15th November, 2005
Remember the story about Halifax and Natwest banning piggy banks because they might be offensive to Muslims? The media loved the story, the blogs loved it, but it was pure rubbish. Not excessive political correctness, just plain made up.
Does it need to be pointed out that certain people jumped on this news with glee about “sensitive Muslims” without checking their facts? Nah, that would be too obvious.
Is Al-Qaeda now targeting Pakistan? Or could it be a return of the sectarian violence? A bomb went off in Karachi a few hours ago, 8:50am local time. The Karachi Metblog says it was at a KFC restaurant. Five people are feared dead, more injured. The BBC says ambulances were seen taking at least 12 wounded away to hospital.
14th November, 2005
The government has quietly approved the first Hindu state school, the Indy reported last week. The primary school will be in Harrow (by 2010), where 20% of the population is Hindu – by far the biggest concentration in the country. Currently there are 6,000 CoE and Catholic schools, 45 Jewish, five Islamic, two Sikh, one Greek Orthodox and one Seventh Day Adventist school.
Ramesh Kallidai from the Hindu Forum, who has an aversion to historical stamps, said it was the start: “This is the beginning, not the end. Brent, in northwest London has the second highest concentration of Hindus, after which comes the city of Leicester.”
An MP is not happy, neither am I. Are you? Though Hindus deserve one, on numbers, isn’t this all slowly getting out of hand?
I think it’s only fair that we crow about achievements of PP writers. This weekend Rohin and his team (which includes PP writer Sajini Wijetilleka as sub-editor) received the National Student Journalism Award for the UK’s best small budget publication for Medical Student.
Rohin was editor-in-chief of the paper until recently (study commitments). It is published by the University of London Union and caters for over 10,000 medical students across the capital’s five medical schools.
He has written a short article here on why student journalism matters. More coverage on his blog.
The brown man is oppressed. Not by another people holding him down, nor by physical confinements of mortor and steel. No – the brown man is oppressed by the confines of his own mentality.
We cannot demand help from others if we are not willing to help ourselves. Oh no. Self-respect demands respect, not the other way around. And so I say, look inward for the answer brothers and sisters, look inward.
And so I ask you to refer to the attached example to site the pitiful state we are in, dear friends.
12th November, 2005
Gary Younge wrote a piece in yesterday’s Observer arguing that the riots in France may have been justified in order to force change through French society. He makes a powerful case, using the situation of African-Caribbeans in America.
Those who wondered what French youth had to gain by taking to the streets should ask what they had to lose. Unemployed, socially excluded, harassed by the police and condemned to poor housing, they live on estates that are essentially open prisons.
He also points out that the riots have had the desired effect in waking up Chirac from his slumber.
“We need to respond strongly and quickly to the undeniable problems facing many inhabitants of the deprived neighbourhoods,” said President Chirac. From the man who once said that immigrants had breached the “threshold of tolerance” and were sending French workers “mad” with their “noise and smell” this was progress indeed.
After the 1967 riots in American cities, President Johnson set up the Kerner commission. It concluded: “What white Americans have never fully understood – but what the Negro can never forget – is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.” How else was such a damning indictment of racial discrimination in the US ever going to land on the president’s desk?
There is some truth in that, though I said earlier I did not support the violence. Younge acknowledges the criminal element, but says the end may justify the means in this case.
ITN called me up today, and booked me for a debate tomorrow morning on the ITV News channel.
Update: It was supposed to be about the impact of new terror laws, but at the last minute the Hizb-ut Tahrir guy refused to turn up, and they changed the topic to talking about Tony Blair’s defeat over the 90 days detention law without telling me
Without my favourite whipping boys and with three hours of sleep – I’m surprised I made one coherent statement. Plus it was freezing in the studio.
The New York Daily News reports of 48 year old Karnail Singh being seriously burnt in an incident in late October. And how?
Singh sparked the Ozone Park fire by dumping a flammable liquid on the basement stairs and igniting it because he was furious Kaur wasn’t sending money to his son in India, fire officials said.
Singh also accused her of seeing other men, court papers show. … [He] mistakenly set himself on fire and tore off some of his singed clothes as he fled, said Acting Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Robert Byrnes.
Too bad he got away. [Via Sepia Mutiny]. This comes not long after another idiot, Chomir Ali, bullied his sons into stabbing his daughter’s lover Arash Ghorbani-Zarin 46 times to vindicate “the family honour” because he made her pregnant by mistake.
