian’s own take on events today. One of the main messages he conveys is echoed by just about everyone – that we are free to think and do as we like, within the law, in our private lives.

Of course we are. But should the ENB be taken to task, as some suggest:

“The company, which is publicly funded and is therefore obliged by the Race Relations Act of 2000 to promote good race relations, will be asked to explain how one of its highest profile employees was able to use her position as a platform for the far right party.”

Or should they be allowed to employ whoever they see fit?

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It’s the 2nd of January, and already

by Katy at 12:19 am    

…that flat, end-of-festivities, beginning-of-work-misery, sudden-realisation-that-I-have-to-drive-to-Canterbury-tomorrow-morning feeling has begun to seep into my January-chilled bones.

I despair.

And so I thought perhaps we could all do with an open thread in which to wallow in our self pity together. Or perhaps we could cheer each other up with stuff.

Go for it.

(Er, usual rules apply – no politics, no serious stuff, just good old fashioned moaning. Or soft porn. Or YouTube humour. Off you go.)

Filed under: Current affairs
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