The jury at Oxford Crown Court was told how Muji Rahman was a swaggering bully who, while condemning his sisterâ€™s behaviour for flouting the familyâ€™s strict Muslim code, had had sex before marriage, drank alcohol and rarely bothered to go to the mosque. After the killing in November last year he went out clubbing with friends in Oxford city centre.
Chomir Ali, who was out delivering takeaway meals while his sons carried out the murder, was arrested after his botched attempt to get rid of the knife and the killersâ€™ bloodstained clothes.
All three were jailed for life, and rightly so.
Before anyone says these are one-off problems, consider this: The UN estimates that annuallly around 5,000 women are killed in honor killings. Indian police say that every year they receive more than 2,500 reports of bride burning. It would be no exaggeration to say that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh dominate the UN figures.
We have a lot to be proud of, eh?
11th November, 2005
Hearty apologies if this is not up to my usual like, eloquent-ish prose yeah, but it’s a bit of a drive-by posting.
Government double standards: Take 1
October 2005: So, two Brits and an Aussie are caught on an island of disputed ownership. The middle-aged couple and their antipodean friend are arrested by some Iranian nasties and carted off to be subjected to “mental torture”. Those bastard Iranians! They held them for 14 days without charge. Mr & Mrs Wise and friend were kept hostage in a five star Tehran Hotel and not informed as to why they had been detained. Jack Straw said “it has been distressing” and British politicians are outraged. The foreign office said “relations with Iran have been soured“.
October 2006: Two Iranians and their Aussie friend are caught loitering at Liverpool Street Station. The young couple and their antipodean friend are arrested by some heroic British police and kindly escorted to spend 28 (90, anyone?) days without charge at one of her Her Majesty’s five star jails and not informed why they have been detained. Those
Labour cronies wonderful law-upholders!
Government double standards: Take 2
September 2005: “24 hour drinking is going to be a baaaad idea dude” says PC Plod, important policeman. “Ah up yours, you didn’t even go to university!” says Tony Blair. He goes ahead with round-the-clock drinking – but makes sure that no food will be served (as people will be smoking there) so that everyone will get drunk even faster and PC Plod’s work will increase threefold.
November 2005: “Ninety days is going to be a grrrreat idea dude!” says PC Plod, important policeman. “We should all value and listen to our police force’s opinion, after all – they are the front line in the war against terror and highly trained and valuable and stuff” says Tony Blair. He goes ahead and encourages them to lobby as many MPs as they can in exchange for New Labour doughnuts and fried dumplings from his new friend Hu Jintao.
OK, me facetious. But really the only thing I’ve neglected to mention is the fact that the detained trio in Iran were denied contact with friends, family or their embassy for several days, which is unacceptable. But the timing of the Brits being held in Iran and its coincidence with the TERROR bill cock-up struck me as pure comedy.
Race hate crime soared 29% last year, it has been announced. The Crown Prosecution Service prosecuted 4,660 defendants for racially-aggravated offences in England and Wales in 2004/05, up from 3,616 in the previous 12 months.
The number of religiously-aggravated cases dropped to 34 from 49 the year before. In 67% of religion cases the victim was Muslim. Link.
10th November, 2005
On one of the several mailing lists I subscribe to, I received this the other day. I just had to post it. Slightly edited for clarity.
Near where I work is Leeds Magistrates Court and Leeds Town hall. There was a buzz around the building a few days ago.
It was the trial of Nick Griffin, the UK leader of the fascist British National Party. So at lunch time, I took the opportunity of walking over to the Court building where I could see the press, the police, and the BNP activists protesting outside court. I even recognised some of them, from the physical confrontations we had 3 years ago in Halton Moor area of Leeds.
They recognised me. Being an Amritdhari Singh with a dumalla, does make you stand out from a crowd. I read their banners, and listened to them chant their slogans, of ‘England for the English’, etc, etc. There must have been about 60 of them.
Aminul Hoque, a 28-year old journalist and PhD student, says that although support for violence is low, alienation has grown steadily in his Muslim neighbourhood in London’s East End. “This resentment, this level of anger aimed towards anybody who is a non-Muslim has been there for a long time.”
A bit of a ‘things-to-watch’ roundup today – plenty of food for thought.
1) Frank Gardner presents Koran and Country: How Islam got Political on BBC Radio Four, tonight at 8pm. Journalist Ehsan Masood, campaigner Asghar Bukhari, Cosh Omar, a former member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Omar Faruk, a member of the Islamic Society of Britain. They describe how events like the war in Bosnia, The Satanic Verses affair and the Israel/Palestine situation have politicised British born Muslims.
The article illustrates how religious leaders use controversies to gain power. I’m sure we’ve seen recent examples from the Sikh and Hindu communities.
2) If you’re horrified by Radio 4 giving a platform to Hizb-ut-Tahrir, don’t worry. Ziauddin Sardar, who we love here on Pickled Politics, has written an article for New Statesman on the violence behind the facade. Via Mr T.
3) On a lighter note Morgan Spurlock, of Supersize Me fame, is presenting an edition of 30 Days tonight at 8pm on More 4.
Dave Stacey, a 33-year-old insurance salesman who loves pork will go and live with a Muslim family for 30 days. When asked what he pictures when he hears the word ‘Muslim’ he says: “I picture men with an AK47, and women with a sheet over their heads”.
Call it Religion-Swap if you will. I’m sure there’s a whole series in there just on that topic.
History lessons depend on which side your teacher is on. As a school kid in Bangladesh, I entertained fantasies of being a heretic-killing warrior riding an elephant and waving the Moghul and Ottoman flags, torturing a few Jews and West Pakistanis along my merry way.
Once I joined the British Library in Dhaka, I began to understand the concept of historical bias, but one issue I could never resolve was the exclusively Bangladeshi gripe: The British made poor farmers grow poppies instead of rice, leaving them unable to feed off their produce and die grizzly deaths in villages all over the country.
I didnâ€™t get that. I knew the Brits were fond of our muslin and our jute, but what the ruddy hell did they need to grow poppies for? I put the question to my history teacher, who, inexplicably, caned me for my impudence.
It was only years later, in my self-funded drug lessons, that it became glaring obvious.
Opium. I got caned for smack. I have issues with this.
This reared its ugly head this morning, when a little old dear at Euston station asked me if Iâ€™d like to invest in a poppy. Rather aggressively (in my defence, Iâ€™m nursing a diarrhoeic camel for a hangover), I snapped: “Why would I want to wear a symbol of war?” The poor woman looked crumpled and Iâ€™ve been feeling pretty bad about it since, least of all because Iâ€™ve realised I really have no satisfactory stance on the matter of wearing poppies.
Your opinions for or against would be much appreciated…
9th November, 2005
Gather round all, here is something to consider – a short cut route to getting a peerage and it doesn’t matter which political party you support! Even the Green Party is getting in on the act.
It seems that the new list of peers have much in common with fellow nominees from different political parties. The Times on Tuesday pointed out the massive ‘favours-for-cash’ row that is gaining momentum.
The list confirms the recent trend under which the financial supporters of major parties are being awarded seats in the Lords intended for working parliamentarians, with Labour implicated as much as the Conservatives.
It will confirm a belief increasingly taking hold in the Lords that an unofficial threshold of donations of about Â£250,000 is operated by the major parties when considering nominations for peerages.
Does anyone else think this is unacceptable? It is ridiculous if this is indeed an entry point into the House of Lords. It seems pretty corrupt to me as you can even become a minister if you give enough dosh. Who said becoming a career politician is an option when now it seems, you can buy your seat of influence.
The Labour nominations follow Mr Blairâ€™s decision last year to give a peerage to Paul Drayson, a businessman who had already given Â£100,000 to Labour and who subsequently made a donation of Â£500,000. He has since been made a defence minister.
And we think the political situation in other countries is whack, what about the system right under our own noses?
News just in: Labour has just faced a humilating defeat over the government’s plans to lock up people for 90 days without having to provide sufficient evidence. It is significant also because it is Tony Blair’s first Commons defeat since coming to power in 1997. He survived ID cards, he survived top-up fees, but he lost the 90 days vote.
Tony Blair tried the hard line and the moral blackmail, but he still failed by
19 31 votes. 49 Labour MPs rebelled. What does he do now? What is an acceptable time period? 14 days, 30, 60 days?
MPs rejected the proposals by 322 votes to 291. They are now voting on whether to accept a compromise detention limit. The defeat came despite Mr Blair saying MPs had a “duty” to give police the powers they needed to tackle terrorism.
The BBC has more on this breaking news.
Update 1: MPs have voted instead to extend the time limit to 28 days. But this will weaken Blair’s authority. Talk Politics has more coverage.
Update 2: Lenin quotes figures from Gary Younge, which I had also been looking for:
More than 700 people have been arrested under the Terrorism Act since September 11, but half have been released without charge and only 17 convicted. Only three of the convictions relate to allegations of extremism related to militant Islamic groups.
One can argue that locking up 3 terrorists is a price worth paying, but there is no evidence at all to suggest they were planning anything. To defeat terrorists, we need better intelligence, not a scattergun approach in locking everyone up.
Spyblog shows how the poll taken to show the public’s support was biased.
More evidence that as Kashmir starts gearing up for winter, relations between India and Pakistan are thawing faster than anyone expected. The latter is becoming more open to championing its non-Islamic cultural heritage and allowing more open displays by other religions. The BBC reports:
An Indian Sikh religious committee plans to build a seminary and a pilgrim centre in the Pakistani township of Nankana Sahib. The town is the birthplace of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev. A Sikh shrine already exists there.
The pilgrim centre planned at Nankana Sahib is aimed at facilitating the journey of thousands of Indian Sikhs who visit the shrine of Guru Nanak Dev every year.
The SGPC’s initiatives, announced days ahead of the 15 November anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev’s birth, are significant. If approved, this will be the first SGPC venture aimed at spreading its religious activities into Pakistan.
There are actually a lot of Sikh Gurudwaras in Pakistan, they’re just not that well looked after. Wikipedia has more history on Nankana Sahib, but it’s apparently disputed.
This not long after the news that Pakistan is also nominating the famous Katasraj temple in Pakistan Punjab for a World Heritage status.
8th November, 2005
I just had to post these:
1. Oh my gosh! I just saw part of your hair, now you’re obliged to marry me.
2. Our parents engaged us when we were little; they must have forgotten to tell you.
3. I’d like to be more than just your brother in Islam.
4. To watch you pray is a sin of its own.
5. Will my platinum VISA cover your dowry?
7th November, 2005
The Chinese President Hu Jintao received a loud reception today from pro-democracy supporters and people calling for the independence of Tibet. Though it is unlikely that Tony Blair or the Queen will raise either of those topics when they meet him.
While the USA and Britain keep pointing fingers at Iran and the Middle East for human-rights abuses (quite rightly), we must ask why they don’t do the same for China. Is the repression of the Tibetan people or their constant threats against Taiwanese independence not important enough?
Rohin wrote about this previously, asking:
Both Falun Gong and the Free Tibet movement are, unsurprisingly, banned in China. But why the hell do we have to pander to their dictatorial oppression of free speech by doing their bidding and stifling legitimate protestors?
Heck, itâ€™s not just old eager-to-please Tony; German officials prevented any Tibetan flags being unfurled at a recent Germany-China football match. Why? Because the Chinese asked.
The BBC at least has good coverage of the protests greeting the President.
Yeah, you read that right baby. Today’s Lebanese Star reports that it was in response to Al-Qaeda’s actions in Iraq.
Thousands marched through Morocco’s biggest city on Sunday to protest Al-Qaeda’s decision to kill two Moroccan hostages in Iraq. Holding banners and chanting “Muslims are brothers. A Muslim does not kill his brother” and “‘Yes’ to freedom, ‘No’ to terrorism and barbarity,” the protesters marched through Casablanca, a city of six million and Morocco’s financial capital.
Will Fox News report that I wonder? Any Americans killed? No. So probably not then.
Morocco’s influential organization of Islamic scholars, known as the High Council of the Ulema and the Councils of Ulema in the Moroccan Kingdom, said Al-Qaeda members in Iraq will suffer the “horrors of hell” if they kill the Moroccan hostages and the victims will die as martyrs. It dismissed Al-Qaeda’s argument that its verdict to kill the two embassy employees was “God’s judgment.”
Organizers and local government officials said more than 150,000 people took part in the peaceful march while reporters said the anti-Al-Qaeda protesters numbered more than 10,000.
Moroccan media, trade unions, human rights activists and state officials have issued appeals to save the two men’s lives and a mass demonstration is planned in Casablanca on Sunday.
They dismissed Al-Qaeda’s piss-poor excuse! I bet that riled up Ol’ Bin Laden.
Al-Jazeera also covered the rally. The Gateway Pundit has more. Via The English Guy.
Back to the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake, the BBC reports today that Pakistani police fired shots and tear gas at large crowds of angry people trying to cross the border into India. It happened after the border was opened on several points to allow more aid to pass through on either side.
Hundreds of Kashmiri villagers on the Pakistani side of the divide approached the Line of Control between Poonch and Rawalakot shouting “Let people cross” and “What we want is freedom”.
Police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells to break up the protest.
Moments before two reps from India and Pakistan shook hands to officially open the border.
“They say that adversity unites people. This is what is happening today.” Immigration, customs and foreign currency exchange facilities have been set up, along with public telephones and a mosque.
About 3 million people have become homeless and around 73,000 have died so far since the earthquake. People still need help and it seems they can’t wait for it fast enough.
Relationship between the two countries have definitely gotten better in recent weeks. Outlook India reports that Pakistan has nominated the famous Katasraj temple in Pakistan Punjab for a World Heritage status.
The big question is, will anger over the slowness in aid make Kashmiris angry towards the Pakistani state and ask for their independence rather than fight to be part of Pakistan?
6th November, 2005
There is a lot of sympathy in Britain, particularly within minority-ethnic communities, for the Paris riots. We have endlessly debated on the inequalities in France and how minorities should “integrate”, and what this means for a government policy on multi-culturalism. It goes on and on.
The problem is that, as my debate on BBC Asian Network showed this morning, it is difficult to find a middle-ground in a heated debate when people take such strong stances. If you heard it then my apologies. It was all over the bloody place and I did not get a chance to say what I wanted. But my point is this.
I fundamentally disagree with the riots, possibly against the opinions of most of my peers, on many levels. On the most basic level it is a very lazy form of political activism, and one that takes you backward not forward.
Updated with analysis closer from home
5th November, 2005
The riots in Paris have continued into their tenth night, and have spread to other cities in France. The country is teethering on the edge of anarchy.
In addition to setting schools, nurseries and cars on fire, some criminals did the same to a disabled woman. Organised criminal gangs are likely to be behind the riots.
But this could be a watershed for France and how it deals with its minority-ethnic citizens. I’ll be on radio tomorrow morning talking about this.
For the uninitiated, there is something called ‘comment-spam’ that takes place on blogs. Basically machines log on to sites and leave comments that link back to their websites or other places. Happens on a lot of blogs.
As this was a new site, it didn’t happen initially but now they’ve caught on.
Update: Courtesy of Paul I’ve found a plugin for WordPress called Spam Karma so, erm, forget my previous point about putting on numbers before posting. This seems to work pretty well.
I crossed London Bridge yesterday morning, and there’s a tramp who has his pitch there.
Now, he’s a nice guy – stops for a chat, doesn’t agressively beg, doesn’t drink. Not that I’d give a tinker’s cuss if he did; were I living on the unforgiving streets of London I may well agressively beg, and I’m damn sure I would drink.
However, the point is that he cannot, in any way, be classed as a ‘nuisance’. I sometimes stop off and slip him a fiver and a cigar, and I did so tonight, and noticed he had cuts and bruises on his face. So I asked him about them.
Apparently, he was sitting on the Bridge a couple of nights ago at about 10pm, and two drunks came up to him, and duffed him up.
Then they walked away but, after a few paces, almost as an afterthought, they came back, took the coat off his back, snatched up his blankets, and chucked the whole lot off the Bridge into the Thames.
They walked off, but then turned around, came back again, kicked him and took his boots off his feet, and chucked those in the Thames as well.
This was not an attack motivated by provocation, moral outrage, or even a sense of material gain. It was a simple example of bullying someone who is in a worse position than the perpetrators.
Ok, I’m no stranger to acts of random, senseless violence, but even so I just find this so morally sterile it’s deeply unsettling.
It does seem to me that a great deal of the social problems that are discussed on Pickled Politics could be avoided if people would just say to themselves “Oh, hang on, would I like it if someone did that to me? No? Well, probably best I don’t do it to someone else then.”
I am left with a deep sense of shame over this thoughtless and frankly disgraceful act.
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Politically correct? No. Funny? I thought it was amusing. The Police Federation seems to be in a bit of bother over it though, BBC says. If they labelled the escaping imam as Omar Bakri I would even believe it!